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Tennis instructor works, plays outside in hot conditions

Self-care vital to enjoy outdoor activity

POSTED: August 12, 2014 1:00 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

Chattahoochee Country Club tennis pro Pablo Gras instructs Andy Ramsey on Friday afternoon at the country club. Gras worked with Ramsey on the parts of his game he was looking to improve.

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Andy Ramsey rocks back on his heels, sighs and takes another swing.

“I want to get it right,” he said, lifting the racket yet again.

The Gainesville physician doesn’t just want to play tennis. He wants to play good tennis. While he played in high school, he dropped the sport during medical school, and the past two years have served as his comeback.

Across the net, Pablo Gras fires shot after shot at Ramsey, and for a solid hour, the tennis professional at the Chattahoochee Country Club barks instructions.

“Bring the racket up over your shoulders!” “Get that left foot down!” “Don’t show me that side of the racket!”

At lesson’s end, the two men gather by the water cooler and discuss how Ramsey can better heat up the court.

Such is the summer’s schedule for Gras, who helps nearly 95 individuals up their game.

“I just love the game,” Gras said. “I’ve been playing my whole life, and I love teaching it. I try to do it in a way where people can improve the best that they can, whether it’s to compete at a higher or social level. I just enjoy making tennis part of their lifestyle. It was part of my life, so I want to pass it on to other people.”

As he passes along the love of the game, he makes sure to pass along tips to his beginner students, beyond the usual “Keep your arm at 90 degrees here,” and “Don’t try to muscle it.”

Gras’ priority — other than helping his students to better their skills — is to keep them safe while playing in the summer.

“I always say to wear sunscreen and to wear a hat,” he said.

While the native-born Argentine said he is acclimated to the heat, he knows proper self-care is vital to properly enjoying tennis. He said that others need to monitor themselves during play.

According to the United States Tennis Association, the best way to get rid of internal body heat during matches is perhaps the most obvious method — sweating.

“But if it’s hot and humid, even sweating doesn’t eliminate heat effectively,” Michael Bergeron for the USTA said in a news release. “Sweat rate increases as the environment gets hotter and more humid, as intensity of play increases, and as a player becomes more aerobically fit and acclimatizes to the heat.”

Gras finds himself fatigued on the warmer days.

“Obviously, if it’s above 95 degrees, I am tired at the end of the day,” he said.

Recommendations for keeping hydrated include drinking plenty of fluids, although not necessarily just water.

“Water is usually fine for a prematch beverage, but only if sufficient carbohydrates and electrolytes are provided by your food intake,” Bergeron said. “Avoid drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol; they will accelerate fluid loss.”

The USTA recommends drinking enough during each changeover to feel “comfortably full, whether you are thirsty or not.” For many players, that amount is equivalent to about 8 ounces, or about 8 swallows.

Gras emphasizes the game should be about more than consuming the proper type of fluids and monitoring sweat rates.

“My biggest tip is to make sure that (tennis players) take lessons when they first start, because it’s a technique-demanding sport, and if you develop bad habits, they’re hard to break,” he said.

Such is Ramsey’s reason for returning again and again, for lifting the racket and taking another swing.

“I’ve got to learn it your way, Pablo,” he said.



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