It has been four years since Physiotherapist Melanie Omizzolo, pictured here with Casey Dellacqua and Ash Barty at last years' French Open, finished working at The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre to pursue a career working with elite and professional tennis players.
With the Australian Open in full swing we thought a Q&A with Mel would be interesting and timely! We hope you enjoy the read.
How long have you been working at Tennis Australia?
Since I left The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre 4 years ago.
How long had you worked with elite and professional tennis players prior to finishing up with us? What was your role?
I first started working with elite tennis players in 2005. Previously I had roles as a core contractor with the WTA (the women's professional tour) and had also done contract work for Tennis Australia and a year as a private physiotherapist for a professional player. My learning curve as both a sports physio and a tennis physio skyrocketed in my first couple of years working for the WTA. I found the travel personally and professionally difficult when trying to combine private practice work with tournament work, so made the decision to go full time into tennis four years ago.
What is your role at Tennis Australia and has it changed over the years?
My role is Natoinal Physiotherapy Manager and Physiotherapist for the Australian Fed Cup Team. The role is split between normal Physiotherapy hands-on treatment, injury prevention and management work, along with managing our Physiotherapists working at tournaments and in our academies Nationally. My role with the Australian Fed Cup team involves detailed planning with players, coaches and other members of the sports science and medicine team, so we can closely monitor their training and competition loads and give them advice on how best to manage their bodies.
Do you miss Private Practice?
I do miss aspects of private practice. It was always interesting not knowing what problem you would be treating next and my clientele at The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre were always interesting to chat with and help!
We all hear about AFL players playing with injuries - how do tennis players compare?
Unlike AFL, tennis players can play every day, sometimes even twice a day, so it does place a lot of accumulated stress on the body. They can fly from one continent to the next, and be expected to play within 24 hours of landing! Being an individual sport, it's difficult to 'hide' an injury and sometimes it's physically not possible for them to continue. It's also different from AFL in that the tennis season is much longer, and they essentially have four grand finals (with the four grand slams) so they have to be smart with their bodies and plan to compete at their best throughout the year.
How do tennis players cope with playing with injuries?
All players utilise a lot of physiotherapy and massage therapy. There is a lot of education and team discussions (with coaches and support staff) on managing training loads when they do have an injury.
How do tennis players manage injuries when their medical team may be on the other side of the world?
Facetime and What's App are our best tools! The professional players tap into both the ATP and WTA Physiotherapists, who are at every pro tour event throughout the world, and provide an incredible year-round service. Our Tennis Australia athletes are also lucky to have full time staff that work with them around the year, and will regularly stay in touch with them on the phone and help provide advice on the road too.
How do tennis players compare to other elite athletes in terms of their will to win and putting their bodies 'on the line'?
You could argue all day which athletes are 'tougher'. But, tennis players are out on the court on their own, without the ability to be rotated off during the match, or speak to a team-mate or their coach.....
Are there particular recovery techniques the player use?
Each player has their own prefernces, but certainly massage, active cool downs and stretching, ice baths and compression devices are used. Sleep is probably our most valuable recovery tool!
What are players eating and drinking during matches at the moment?
Players are certainly more and more conscious of what they are eating before, during and after matches. Eating well in general can be difficult when players spend more than 30 weeks of the year travelling and eating at restaurants. Most players will drink some sort of electrolye or sports drink during a match as well as water, and sports gels are also popular. Bananas are still a common request on court too!
What sort of food is provided for players at each venue?
Each tournament is provided with a recommended menu for professional tennis players, which includes a variety of proteins and carbohydrates. I may be biassed, but the food provided for players at the Australian Open is outstanding!
What's your favourite grand slam and why?
Other than the Australian Open, I love the Italian Open in Rome and the French Open - I'd never seen a clay court prior to working in tennis, and now watching matches on clay is my favourite tennis to watch. It's also handy for me in that it tends to be a bit kinder on the body.
What is the best country you have visited, and why?
I can't split between Italy and France - culture, history, cities, country-side and most importantly, the food!
When are you coming back to work at The Melbourne Sports Medicine Centre?
When Roger decides to make me a partner......Over to you Rog!
Thanks Mel, enjoy The Open everyone!