Do exceptionally tall players enjoy more success in tennis? One look at the historical data of Grand Slam champions suggests no.
Unlike other sports such as basketball, height is not as much of a factor in determining the success of a tennis player. While it is obvious that taller players would tend to serve bigger and pack a mightier punch with their flat groundstrokes, they are generally a lot slower in their movement - which puts them at a serious handicap on slower surfaces like clay.
ATP data from the year 2019 reveals that the average height of the top 500 male tennis players in the world is 185.5 cm (or 6'1"). The optimal height for male professional tennis players is, according to most observers, between 185 cm and 190 cm.
It is also interesting to note that no player taller than 6'4" or 193 cm (Marat Safin) has ever reached the summit of the ATP rankings.
On that note, we take a look at the 11 tallest tennis players of all time.
11 tallest tennis players of all time:
Juan Martin Del Potro - 6'6" (198 cm)
The immensely talented but injury-prone Juan Martin Del Potro rose to prominence in his late teens.
Standing at 6'6" (198 cm), Del Potro has always had a solid serve and a potent forehand. The Argentine's forehand is actually considered one of the best in the business, if not the best.
Wrist injuries may have taken some bite out of his equally reliable two-handed backhand, but Del Potro has always been a fighter and has come back strongly from several injury setbacks.
Del Potro was ranked as high as World No. 3 at one point. His best Grand Slam result came at the 2009 US Open, where he famously took out Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in successive matches to lift the title.
That made him the tallest Grand Slam champion in tennis history.
Del Potro has earned more than $25 million in prize money and has also won two Olympics medals (bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016).
Nicknamed the ‘Tower of Tandil’, Del Potro is also referred to as a 'gentle giant' for his sportsmanship and respect for other players. Tennis fans would be hoping that the familiar chants of "Ole Delpo" start resonating again in stadiums as the affable Del Potro embarks on yet another comeback trail.
Sam Querrey - 6'6" (198 cm)
Sam Querrey is one of three Americans in this list.
Standing at 6'6" (198 cm), Querrey has one of the best serves in the game. In fact, he holds the record for the most consecutive aces served in a match (he served 10 aces on the trot in the 2007 Indianapolis Open quarterfinals against James Blake).
Querrey has been a giant-killer of sorts in recent years. His most memorable win came in the third round of the 2016 Wimbledon Championships, where he defeated top seed Novak Djokovic in four sets. The win dashed Djokovic's hopes of a Calendar Slam and also snapped his winning streak in Majors (he had won all four Grand Slams held prior to the 2016 Wimbledon Championships).
Querrey continued his giant-killing exploits at Wimbledon in 2017, where he took out local hero and defending champion Andy Murray in the quarterfinals. The semifinal finish at Wimbledon that year is Querrey's best-ever Grand Slam performance to date.
A career-high ranking of No. 11 in 2018 and 10 singles titles are some of Querrey's career achievements.
Marin Cilic - 6'6" (198 cm)
One of the most consistent players on this list is Croat Marin Cilic.
Cilic has been the most successful tennis star from Croatia since Goran Ivanisevic. Just like the latter, Cilic boasts of a tall frame and an excellent serve. His solid groundstrokes have been his biggest strength in his trophy-laden career.
Cilic's most successful run at the Grand Slam level came in 2014, when he won the US Open after famously knocking out Roger Federer in the semifinals. Cilic has reached at least the quarterfinals of all four Majors, and has made it to at least that stage at 13 different Grand Slams.
He was runner-up to Roger Federer at the 2017 Wimbledon Championships and the 2018 Australian Open. 2018 was a particularly good year for Cilic as he reached a career-high ranking of No. 3 and also won the Davis Cup as a member of the Croatian team.
Chris Guccione - 6'7" (201 cm)
Chris Guccione of Australia, standing at 6'7", is fourth on this list.
Guccione, predominantly a doubles player, has won five ATP Tour doubles titles, and reached a career-high ranking of World No. 38 in November 2014.
Possessing a game which relies heavily on serving-and-volleying, Guccione's powerful serve led fellow Aussie Mark Philippoussis to call him a "Wayne Arthurs clone".
After his 2017 Australian Open doubles quarterfinals loss, Guccione was forced to take sabbatical due to recurring Achilles injury issues. Injury-free and having lost 70 pounds, a fit and healthy Guccione made his comeback earlier this year.
Marc Rosset - 6'7" (201 cm)
Standing at 6'7" (201 cm), Marc Rosset was was one of the game's fastest servers in the 1990s.
Adept in both singles and doubles, Rosset was the top-ranked Swiss tennis player before Roger Federer took over. The lanky Rosset boasts an impressive 2-2 win-loss record against Federer, having won their first two meetings in the year 2000.
Rosset's crowning moment of fame came at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where he won the gold medal in singles after beating the likes of Jim Courier and Goran Ivanisevic. He also won the French Open doubles title that year.
Rosset's career high-ranking was No. 9 in singles and No. 8 in doubles. Post retirement, Rosset was the captain of the Swiss Davis Cup team.
