How Hard Is Tennis? (5 Things Beginners Should Know)

How Hard Is Tennis? (5 Things Beginners Should Know)

Published: December 5, 2021

Although tennis always looks very easy on TV, in reality, it is not. In fact, tennis is considered one of the most difficult sports to learn. But, how hard is tennis? I'm going to explain that to you in this article!

Tennis is considered one of the hardest sports in the world. This has to do with technical aspects such as footwork, timing, hand-eye coordination, speed, flexibility, agility, and strength. In addition, there are many different strokes, and the mental aspect also plays an important role in tennis.

Tennis can by no means be called an easy sport. But that certainly doesn't make the sport any less fun, on the contrary even more fun if you ask me. In this article, I will therefore clearly explain how hard tennis is to learn, and what you need to pay attention to.

Is Tennis a Hard Sport?

Even if you have never picked up a tennis racket once in your life, you are probably familiar with the legendary names of the sport: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams. They make tennis look effortless. They make it look so incredibly easy.

However, tennis is one of the hardest sports out there. According to a survey by ESPN, tennis is the 7th most difficult sport in the world, beating sports like soccer and basketball.

If the names mentioned above have inspired you to get on the court yourself and try tennis, then you’re in for some fun. And, maybe, a bit of a surprise.

There is a lot that goes into hitting a tennis ball: hand-eye coordination, agility, strength, and speed.

Even standing in one place and hitting a ball can give many people problems.

All these aspects make tennis one of the hardest sports. But have no fear!

As soon as you hit your first basked of balls, I can almost guarantee you will be hooked.

Is Tennis Hard to Learn?

The short answer:

Tennis is considered one of the hardest sports to learn. This has to do with technical aspects such as footwork, timing, hand-eye coordination, speed, flexibility, agility, and strength. By using a good coach and practicing and playing a lot, you will master these aspects faster.

The extended answer:

Suppose your goal is to play recreationally with friends. In that case, tennis can be boiled down to a simple phrase, “see the ball, hit the ball,” which I often use with my beginner students.

But, if you’d like to learn properly from a coach, then yes, tennis can be a very difficult sport to learn, simply because it is such a technical sport.

What do I mean by technical?

Well, there’s a lot of that goes into hitting a forehand and hitting a backhand. Look at any slow-motion video of your favorite tennis professional hitting their groundstrokes.

You will notice some things:

The footwork, unit turn, racket preparation, backswing, step forward into the ball, swing forward, and the follow-through.

As you can see, there is a lot involved in tennis. Tennis has therefore been called one of the most difficult sports to learn.

Are you overwhelmed?

Please don’t be, a good coach will help break everything down for you, and you will be hitting balls quickly.

A good coach will take you from beginner to intermediate in no time flat if you are consistent with your lessons and practice.

Suppose you are interested in playing tennis and eventually playing matches either through tournaments or leagues. In that case, it’s important to get a coach.

Here are some things a good coach will be able to help you with:

  • Point of contact and precise timing
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Proper footwork
  • Grips
  • Mindset and attitude
  • Slice and the different spins
  • Improving your serve

I couldn’t hit a ball to save my life when I started playing. It took me a solid year to get the hang of it, and still, I was only scratching the surface of technique, footwork, and coordination.

It wasn’t until college, where I made my college team by the skin of my teeth, that I learned even more nuances of the sport, like the different ways you can hold your racket (grips) and spins (topspin, slice, etc.)

And it wasn’t until I began coaching at 24 years old that I learned all the finesse shots and perfected my serve and volleys.

All this to say that tennis isn’t a sport you can just pick up. It is one that takes times, many hours of hitting thousands of balls to be considered advanced.

And even when you reach that level, there are even more layers of tennis you can dive into and perfect.

But if you practice a lot and play matches regularly, you will find that you can make significant progress.

And as mentioned, a good coach can help you tremendously with that. Suppose you notice that you are getting better and better.

In that case, that will also keep you motivated, and you will keep the enjoyment of tennis.

(Read this article to learn more about tennis lessons and whether tennis lessons are worth it)

What is The Hardest Part About Tennis?

The easier question would be what isn’t hard about tennis because that list is significantly shorter. As a coach, I’ve seen people struggle with a variety of different strokes and aspects of the game.

I will break down the most common ones that I see while I’m on the court.

Timing:

Often new players are unbalanced. They aren’t sure how to move to the ball if they even move to the ball at all. It is common for players to mistime the bounce of the incoming tennis ball and miss completely.

This makes timing one of the most important and difficult parts of tennis.

Movement:

Moving around the tennis court is quite different than normal walking and running. There are a lot of lateral movements, backpedaling, and sprinting that beginners won’t be comfortable with yet.

