Is tennis the toughest sport?

Is tennis the toughest sport to play?  Can you think of another sport that has a season as long, where players compete in so many matches and where games can go on for hours and hours?

The physical demands required to be successful in any sport are increasing all the time but can you think of any other sports where the professional season is 11 months long and athletes compete several times in a week, often in consecutive days? Is there any other sport quite like tennis where there is no time limit on matches and contests continue until there is a winner?

Whilst in football, many players aren’t able to play more than one match in a week (and even then they may be substituted) tennis players keep going and the better they are, the more they play.  The professional tennis season is long and hard and whilst tennis doesn’t have the physical contact of a sport like boxing, the matches are often a fight from start to finish, particularly in the grand slams.

At a junior level in Great Britain, players seem to be competing more than ever and there is no off-season like there is in most other children’s sports.  If you want to play a tournament every weekend, you probably can and tennis venues run their programmes for as many weeks of the year as possible.  Junior players appear to be training and competing 12 months of the year and little thought is given to breaks and rest time.  When young players begin to compete internationally in Tennis Europe and ITF events there are rules in place to limit the number of events that they can compete in but this does not exist domestically.  Tennis has become a non-stop sport and players and their parents seem reluctant to have breaks in case they lose ground on their peers and rivals.

Consequently, strength and conditioning is becoming even more important. Players who compete and train regularly need to ensure they have the physical base on which to build their games.  The older you get, the faster the game gets and the harder your opponents hit the ball and so all players must ensure they have the necessary fitness to compete but also to prevent injuries.  Exercises and activities that promote recovery are also important to ensure players can give their best when they need to in tournaments.

As tennis continues to develop as a sport, the physicality involved is only going to get more and more prominent.  What is important for all players is to prepare for competition effectively, recover well and ensure that rest is given more priority.  Whatever your level, staying in the game has to be the number one goal rather than burning out.

Do you think tennis is the toughest sport?  What are your thoughts on the physical side of the game and do you think that some players are playing too much?

8 Comments Add yours

  1. RisFit says:

    Basketball is the toughest in my opinion…the amount of maximum force you have to exhibit is tough to replicate over and over again and it can really take a toll on the body. However, I do have great respect for the athletes who have managed to play tennis for unbelievably long careers given the amount of endurance and effort they put in on a daily basis! My sister played soccer for Auburn University and honestly that’s tough as well because this is the first time she’s taken an “off-season” since she was 8 and now she’s 21

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave Hillier says:

      You are very right regarding the intensity of basketball and the speed and power required. However, there is a time-limit and substitutions that don’t exist in tennis. There are less breaks in the football season than there used to be but players at a professional level only compete with a high frequency towards the end of a successful season.

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      1. RisFit says:

        Agreed, I just felt it was only right I gave a voice for the sport I’ve been playing consistently for 20 years haha. I guess it can get harder relative to the challenges in the match with any sport depending on the amount of minutes you play or how much overtime is involved, etc. I think any elite athlete will tell you that playing a sport is a full time job it doesn’t begin with the start of a game and it doesn’t end with the end of one. The most intense and rigorous parts of it aren’t usually seen by a huge audience. When we get out there to perform were really just hoping to imitate all of the things we’ve seen ourselves do in practice and at that point the experience is mostly mental, fighting with ourselves to bring our best out for the sake of everyone out there who is counting on us.

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      2. Dave Hillier says:

        Respect to you for playing basketball for so many years. We played a bit in school but it is still a growing sport in U.K. I was lucky enough to watch Miami Heat live a couple of times over the past few years and seeing it live made you appreciate how physical the sport is. You make a great point about off-seasons. Rest is so important in all sports and I worry too many Junior tennis players don’t rest enough.

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      3. RisFit says:

        Thanks and yeah it is pretty physical here in America! I can only imagine how hard it is a Junior tennis player with the standards raising over the years. I think overtraining happens so frequently in all sports especially with the world so invested in competition. It was great talking to you! Looking forward to reading some of your other posts!

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  2. Grant Young says:

    great read Dave. hope all is well in sunny liverpool!

    its hard to argue against what you have said. a point id liketo add and you kind of touched on it is how not just physically demanding but mentally. greatest example is cilic at the final this year. at a lower level even at club level you see kids struggle year round to win matches or lose close ones. tennis can be a lonely game. most other sports (football basketball volleyball ) you have others around you, tennis even if you can afford it it is you vs someone and its tough to teach kids to stay mentally strong as its something they develop in their own time.

    keep up the blogging sir, always s good read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dave Hillier says:

      Thanks, Grant. Hope you are well? Great point that you’ve made regarding the mental pressures of competing in tennis. Players need to be able to solve their own problems with no help from a coach. They also be able to keep themselves motivated even when they could be losing a lot more that they are winning. Thanks for your feedback!

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  3. Absolutely spot on Dave. And don’t forget you can throw into the mix how much of an early specialisation sport tennis is- you really do need to be competing at an elite level from a very early age to make it to the top (not the case with most sports, and as you say treads a fine line between success and burning out). Add into that the tactical demands on all tennis players, who are in effect on their own on court (bar competitions like the Davis Cup) and required to constantly employ, assess and change strategies to beat every individual opponent. There may be other sports that demand greater individual elements of endurance (ultra running), skill (golf), power (boxing), speed (100m), flexibility (gymnastics) or strength (weightlifting)- but (in my opinion) no sport comes close to requiring an overall combination of all of these things to make it. And to top it all off you are expected to do this over a variety of changing surfaces that alter often randomly throughout the year (hard to clay to grass to clay to hard?!), often with the weight of a nation bearing down on you (Murray) and to travel across the world constantly and live out of a suitcase for 11 and a half months of the year. The more I think about it the less I will be encouraging my kid into tennis!!!

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