Harriet Dart ASICS

“Most important is not to change your game” – A ‘fortunate’ Harriet Dart is focussed on ‘feeling her best on court’

The globe-trotting life of a tennis professional can be tough but Harriet Dart seemed content with her lot as she opened up on some key topics affecting the women’s game in this exclusive Tennishead interview.

Meeting up with Harriet Dart, the ASICS sponsored WTA ranked No.91, in the super-exclusive surroundings of the St George’s Hill tennis club on a warm, bright morning gave us the impression that life as a professional tennis player can be a privileged one, and Harriet is keenly aware of how fortunate she is.

Harriet’s ranking is close to her best of No.84 which guarantees her entry into all the Grand Slams. She’s a key part of the successful GB Billie Jean King Cup team and has a solid and supportive team both on and off court. So does the prospective merger of the ATP and WTA Tours give her any cause for concern?

“I know there has been a lot of talks around it but it is not in mine any other player’s control. I do think that both tours would highly benefit from a merger as you see the mixed events bringing in a lot of people which I think is great for spectators to watch both female and male tennis. Just in general you look at the Slams and you see how many people go and watch a men’s match or a women’s match, it is very interesting. It all depends on the matchups and you know I feel like in the female game particularly we have amazing strength in depth and you get so many high quality matches, so I think that a merged tour can only benefit both of us.”


Harriet Dart ASICS


TH: What would you change if the tours did merge?

“I think we could definitely use each others venues. For example, there’s a men’s event in Rotterdam but we don’t use that venue. The men play in Shanghai, we play in Guangzhou and Ningbo, so we could use the venues that are already setup and well equipped and also get a high amount of spectators that are already interested in tennis.”

TH: You clearly thrive in a team environment so what is it that you enjoy so much about team events and representing GB?

“Tennis is such an individual sport throughout the year, although you have your team and everyone around you, ultimately you are on your own on the court. Whereas in a team competition it becomes very much about everyone. We have a great group of girls who are all similar in ages, so we have all grown up together. It has been really inspiring to see how well they have been doing and I really feel like we all motivate each other to get better.

“Within the Billie Jean King Cup it is so much more than being part of the team, it’s representing your country. I am very patriotic so whenever I can I will represent. At the Olympics to be able to say that you are an Olympian is really cool, and to experience all the other sports whilst being there and being inspired by all the other athletes. I remember being a young girl and watching the 100m final on the TV, and I just think it would be such a unique experience.”

TH: Do you think there is room for more team events in professional tennis?

“It’s a tricky one because our schedule is so tough. We have many tournaments especially this year with the WTA changing a lot of rulings to include many more mandatory events which means a lot of players will have to play more to keep their ranking and keep the points on. I think once a year (for team events) at the moment is enough. Maybe if they could plan/schedule it in a different part of the year might be better, as the end of season everyone is quite tired anyway, but everyone tries to bring their best and represent when they can.”

Harriet Dart ASICSTH: This week you aren’t playing a tournament so how do you plan and structure your time?

“Today is actually my off day. I started my week on Saturday, so it all depends on when I finish my tournaments, travel and everything. We try and make sure I rest enough, practice enough and all of that. I finished in Madrid on Wednesday last week, Thursday I travelled back, Friday I had off and then Saturday I started training again. I train my tennis and fitness each day. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and now today (Thursday) is off. I did five intense days of training, one day off, then tomorrow I will fly to Rome. I will practice when I arrive and then I will practice in the two days leading up. But usually on a week leading up to a tournament, the first couple of days are quite intense and then you taper (down the intensity) towards the tournament, so you are full of energy and full of beans ready to go when match day comes.”

TH: Give us more insight into your training sessions

“I am very lucky that I get to train at the National Tennis Centre (in Roehampton, South London). We have great facilities there and they have everything you need, so it is a great place. My coach is over from the States at the moment, so he is on court with me with my fitness trainer because we will do some movement especially on clay this time of year. Clay is a surface that I haven’t had that much experience on, so just being able to get more comfortable moving and adapting to that and also we will be working in the gym. Whoever is down the other end, it might be one of the junior players, it might be a senior player, it might be one of the boys or a hitting partner. My coach kind of tees that up for me to try and get the best out of me.”

TH: How difficult it is to try and change your game from hard courts to clay?

“The most important thing is to not change your game. Whether you are on a hard court, grass court or clay court, sticking to your game is really important. But at the same time on clay, for example, you need to be just a bit more patient and probably making some more drop shots or certain decisions at certain times. I think that is what has been really clear to me this year that just being able to just stick to my game and not doubt that. I have watched a lot of tennis, watched some of the top females and all of them play exactly the same as what they play on another surfaces, just being a bit more patient.”