Being able to move quickly and agilely across the tennis court is of great importance to a tennis player.

Hand-eye coordination:

The more a person develops their hand-eye coordination, the better they will be able to hit a moving tennis ball.

If your hand-eye coordination is not good, you will find that your timing is also skewed. So it’s important to make sure your hand-eye coordination is on point.

Contact point:

Contact point simply means where one strikes the ball. It is hard to figure out the best place to hit the ball when you are just starting. I’ll often see people strike too early (way out in front of your body) or too late (at or behind your hip) – the ideal contact point is right out in front of your front hip.

But, what else is hard about tennis?

While the groundstrokes can get pretty technical, they are relatively the easiest to pick up, along with the forehand and backhand volleys.

I would say the biggest complaint I get when I walk on court with a coaching client is their serve.

The serve requires almost perfect timing and years of practice. The margin of error for this shot is extremely low.

The serve is also a lot of pieces to put together and think about as a beginner as it is the only shot in tennis that we have complete control of and must use both hands.

The coordination the serve takes is unique since it is one of the first times people use both hands at once. The toss needs to be lifted into the air with your nondominant hand while your dominant hand swings the racket.

That’s why the serve is probably the hardest part of tennis.

Is Tennis Hard on Your Body?

The short answer:

Overall, tennis can be hard on your body. It depends on the type of court surface you play on, your gear, and your style of play. Most injuries in tennis occur in the rotator cuffs, elbows, knees, and hips.

The extended answer:

While tennis is considered a lifelong sport, it has been proven that you can play well into your 80s and at a pretty high level. But, we are still only human, and our bodies can break down.

After a single match or lesson, your muscles may be sore, especially in places you’ve never really used before. Most people will feel soreness in their forearms, legs, and hands.

If you play tennis consistently and for years, you will learn that it puts a lot of stress on your muscles and joints.

Especially if you play most of your life on a hard court which is typically made of concrete or asphalt and covered with an acrylic top, you’re likely to get some soreness over time.

Tennis movements are very specific, and due to doing the same movements repeatedly, one can get overuse injuries, typically in rotator cuffs and elbows.

Knees and hips are common injuries in tennis and can break down quite a bit as we get older.

The best example of a body breaking down from playing aggressive tennis is Rafael Nadal and, famously, Andy Murray’s hip replacement at the age of 31.

Tennis can also be tough on our backs due to how much turning and “winding up” we do to hit our groundstrokes and serves.

The extra torque can cause our low back to flair up, or even our mid-back, depending on where you are more susceptible.

A lot of injuries can be avoided with proper technique, so make sure you have employed either a coach or the thousands of great coaching videos there are online today to help you with your technique.

If you are looking to play on softer courts, seek out clay or grass courts. You will be able to find more clay or har-tru courts in the States than you will grass courts. But in Europe, clay courts and grass courts are more prevalent.

Tennis is a one-side dominant sport, so injury prevention and strength training are important. If you have any injuries or pain, it is always advisable to have it looked at by a professional.

That way, you can continue your tennis career for a long time to come.

How Hard is Tennis Compared to Other Sports?

ESPN looked at the demands of sixty different sports, and the results showed that tennis is the seventh most difficult. Tennis beat out soccer and baseball but was beat by boxing at the No. 1 spot and hockey at the No. 2 spot.

The ESPN survey included ten skills: speed, power, strength, nerve, hand-eye coordination, analytic aptitude, flexibility, agility, endurance, and durability.

Looking at those skills and looking at tennis, it’s hard to understand why it didn’t make the top spot. Ask any tennis player, especially at the pro level, and they will tell you they work on all of that and more.

I might be biased, but I think they underestimate tennis.

Tennis matches can last up to five hours or more, sometimes in intense heat and humidity. There are no teammates to help them (except when they’re playing doubles), and their opponents have endless reels of information and footage on how to beat them.

Tennis is an intensive, complex sport and should not be underestimated.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this very frank look at the difficulties of tennis didn’t scare you away from the sport. It can be such a rewarding and – quite frankly – an addicting sport to play.

If you are looking to just pick up a racket for fun and try to hit a ball back and forth across the net with your friend, don’t worry about technique and all the other nuances I mentioned. Just play and have fun.

However, if you want to take it a bit more seriously and get some professional help and feedback, look for a coach.

They can help you progress with all the technical and physical aspects of tennis and help you go from beginner to playing on a higher level.

Brian Henderson

I am what you might call a true tennis fanatic. When I am not on the tennis court teaching or playing myself, I am probably writing an informative article about tennis. My goal is to get as many people as possible excited and informed about tennis.

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Published: December 5, 2021