Height Advantage in Pro Tennis - Explain it please

NJLefty

Rookie
I know that height is a real advantage in the pro game, but I'm not exactly sure of the details as to why.

Serve, yes - taller gives an advantage, it would seem.
Ground strokes - More power, in general? Because of longer arm length?

I'd love to read a detailed explanation of the phenomenon.

Players like Goffin and Fognini struggle against tall, power players. They seem to have the talent in other areas, but the height thing seems to limit them.

Thanks!!
 

NJLefty

Rookie
Nishikori is only 5'10' (165 lbs) but was in the top 5 and made it to a major final. But still a struggle. It must be the corresponding weight advantage.
 

eelhc

Hall of Fame
I actually think being too tall can be a disadvantage. The dimensions of the court and more importantly, the net height does not change. It's harder to drive low shots relative to one's height. The taller player must get "lower" to take the ball early. I would say between 6' ~ 6'6" might be ideal.
 

tacou

G.O.A.T.
You've kind of answered your own question.....taller players can hit more extreme angles serving. That's about the only given advantage they have. And you can look to guys like JMDP to see big, powerful guys who don't have excellent serves.

How exactly long limbs translate to bigger ground strokes/faster serves, I can't explain, but it's visibly apparent. But, they need more time. Even players like Ostapenko and Stan W., who are not tall, have the same issue. Their strokes are big/complex, and take time, but when they get that time, they can be massive.

That said, the taller you are, generally, the slower you are and the less athletic. Also, more injury prone.

Isner and Goffin are the two perfect examples. John can hit any serve imaginable at 140 and if he has enough time can hit the biggest FH on tour.
Get him moving, he's not top 500.
Goffin, meanwhile, is a consummate professional with a very well rounded game, but he lacks the easy power of someone with a larger, weightier body.
 

cluckcluck

Hall of Fame
Look at a guy like Rielly Opelka, who is 6'11". He's got a monster serve.....and that is it. He labors to move around the court so he gets passed a lot and struggles to get his backhand ready to hit the ball. He's got so much body to move that being as tall as he is, is more of a drawback than anything else.
Ideal height, 6'1" - 6'4"
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
I know that height is a real advantage in the pro game, but I'm not exactly sure of the details as to why.

Serve, yes - taller gives an advantage, it would seem.
Ground strokes - More power, in general? Because of longer arm length?

I'd love to read a detailed explanation of the phenomenon.

Players like Goffin and Fognini struggle against tall, power players. They seem to have the talent in other areas, but the height thing seems to limit them.

Thanks!!
The bottom line is winning serve points whether you do it like Kyrgios or sneak up on it like Nadal for parts of this year. Players with strong serve games generally have easier serve games and can get through matches more efficiently. This is a monster factor at slams especially when the alternative is taxing baseline warfare (Nadal vs Djoko Auz final at nearly 6 hours comes to mind.:oops:)

It is just about impossible for a shorter player to have a dominate serve game. Wawrinka gets the job done overall, but the serve games drop off for most below his height of 6 feet.

Another huge factor is Poly strings leading to higher bounce height with the preference towards more spin in the game. It's a big issue especially on hard courts for younger players and shorter players. A shorter speedy player at their speed prime at age 23-24 is just beginning to develop a strong serve game and the strength to handle higher bounces. It's virtually impossible for a young speedy phenom to break into the modern game and then they're big advantage goes into decline.:(

For an extreme example of a player fighting height these days watch Diego Schwartzman against a hard hitting returner.:confused: His serves get devoured. Diego starting his strength prime so he's doing better in 2017.
 

Shank Volley

Hall of Fame
I'm not a tall man, maybe 5'9 or so, and I hold up well enough against people at my level in club play. I can day with surety, however, that being too short is a huge disadvantage. I'm not exactly sure why, but when I play against my under 4' tall niece and nephew (both under 10 but that's beside the point), I smoke them every time. Aces, clean winners, drop shots, you name it. They don't have a chance.

So in summary, I can say that being under 4 feet tall is a disadvantage.
 

