do lefties have a better chance to be successful in professional tennis?

Lefties have a better chance to be successful in professional tennis?


  • Total voters
    73

1stVolley

Semi-Pro
Brad Gilbert mentioned the slight advantage in his book. A lefty has played his whole career having a righty go cross-court to his backhand so he is used to it. A righty on the other hand does not encounter the same pattern as often therefore he is more likely to have trouble with it. It’s pretty difficult to get a sparring partner to hammer your backhand with lefty topspin to simulate Nadal.
The issue of a lefty sparring partner is certainly true at the club level, but any of the top pros can usually find an accommodating southpaw to practice with.
 

topher

Professional
Unfortunately your sample size (N=100) isn't large enough to make strong statistically-based conclusions. Also, Nadal is a righty who plays lefty so this muddies the question. Do you mean natural lefties or only anyone who plays with their left hand?

If you take your expanded sample size of N=300 with, now, 38 (or 37) "lefties", there is a small preponderance of left-handed players--assuming your counts are correct. (On a different thread where the OP claimed 5 of the top 10 players in 1975 were lefties, the actual number was just 2).

The common argument that lefties have that "can opener" slice serve to the righty ad court is unconvincing since righties have the same advantage over lefties when serving to the latter's deuce court. The higher-ranked pros can easily get lefty practice partners so they are not confused playing lefties in matches. On the club level I (a natural lefty) do find an advantage from my righty opponents' unfamiliarity with my spins and backhand. Some of my opponents are so unobservant that they don't even realize I'm a lefty until a few games into the match.

One possible advantage, but one not exclusive to lefties, is having your dominant eye on the other side from your dominant hand. The claim here is that it results in better sighting of the ball. Who knows.
As I recall I think Nadal is right-handed and right-eye dominant, but is left-foot dominant. Or at least that’s what his and Toni’s quotes infer.
 

1stVolley

Semi-Pro
As I recall I think Nadal is right-handed and right-eye dominant, but is left-foot dominant. Or at least that’s what his and Toni’s quotes infer.
As I understand it, the standard means of classifying handedness is which hand you naturally use to write with. For the majority of people their dominant eye is on the same side as their handedness. I am left-handed and left eye dominant. I think that if I were right eye dominant I would be able to sight the ball better because then my dominant eye would be more in line with the incoming ball.
 

Ray Mercer

Hall of Fame
The issue of a lefty sparring partner is certainly true at the club level, but any of the top pros can usually find an accommodating southpaw to practice with.
You would think that but the day before the actual match it’s probably difficult. I remember years ago Federer had to resort to getting an old Ivanisevic to spar with him. An old Ivanisevic hits with nowhere near the spin of Nadal. Verdasco is probably the only guy that would really be adequate to simulate the pace and spin. Lopez wouldn’t be bad either.
 
approximately 10% of the world population is left-handed, but if we look at the professional tennis, current top 100 has 15 lefties:

2 Rafael Nadal
16 Denis Shapovalov
35 Guido Pella
38 Adrian Mannarino
41 Albert Ramos-Vinolas
42 Ugo Humbert
48 Yoshihito Nishioka
52 Fernando Verdasco
56 Feliciano Lopez
65 Jiri Vesely
75 Corentin Moutet
77 Cameron Norrie
78 Federico Delbonis
92 Dominik Koepfer

top 100-200 has 12 lefties, top 200-300 has 11 lefties

and we have ATG lefties like Martina Navratilova, Rafael Nadal (plays lefties), Rod Laver, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Monica Seles...Obviously we don't have the exact data to prove the theory, but just in theory, do you think lefties have a better chance? Or Not?
It seems now that almost half do not believe in the lefty advantage in professional tennis. Either deny it or not sure.

It is also possible to become a pro player in doubles. Have they all forgotten doubles?
 

Cashman

Hall of Fame
The real advantage lefties have is the pattern of play.
The advantage lefties have is their rarity. Left handers play right handers a hell of a lot more often than right handers play left handers.

I remember reading a pretty thorough statistical analysis a few years ago that tracked the top 500 players since the beginning of the Open era. The conclusion was that lefties had (and continue to have) a measurable advantage, but it has diminished over time. The researchers' opinion was that this was mostly due to increasing professionalism leading to players training more extensively and effectively to expose themselves to more left-handed play.
 
Last edited:

terribleIVAN

Hall of Fame
I don't know what you mean by "the golden age of lefties." McEnroe came after Laver peaked, for example. Connors was contemporary with Mac, of course, but I don't see this as a "golden age". There were many great righty S&V players like Roche, Newcombe, Edberg, Rafter. I don't see that lefties were better volleyers as a class.
....
?
 
