4 May 2018

Ramadan and Rafa! How to win while fasting

Ramadan begins on May 15 this year and continues until after the French Open (June 14).

This week we were delighted to catch up with Nizam. A Bolton resident and enthusiastic Local leaguer, Nizam gave us his top tips for playing in your Local Tennis League during Ramadan, explained his adoration for Rafa and love for the sport. Thanks for your time Nizam!

'I've been watching tennis from a very young age. My brother used to follow the sport and I grew up playing tennis. The earliest memory I have of a big game was Rafa winning the 2005 French open.

The idea of having competitive matches locally, as well as meeting new people and finding some tennis friends is probably one of the best ideas going. The organisation of the league is great and the competitiveness adds to what makes it great. I have played tennis for a long time and I kept playing with the same group of friends thinking no one else likes tennis as much, however this league has enabled me to meet new people and play people who are on my level and also better than me, which is a super thing!

Ramadan is when Muslims fast from around 1:30am (some Muslims have different times for when they start the fast) and it lasts until sunset at around 9:10pm. The time increases by a minute or two every day as the days get longer. That means Muslims do not eat or drink for approximately 19/20 hours a day. So yeah, it's tough to say the least!

The fact that Muslims cannot eat or drink during Ramadan makes playing tennis very difficult. Especially with matches mostly played outdoors, the hotter weather this time of year also makes it difficult as you get tired very easily and there's nothing you can do to re-energise yourself. You just have to stay mentally tough but it's difficult when you are thinking about food and water and when's the next time you'll be able to eat!'

Nizam played through Ramadan last year, so, what tips does he have for other players who are fasting this month? 

'For those who are fasting, I found the best time to play was around 6/7pm because once you've finished playing tennis, there's not that much time left before you can to break your fast. Also if anyone has work or university, around 6pm or 7pm is when people are free. I learned this as I started playing around midday, too close to the time I used to wake up. I'd think I'll play and get it out the way then I can rest. But once you start getting the feeling that you need to drink, it makes the day even more difficult.

I believe it's a little harder to play tennis whilst fasting. It's harder to concentrate in between games in the breaks, as you're normally used to having a few sips of water and maybe a bite of a banana and you feel energised to carry on. When there's no food or drink involved, you have to just take a breather and get back out there.

Last year, I didn't run around much or put as much aggression into chasing the ball due to fasting. I felt this would drain my energy and I wanted to conserve it. What did improve for sure was my patience and being able to remain calm, instead of getting frustrated when I missed an easy opportunity or a double fault etc. I had to remain calm and composed as frustration just uses extra energy and this was something I improved on greatly.'

Nizam's experience of having played over Ramadan last year should stand him in good stead for another successful month of tennis, although he admits, he's got a long way to go to match his hero Rafa! Someone we here at Local Tennis Leagues have a very close partnership with.

'For sure Rafa, 1000%, is the player I've looked up to since the very start. I've watched him live several times too and his game play is the ultimate genius in motion. I have tried to copy his movement and the aggression he shows on court. I cannot and don't think I will ever be able to hit a trademark forehand like his (or backhand!), but I do try my best! So in my opinion, Rafa is the greatest of all time (I understand this opinion will cause some controversy!) but there's a reason he's still world number 1 at the grand age of 31! I've been told I run around too much and try to chase every ball even if it's an impossible reach, and every point must be treated like a match winning point, and that's Rafa's play for sure. I hope I get to meet him someday too. It would probably be the greatest moment of my life! No exaggeration!'

A huge thanks to Nizam for taking the time to chat with us! With our Manchester Parks league as popular as ever, Nizam and his fellow Local Leaguers in Greater Manchester can make the most of the local tennis leagues!