Russeljones

Talk Tennis Guru
A guy like Sam Querrey can generate ~ 150 mph racquet head spead. His arm length lets him really unwind the way a trebuchet does. At the net it is also a significant boon. You only need to watch some Max Mirnyi matches to see what a players height can do for them.
 

Chanwan

G.O.A.T.
I think the tallest ideal height is around 6'3-ish. Anything more than 6'4, the player is usually slower with sub par movement compared to the guys who are 6'1 to 6'3.

Yes there are exceptions of course.
6'0-6'3 seems to be the gold standard from the mid 80's onwards - Lendl, Sampras and Fedalovic are all 6'1-6'2
 
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sportmac

Hall of Fame
For an extreme example of a player fighting height these days watch Diego Schwartzman against a hard hitting returner.:confused: His serves get devoured. Diego starting his strength prime so he's doing better in 2017.
Great example. Watched a lot of Diego this year and he's fun to watch but nearly every ball he hits is shoulder high (he stands 5'7") and his serve will always be a liability. He's done well to get into the top 50 but he's unlikely to achieve greater heights.
 

hugobosstachini

Professional
How exactly long limbs translate to bigger ground strokes/faster serves, I can't explain, but it's visibly apparent.

A tall person's arm acts like a whip. The longer the limbs the greater the velocity at the end. This and without discounting the fact that, if that person would share similar traits to a shorter individual, their wingspan would allow them to get to a great majority of shots by reach "alone".

As for the feet, Usain Bolt is 196 cm tall and his stride is nearly 245 cm. That in itself is self explanatory of how invincible a tall person can be if they share the same traits as a short player. Kevin Durant at 205 cm and Usain Bolt to me are the prime example of how difficult it is to deal with a really tall person doing some or all of what a shorter player can do.

In tennis from that I konw of, we've never really had somebody around 200 cm or slightly more and as athletic as people as Lebron James or Durant. Would be interesting to see what would happen.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
A tall person's arm acts like a whip. The longer the limbs the greater the velocity at the end. This and without discounting the fact that, if that person would share similar traits to a shorter individual, their wingspan would allow them to get to a great majority of shots by reach "alone".

As for the feet, Usain Bolt is 196 cm tall and his stride is nearly 245 cm. That in itself is self explanatory of how invincible a tall person can be if they share the same traits as a short player. Kevin Durant at 205 cm and Usain Bolt to me are the prime example of how difficult it is to deal with a really tall person doing some or all of what a shorter player can do.

In tennis from that I konw of, we've never really had somebody around 200 cm or slightly more and as athletic as people as Lebron James or Durant. Would be interesting to see what would happen.
At that height it's really tough to change direction or take a first step quickly regardless of how quick you are. Which is why all the short people smoke Bolt out of the blocks before he accelerates and kills all of them. Durant is an amazing athlete for a guy that long but he might fall prey to that too. Of course if he can develop a servebot level serve then it's a different story because he's way quicker and more athletic than guys like Isner or Karlovic.

LeBron might be able to cut it though, the guy is just that athletic. I've never seen a 260+ pound man with that kind of all around agility.
 

tacou

G.O.A.T.
A tall person's arm acts like a whip. The longer the limbs the greater the velocity at the end.

In tennis from that I konw of, we've never really had somebody around 200 cm or slightly more and as athletic as people as Lebron James or Durant. Would be interesting to see what would happen.

perfectly put with the whip comparison.

I'm also very interested in seeing taller, more athletic players getting into tennis… I predict in the next two or three years at least 80% of the NBA will be 6'8. I wonder if tennis will ever get so uniform in height or, again, if any athletic players in that height range will appear.
 

