I’ve been playing tennis for a few years now and I’d like to think my game has been steadily improving.
But it is a challenging sport.
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Why is tennis a hard sport?
It can take a while to really become comfortable with your ground strokes in rallies, and hit your shots consistently.
While my forehand and backhand slice are fairly solid, I’ve been trying for months to develop a consistent 2 handed backhand. You need a lot of practice time and patience (and I don’t have either of these things unfortunately!)
And there’s the serve, which also requires a lot of practice to become a reliable and consistent shot.
As someone who’s played a lot of different sports over the years, I would say tennis is more challenging overall for the following reasons:
- You need to be in great shape physically (some games can last hours)
- Tennis requires mental toughness and a strong mindset (it’s a individual sport so it’s all on you to deliver)
- You need a strong overall game, with no weaknesses, to compete at a good level (this can take years of practice)
- Tennis demands great coordination (something which is hard to teach as some players have it better than others)
I know playing any sport to an advanced level takes years of practice, but to get started and play the game reasonably well, I feel tennis takes a long time.
Interestingly, at ESPN they’ve actually tried to rank sports in terms of difficulty (although I’m not sure how they did this!). They’ve concluded that boxing is the toughest sport. Tennis is in 7th place.
Let’s take a look at what makes tennis a challenging sport to play…
Playing tennis demands a high level of fitness
If you want to play tennis to a high level, you need to be physically fit.
Look at Novak Djokovic. He’s the best player in the world at the moment and he’s arguably one of the fittest guys on the men’s tour. Although he’s very tough mentally, his ability to grind out and win 5 set matches is because he’s in such great shape physically.
In addition to stamina and endurance, playing tennis requires good footwork to get into good positions to strike the ball. You need to be able to recover quickly after hitting a shot too.
Although you can improve as a tennis player by improving technique, you will always struggle if you are not fit enough, particularly if a match goes into a 3rd set.
I often play an opponent who is really my equal in terms of ability. Our matches are usually close, but he is fitter than me. It means although I can take a set off him, if it goes into a second or third set, I’m exhausted and he just wears me down.
How do you get fit for tennis?
Some light jogging is good for overall fitness, but tennis requires sharp bursts if energy, with a short recovery time of around 30 seconds. So things like HIIT are better as that gets your heart rate up quickly with a short break, and then back to it.
Here’s a great video on getting fit for tennis from Top Tennis Training.
You need very good coordination
This is arguably the hardest part to improve on. Some players just have better coordination than others. Excellent hand eye coordination is essential in tennis, as well as good timing to strike the ball cleanly.
Furthermore, coordination is a lot easier to develop for junior players as they haven’t picked up any bad habits.
For adult players, it’s tougher to improve coordination if they’ve started playing tennis later on in life.
Tennis requires mental toughness
In tennis, it’s all on you..
..at least if you play a lot of singles.
In team sports, like soccer or rugby there are plenty of other team mates to rely on. Of course you still have a role to play in team sports, but in tennis you are solely responsible for the outcome of the match.
If you watch a professional tennis match, you can see the ebbs and flows of each player and the momentum can turn very quickly.
Take a look at this example from Rafael Nadal. He was down 5-1 in a set and 40-0 facing 3 set points, but he turned it around to win the game and the set.
We know he’s a great athlete, but this was surely mainly down to his winning mentality and mental resilience.
You need to stay positive all the time in tennis, and not dwell on the last point if you’ve made a mistake.
You need very good technique
To really succeed as a tennis player your technique should be very good.
You need to be able to consistently strike the sweet spot for all your ground strokes, overheads and volleys. Coaching can help improve your technique so you can get better quicker, but if you’re an adult player this will take longer than if you’re a junior player.
Also you need A LOT of practice in order to develop the muscle memory to hit consistent shots with good timing.
But it’s the serve which is usually the hardest shot to master. It can take years of practice to develop a fluid motion and timing. You’ll also need to learn different types of serve to make it harder for your opponent to read.
Is tennis hard on your body?
In a word, yes it is. Although playing tennis is good for your health and a great way to stay in shape, it can take its toll on your joints. Your knees, shoulders, elbows and hips can suffer in the long term, particularly if you play regularly on hard courts. You can minimize the risk by warming up and stretching properly beforehand. Here’s some more information on how tennis can be tough on your joints.
Is tennis harder than soccer?
I used to play soccer a lot as a teenager, and I would say tennis is a tougher sport to play overall. It’s tougher physically and mentally, especially if you have a gruelling match. According to ESPN they believe that tennis is the 7th toughest sport to play, and soccer is 10th.
Is tennis the best sport?
Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to sport. I love playing tennis, and I used to enjoy playing football (less so now as I’ve got older). I also like playing golf from time to time. Tennis has a lot of advantages in terms of the physical, social and mental benefits you gain from playing it on a regular basis.
Which sport is harder – badminton or tennis?
I played badminton a lot when I was younger, to a fairly high level, but now I just focus on tennis. There are pros and cons of both sports but it’s difficult to say which sport is harder. I think for beginners, badminton is an easier sport to learn as it’s not that hard to have a sustained rally with a light shuttlecock. Tennis is harder, as it’s more difficult to control the flight of the ball and speed. At an advanced level though, I think both sports are probably equally as challenging to master. Here’s a more in depth answer on the subject.
Graham runs the place around here. He likes making a “little noise” about all things to do with tennis and parenting. Check out his about page to learn more.