Being exceptionally tall has many advantages, but what about when it comes to sporting endeavour, in particular when it comes to racquet sports. So just what are the plus and minus points of height when it comes to tennis, squash, racquetball etc. How can a competitor use extra height to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent who has a different physical make up.
Let’s look at the key attributes of the taller sports person. First and foremost is reach. Being taller implies longer arms, in turn meaning longer reach. This is a tremendous advantage in many sports including racquet sports, particularly squash. One of the key tenets to squash is to command the center of the squash court, also known as the T. Young squash players, learning the game, are taught to play their shot and then return to the center of the court. From there they are urged to control the rally by stepping and reaching to the next shot. Clearly the aid of a long reach often prevents the squash player taking the second step, which in turn buys the player an extra micro second. The longer your reach, the smaller the court.
In tennis, the taller player is considerably at an advantage merely because of the presence of the net. The ability to strike the ball at a higher elevation than your opponent, immediately opens up more of the tennis court to be your target area. Take for example serving in tennis, which has been transformed from a neutral method of starting a rally into a key shot to establish a considerable advantage in the point. The reason for this transformation is twofold – primarily because of improved technology, but the increasing prominence of taller tennis players is a contributing factor in 87% of mens pro tennis games being won by the serving player. The ability of the taller player to strike the ball at an increased height allows him to clear the net and at an angle that can strike more of the court surface than if it were coming from a lower trajectory.
Smaller racquet players however do have the advantage of quicker reaction speeds. The central nervous system can send signals from the brain to the hands and feet quicker if the distance to travel is shorter, i.e. if your are smaller. In theory, this should lead to reacting quicker than a taller opponent.
Like many things in life, being tall has many advantages. Being tall in racquet sports is no different.