Playing again after 15 months off

I didn't play at all from late February 2020 until early June this year due to COVID. Personally I would have been willing to play singles outdoors during the pandemic but my husband was really stressed about the added risk so I decided to take a break from tennis. In return he took up hiking pretty much every weekend with me - yep, even in the snow :)

He was finally comfortable with me playing outdoors singles once we were fully vaccinated, though still not playing indoors or doubles yet. USTA summer league was just starting up, but I decided against joining a team because I knew I'd be really rusty. Instead I've been hitting with a friend who lives nearby and joined some local flex leagues.

First time back out I was incredibly sore the next day. Felt pretty awkward the first 3 times or so playing, timing and footwork way off. Between weather and cancelations I was only getting out once a week but felt a little better each time. The serve seems to be taking the longest but last night was finally getting a fair % of 1st serves in. Last night was also the first time back playing 2 days in a row so sore again today, especially in the achilles area.

How do you get back on your game after an extended absence? I would normally like to do some clinics after being away for awhile, but not sure a group setting is right yet.
 

OnTheLine

Hall of Fame
I took over 20 years off .... so mine was not rust. It was pure decay.

You do you ... I have no concerns being outside in a group setting, particularly as I am fully vaccinated. Info from CDC fully backs this up.

I did play throughout the past 18 months ... but ONLY outside and for a long time only in very small groups. In doubles you are just not within 6' of your partner unless you are doing something really weird. I still choose not to play indoors at this time.

In terms of coming back ... don't push it. Really pay attention to your warm up. Really pay attention to your dynamic pre workout stretching and your post workout warm down and stretching.

Pain in the achilles area is a big warning: Stretch those calves, massage arches, work on both arch and calf strengthening. Consider getting good insoles for arch support.

I found getting out and hitting 3X a week and never 2 days in a row was a good start then moved to 5X a week after everything body-wise was working somewhat correctly.
 
I didn't play at all from late February 2020 until early June this year due to COVID. Personally I would have been willing to play singles outdoors during the pandemic but my husband was really stressed about the added risk so I decided to take a break from tennis. In return he took up hiking pretty much every weekend with me - yep, even in the snow :)

He was finally comfortable with me playing outdoors singles once we were fully vaccinated, though still not playing indoors or doubles yet. USTA summer league was just starting up, but I decided against joining a team because I knew I'd be really rusty. Instead I've been hitting with a friend who lives nearby and joined some local flex leagues.

First time back out I was incredibly sore the next day. Felt pretty awkward the first 3 times or so playing, timing and footwork way off. Between weather and cancelations I was only getting out once a week but felt a little better each time. The serve seems to be taking the longest but last night was finally getting a fair % of 1st serves in. Last night was also the first time back playing 2 days in a row so sore again today, especially in the achilles area.

How do you get back on your game after an extended absence? I would normally like to do some clinics after being away for awhile, but not sure a group setting is right yet.
I'd do a routine of dynamic stretching before playing and static stretching after; don't want to get injured on the comeback trail.

Maybe you could start with a bunch of drop feeds just so you can groove your strokes. As you get more comfortable, you can make the feed more difficult.

Also, a ball machine would be good too.
 

Max G.

Legend
Take it slow. I've always found I have the most injuries very soon after returning.

Start with just rallying to get the muscles back, making sure to take enough rest to let them recover; don't play tired. Then slowly ramp up to competitive rallies and serving, playing casual games with no pressure, and gradually increasing the frequency. Only then should you do actual competitive matches.
 
Appreciate all the replies reminding about good warm-ups, stretching, and taking it slow! It would really suck to get injured just after coming back. I already had to stay off my feet for a month in late winter this year because I broke my pinky toe by running into a dumbell in my basement .

I found getting out and hitting 3X a week and never 2 days in a row was a good start then moved to 5X a week after everything body-wise was working somewhat correctly.
Yeah, I already learned this lesson once when I was first getting back into tennis after graduating from college. At the time I couldn't afford indoor tennis so when spring came around I got overzealous and played 12 days in a row and gave myself tennis elbow. After that I always tried to schedule on non-consecutive days.

But clearly in the years since I forgot that lesson because looking at my calendar for this week I scheduled 5 days in a row . Guess I will have to take some rain checks!

