NEW YORK, NY, USA - With 186 straight weeks at the top, World No.1 Serena Williams is sure to have a few recovery tricks up her long Nike sleeves. In her post-match press conference after her straight sets win over Ekaterina Makarova, Williams revealed that she's a believer in cupping therapy.
Cupping, an ancient therapeutic modality used to promote healing and recovery, came into the spotlight recently during the Rio Olympics after American swimmer Michael Phelps was seen winning gold medals with dark red circles across his shoulders and back.
According to WTA Sports Science & Medicine team member Kathy Queen: "In cupping, a cup is placed on the skin and a vacuum is created, using a flame or mechanical device, that lifts the skin and immediate layers underneath, including fascia. This allows for an increased flow of fresh blood and fluid in the area and, if moved along the body's surface (called "sliding"), helps break up fascial adhesions. The temporary bruising created from the vacuum effect also plays an anti-inflammatory role.
"Athletes often feel immediate relief after treatment and increased range of motion and flexibility."
But while Phelps used the therapeutic suction as a method for recovery, Williams has been using it for relaxation.
"I've always done that. I didn't know it was something for recovery," Williams said. "If I go to my lady in Palm Beach, it's part of acupuncture.
"I love getting it, it makes me relax. I was like, Wow, you can do that for recovery?"
So what exactly does cupping feel like?
"It feels like a suction. It feels like an octopus, although I don't know what an octopus feels like," Williams tried to explain to press. "I think I snapped once a while back. It looks weird, the cupping. Yeah, I always do it, but I just did it for fun, so...
"But, yeah, so it just feels like it's suctioning and it just feels good."