Is the default ‘successful tennis player’ changing?

If you were to watch tennis in the 1980s, it was all about the serve and volley. If you watched in the 1990s, serve and volleying started to take a back seat. That was the decade where players started to work on their groundstrokes a little more. But at the turn of the century, groundstrokes really did take over, and big serves became crucial. Over the last decade, this trend has continued, but there are more obvious trends that are now shaping the game.

In my opinion, guys like Nadal and Federer no longer fit the mould of the ‘perfect tennis player’. They don’t have huge serves, they’re not super tall, and they don’t slap the ball as hard as some of the recent guys. Arguably, Djokovic doesn’t fit this description either, but his ball-striking and agility have kept him at the top of the game.

With this said, I’d like to quickly detail what the successful player now looks like (on average). And I truly believe that tennis will move in the direction of what I’ve discussed below over the next decade.

The new ingredients for successful players

I did say that the default traits for a successful player are changing, and I meant it. From what I’ve observed over the last few years, there are clear changes taking place. And on that note, here are the results:


Alexander Zverev

Let’s take an example from Djokovic here. He is 6ft 2 in height, and to be honest, this has been a perfect ‘tennis height’ in previous times. Even guys like Federer and Nadal were only slightly above 6ft tall. But looking at the next top guys, we’ve got Zverev, Medvedev, and Berrettini. Zverev and Medvedev are both 6ft 5, and Berrettini is taller than 6ft 4. This might not seem like much, but it is a big difference in tennis terms. It also affects how these guys play the game, relying less on agility and more on power.

Big serving

Big serving is closely connected with the height of a player, but it’s something that has to be addressed nonetheless. Again, I’d like to point out guys like Medvedev and Zverev here. Alex Zverev can regularly serve at speeds above 140mph. As for Medvedev, when serving big, he is serving well above 130mph in most matches. Comparing this with guys like Djokovic or Nadal, they tend to average just above 120mph. Of course, this means that the ‘new successful player’ has a much bigger serve.

Less agile

Being tall comes at a cost, and that cost is a lack of agility. Guys like Zverev and Medvedev are just about okay at 6ft 5, but many other players don’t move well at that height. In contrast, players like Djokovic and Nadal rely on their agility to win matches. But looking forward, I truly believe that tennis will start to have shorter points, bigger groundstrokes, and breathtaking agility will become less of a requirement.

Then again, sports inevitably change as time goes on!

About the author

Gavin Davison

Gavin is a full-time copywriter based in the United Kingdom. He has previously played NCAA college tennis in the USA and competed in many international events throughout his younger days. He still plays competitively and follows both the ATP & WTA Tours closely. His favourite player is Roger Federer.

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