What’s The Ideal Height For a Tennis Player?

There are many important mental and physical attributes of great tennis players, including mental toughness, good stamina, and shot accuracy.

A player’s height can greatly impact their success, though this is something they cannot change. Here’s everything you need to know about the height of tennis players.

What Is The Perfect Height For Playing Tennis?

I created a list of the top 100 players’ heights on the ATP tour (check it out here), the average height was 187.2cm. But, if we look at the very best players in the world, the top 10 ranked players, they are taller than the average pro.

Here are the 10 highest ranked players heights:

  1. Novak Djokovic – 6’2″ (188cm)
  2. Daniil Medvedev – 6’6″ (198cm)
  3. Alexander Zverev  6’6″ (198cm)
  4. Stefanos Tsitsipas – 6’4″ (193cm)
  5. Andrey Rublev – 6’2″ (188cm)
  6. Rafael Nadal – 6’1″ (185cm)
  7. Matteo Berrettini – 6’5″ (196cm)
  8. Casper Ruud – 6’0″ (183cm)
  9. Hubert Hurkacz – 6’5″ (196cm)
  10. Felix Auger-Aliassime – 6’4″ (193cm)

The average height among the 10 best players in the world is 191.8cm (6’2.9″).

However, there is no simple answer to this question, as the most successful male players in recent history have ranged from 180-190 cm (5’11”-6’3”) in height. As for women, most Grand Slam champions have been 165-180 cm (5’5”-5’11”) tall over the same period.

Currently, some of the most promising young players are taller on average. This is particularly true on the men’s tour, where many new contenders are above 190 cm (6’3”). However, shorter players have recently claimed big titles too.

Being tall in tennis has both pros and cons. More height gives you more reach but reduces your agility. These will be discussed in greater detail. We will also see how the stature of the sport’s greatest champions has developed over time.

How Do We Define “Tall”?

This definition is somewhat subjective. There is no absolute height that defines a player as tall or short. However, tennis players indeed tend to be taller than average men and women in their respective countries.

For example, while the average Russian man stands at around 176cm (5’91⁄2”) today, the average height of the current top 5 Russian male players is 191 cm (6’3”).

For male players, the 180-190 cm (5’11”-6’3”) range is most common for successful professionals and is neither very tall nor short. 190-200 cm (6’3”-6’7”) is generally considered tall in men’s tennis, though plenty of successful young players are in this range. Over 200 cm is very tall, while few very accomplished male players are 175 cm (5’9”) or below.

For women, most of the successful players are between 165 and 180 cm tall (5’5”-5’11”). Over 180 cm is viewed as tall, while very few female professionals are below 160 cm.

What Are the Advantages of Being Tall in Tennis?

1) Serve: This is one of the most important shots in tennis. It is the only shot that a player is in total control of. Many of history’s fastest servers are also some of the tallest players ever. Officially, the three fastest serves are:

  1. 253 km/h (157.2 mph) by John Isner
  2. 251 km/h (156 mph) by Ivo Karlovic
  3. 249.4 km/h (155 mph) by Milos Raonic

Ivo Karlovic (211 cm/6’11”) and John Isner (208 cm/6’8”) are two of the tallest players in tennis history. Raonic is also tall at 196 cm (6’5”). All three are renowned for devastating serves that have earned them many victories.

Taller players can toss the ball higher during the service motion. Since they strike the ball at a higher point, it has more time to accelerate before hitting the opponent’s service box. This increases service speed. The higher toss also makes their serves more reliable because the ball is less likely to hit the top of the net.

2) Lob and passing shot defense: Aside from the service, the wingspan of tall players makes them effective at the net. They are very difficult to pass on either wing. Lobbing a tall player is a very tough challenge too.

3) Better reach: Tall players are not always the fastest. One exception is Gael Monfils. He stands at 193 cm (6’4”) and is possibly one of the quickest players ever. Even when tall players lack speed, their long legs allow them to cover more ground in fewer steps. Also, their long arms allow them to reach more balls on the court.

What Are the Disadvantages of Being Tall in Tennis?

1) Poor agility: Tall players are usually less agile than their shorter opponents. Their footwork is

not as delicate, so it is harder for them to get into position to hit certain shots.

For instance, hitting an inside-out forehand or overhead smash needs very quick adjustment steps. Good foot positioning is key to hitting these shots with accuracy and power. The slower footwork of tall players can lead to crucial misses at key stages of a match.

2) Exhaustion: Taller players are often heavier players. They have lots of ground to cover on the court, and each kilogram of body weight has to be carried with them. For the same amount of movement, a tall player will expend more energy than a shorter player. Physical matches can take their toll, which can be very costly at later tournament stages.