Last edited:

PMChambers

Hall of Fame
Although I voted No, I do accept there's a very slight advantage but it's not worth considering.
In the wood era there was a definite advantage especially given most big Tourneys where on fast low bouncing surfaces. The slice serve wide into the Ad court was a definite advantage. Most break points are played on this side. It was hard to topspin a backhand with 65" 450g wooden racquet. For a lefty slicing down the line and charging to net was great play. Even later in 90s Courier inside out forehand worked well, bludgeoning through weaker BH.
When poly can to town, the double handed BH became the norm, going to net died, getting a ball up and down on the BH as side no longer a challenge. The BH is rarely stronger than FH but many players BH are more consistent and can't be hit through. The slider out wide at break point down really only opens the court up and BH returns although weaker than FH tend to be more consistent. I don't see a BH as a liability like it once was. The surfaces are basically Med {Slow - Med} HC or Clay. High bouncing and slow. There a small advantage in rarity but in the upper levels this is not an issue.
Personally I feel hitting 2HBH down line to lefties BH much simpler now than it ever was in 80/90s due to poly.
 

FiReFTW

Legend
Sure they do, they are rare hence most rarely play against them and are not so used to it.

Lefties on the other hand mostly play righties non stop
 

stringertom

Bionic Poster
Playing every ad-in and add-out point where a good first serve puts the lefty in the driver’s seat is a UUUGGGEEE advantage for closing a service game or avoiding the break of serve.

That advantage was much bigger back in the days of faster and lower bouncing courts. Homogenization, racquet and string technology evolution have also watered down the sinister advantages.
 

octobrina10

G.O.A.T.
As I recall I think Nadal is right-handed and right-eye dominant, but is left-foot dominant. Or at least that’s what his and Toni’s quotes infer.
Rafa is mixed-handed. Besides tennis, he also plays billiards left-handed.
Speaking of his feet, yes, he kicks a ball mostly with the left foot.

Through the years:


 
Last edited:

topher

Professional
Rafa is mixed-handed. Besides tennis, he also plays billiards left-handed.
Speaking of his feet, yes, he kicks a ball mostly with the left foot.

Through the years:


I play billiards left handed as well and I’m not the slightest bit ambidextrous. I can’t do anything with my left hand besides that. My point being I think billiards is a special case, does Rafa do anything else with his left hand? Otherwise I’d day he’s right handed.
 

TMF

Talk Tennis Guru
Of course a lefty has the an advantage, and that's true in every sport.

Study found in baseball that a right handed hitters struggle more against a left handed pitchers, and the right handed pitchers have less successful against a left handed batters.
 

octobrina10

G.O.A.T.
I play billiards left handed as well and I’m not the slightest bit ambidextrous. I can’t do anything with my left hand besides that. My point being I think billiards is a special case, does Rafa do anything else with his left hand? Otherwise I’d day he’s right handed.
Rafa says he does everyday things with his right hand, but plays sports with his left hand. He plays golf right handed, but specialists say that his golf swing kind of looks like his tennis backhand.
 
Lefties have an advantage because 90% of the time they're playing against righties, while righties are playing lefties only 10% of the time.
 

topher

Professional
Rafa says he does everyday things with his right hand, but plays sports with his left hand. He plays golf right handed, but specialists say that his golf swing kind of looks like his tennis backhand.
Are there any other tasks he does left-handed besides tennis and billiards, because I can’t find any. Per the source below, sports that require bilateral use of the hands like billiards are more likely to have left handed use even by right handed people.

So I’d stick with Rafa being right-handed unless there’s more cases than just billiards.

 

octobrina10

G.O.A.T.
Are there any other tasks he does left-handed besides tennis and billiards, because I can’t find any. Per the source below, sports that require bilateral use of the hands like billiards are more likely to have left handed use even by right handed people.

So I’d stick with Rafa being right-handed unless there’s more cases than just billiards.

The main thing is that playing tennis left handed was a natural choice for Rafa. Some people like to spread a false story that Uncle Toni made Rafa switch to playing left handed.
 

topher

Professional
The main thing is that playing tennis left handed was a natural choice for Rafa. Some people like to spread a false story that Uncle Toni made Rafa switch to playing left handed.
That’s true, but I do wonder if the choice was driven more by his left foot dominance than any ambidextrous abilities in his hands. Dominance in his left foot may have allowed him to step into his forehand on the left side better at a young age before he developed much upper body strength.
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
The issue of a lefty sparring partner is certainly true at the club level, but any of the top pros can usually find an accommodating southpaw to practice with.
They can probably find a left sparring partner, but finding one who can consistently deliver a ball with Nadal’s rpm is trickier.
 

SonnyT

Semi-Pro
I think it's been proven by science that, in general, lefties are slightly more analytical. We can prove or disprove that by studying Nobel prize winners. Or a study of chess grandmasters. Or a study of sumo grandmasters, I bet all those are righties.

Anyways, as brute force takes over tennis, lefties lose their analytical advantage. If tennis returns to more cat and mouse game, lefties will again gain an advantage.
 

JoshuaPim

Rookie
Lefties have an advantage because 90% of the time they're playing against righties, while righties are playing lefties only 10% of the time.
This. Even the blindest troll cannot deny that basic fact. Righties have to face shots they do not practice against 90% of the time. Give me a righty and lefty of equal ability and any coach will choose the lefty. Nice call Toni.
 
Top