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Do you need to be tall to play tennis?

by Jonas Eriksson

It might sound like a stupid question: Do you need to be tall to play tennis? But looking at the average height of top tennis players…

Whenever I’ve been fortunate to “hang around” a players’ lounge during an ATP tournament, I’ve felt like a midget. I’m not tall by tennis player means, especially when you’re talking about the upper echelons of the game. It has almost made me ponder the question, do you need to be tall to play tennis?

Well, obviously you can play fantastic tennis even if you’re below average in height. But it is likely that you will need to make up for your lack of height with excellent footwork, movement, and ball striking. Your serve will likely not be as great and you will have a tougher time with heavy topspin balls bouncing up near your face. Still, just look at Diego Schwartzman, who is ranked in the top 20 and is 1.70 cm (5’7″) (Nishioka is another very good player at the same height). You might also remember players like the Rochus brothers who were even a tiny bit shorter than the Argentinian.

Do you need to be tall to play tennis? No, but…

I found an excellent post about the average height of ATP tennis players and it confirmed some of my thoughts.  The authors of the article write: “4 out of the top 10 ATP players are taller than 6 feet 5. In addition, 13 out of the top 50 players (26%) are taller than the same mark. So as we can see, taller tennis players are finding increasing success and height is playing a stronger role in tennis year after year.”

Below you can find two diagrams of the top ten and top twenty respectively.

As you can see, the dominance of tall players is pretty significant at this stage in the game. And 1.85-1.90 seems to be a “golden height” with players like Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Thiem.

When we move down the rankings (to the top 200), we still see the 1.85 m height as an average. Players like Fognini, Nishikori, and Goffin give us “shorter” players some hope to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

What are your thoughts on the height of tennis players?

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