Also, I think I would consider a small group clinic or doubles outdoors, but the ones I used to attend are indoors and most USTA league teams are based out of clubs that are all indoors or have a mix of indoor/outdoor where you wouldn't know if you're playing outdoors until you get there. Ah well, will have to be patient a while longer and just be grateful I'm playing at all.
 
So a brief update.

I started playing again in June, playing 4 times that month so about 1x/week. I had joined a local flex league, which has various co-ed levels. Having not participated previously, they put me in the 2nd to bottom league. Normally I think the level would have been a bit too low, but it was perfect for getting back into the game with some laid back matches. Most of the people I played were guys which I'd place in the low 3.0 range. I lost one of the first matches back out because I was still very rusty and off-balance, but have won the rest fairly comfortably (ex, 6-2, 6-3). I was also hitting with a friend about every other week.

Once July rolled around I was feeling like getting more back into it, but was having trouble getting people to reply to requests for matches so I signed up for another flex league. This online flex league had gendered divisions instead, and unfortunately they don't get enough women to split into multiple levels. So my first two matches in this league were against 2.5 women (per the website's rating system)....not super fun breadsticking and bageling older women.

Well finally last night I got a great match. My opponent had played in high school but then didn't play for 10 years, and decided to take tennis back up during COVID last summer. We almost didn't play because there was a thunderstorm warning, but it ended up passing through without raining. But boy was it humid! Good thing I brought 2 water bottles, one a coconut water/ice water mix. When we started warming up I was late on nearly everything. Uh-oh, I thought, I've gotten too used to slow pace and now I'm in trouble. I started off losing 1-4, but finally adjusted and started to get in a good rhythm. I fought back to win the first set in a tiebreak. Then I started off up 3-1 in the second set, but lost some focus just as she was getting back on her game and ended up losing it 4-6. We decided on a tiebreak in lieu of 3rd set, and it went back and forth for awhile with both having multiple match point chances, but I finally pulled it off at 15-13. Clocked in right around 2 hours. I had to take some migraine medication when I got home but I think the coconut water helped prevent the foot and calf cramps I often get after tennis.

It felt so great to play such a fun and competitive match again! I was really feeling my backhand and hit a lot of DTL winners. By the second half of the match she knew they were coming but still couldn't get them back. My forehand isn't a weapon but at least have managed it to have decent directional control and will keep me in the point. She had a great forehand and hit a few CC winners. I still struggled with my serve, having quite a few double faults. I also lost a lot of points when she would draw me into the net then hit good, deep lobs. I don't think I had hit an overhead yet all summer and regretted being out of practice on those. I also messed up quite a few volleys, or the ones I hit would come back, which made me feel pressured to go for more on the next one.

Overall I feel pretty much back to "normal" at this point on my groundstrokes, just maybe a hair less consistent as pre-pandemic I was regularly playing 3x/week. Net play is still fairly rusty since I've only been playing singles since I've come back, and the serve is getting close but still a few more double faults than usual. Also the stretching recommendations have been really helpful for recovery so I've been feeling good on the court. And most of all just really happy to be playing again!!
 
Whoa, that's some high-powered learning [I assume CM is still one of the top-rated engineering schools in the nation]!
Yep, for computer science I believe CMU's tied at #1 with Stanford, MIT, and UC Berkley.

I’m a baptism by fire type of person. I throw myself in to the deep end, just start competing, and let the chips fall where they may. My motto is “play through it.” I’ve played through being overweight in the past, through being rusty, etc. The biggest loss is shying away from competition IMHO.
It was nice having some easy matches to ease back into it, but it's definitely getting to the point where they've served their purpose and I need to be playing more with people at my level (which isn't all that high at 3.5, but still).

I played a match on Saturday with a woman who hit every forehand with her strings parallel to the ground, effectively making every one a lob...sort of like the equivalent of a granny shot in basketball. I thought I would try to use the time to work on something, so I tried to approach the net more than I usually would. But her weird forehand actually made her pretty adept at hitting deep lobs so I just reverted to my usual BH DTL winners from the baseline or midcourt. I did use the time to work on my 2nd serve to try to lower double faults in the future, so I just hit 2nd serves the whole match. I would have felt like a bully hitting 1st serves at her anyways. And she only wanted to play a 10-game pro set, so we were done in under 45 minutes....not a great use of anyone's time but tried to remember to be grateful to just be out there playing again.
 
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