The Shortest Tennis Players Of All Time
We have established in the past that on average, tennis players are pretty damn tall! Being of above average height brings with it a fair few advantages on the tennis court, but there are still some shorter tennis players that have had a lot of success on the professional circuit.
In fact, there are actually some distinct advantages to being a shorter tennis player that you may not have even considered before. So, if you are a shorter individual that thinks that will stop you from having success on the tennis court, think again!
Benefits of Being a Shorter Tennis Player
It is quite a strong stereotype that tennis players are supposed to be tall. Sure, there are some absolute giants in the sport that dominate with their huge serves, insane reach and monstrous groundstrokes.
Players like Reilly Opelka, Ivo Karlovic, John Isner and Jerzu Janowicz all stand above 2 metres tall and have had an awful lot of success on the court.
However, being this tall is not necessarily a must in tennis as there are benefits and drawbacks to the added loft. Taller players tend to have much bigger serves thanks to the higher trajectory from which they can serve the ball, which gives them a lot of free points.
Their long limbs also help with net coverage, so they can often volley the ball down into the court and cover the vast majority of the court, making it difficult to pass or lob them.
Plus, simply being larger and having more power gives taller players the ability to hit big groundstrokes, so they often have weapons that can back up their big serves.
Whilst this all sounds great, there are a few areas in which taller players may find themselves lacking, which makes way for the shorter tennis player to claim their natural advantages.
So, if you are a tennis player on the shorter end of the spectrum, fear not, here are some of the main advantages you will have on the court!
One area that a shorter player will almost always thrive in compared to a taller player is quickness around the court. A shorter player’s low centre of gravity and often fast footspeed makes them much better at changing direction quickly.
This is a key skill in tennis and serves as a massive advantage if you are trying to turn defence into attack.
Many players that lack massive height make up for this by being great counter punchers. This is the ability to bide your time and allow your opponents to play the aggressive ball, whilst waiting for them to make a mistake or actively draw an error out of them.
Counter punchers are also great at hitting passing shots and defensive lobs, which often puts big hitters off playing their usual aggressive game style.
Following on from the previous point, many shorter tennis players possess great hand skills, particularly in defensive positions. This is usually due to their need to win points in ways other than simply blasting their opponents off the court with big serves and groundstrokes.
We often see shorter players possess great hand skills that can get them out of trouble with a flick of the wrist, immediately turning defence into attack with a one shot.
Again, one of the major areas in which shorter tennis players can often make gains on their larger counterparts is in the technique department.
Since taller players have the natural advantage of additional height, trajectory, longer limbs and generally more leverage over the ball, they can often get away with imperfect technique as they tend to hit the ball so hard.
This means that over time they can actually develop bad habits that can limit the potential of their shots, or even encourage an injury to form.
Shorter players don’t have this issue since they are forced to learn different ways to win points due to their lack of height.
It is therefore more common for shorter players to focus on their consistency and perfecting their technique in order to get the most out of their stature and biomechanics.
Skill and Court Craft
We have touched on this in some of the previous points, but skill and craftiness around the court is a real benefit that a lot of shorter tennis players tend to possess.
This tends to be their bread and butter along with long rallies, consistency and fitness compared to a taller player’s reliance on big serves, forehands and backhands.
Some of the players we call out below possess some of the best hand skills and court awareness that the game of tennis has ever seen, and this has been developed out of necessity due to lacking those huge weapons.
The Shortest Tennis Players of All Time
Here is our collection of some of the best players of all time in the below average height category!
Shortest Men’s Players
One of the most talented and exciting players to watch on the ATP tour today is the Argentinian ace, Diego Schwartzman.
At 170cm he has reached a career high of number 8 in the world and has been a mainstay in the world’s top 20 players for the majority of his time on the tour. Schwartzman made the semi-finals of the French Open in 2020 has 4 titles to his name.
He also made an appearance at the year end championships in 2020 so has shown a resurgence in form later on in his career. He is famously consistent, quick around the court and pulls off some outrageous trick shots when he is in the mood!
One of France’s most popular and well loved tennis players, Arnaud Clement reached a career high of 10 in the world and made it to the Australian Open final in 2001. He ended up losing to American legend Andre Agassi, which bears no shame whatsoever.
