When you watch great players like Roger Federer in action, the sport of tennis can look deceptively easy. Roger seems to almost glide around the court, hitting powerful strokes without obvious effort. Take to the court yourself, however, and it will seem a good deal less straightforward. If you are a beginner, you may well find it difficult to consistently make contact with the ball, never mind hitting with the power and accuracy of Federer.
Many people consider tennis one of the hardest sports to learn, due to the need for hand-eye coordination, flexibility, agility, strength, and speed. Players must master different shots and learn the mental side of the game, which is considered the hardest part.
While learning tennis can be challenging, it becomes significantly easier when you have a game-plan. We have written a full guide on how to start playing tennis, with insights on how to choose gear and how to plan your lessons, and you can check it out here.
Is Tennis Hard To Learn?
If your ambition is simply to walk onto a park court and hit a few balls over the net with a friend, tennis is not that hard. Swing the racket, and you will gradually start to make contact with the ball more often. Occasionally, something resembling a rally may break out. If, however, you want to play the game properly, with a view to joining a club or playing competitions, there is considerably more to it.
Using an effective technique in tennis will give you the best chance of directing the ball where you want it to go, and will protect you against injury. It is very easy to hurt your arm, wrist, or elbow by repeatedly hitting a tennis ball with poor technique. Coaches are trained to help find the best technique for you, so it is generally helpful to sign up for a few lessons. In the long term, this will help you to improve more quickly and play better.
You will need good hand-eye coordination, which can be improved through playing tennis or other sports, and will need to learn techniques for forehands, backhands, serves, returns, volleys, and smashes. As you improve, you will learn to use different spins to make life harder for your opponents. All of this will take a substantial amount of time, but each small improvement can bring great satisfaction.
Is Tennis Physically Demanding?
This is heavily dependent upon how you play the game. If you want a gentle game of doubles with friends, none of whom hit the ball very hard, the physical demands are about the same as taking a brisk walk. If, however, you aim to play at a high level, the demands are considerable. To produce powerful shots you will involve many different parts of your body, pushing with your legs, flexing your torso, rotating your shoulder and accelerating and bending your arm and wrist. Repeatedly hitting the ball hard will stress all of these elements, potentially resulting in a variety of strains and creating a risk of tendinitis.
Another demanding aspect of playing tennis at a high level is the way players have to frequently sprint, jump, and lunge on hard court surfaces. Many tournaments are played on hard courts, and a lot of American players train on them.
Playing tennis frequently on such an unforgiving surface can cause stress fractures and a variety of inflammations and strains, as well as being notoriously hard on the knees. Surfaces such as clay and grass are less demanding, but players’ bodies are still tested to extremes in the biggest tournaments.
What Is The Most Difficult Thing In Tennis?
From a technical viewpoint, the serve is probably the most challenging shot to become good at, as you must put the ball in position yourself whilst instigating a complex chain of movements. Nonetheless, with practice most players can become at least competent servers. When playing competitively, there are other aspects which provide a challenge every time you take to the court, however good your technique is.
Firstly, you will need to find the right tactics to defeat your opponent, taking account of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the conditions in which the match will be played. This is complex enough, but it is made more difficult by the fact that they will be trying to do the same to you.
Secondly, you will need to remain calm and appropriately relaxed, energized when necessary, and focused. All of these mental skills will help you to remain positive and confident, allowing you to perform close to your best. It is vital not to worry about who might be watching, to fear losing, or indulge in any other negative thoughts. A substantial amount of training and practice is needed to develop the necessary mental toughness.
How Long Will It Take To Learn Tennis?
This will vary according to what other sports you have played and your general fitness. As a beginner, you can expect to play a reasonable social game within a few months. However, it will require several years of physical, mental, and technical training before you can compete at a standard anywhere near that of the professionals. For this reason, most top players started playing at a young age.
Is Tennis Harder Than Other Sports?
Not long ago, ESPN assessed the demands of 60 different sports, and found tennis to be the seventh most challenging, harder than baseball and soccer and a long way clear of less physically demanding sports like golf.
It could be argued that even this underestimates the challenges tennis offers. Matches can last five or six hours in potentially intense heat, and players are generally out there on their own with no-one to advise them and everyone judging them. They have no teammates to pick up the slack if they are having an off day, and their opponent will have prepared specifically to beat them. Minor injuries are common, and players must try to overcome these and maintain a high level of play.
Tennis is fairly easy to play badly, but incredibly difficult to play well. There are few other sports which offer a comparable mental and physical challenge.