Lukhas

Legend
Look at a guy like Rielly Opelka, who is 6'11". He's got a monster serve.....and that is it. He labors to move around the court so he gets passed a lot and struggles to get his backhand ready to hit the ball. He's got so much body to move that being as tall as he is, is more of a drawback than anything else.
Ideal height, 6'1" - 6'4"
You mentioning Opelka reminds me of this blog article and a quote of his.
http://www.tennisabstract.com/blog/2017/02/16/are-taller-players-the-future-of-tennis/
“I’ve been spending a ton of time working on my return. When you look at the drills I’m doing in the gym, they work on explosive movement.” But he also points out that basketball players “move better than [tennis players] and are more explosive than [tennis players]” because of their incredible muscle mass, which won’t work for tennis. “I don’t know how they’d be able to keep up for four or five hours with that mass and muscle.” Put LeBron on Arthur Ashe Stadium at the U.S. Open in 100 degree heat for an afternoon, “it’s tough to say how they’ll compare.”

I've seen him play at the AO and in the qualifying rounds of Roland-Garros. To me, he moves nothing like Karlovic despite being the same height. He's a significantly better mover and a better player from the baseline than both Karlovic and Isner, it's quite impressive. Janowicz is also a good mover when you factor in that he's about as tall as Isner; however he doesn't have the consistency. IIRC his parents were volleyball players and he used to play volleyball too.

6'1-6'3 seems to be the gold standard from the mid 80's onwards
Pretty ironic when Lendl was considered "too tall" early in his career... at 6'2". Players are ever so slightly taller than they used to be; something that's true for most of the world in general too.
 
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F

Fedfan34

Guest
There's an advantage as there is to every physical or mental characteristic. But what matters is how you use what you have. Lots of 6'1 pros who aren't Federer.
 

Meles

Bionic Poster
Great example. Watched a lot of Diego this year and he's fun to watch but nearly every ball he hits is shoulder high (he stands 5'7") and his serve will always be a liability. He's done well to get into the top 50 but he's unlikely to achieve greater heights.
Diego is an extreme example. I believe he's getting better this year because he is stronger which is helping him in these height challenged situations.

Taller players are tricky too, because they can hit their prime earlier, but also likely leave it earlier as they pack on more and more weight which hurts their movement. Cilic seems to have largely escaped this malady. Return games for tall players are always an issue, so once past their speed prime at age 23-24, the weight on top of the speed loss weakens their return game to unacceptable levels.
 

The Umpire

New User
LeBron might be able to cut it though, the guy is just that athletic. I've never seen a 260+ pound man with that kind of all around agility.

Indeed Bron is a superb athlete (physical). He still has way to much unnessecary muscle mass he needs for going through the defence. Tennisplayers do not strive for muscle mass as it hinders lateral movement and endurance. Look at Djokovic or Federer. Their forehands are faster or as fast as Murrays or Nadal. Tennis is much more about accelaration technique.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Indeed Bron is a superb athlete (physical). He still has way to much unnessecary muscle mass he needs for going through the defence. Tennisplayers do not strive for muscle mass as it hinders lateral movement and endurance. Look at Djokovic or Federer. Their forehands are faster or as fast as Murrays or Nadal. Tennis is much more about accelaration technique.
well hypothetically he'd obviously be much leaner if he had to play a sport like tennis. But LeBron's endurance/lateral movement was absolutely insane even when he was probably around 260 pounds (late first stint Cleveland). In the first 3 Miami years he was probably around 265-270 and was a little bit slower.
 

DerekNoleFam1

Hall of Fame
I'm not a tall man, maybe 5'9 or so, and I hold up well enough against people at my level in club play. I can day with surety, however, that being too short is a huge disadvantage. I'm not exactly sure why, but when I play against my under 4' tall niece and nephew (both under 10 but that's beside the point), I smoke them every time. Aces, clean winners, drop shots, you name it. They don't have a chance.

So in summary, I can say that being under 4 feet tall is a disadvantage.