He did also have great success on the doubles court, winning Wimbledon in 2007 and making the final of the Australian Open in 2008 with fellow Frenchman Michael Llodra. Standing 172cm tall, Clement possessed a unique dress style which saw him wear a bandanna and sunglasses for the vast majority of his matches throughout his career.
This attracted attention from Lacoste, one of the world’s most famous fashion brands and Clement was one of the first tennis players to endorse the brand. He is also a former Davis cup team captain for France and claimed 4 titles across his career.
Rocket Rod Laver has gone down in history as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, thanks to his double calendar grand slam twice, meaning he won all 4 major titles in a single year on two separate occasions.
Laver was 173cm tall in his playing days and was famously quoted saying that tennis was not just a sport for big guys, he certainly proved his point by winning nearly 200 titles across his glittering career.
The lefty legend was able to end the year as world number 1 nine times in total and is hailed by many as the greatest player to pick up a racket.
David Ferrer comes in at 7th on the all time career earnings list for men’s professional tennis players, proving that height is certainly no obstacle to success on the tour!
Ferrer is 175cm and reached the French Open finals in 2013, where he lost to the king of clay Rafael Nadal. In that year, Ferrer reached a career high of 3 in the world and was renowned for his dogged and tenacious game style.
He would chase down every last ball like his life depended on it and had a fierce forehand that could cause any player a lot of trouble. His 19 year career is something to be proud of, especially given his smaller stature!
One of the most athletic players the men’s tour has ever seen, Michael Russell made the most of his 173cm height. Russell was a real workhorse that fought for every point.
He reached the 4th round of the French Open in 2001 and amassed over $2million in his career. He is currently the coach of American star Tenys Sandgren.
The brilliant Belgium Olivier Rochus stood at just 165cm, making him the shortest player on our list. He had a classic game style that brought him to the 4th round of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
He is actually the shortest player to ever play on the ATP world tour, but still managed to win 2 titles and rake in nearly $5million in prize money across his career!
Shortest Women’s Players
Gem Hoahing was the shortest female tennis player ever, standing at just 146cm tall. She played between the 1930s and 1960s and managed to reach the 4th round of Wimbledon in 1949 and 1957.
The South African star Amanda Coetzer played in the late 1980s through to the early 2000s. She managed to climb to number 3 in the WTA rankings in 1997 and reach the semi-finals of the Australian Open and French Open in the same year.
She was nicknamed the little assassin thanks to her 158cm stature and ability to take out top seeds and cause upsets.
Japanese tennis player Misaki Doi is one of the shortest active members of the WTA circuit, standing at 159cm. The lefty reached the 4th round of Wimbledon in 2016 and has won nearly $3.5 million in prize money throughout her career. She is an aggressive baseliner that also likes to open up the court with angles using her serve.
One of the most prolific players that are of a shorter build, Dominika Cibulkova has reached a career high of number 4 in the world and holds 8 career titles. She spent 15 years on the WTA tour and didn’t let her 160cm height get in her way of success.
She reached the Australian Open final in 2014 and won the world tour finals in 2016. She has an energetic game style and doesn’t like to take too long between points. She has amassed over $13 million across her career thanks to her aggressive style of play.
Carla Suarez Navarro
Spanish sensation Carla Suarex Navarro has a very elegant game style that has won her a lot of fans the world over. Standing at 162cm tall she relies on her speed around the court and near perfect technique to brush balls past her opponents.
She has a sweet single handed backhand and loves to grind down players on clay. She has won nearly $13 million dollars and reached the quarter finals of the Australian Open, French Open and US Open.
Sara Errani is one of the most successful Italian women to pick up a tennis racket. At just 164cm tall her achievements have been very impressive, reaching the final of the French Open in 2012 and a career high of 5 in the world in 2013.
She is a tenacious player that relies on her ability to scurry around the court to wear her opponents down. She has won 9 career singles titles but a very impressive 27 doubles titles, highlighting her volleying skills and court craft.
So, we have shown that it is not just the tall guys that can have success on the tennis court after all! There are a number of incredibly successful tennis players that stand under 6 foot tall, showing that champions really do some in all shapes and sizes.
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