Martina Navrátilová is considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest woman's player of all time. At 5' 8" in height, she is above average (for a woman) in this regard. But one opponent who has given her a lot of trouble over the years (when not her doubles partner) is Pam Shriver, who is much taller, at 6'0". Perhaps Shriver has advantages such as arm reach or power that Navrátilová lacks, partly compensating for Navrátilová's greater raw talent.

Another small, scrappy men's player is Michael Chang, who was the youngest man to win the French open. Great things were predicted of him, but he lost other Grand Slam finals to men like Boris Becker, Patrick Rafter and Thomas Muster who are much taller than Chang's 5'8".

Are the setbacks of Chang (and to a lesser extent Navrátilová) attributable to "size" (or lack thereof), or to other non-size factors such as skill, stamina, strategy, etc.? Did anyone "smaller" than Pam Shriver do better against Navrátilová in match play? Was Chang ever beaten by anyone close to his size (5'9" or shorter), or were all his defeats to much bigger men?


1 Answer 1


I think you could make the argument that "size matters" in every sport - look at jockeys in horse racing, for example.

If I had to describe the ideal "size" for tennis players, I would say it is between about 6'1" and 6'4" and about 175-190 pounds. Tennis players need to be strong, but not bulky or too muscular to the point where it inhibits flexibility and speedy movement around the court.

The advantages that more height provides in tennis is on the serve - you can get better angles out wide and get more pace on the serve. Also at the net - you have greater reach. The drawbacks to being taller is that it tends to be harder for the really tall guys (Karlovic, Isner, etc.) to get to low balls and they tend not to have the fastest legs/feet so - their movement suffers a little.

Size (or the lack of) isn't always the reason for setbacks in tennis though. I'd hardly call Navrotilova's career one that had many setbacks - I think she was an overachiever, in fact. And for being a smaller guy - Chang made it to #2 in the world, won a major, and was on a winning Davis Cup team. A lot of players would like to have those achievements.

  • 1
    In other words, the size of one's heart matters? :)
    – user527
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 17:15
  • 1
    The site, askjamauss.com/tennis should probably exist - your answers are so great.
    – Nick
    Commented Jun 4, 2014 at 20:11
  • 1
    @edmastermind29 Basically. Which isn't specific to tennis at all, right?
    – jamauss
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 3:42
  • @NicholasV. Thanks man - just trying to share what I know with these people asking questions around here.
    – jamauss
    Commented Jun 5, 2014 at 3:42

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