Club level is different, and I am only 1.7m, but can beat most guys at that level - without blowing my own trumpet.
The problem is when you play a good tall player that has considerably better serve and reach, the effort involved to beat them is just too much.
Which is why the likes of Diego Schwartzman is limited in how far he can go, or anyone under 1.75m.
Ideal height is around 1.83 - 1.9m.
The likes of Delpo and Cilic are 6'6 and have won a Slam, but they would never get to Number 1.
 

hugobosstachini

Professional
At that height it's really tough to change direction or take a first step quickly regardless of how quick you are. Which is why all the short people smoke Bolt out of the blocks before he accelerates and kills all of them. Durant is an amazing athlete for a guy that long but he might fall prey to that too. Of course if he can develop a servebot level serve then it's a different story because he's way quicker and more athletic than guys like Isner or Karlovic.
LeBron might be able to cut it though, the guy is just that athletic. I've never seen a 260+ pound man with that kind of all around agility.

Well, sure. Being tall has some disadvantages especially in the quick small explosive steps but that's also the reason why when coaching a tall athletic player (around 200 cm and over), the purpose is not to get him or her as fast as a shorter one. The natural reach of very tall player will compensate for their lack of speed relative to shorter players.

Durant to me is perfect example of that. He's not the greatest you'll ever see at crossovers or driving the net or fast-breaks but relative to his height, he does all does things well. Now, combine these pretty good skills with his natural height advantage and innate shooting Genius skills, he's unbeatable from any position of the basketball court and he's the closest thing you'll probably ever see to a video game.

Finally, in tennis, a tall player can compensate for lack of movement with his greater reach if they have good racket skills and handling. Murray does that all the time. Sometimes he's not necessarily in position but his reach and great hands helps him put some difficult shots in play all the time. Ferrer would have to hit 4-5 more steps to get the same difficult ball.

That's why it'd be interesting to see a real ATG talent (in the sense of KD, LBJ or Usain Bolt) at around 200 cm in tennis.
 

hugobosstachini

Professional
perfectly put with the whip comparison.

I'm also very interested in seeing taller, more athletic players getting into tennis… I predict in the next two or three years at least 80% of the NBA will be 6'8. I wonder if tennis will ever get so uniform in height or, again, if any athletic players in that height range will appear.

I think the answer is yes. That's because of science. The "genetically" enhanced babies have not hit the courts yet so...

By genetically enhanced I mean the babies whose parents have used science to "stylize" the type of child they would like to have by isolating the genes that affect a lot of the physical traits humans have and so as the physiological traits.

Furthermore, the natural evolution of mankind makes that people become taller and stronger.
 

metsman

G.O.A.T.
Well, sure. Being tall has some disadvantages especially in the quick small explosive steps but that's also the reason why when coaching a tall athletic player (around 200 cm and over), the purpose is not to get him or her as fast as a shorter one. The natural reach of very tall player will compensate for their lack of speed relative to shorter players.

Durant to me is perfect example of that. He's not the greatest you'll ever see at crossovers or driving the net or fast-breaks but relative to his height, he does all does things well. Now, combine these pretty good skills with his natural height advantage and innate shooting Genius skills, he's unbeatable from any position of the basketball court and he's the closest thing you'll probably ever see to a video game.

Finally, in tennis, a tall player can compensate for lack of movement with his greater reach if they have good racket skills and handling. Murray does that all the time. Sometimes he's not necessarily in position but his reach and great hands helps him put some difficult shots in play all the time. Ferrer would have to hit 4-5 more steps to get the same difficult ball.

That's why it'd be interesting to see a real ATG talent (in the sense of KD, LBJ or Usain Bolt) at around 200 cm in tennis.
well Safin was a legit ATG talent who was about 6'5" (yeah I know he's listed at 6'4" but based on everything I've seen he was probably 6'5"). del Potro was probably a 3-5 slam talent at 6'6". Probably the closest we'll get. I'm really pissed that Janowicz never got it all together because he moved far better than anyone else at that height ever has in tennis. That would have been an interesting case.
 

Sport

G.O.A.T.
6'1-6'3 seems to be the gold standard from the mid 80's onwards

Wrong. No single tennis player being 6' 3" or taller has ever won 8 Grand Slams or more. 6' 3" or taller is too much. You start to lack agility and velocity if you are too tall.