Kevin Anderson - 6'8" (203 cm)
Kevin Anderson is the tallest player to have made the final of a Grand Slam tournament. The 6'8'' player from Johannesburg achieved this feat in 2017, when he finished as the runner-up at the US Open.
In 2018, Anderson continued his fine form as he reached the final of Wimbledon after a marathon five-set semifinal against John Isner. Anderson was again relegated to a runner-up finish, this time losing to Novak Djokovic.
Anderson's exploits at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships propelled him to a career-high ranking of No. 5 (the highest by any South African). With six titles and a little over $16 million in prize money earnings, the 34-year-old will look to win a few more accolades before hanging up his racquet.
Dick Norman - 6'8" (203 cm)
The only left-hander in this list is the retired Dick Norman.
The Belgian, who turned pro in 1991, retired only in 2013 - at the age of 42. A doubles specialist, Norman was ranked a career-high No. 10 in 2010 when he was 39 years old.
Norman jointly holds the singles record for advancing furthest in a Grand Slam after coming out of the lucky loser draw. He achieved this feat at the 1995 Wimbledon Championships, where he took out former champions Pat Cash and Stefan Edberg in successive matches. He was eventually beaten by another former champion Boris Becker in the fourth round.
Norman's feat of reaching the fourth round of a Grand Slam as a lucky loser was matched by compatriot David Goffin at the 2012 French Open.
At the 2009 French Open, Norman became the oldest player to reach the final of the claycourt Major across formats. At 38 years and 3 months, he was also just the fifth player aged 38 or older to feature in a men's doubles Grand Slam final.
With four titles to his name, Norman retired in 2013.
Jerzy Janowicz - 6'8" (203 cm)
Jerzy Janowicz possesses one of the fastest serves in the men's game, striking his first serve generally between 130 and 140 mph and his second serve from 115 to 120 mph. His high ball toss is unusual even for a man who stands at 6'8".
Janowicz rose to fame at the 2012 BNP Paribas Masters, where he remarkably made the finals after beating the likes of Marin Cilic and Andy Murray. He was the first qualifier to make the final of an ATP Masters 1000 event since Andrei Pavel in 2003, and the first player to reach the final of an ATP Masters 1000 event on debut since Harel Levy in 2000.
In the year 2013, Janowicz made history by becoming the first male tennis player from Poland to make the semifinals of a Grand Slam. He achieved this at the Wimbledon Championships.
Though he was beaten by eventual champion and No. 2 seed Andy Murray in four sets, Janowicz rose to a career-high ranking of No. 14 and was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit by the Polish President.
A spate of injuries have hampered the Pole's quest to further cement his place as the finest tennis player from Poland. Janowicz, now coached by Günter Bresnik, will look to rejuvenate his career and make an impact in 2020.
John Isner - 6'10" (208 cm)
American John Isner is the third tallest male tennis player to have ever played tennis professionally.
With 12,467 aces to his name, Isner is second on the all-time ace charts. Isner currently holds the record for hitting the ATP's fastest “official” serve ever - at 157.2 mph or 255 km/h during his first round 2016 Davis Cup match.
Ever since the retirement of Andy Roddick, John Isner has been the mainstay of American tennis. Isner achieved his career-high singles ranking of No. 8 in July 2018 as result of his maiden Masters 1000 win at the 2018 Miami Open and a semifinal appearance at the 2018 Wimbledon Championships.
The 6'10" Isner will always be remembered for his epic encounter against Nicolas Mahut in the first round of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships. The match, which lasted 11 hours and 5 minutes (the longest ever) over three days, saw Isner emerge triumphant. During the marathon, the American set the record for the most aces served in a single match (113) and the most served in a single set (85).
Isner played out another Wimbledon classic in 2018 when he lost to Kevin Anderson at the semi-final stage in 6 hours and 32 minutes.
Reilly Opelka - 6'11" (211 cm)
The tallest American to feature in a professional tennis match is youngster Reilly Opelka. The 6'11" Florida resident has been making 'giant' strides in tennis over the last few years.
Opelka has a winning record of 3-1 against fellow American John Isner. The match-up between the two has always been a battle of serves, and every set that the two have played in their last three matches has gone to a tiebreak.
Ivo Karlović - 6'11" (211 cm)
Standing at 6'11" (211 cm), Croat Ivo Karlovic is the joint tallest tennis player in history.
Karlovic is a serve-and-volley player, and always looks to make the most of his gigantic serve. He officially held the record for the fastest serve recorded in professional tennis - measured at 251 km/h (156 mph) - before being surpassed unofficially by Samuel Groth in 2012 and officially by John Isner in 2016.
Karlovic arguably has the best serve in tennis history, and it has been his go-to weapon for close to two decades. With 13,633 aces, Karlovic towers over the ATP all-time aces chart.
Karlovic also has the most aces in a best-of-three-set match, with 45 at Halle in 2015. Two weeks later, during Wimbledon, he became the only player to hit at least 40 aces in three consecutive matches.
At 40 years of age with eight titles under his belt, the lanky Croat will look to add a few more laurels to his long tennis career.
Also read: Tallest female tennis players of all timePublished 29 Jul 2020, 21:17 IST