3) Low balls: This is an obvious problem. With more height, you have to bend down further to reach low balls. Whether on the forehand or backhand side, these awkward shots strain tall players’ back and leg muscles. If a tall player is forced to retrieve many low balls in a match, they may tire faster.

The Heights of Male Grand Slam Champions

The table below shows the average heights of male Grand Slam champions for the last few decades.

Australian OpenFrench OpenWimbledonUS Open
2010-2019186.6 cm (6’11⁄2”)185.1 cm (6’1”)187.5cm (6’2”)187.5 cm (6’2”)
2000-2009184.2 cm (6’1⁄2”)184.3 cm (6’1⁄2”)185.1 cm (6’1”)186.8 cm (6’11⁄2”)
1990-1999187 cm (6’11⁄2”)186.9 cm (6’11⁄2”)186.7 (6’11⁄2”)184.6 cm (6’1”)
1980-1989183.8 cm (6’1⁄2”)184.1 (6’1⁄2”)184.2 cm (6’1⁄2”)183.4 (6’0”)

Even over 4 decades, the height of male Grand Slam winners does not vary much. Moreover, there does not appear to be a distinct height advantage on any surface.

The shortest winners were 175 cm (5’9”), while the tallest were 198 cm (6’6”). These figures strongly corroborate the earlier statement that 180-190 cm (5’11”-6’3”) is the ideal height range.

The Heights of Female Grand Slam Champions

Below is the table showing the average heights of female Grand Slam winners between 1980 and 2019.

Australian OpenFrench OpenWimbledonUS Open
2010-2019176.7 cm (5’91⁄2”)175.7 (5’9”)175.7 cm (5’9”)174 cm (5’81⁄2”)
2000-2009175.9 cm (5’9”)172.3 cm (5’8”)181.3 cm (5’11”)176.4 cm (5’9”)
1990-1999175 cm (5’9”)174.7 cm (5’9”)175.5 cm (5’9”)175.9 cm (5’9”)
1980-1989172.3 cm (5’8”)171 cm (5’7”)172.4 cm (5’8”)171.6 cm (5’71⁄2”)

From 1980-2019, Grand Slam winners in women’s professional tennis averaged between 171 and 177 cm (5’7”-5’10”) in height. The only outlier is Wimbledon from 2000-2009; in this period, Venus Williams (185 cm/6’1”) and Maria Sharapova (188 cm/6’2”) won 6 titles altogether and therefore raised the average.

Much like on the men’s tour, there is no obvious advantage for taller players on any surface. In the period shown above, the shortest winner was 165 cm (5’5”), while the tallest was 189 cm (6’21⁄2”).

Are Players Getting Taller?

Current fans of tennis will note that many younger male players are tall. Newer successful players include:

  • Daniil Medvedev (198 cm/6’6”)
  • Alexander Zverev (198 cm/6’6”)
  • Matteo Berrettini (196 cm/6’5”)
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas (193 cm/6’4”)
  • Hubert Hurkacz (196 cm/6’5”)
  • Felix Auger-Aliassime (193 cm/6’4”)

Most of these players have won significant titles on the ATP tour and have recently gone far in Grand Slam tournaments. The first four players on this list are predicted to do especially well in the coming years and take over from the current greats.

All are taller than the big 3 players: Novak Djokovic (188 cm/6’2”), Rafael Nadal (185 cm/6’1”), and Roger Federer (185 cm/6’1”). So this begs the question, are professional players getting taller? It would seem that, for the moment, the next successful players on the men’s side will be taller.

Yet, other players do not follow this trend. Dominic Thiem (185 cm/6’1”), Casper Ruud (183 cm/6’0”), and Diego Schwartzman (170 cm/5’7”) are all shorter players who have achieved a top 10 ranking. These, along with other shorter players on the ATP tour, are certain to challenge for more big titles soon.

On the WTA tour, some recent Grand slam champions have been taller. For example:

  • Naomi Osaka (180 cm/5’11”)
  • Barbora Krejcikova (178 cm /5’10”)
  • Garbine Muguruza (182 cm/5’111⁄2”)

That said, it does not look like taller players will completely dominate the women’s game in the coming years. Shorter players such as Ashleigh Barty (166 cm/5’51⁄2”), Simona Halep (168 cm/5’6”), and Bianca Andreescu (170 cm/5’7”) have recently won Grand Slams too.

Barty and Halep are two of the most dominant players in modern women’s tennis and have shown no signs of slowing.

Summary

Tall tennis players have several clear advantages that can help their game. It also seems like the best young male players are taller than previous generations.

However, history has shown that the greatest champions were not extremely tall on average. Also, the impressive victories of shorter players in recent years prove that they have a future at the top of professional tennis.

As we know, there is not an “ideal height”. Regardless of how you define it, elite athletes cannot change their height. Tall, short, and average-size players must all adapt their games to make the most of their stature.

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coach upcoming talents.

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