Tuesday December 13th, 2011

It's an age-old conundrum: How do you take a vacation from your job that allows you to completely disconnect while still ensuring that you return raring to go? Too much fun and you come back with a "holiday hangover," ill-equipped to deal with the day-to-day grind. But fail to unplug and you come back just as exhausted as you were when you left.

So, when it comes to tennis players, how do they deal with their short offseason and ramp back up for one of the biggest tournaments of the year, the Australian Open, which begins in a little more than a month? It's a slightly easier proposition for the women, who have two months off (as opposed to one month for the men) from the end of their year to rest and recharge in preparation for not only the Australian swing but also for the grueling, 10-month season ahead.

For some, the offseason is about catching up on life. Heather Watson used some of her time off to pass her driving test. Victoria Azarenka flew to a Rihanna concert and has now incorporated hip-hop dancing into her training regime. As for Jelena Jankovic, she spent time with friends and family at home in Serbia and is now back to her daily, seven-hour workouts. But it's not all work and no play for Jankovic.

"It's the holiday season," Jankovic said. "I'm doing some power shopping."

Cross-training the Jankovic way.

Here's a look at how some of the top women have been keeping busy during the offseason:

Petra Kvitova won six titles and climbed to No. 2 in the rankings this year. (EPA)

Petra Kvitova: The new WTA "It" girl's busy offseason has featured numerous photo shoots, sponsor meetings and VIP confabs, including a meet-and-greet with Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas. But besides those duties, the world No. 2 has enjoyed quality time with her boyfriend, Adam Pavlasek, and her family.

"I was with my boyfriend for his last tournament of the season as his 'coach'," she told the WTA. "He was with me as a coach in Linz, where I won [in October]. He managed to reach the semifinals and jumped more than 400 places in the rankings -- now already under 1,000 in the ATP rankings -- so we have had good success coaching each other."

After a season of jet-setting to 19 tournaments around the world, spending one more minute on a plane was the last thing on Kvitova's to-do list.

"We went for a short, relaxing holiday in an Austrian spa because I did not want even to hear about flying anywhere," the Wimbledon champion said.

Let's put the emphasis on "short." By late November, Kvitova was already back to training in the High Tatras mountains in Slovakia.

"We started with high-altitude training -- climbing, running, gym, massage, stretching, etc.," Kvitova said. "It means starting every morning and finishing late afternoon, and after dinner I just fall into bed to relax and sleep to be ready to start again the next morning with the same routine."

U.S. Open champ Sam Stosur's offseason workouts include four-hour hitting sessions. (UPI/Landov)

Sam Stosur: The U.S. Open champion has spent her downtime moving into her new apartment in Sydney and doing what seems to be every Australian's birthright: relaxing at the beach and using other sports -- swimming, paddle boarding, swimming, even boxing -- as a basis for her cross-training.

After a three-week break at the beginning of the offseason, Stosur has turned her attention to 2012 with an eye toward a strong start in her homeland.

"The preseason is the only time of the year where we can really push our bodies to the limit for an extended amount of time," said Stosur, who routinely has four-hour hitting sessions and one hour of physical work with her trainer. "For me, being Australian, the first tournaments of the year are so important and I want to know when I hit the court in January I am mentally refreshed, physically fit and raring to go."

Ana Ivanovic won her first and only title of the year in her final tournament, in Bali. (Zumapress)

Ana Ivanovic: Ivanovic ended her disappointing 2011 on a high note, winning her only title of the year in Bali in November. Her offseason has been the subject of much photo documentation, as she dutifully watched as boyfriend Adam Scott competed in the Presidents Cup in Melbourne.

"Players’ partners were really made to feel like we were part of the team," Ivanovic told the WTA. "It was both relaxing and exciting at the same time -- relaxing because I could forget about tennis, and exciting because it was a serious competition."

The 22nd-ranked Ivanovic eschewed a long flight back to cold and clammy Europe to stay down in Australia for her offseason training. Accompanied by Scott Byrnes, her Australian physio, and coach Nigel Sears, Team Ivanovic is trying to get her body stronger for the new season.

"In the beginning we were working on muscle growth, but then we moved on to increasing my strength," she said. "We’ve been taking full advantage of the beautiful surroundings in Australia. So far I have been running along the coast of Queensland, 'stair climbing' to the top of amazing views, stand-up paddling in the rivers, surfing at the beach, circuit-training in the parks."

Ivanovic, who struggled with injuries in 2011, including an abdominal strain that she sustained the first week of the season, is looking forward to heading into the new season with a stable team around her. "I didn’t have great preparation last year. I was actually still looking for a new coach, and it didn’t go so well," she said. "If I look back on the best years of my career, I had great preparation periods, especially in Australia in 2007 with Sven Groeneveld. Nigel and I have not even had more than two weeks together on the practice court, away from tournaments, so this is a great opportunity for us to work on my game for a whole month."

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