As the game moves forward into new eras height
has become a distinct advantage as tennis is set to become the land of
Height is becoming distinct advantage and
extremely tall players are proliferating. Ivo Karlovic has long topped
the height charts at 6ft 11ins but John Isner runs him close at 6ft 10
ins and also in Wimbledon’s last 16 there is Jerzy Janowicz and Kevin
Anderson at 6ft 8in and Milos Raonic at 6ft 5in. Add to that the new
Australian star is Nick Kyrgios who also could be mistaken as a
basketball player at 6ft 4in.
“There were players like Victor Amaya some years
ago who were very tall but they were lumbering,” says Bob Brett, the new
director of player development at the Lawn Tennis Association and one of
the most experienced coaches in the game. “The difference is that this
generation of big guys are good athletes too.
“Usain Bolt changed the perception of 100m
sprinters and someone of 6ft 10in could win Wimbledon and do the same
thing for tennis. But you need agility, not just height.”
Wally Masur, a coach with Tennis Australia,
concurs. “It’s all about easy power these days,” he said. “If you’re not
getting a couple of free points off each service game you’re in for a
tough time. If Ferrer loses 5% of what he has, he loses every match.
Someone like Janowicz can lose five per cent and so what?
“You’ve got to be exceptional these days — a
Federer or Nadal — to be shorter than 6ft 4in.
“The athletic component is becoming greater and
greater, for sure, and with that comes the height. It’s definitely a
factor in identifying talented young kids these days. Each generation is
getting that little bit taller. Good or bad? That’s just what it is.”
Tall kids seem to have a distinct advantage in
the junior ranks. “Height is a fact you can’t ignore,” says Nick Brown,
who works with Britain’s national under-13s. “It’s part of the mix. I do
automatically look at the parents because that will have a bearing on
what the kid might be like at 16 or 17. But you’re looking at
athleticism and competitiveness. In a sense, the easy bit is to teach
“Look at the girls, their stature has changed so
much, really since Maria Sharapova came to the fore. Donna Vekic and
Belinda Bencic, a couple of the next generation of players, are tall and
powerful, but they’re good athletes too. That’s the norm now.”