Can You Learn Tennis At Any Age? (And What To Expect)

Can You Learn Tennis At Any Age?

One of the great things about the game of tennis is that it can be played by everyone, from very young children all the way through to people in their 80s and 90s. Go down to any club on a summer weekend and you are likely to see groups of youngsters enjoying a coaching session, as well as some fairly elderly people taking part in their regular game of doubles. Some might wonder whether, if they did not start at an early age, they will find the sport too difficult to pick up. After all, many leading players were on court by the age of 5.

In fact, setting realistic goals is the key. If you begin playing at age 35, you are unlikely to ever play to the standard of Federer, as, although he is a little older, he has been training his physique and technique for decades. This does not, however, mean that you cannot learn to play the game to a good standard, or will not be able to compete at an appropriate level.

There is nothing to prevent you from taking up the game of tennis at any age. A good coach will recognize your physical capabilities and teach you techniques that are appropriate for your strength and flexibility. There’s an advantage to learn the game as a kid, but if you work hard you can still become a good player in your age group.

Is It Ever Too Late To Learn Tennis?

Absolutely not. There may be some shots, such as those requiring high racket-head speed and/or extreme spin, that a woman taking up the game at 75 should probably avoid, but as long as she is fit and healthy she can still learn to play a solid game and to enjoy tennis for the rest of her life.

Good coaching is important here. The coach needs to understand what the player is capable of and to teach the kind of technique that will be effective without creating an undue risk of injury.

The other crucial element is physical conditioning. If you are considering taking up a new sport late in life, you need to ensure that your body can handle the stress. If you already spend a lot of time in the gym and play other racket sports there will be no problem, but, if not, a few sessions with a personal trainer will be advisable before you start, to prepare you for the new movements.

Playing Tennis At 30, 40, 50 and 60 – The Difference

Many leading professionals are aged over 30, and there is no reason why a player should not be able to play the best tennis of their life at that age. A well-trained 30-year-old is still quite close to their athletic prime, and with good technique and tactical understanding, they need not put a ceiling on their ambitions.

By the time a player reaches the age of 40, their physical capabilities will be starting to decline. Speed, flexibility, and strength will all have reduced a little, although strength and conditioning work can minimize this.

It is still possible to play great tennis at 40: Federer is almost that age now, and can still compete with the very best on his day. The great server, Ivo Karlovic, is well over 40 and still playing professionally, and many leading doubles players are close to entering their fifth decade.

40-year-old players may have to use their experience to substitute for some of the physicality they once had, but they can still play at a very high level.

At 50, there will be a distinct loss of speed, and strength continues to decline. This is probably the kind of age at which players will no longer want to regularly play singles with players in their twenties, preferring to stick to their own age group. Nonetheless, a high level of doubles is still possible.

By the time a player reaches 60, the physical weakening and stiffening will be very clear, although there are some very fit players in this age bracket who still play at a good standard on the ITF Seniors Circuit. With the lack of power and possible deterioration in eyesight, it is hard to even play doubles with the best young players at this age. When playing with their peers, accuracy and touch become more important than ever for 60-year-olds.

Learning Tennis As A Kid vs As An Adult

Most players who reach a high level in the game will have started playing before the age of 10. Many will have been on court playing games designed to boost their coordination, and swinging a racket, sometime between the ages of 3 and 5. This early start means that the movements required to play top-level tennis become second nature to them, and their technique is highly trained and unlikely to break down under pressure.

A player who starts as an adult will generally find it more difficult to develop the instinctive footwork around the ball required to play at a high level, and their technique will be less ‘grooved’, meaning that their shots will not always be reliable.

Learning Tennis As An Adult – Tips

  • To learn effectively and quickly, you will need to get lessons from a coach with experience of teaching adult beginners.
  • Do not rely on playing tennis to get you fit  if you are out of shape: you will need physical training to make sure that you can play safely.
  • Set realistic goals. Concentrate on your own performance and improvement. Understand that you must initially compare yourself with players of similar experience to yourself.
  • If you want to compete, choose events of an appropriate standard and age group.

Final Thoughts

Tennis is a game for life, and you can start at any age. Look after your body and you will be able to play for many years. You may surprise yourself by how good you get!

Gui Hadlich

I got a chance to play junior and professional tournaments across the world, and in 2015 I began playing as the #1 player for Pepperdine University, a great division 1 school. I’ve had the chance to play against great names of the new generation, like Christian Garin, Cameron Norrie, and Kyle Edmund. I’m extremely passionate about the mental and technical part of the game. Oh, and I had lunch with Brad Gilbert once.

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