When writing this, every player ranked inside the ATP top 10 is over 6 feet tall. If you include the top 20, there are only two players less than 6 feet tall. David Goffin and Diego Schwartzman.
Surely this must mean that tennis makes you taller?
Playing tennis will have no impact on your height. It will not make you taller. Your height will be determined by your diet and genes. The reason most tennis players are taller than average is that they have an advantage when serving.
Tennis players are tall because being tall is an advantage, not because tennis has made them tall.
In this article i will be discussing:
- Whether playing tennis can make you taller
- If you need to be tall to play tennis
- If there are any advantages to being tall
- The average height of professional players
Sadly, I’m not going to be teaching you how to become tall through playing tennis. If you are interested in learning how height affects your ability to play, read on!
Does Playing Tennis Increase Height?
There is no way in which tennis will make you taller. This is because the two determining factors for height are genetics and nutrition.
The only influence you can have over your height is ensuring that you have a nutritious diet. But, unfortunately, not much can be done about genes.
Once an adult is past the growth stage, there is no way they can increase their height. They can, however, work on improving their posture to make them appear taller.
This will also help them use their body more effectively in tennis.
Posture can affect your tennis.
If your posture is so bad in everyday life that it has weakened your muscles, it could lead to bad balance on the court, among other things.
Good posture means good balance. If you, as a player, stand ready to receive the ball with your back hunched over, your center of balance will not be good.
On the other hand, if your back is straighter, you will be starting from a much stronger position.
By bending the legs instead of your back, you will be able to drive more of your weight through the shot and thus use more power.
If you have bad posture, it is not the be-all and end-all for your tennis. However, there are many exercises and tricks you can use to improve it.
Perhaps I will cover that in another article one day.
Do You Have To Be Tall To Play Tennis?
Basketball is overwhelmingly dominated by giants, many measuring over 7 feet.
Tennis is a lot more diverse when it comes to the height of players. For example, the shortest player ranked in the ATP top 20 is the Argentine Diego Schwartzman, measuring 5’7”.
The two tallest players, both 6’6”, are Russian Daniil Medvedev and German Alexander Zverev.
The women’s game is a similar story. The tallest player in the WTA top 20 is Czech Karolina Pliskova, who is 6’1’.
The shortest player in the top 20 is Australian Ashleigh Barty, who is 5’5’. Barty also happens to be world number 1 at the time of writing.
If you can become the world number 1 in women’s tennis at 5’5”, I can confidently say that you don’t need to be tall to play tennis. It does however come with some advantages.
Is There Any Advantage Of Being Tall In Tennis?
The shot most affected by your height in tennis is the serve.
While you do not need to be tall to be a big server, it certainly helps. If you are taller, you will be able to contact the ball from a higher height.
This means you will come from more on top of the ball and thus hit down with more pace.
Ivo Karlovic, former world number 14, measures 6’11”.
Djokovic is world number 1 and universally regarded as a better player than Karlovic. Physics, however, will not allow him to contact the ball from the same height as Karlovic.
Djokovic would need to come from behind the ball more to get it over and in.
Height gives a big advantage in serving fast, but it also comes with some disadvantages.
Tall players will see their serve come through quicker on grass. However, they can also experience trouble dealing with lower balls, especially slices.
Imagine being 7 feet tall and bending down trying to pick up a low slice or a volley that has gone right to the feet. It’s going to be less comfortable.
While it is by no means scientifically proven, shorter players seem to be quicker on their feet and have better footwork.
It is also easier for shorter players to put in extra adjusting steps. This could thus be seen as a disadvantage of being tall.
Taller players do, however, have longer reach, meaning they need fewer steps to get to the ball.
The top 5 fastest serves (recognized by the ATP) were served by men, all measuring over 6’2”. The average height of a male in the United States is 5’9”.
You can see from the table below that being taller clearly gives an advantage when it comes to serving speed.
|John Isner||157.2 mph||6’10”|
|Ivo Karlovic||156 mph||6’11”|
|Andy Roddick||155 mph||6’2”|
|Milos Raonic||155 mph||6’5”|
|Ryan Harrison||152 mph||6’2”|
The average height of a woman in the United States is 5’4”. The records for the fastest serves (recognized by the WTA) give a similar picture to that of the men.
Serena Williams is the shortest of the top 5 women for the fastest serve hit.
However, Serena is 5 inches taller than the average US woman.
|Sabine Lisicki||131 mph||5’10”|
|Venus Williams||129 mph||6’1”|
|Serena Williams||128.6 mph||5’9”|
|Julia Gorges||126.1 mph||5’11”|
|Brenda Schultz-McCarthy||126 mph||6’2”|
What Is The Average Height Of Tennis Pros?
You now know that being tall gives you an advantage when it comes to serving fast. What about in terms of overall play?
The ATP top 10 after Rolland Garros 2021 consists of a mix of small giants and players a bit above average.
|Roberto Bautista Agut||6’0”|
The WTA top 10 following Roland Garros 2021 is closer to the average height of a US woman. World number 1 Ashleigh Barty is only 1 inch taller than average.
Also read: Does Tennis Racket Make A Difference?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this piece, and if you are on the short side, I feel there is hope for you as a player.
If a 5’7” Argentinian can reach world number 8 and the semi-final of Rolland Garros, nothing stops anyone else of that height.
Perhaps you disagree with my assessment. For example, have you ever seen a growth spurt after playing tennis? Do you think that height makes much of a difference?