Matt Little, Strength and Conditioning coach
Matt Little has worked with Andy for most of his career, and is responsible for making sure Andy is in optimum condition to compete at the highest levels of Tour tennis. As well as designing Andy's gruelling training blocks, Matt handles many of Andy's day-to-day performance needs, which can include anything from Andy's stretching routines to last minute dashes for ice cubes to fill an ice bath.
His nickname is Treacle.
What does a strength and conditioning coach do?
All aspects of off court physical preparation (except medical). Focus is optimising performance while minimising injury.
What sort of skills or personality type do you need to have to do your role well?
You need to have courage of your convictions, thick skin and an ability to put your ego to one side and do what is best for the player. It also helps to be fun and very positive in nature.
How did you get into this role - and how could someone else?
I played a lot of sport (including tennis) from a young age and quickly realised that although I loved it I was never going to make a professional. I knew at the age of 16 exactly what I wanted to do, specialised in one sport and stuck to it. I took my university studies and then offered my services on a voluntary basis to gain enough experience for paid work. You must be willing to travel to wherever the work may be. I volunteered for 6 years at home and abroad until I got my first paid S&C in tennis job, then worked my way up the levels.
Are there courses or qualifications that you needed to take?
Sports Science Degree (or equivalent), personal trainer/fitness instructor qualifications and then when ready UK Strength and Conditioning Association (UKSCA) Accreditation.
What's the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Watching Andy play and win! Seeing a plan that not just you, but the whole team has put into place, come to fruition. I also love our team's interaction. It's so much fun.
What are the main challenges you face?
Time away from family and friends. Not easy for them or us.
How has the way players train and prepare changed in the last few years?
The level of information around an individual's performance is expanding rapidly and can inform training and practice in a very detailed way. The science is developing at an exciting rate - especially in the wearable technology aspect.
How do you think things will change in the future?
Accuracy of information will improve and the efficiency/invasiveness of the information gathering process will become far slicker. We are going to be able to measure just about anything.
How do you prepare for a major tournament like the Australian Open or Wimbledon?
6 weeks out, focus on physical development and base building. 4 weeks out, focus more on tennis drilling and specific on court development. 2 weeks out focus on competing and points based play.
Do you approach each tournament in the same way, or are they all different?
They are all different. Lead in/ preparation time, conditions, athlete status, time of the year, travel requirements, venue specifics (such as equipment available, local food etc) and of course surface.
Do you prepare Andy (or other players) differently for clay or grass?
Yes, polar opposites in terms of physical requirements. Clay, long duration points with high bouncing balls on a slow pace surface. Grass short duration points on a low bouncing surface on medium/fast pace courts. Training programme must reflect both.
Is there a tournament you like more than the others?
Tradition and buzz around Wimbledon is so special. To be fair, every Grand Slam is amazing in its own right.
What's Andy like to work with?
Incredibly professional and dedicated. I've never seen any athlete like him in this respect. His body also adapts so quickly to training. He is challenging and uncompromising in his pursuit of excellence in his training too, which is precisely how it should be. Away from the court he loves to joke and have fun.
What's a typical training session with Andy like?
In a typical gym session, we will be in there for 60-120mins depending on what we are working on. He lifts a lot of weights, does a great deal of cardio training and core training. More so these days, his focus has also shifted to mobility, flexibility and injury prevention training.
What does Andy enjoy most about strength and conditioning sessions - and what does he enjoy the least?
He loves setting new personal bests and looking at his training stats. He is constantly pushing the envelope to get more from his body. He doesn't enjoy the ice baths, but sees them as a necessary evil!
What is it like to be part of Andy's team?
Firstly, it's an honour and a privilege. To not only live in an era where we have a British Grand Slam champ, but to be working with him is very special. Secondly, it is fun. We have a great team spirit. Finally, it is a positive challenge. Getting the most out of Andy and each other requires non-stop effort and commitment.
How closely do you work with other members of the team?
It is seamless. It has to be. Communication is vital, with so many aspects of his technical, tactical, physical and mental preparation happening at any one time, we simply drop the ball in any area. Clear goals, measurable objectives, backed up by a team vision and set of values we live by each day. That's the way it is.
Besides tennis, what sports do you follow or participate it?
Charlton Athletic football team. Say no more.