Ideal height in modern tennis: 6'-6' 2". Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are all of them in the 6'-6' 2" range. Nadal is slightly shorter than Federer, so about 6' 0.5".
 

Red Rick

Bionic Poster
Obviously, more height = more power. And the optimal size for movement depends on court dimension in a sport like this. The bigger a court, the more important top speed would be. Alas, reach is also important. Basically, under 1,80 there's no benefits, only power deficiency, and over 1,90 your movement starts getting a bit worse for the extra power you get.
 

Red Rick

Bionic Poster
Great, we're using 'murican notation. I'd love to cry about that but then I just used the Dutch notation with comma's instead of full stops. Blimey.
 

Red Rick

Bionic Poster
I should add that power isn't all that correlated to size, especially for the groundies. A lot of it is technique, and factors other than size have a huge impact as well. Roddick served 250kph while having the same size as Djokovic.
 

Chanwan

G.O.A.T.
Wrong. No single tennis player being 6' 3" or taller has ever won 8 Grand Slams or more. 6' 3" or taller is too much. You start to lack agility and velocity if you are too tall.

Ideal height in modern tennis: 6'-6' 2". Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are all of them in the 6'-6' 2" range. Nadal is slightly shorter than Federer, so about 6' 0.5".
Fair enough. 6'0 seems on the short end these days though. Would you rather be 6'0 or 6'3 in today's tennis? Murray is listed as 6'3 I believe, while Stan is listed as 6'0.
So maybe 6'0-6'3 with 6'1-6'2 being the perfect height?
Agassi and Borg, McEnroe and Connors (the later 3 are too early for this talk imo) were all below 6'0 iirc, so perhaps we just haven't seen sufficiently talented players at 5'11 and 6'0 in recent years. But in say Goffin's and Nishikori's case, the height certainly does seem like a disadvantage to them.
 

DerekNoleFam1

Hall of Fame
well Safin was a legit ATG talent who was about 6'5" (yeah I know he's listed at 6'4" but based on everything I've seen he was probably 6'5"). del Potro was probably a 3-5 slam talent at 6'6". Probably the closest we'll get. I'm really pissed that Janowicz never got it all together because he moved far better than anyone else at that height ever has in tennis. That would have been an interesting case.

Safin does appear bigger, his height was listed when he was 17, maybe they need to do the WWE thing and exaggerate.
Richard Krajicek was also listed as 1.96m, but he only won 1 Slam, and career high ranking of 4.
 

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
Unreturned first serves through to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon:

Querrey 62%
Cilic 61%
Muller 56%
Raonic 55%
Berdych 51%
Federer 49%
Murray 40%
Djokovic 34%

Having ~60% of your first deliveries not even come back into the court is obviously a boundless advantage. Even the legendary 6'1" server Fed comes out in the bottom half of this list with the tall men.

To counterbalance it, as mentioned, is an exponential drop-off in movement, particularly agility and direction change.

For the below-six-footers it's obviously the opposite. Exponentially worse serving, but to some extent offset by gains in mobility. Guys like Coria, Chang, Nishikori, Ferrer and Hewitt have close to the best agility witnessed in tennis.

The big 4 hit the sweet-spot of having almost as good agility as the smaller phenoms, but drastically better serves and more free power.
 
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chatt_town

Hall of Fame
I know that height is a real advantage in the pro game, but I'm not exactly sure of the details as to why.

Serve, yes - taller gives an advantage, it would seem.
Ground strokes - More power, in general? Because of longer arm length?

I'd love to read a detailed explanation of the phenomenon.

Players like Goffin and Fognini struggle against tall, power players. They seem to have the talent in other areas, but the height thing seems to limit them.

