US Open champion Stosur among fittest on WTA Tour

Defending U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur says she’s never

done a biceps curl in her life.

Yet the 28-year-old Australian with the impressive arms is among

the fittest women on the WTA tour.

After overcoming Lyme disease and viral meningitis during a

10-month layoff in 2007-08, she focused on fitness in her return to

tennis. She switched from a successful doubles career (23 titles, 4

majors) to singles and won her first Grand Slam title last year by

dominating Serena Williams in 73 minutes at Flushing Meadows.

The self-described ”foodie” loves Japanese cuisine and admired

Steffi Graf while growing in Adelaide. The snorkeling buff who

doesn’t like to fly prefers running on the beach or boxing in the

parks Down Under to stay fit. Otherwise, Stosur is based in Tampa,

Fla., where last week she practiced for three days in 90-degree

heat to prepare for Monday’s start of the U.S. Open.

Stosur shares her workout regime, favorite foods and how to

perfect that nasty kick serve.

BIG GUNS

Stosur withstood the rain delays caused by Hurricane Irene,

court changes and the longest match in U.S. Open women’s singles

history during the 2011 event. Fitness certainly played a part in

her 3 hour, 16 minute win over Nadia Petrova to reach the fourth

round. That’s a long way from early 2008, when she was rehabbing

from Lyme disease and limited to a 20-minute walk every other day.

Her booming serves and heavy topspin forehands keep opponents on

the run. Stosur says her physique is part genetics, offseason

workouts and just pounding tennis balls. ”Obviously the gym work

helps, but I haven’t tried to isolate my arms.”

FITNESS ROUTINE

Stosur says strong legs and core are important in tennis because

of the quick bursts of speed and lateral movement. Her workouts

include biking, weights and stretch-band exercises for her serving

shoulder, and she has access to a fitness trainer, massage

therapist and sports psychologist. Stosur practices tennis drills

and points on the court, followed by stretching and cardio for 30

minutes or 45 minutes of weights on alternate days. During the

two-month offseason ”you can make good gains with endurance, speed

or strength.” In Tampa last week, Stosur and coach Dave Taylor

focused on tennis only and downed 72 bottles of water over three

days of practice in high humidity.

SUSHI, PLEASE

At 5-foot-7 and 143 pounds, Stosur doesn’t feel she needs to

restrict her diet, given all the exercise. She eats a lot of fish

and sushi, taking in the cultures and cuisines of various countries

during the WTA season. The tour starts in Australia in January,

moves through France, Thailand, Qatar, Mexico and Malaysia before

hitting 22 other counties en route to the season-ending

championships in October in Bulgaria. She likes to be

”adventurous” and prefers a balanced approach versus Novak

Djokovic’s gluten-free diet, for example. She returns to favorite

restaurants around the world and enjoys yakitori, noodles and

Mexican dishes.

LEG WORK

While Stosur says she couldn’t do a chin-up until recently, she

can squat nearly 200 pounds. She works on lunges and dynamic

movement, staying away from weight machines. She uses ”a lot of

dumbbells and Swiss balls” for balance and core exercises. Stosur,

who sprained her left ankle in February before a quarterfinal match

in Doha, prefers riding the stationary bike because it avoids wear

and tear on the feet and joints. Interval cycling spikes the heart

rate, which also occurs during long, high-intensity points on the

court. She has focused on leg strength the last two years because

moving out wide to a ball requires stability and ”knowing you can

hit a good shot and not be on the defensive.”

KICK SERVE

Stosur and Serena Williams are among the few women strong enough

to use the kick serve. It bounces high and away from the returner,

leading to many easy points. Stosur used it to reach the French

Open semifinals, her best showing in the Grand Slams this year

after losing in the first round of the Australian Open and second

round of Wimbledon. She practiced it soon after getting a tennis

racket for Christmas at age 8. The key is ”don’t throw it too far

behind” your head and ”get up and swing at 100 percent pace.”

Use a strong wrist motion and brush under the ball, hitting from

bottom left to the top right. It’s even better if done ”with a

good bit of disguise on the ball toss.”