TH: Do you have a specific fitness routine for the clay season?

“For sure, especially when you are pushed out wide you need to be able to adapt whether that’s from sliding or just more of a footwork pattern. And especially when you are not comfortable on a surface, it is really important to just keep training those habits and those steps just to feel more comfortable. For me it is about feeling the clay and to feel more comfortable moving because sometimes I can fall over and I think ‘I can’t get up, I can’t move’, but actually you just keep going and things are going to happen. And it is the same on the grass. Grass is again a completely different kettle of fish, when a lot of foreign players come over and they haven’t played on grass it is a big shock for them, they can’t decel[arate] getting to a ball and a lot of it is about adapting and finding what works for you.”

TH: Do you think someone’s physique should determine the style of tennis they play?

“Yes and no. Ultimately you can decide yourself, it doesn’t matter what size or shape you are. If you want to play an aggressive style by all means do that. You can have a very slight person who can have a lot of power, equally you can have someone that is really tall, but for some reason doesn’t have a big serve. I think it is about adapting with what you have and I think you can just keep on improving all things of your game and you can play how you want to play”

Harriet Dart ASICSTH: How have you chosen your current equipment? 

“I’ve been with Yonex for over five years and they are a very professional brand. All the rackets that I get sent are always exactly the same weight. I recently changed rackets in December from the YONEX VCore to the Ezone and I changed head size as well. Now I am on a 98 square inch head size which is a first for me. It was a big change and a big mental challenge for me, but I am very happy with it. It has been going very well so far. And you will laugh, because I was using a red racket before for about six years and then I changed over and blue is actually my favourite colour, so it kind of works out well. I also use Yonex strings which is a softer string because I have had some shoulder issues.”

TH: Why did you change to a smaller head size racket?

“We were looking for a little bit extra and having spoken to my coaches we thought that it would be beneficial for me to try this racket. There were some other rackets that I was potentially going to try from Yonex but actually this was the first one I tried with a different head size and I liked it and stuck with it and I’ve been really happy with it ever since. “

TH: Can you tell us which strings you use?

“I use a blend with polyester on the main strings. I haven’t changed string in years because it is very comfortable and probably one of the most popular on the market.

“I used to string it a lot tighter, but I have gone looser in the last two years. It has been a bit of a fight between me and my coach over string tensions, but now I have gone down to about 25 kilos which is actually standard I would say. I used to be on nearer to 30 kg (string tension).”

TH: You’ve been with ASICS for a long time. What is it about the shoes that you like so much?

“I have been so lucky and fortunate to have been part of Team ASICS since 2019. It has been a really long journey and I think everything has really evolved since I first joined. I was just speaking about the shoes and how they have changed aesthetically and how they have improved year on year. Also the clothes have become a lot more ‘fashiony’. I am really into fashion and kind of expressing myself through clothing and shoes. I think it is really fun and I love working with the ASICS team across the UK, Europe, the US and in Japan. I see them a lot of the time during tournaments and they always come and support me. I always have everything I need and beyond from ASICS. It is wild how much stuff I have in my house! What is really important is that I have the same ethos as ASICS about having a ‘sound mind, sound body’. Just being able to get out and do anything whether that is a walk or playing tennis or whatever it is so good for your mind and for your soul.”

TH: Why did you choose the ASICS Gel Resolution over the other models of ASICS shoes?

“I am more of a baseline player I would say. Also for me comfort. At the end of the day you have got to be comfortable in a shoe and the Gel Resolution fit my foot the best and I have been with it since I first joined in 2019. The clothing has changed over the years I’ve been wearing ASICS. They were a lot bigger before but now I would say they have become slimmer and more aesthetically pleasing. It’s been a really fun journey so far.”

TH: Finally, what’s the best advice you’ve been given by a coach?

“That is a tough question. I have been given a lot of advice over the years and I have been really lucky to work with some really high-profile coaches. One thing I will say is that you don’t need to feel you’re best to win. It is a hard concept to wrap your head around, because you always think as a professional athlete you need to play really well to win, but a lot of the time most of it is your mind and you need to stay engaged for a long period of time and figure it out on the court. For me you will play a handful of matches where you will go, ‘okay that was great’, but most of the time you are working with your base level and trying to improve on that.”

Harriet Dart wears the ASICS Gel-Resolution 9 tennis shoes which you can learn more about by enjoying this in-depth Tennishead review and video play test.

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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.