Thanks!!
I think it can be advantage to a certain height...I think when you get over 6'4 you are going to see a serious movement drop off.
 

accidental

Hall of Fame
The power difference isn't huge, it's mainly reach that's the big advantage. Few players hit harder than Agassi who was 5'11, and two of the most powerful servers of all time were only 6'1 (Sampras and Roddick)

A taller server can hit better angles with more consistency

A taller player can reach balls at the baseline and net with fewer steps

Being too tall though starts to hinder movement it seems
 

wangs78

Legend
I should add that power isn't all that correlated to size, especially for the groundies. A lot of it is technique, and factors other than size have a huge impact as well. Roddick served 250kph while having the same size as Djokovic.
Well, technique has a lot to do with it too. Generally speaking, a taller player with the same technique will be able to serve or hit a groundstroke with greater power, ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL. Things like shoulder width, arm length, shoulder flexiblity and strength, technique and footwork also come into play.
 

noobforehand20

Professional
as you get taller, the court stays the same size so there is a point in wich the difference in height doesnt equate the same ability you have inside of the court to move so while you can maximize your movement capacity, there will always be someone who thanks to being shorter, will have a higher ceiling in terms of movement, nonetheless i think some of the taller players move extremely well, even better than you would think like zverev and cilic, those two stand out and at times i forget how tall they are
 

Dan Huben

Semi-Pro
Being relatively tall at 6'5 and living the dream I can say that while my strokes are developing I tend to be too close more often then being passed meaning at the pro ranks they've figured out spacing so I would say the taller players should be pulling ahead of shorter players with the base line play. I would say that shorter players would dominate movement play. As a tall guy I can lateral with the best of them, but front and back or quick spacing to a body ball is tough.

If the game was to return to a more serve and volley format or clay had the front back movement more prevalent, I'd think that the heights would stabilize so my height would be the max on tour.

Yesteryear's starts may have been shorter because of lack of other athletic options. In tennis a 5'4 guy can compete with a 6'5 guy. But not as easily on the diamond, pitch, grid iron, ring, or court.

Sent from my SM-T813 using Tapatalk
 

UnderratedSlam

G.O.A.T.
Tall guys get more free points, spend less energy. A short guy has to have uber-fitness to outlast them given that he usually does more running.

Short guys have to play top-spin, tall guys can play top spin or flat. Their slice can also have an awesome angle whereas the short guys really need to work hard to make that slice perfect.

Again, it's about not being too short or too tall.

185-190 range seems to be optimal for the modern game. Majority of slam wins are from this category.

I did two threads on this.

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...2-cm-how-they-fared-in-slam-final-e-s.691425/

https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/ind...eight-is-probably-the-decisive-factor.690861/
 

tex123

Hall of Fame
I know that height is a real advantage in the pro game, but I'm not exactly sure of the details as to why.

Serve, yes - taller gives an advantage, it would seem.
Ground strokes - More power, in general? Because of longer arm length?

I'd love to read a detailed explanation of the phenomenon.

Players like Goffin and Fognini struggle against tall, power players. They seem to have the talent in other areas, but the height thing seems to limit them.

Thanks!!
Depends upon your definition of 'tall'. You don't want a giraffe on a tennis court. I would say the ideal height for male tennis players is between 6' and 6' 3". Players like Isner or Karlovic are very tall. They can serve big but not very agile on the court. Bending down to low balls, retrieving and playing defence will not be easy. They can be very effective on a lightning fast court though.
 
Average height of the top players is going up.
Taller players are playing and moving better these days. And take a look at the heights of the top players now, it is quite evident that there is a clear height advantage going on and that taller players (those who are at least 6’4) are advancing higher and higher in tennis.

Medvedev 6’6
Zverev 6’6
Tsitsipas 6’4
Felix A.A. 6’4
Berrettini 6’5
Hurkacz 6’5
Alcaraz 6’1


So definition of an ideal height has changed, it is minimum 6‘1 to 6’6

Remove the goats Nadal and Djokovic from tennis, and these taller guys will win almost all of the slams.. (6’4-6’6). I believe the height matters more and more in Tennis now, similar to NBA.
 

ey039524

Professional
Tall w the ability to move well is becoming the new norm.

In basketball, #2 guard or small forward type body. Imagine if Michael Jordan or Kobe played pro tennis.
 
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