by Matt Fitzgerald
Bjorn Phau may not be the tallest, the strongest or the fiercest competitor on the ATP World Tour, but he is regarded by a number of his fellow players as the quickest man in tennis.
At 5’ 9’’, Phau discusses how he’s needed to compensate for his lack of height, his similarities to one of his idols, Michael Chang, and the player he’d like to race in a 100m sprint as part of Compeed’s Form & Fitness series.
You’ve been named by several of your colleagues as the quickest player on the ATP World Tour. How do you feel about being given that distinction?
Of course, it’s an honour to be called that. I’m not that tall, so I have to be quite quick to compensate for it. I always try to get to the balls. That’s what I can rely on the most when I’m on the court.
What types of exercises and drills are part of your training program to work on having good court speed?
Before and after practice, I do physical exercises. But for most of my footwork drills, I do them on the court with a ball.
How have you been able to maintain your quickness since turning professional 13 years ago? Is building strength (through lifting weights) part of this process?
I did weights a lot at the beginning of my career. I also think being fast is a talent God gave me. I try to train hard so I can maintain it.
Growing up, you admired the quickness of Michael Chang. Having similar frames, would you say you’ve emulated his style of play during your career?
A little bit. He was a very good baseliner. He was unbelievably solid from the back. He was very quick as well, but he played with a two-handed backhand. I play with one hand. That’s the main difference between our games.
How does having premier court speed benefit other areas of your game?
I think my strength lies within the rally. For example, if my opponent approaches and hits the ball into the corner, I’m able to get the ball back and recover.
What is a misconception that junior tennis players have in trying to improve their quickness and what would you suggest they do to correct it?
On-court exercises are really good because at the end, it’s all about tennis and getting to the ball. The best way to improve is to practise.
If given the opportunity to race one of your ATP World Tour colleagues in a 100m sprint at Olympic Stadium, who would you want to go up against and why?
Nadal, because he’s also one of the quickest players, so I think I’d want to go against him.
Which player on tour do you think…
Has the best footwork? Novak Djokovic
Has the greatest muscular endurance? Gael Monfils
Is the quickest? Rafael Nadal
Is the most flexible? Gael Monfils
Has the strongest core? Novak Djokovic
Has the best balance? Roger Federer
With assistance from Alison Kim.