Tennis Needs a Change

Tennis is a brutal game on the body. Whether you’re a recreational player or a professional player, today’s game is not what it used to be. In recent memory, it seems that not a week goes by before we hear of players sustaining new injuries or having to re-address past injuries. Gael Monfils has suffered innumerable ankle and knee problems. David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Haas all underwent hip surgeries this year alone. Rafael Nadal has experienced not only severe abdominal tears, but knee injuries that kept him from defending his title in Wimbledon last year.

In contrast, take the Champions Tour. While traveling the world and earning fame beyond their grand slammin’ years, retired tennis pros take combat in friendly matches and exhibitions for viewer pleasure. The likes of John McEnroe, Goran Ivanisevic, Mats Wilander and Jim Courier have been staples of this tour and are not likely to go anywhere soon. In fact, while watching some of these players on court, it’s daunting to see that their mentality, physical strength and tennis abilities have only been slighted to a minimal degree. They are not ‘young’ anymore, but they are all still in great shape and playing tennis well into their fifties! Most of the players on the Champions Tour sustained relatively few injuries during their time on ATP Tour, with the exceptions of Jimmy Connors (hips) and Andre Agassi (back). What gives?

John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg at the Champions Cup in Boston on May 1, 2010

How did they stay away from the injury bug while Marcos Baghdatis, Juan Martin del Potro and even Roger Federer can’t? Each player achieved elite status and was pitted against the toughest opponents of their era, so why the injury overload in today’s generation?

I think a better question to ask is: What has changed since then in the game of tennis?

The answer? Plenty. From the advancement in technology affecting racquets and strings, to the increased physicality of the sport, to the never-ending calendar of tournaments and commitments. Often times players laugh when asked about what they did in their ‘off-season.’ An off-season in most sports is several months. For top ATP pros, they’re lucky if they get a couple weeks at the end of the year before hustling back onto a tennis court. Others are plagued by injuries that cut their season short.  Tennis racquet material has also gone from laminated wood to aluminum to heavier carbon fibre composites. Strings have been given a makeover and have allowed players to tighten or loosen their strings to unthinkable tensions putting strain on their wrists, elbow, arms, and shoulders.

More interestingly, the height of the tennis player has increased. During the 80s and 90s, the average height of a top player was hovering around 6′. During the Sampras-Federer era, it was about 6’1”. Now, with John Isner, Sam Querrey, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro and Tomas Berdych leading the next round of elite players, the average has risen to 6’2.5.” We are seeing the optimal height of a tennis player look more like the expected height for a volleyball or basketball team. And with height comes stronger and more angular serves with some guys consistently serving in the 120- to 130-mph range.

American ATP standout, John Isner, measures in at 6′ 9” towering over Rafael Nadal at Indian Wells this year.

This raises questions about how much more physical can tennis get and what other technological advancements could possibly occur to make this game even more harsh on the human body. It’s tough to imagine a player that can retrieve more balls than Nadal, hit faster serves than Roddick or move as quickly as Andy Murray, but the evolution of tennis continues and we’re bound to see players surpass these already-amazing feats.

David Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt and Tommy Haas were mentioned at the beginning of this post. What do these three players have in common? They are all long-time veterans of the game and all three required hip surgeries earlier this year. They could be a good indication of where today’s guys will end up in five or ten years: broken down and battered.

I’m afraid one day I’ll wake up in 20 years, excited to go watch a retired pro play at a local venue, only to be disappointed that he can barely move on court because of all the beatings his body took during the pro tour. I wouldn’t be surprised to not see any of today’s top pros going into the Champions Tour or doing exhibition events like they once did.

Something needs to change in the game of tennis to preserve these players’ bodies, but what is it? Is it the scoring setup, the length of the season, technology or a combination of several things? Many players advocate for a shorter season with less necessary event commitments, others think that Davis Cup should be every four years instead of every year, yet others think that nothing needs to change and that the best win because they can balance and organize everything. What’s your take?

20 Responses to Tennis Needs a Change

  • Lisa Grebe says:

    Maybe they could have more grass court tournaments and less hard court tournaments.

  • Tran says:

    I always think the technology advancements of rackets and strings are WAY to far and without boundaries against human body. The sport has allowed racket companies to do whatever they want without any concern towards tennis players.

    So the very first thing I would like to see is governing rules for these equipments, e.g. maximum string tension, maximum torque, … I know it sounds very difficult and restricting, but at the same time this will allow more artists, and with them the fun of the game. Let's look at it like this: do we want to see more gladiators from our youngsters battling each other until death? It is not far from the reality: soon tennis balls will become bullets.

    I, for one, can't help feel sad any time I watch Nadal runs like a crazy bull, Roddick to serve like drilling holes, or even to see the court after matches: the baselines are completely battered showing how boring and brutal the game is today.

  • Pingback: Tennis Needs a Change | TennisGrandstandUS Open Live | US Open Live

  • MrAndyH says:

    American tennis players, Men & Women, are more injurious due to one thing…. CONCRETE!
    Clay and Grass are the way to go. The numbers have been proven.

  • I just want to say I am all new to blogging and site-building and absolutely liked you’re web-site. Very likely I’m planning to bookmark your site . You surely have incredible posts. Kudos for sharing with us your blog.

  • I simply want to say I’m new to blogging and actually enjoyed you’re website. Likely I’m planning to bookmark your website . You absolutely come with excellent well written articles. Thanks for sharing with us your blog.

  • go to post says:

    I simply want to mention I’m new to weblog and definitely liked this web page. Probably I’m going to bookmark your website . You certainly have wonderful stories. Regards for sharing your website page.

  • Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an really long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

  • I just want to mention I am just very new to weblog and honestly enjoyed this blog site. Likely I’m want to bookmark your blog . You surely have terrific posts. Appreciate it for revealing your blog site.

  • CDK Geomatics provides our clients with a complete spectrum of integrated land surveying and consulting services. Throughout our history, we’ve worked to provide our customers with a level of comfort, service and trust that exceeds their expectations.

  • How Your Thinking Affects Your Fertility at:: InfertilityCure.tk

  • What’s up to all, how is all, I think every one is getting more from this site, and your views
    are pleasant designed for new visitors.

  • always i used to read smaller articles that as well clear their motive,
    and that is also happening with this post which
    I am reading at this time.

  • naturally like your website however you need to check the spelling on several of your posts.
    Many of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very troublesome to
    inform the truth nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

    Feel free to visit my website: paid survey sites

  • Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored at work so I decided
    to browse your website on my iphone during lunch break.
    I enjoy the information you present here and can’t wait to
    take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how fast your blog loaded on my
    phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow,
    great blog!

  • Wow, superb weblog layout! How lengthy have you been blogging for?
    you made running a blog look easy. The entire glance of your website is great,
    as well as the content!

    Feel free to surf to my web-site – best adult dating sites

  • It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad surveys that pay cash you just shared this
    helpful information with us. Please stay us informed like
    this. Thank you for sharing.

  • I am in fact thankful to the holder of this
    web page who has shared this enormous post at at
    this time.

  • quest bars says:

    I think this is among the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article.
    But should remark on some general things, The web site style is perfect, the
    articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  • Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering
    if you knew of any widgets I could add to my blog that automatically tweet
    my newest twitter updates. I’ve been looking for a
    plug-in like this for quite some time and
    was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something
    like this. Please let me know if you run into anything.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to
    your new updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>