MADRID, Spain -- If Sara Sorribes Tormo had her way, every match would last over three hours. But the indefatigable Spaniard hit her limit during her breakout 2021 season, leaving her to reassess her game.
Ranked No.47, Sorribes Tormo will face Naomi Osaka in the second round of the Mutua Madrid Open on Sunday. The 25-year-old enjoyed the best season of her career last year, winning her first WTA title in Guadalajara, making her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal in Miami, and rising to a career-high No.32 earlier this year.
But unbeknownst to many, Sorribes Tormo struggled with burnout at the end of last season. Her physical game style - she was part of three of the Top 10 longest matches of last season - combined with a flurry of new experiences hit her all at once at Indian Wells last fall.
"I was dead," Sorribes Tormo told reporters in March. "My body said you need to stop, and I didn't want it to stop. So I remember going to the hospital because I thought something else was happening because I couldn't play. I couldn't almost get out of bed. It was very difficult for me to practice, to go on court, even for me. I'm very energetic."
"I worried. I was really worried. When I went to Tenerife, for me, it was like a mountain. Because I'm a very physical player and I was not sure if I was able to complete the whole match. Normally when I get on court, I'm sure that I can compete for three hours. If it's three hours, it's better than if it's two because I feel that I'm better there.
"But last season in Tenerife, also in Indian Wells, it was not like this. So for me, it was even more difficult."
After the US Open, Sorribes Tormo won just two matches for the remainder of the season. One of those matches came at the Billie Jean King Cup in November, where she beat Anna Karolina Schmiedlova to boost Spain to victory.
"When I played with Schmiedlova in the Billie Jean King Cup, it was very good for me because I had to change," Sorribes Tormo said. "At some point I was cramping and was not feeling good. It was the beginning of the third set.
"So I started to go to the net a lot. I made, like, 30 serve and volleys. It also helped me. You can do this, and you don't need to wait when you are feeling bad to do this."
Since that Schmiedlova match, Sorribes Tormo has worked to incorporate more serve and volley into her game. Not only does it help her shorten points, but it also forces her out of her reliable defensive shell.
"Last year, before I went to Mexico, Silvia [Soler Espinosa, her coach] contacted one guy from the statistics and he passed her a few papers of my matches. I had 99% success on serve and volley. So I started to think, maybe I have to go to the net because that's where I win more points."
Aside from working to shorten points and play more efficient matches, Sorribes Tormo is also taking to heart the lessons she learned during her grueling 2021 campaign.
"I think last year helped me a lot in these things because it was the first year that I played this many matches," Sorribes Tormo said. "We used to say when you go to many tournaments, if you lose first round, it's tough, but when you're winning matches, it's even tougher.
"I remember playing Miami last year and I was in quarters, and for me, it was like the tournament was already one month. And I was still in quarters. I remember telling Silvia, I don't know how they do it. It's amazing. So that's something that you have to get used to it. That's something I'm trying to realize, to understand, to be calm, be more patient."
Another lesson? Sometimes, less is more.
"For example, if I'm playing at five in the afternoon or seven, I would go in the morning and I would practice one hour, then I'd go again, and then I'll warm up 45 minutes. This is too much. You don't need it. Everything's already done! So that's something I had to learn as well.
"In Miami last year, I remember playing in the afternoon and I was not going to the site in the morning. On the first day I was like, Oh my God, I'm doing nothing. How it's possible? I'm not going to be able to hit the ball this afternoon. And yet things were working."