Click below to listen to the iTPA's Executive Director Dr. Mark Kovacs being interviewed on blogradio by Alex Ramirez 4/23/2014.
               Keep Kids in the Game for Life Through the STOP Sports Injuries Campaign

                              Healthcare and, Business Leaders, and Professional Athletes Join Forces to  Help
                                                                    Young Athletes Play Safe and Stay Healthy

Atlanta, Ga. –– Today, leaders at International Tennis Performance Association are coming together with the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, National Athletic Trainers’ Association, National Strength and Conditioning Association and Safe Kids USA to promote the STOP Sports Injuries campaign. 

The campaign educates athletes, parents, athletic trainers, coaches and healthcare providers about the rapid increase in youth sports injuries, the necessary steps to help reverse the trend and the need to keep young athletes healthy. The STOP Sports Injuries campaign highlights include teaching proper prevention techniques, discussing the need for open communication between everyone involved in young athletes’ lives, and encouraging those affected to sign The Pledge to be an advocate for sports safety. The campaign website and pledge are available at

Sports injuries among young athletes are on the rise.  According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high school athletes, alone, account for an estimated two million injuries, 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations every year. 

The iTPA is excited to join this important campaign, as a major emphasis of our education is focused on preventing and limiting injuries in young tennis players,” said Dr. Mark Kovacs, iTPA Executive Director.

The high rate of youth sports injuries is fueled by an increase in overuse and trauma injuries and a lack of attention paid to proper injury prevention. According to the CDC, more than half of all sports injuries in children are preventable.

“Regardless of whether the athlete is a professional, an amateur, an Olympian or a young recreational athlete, the number of sports injuries is increasing – but the escalation of injuries in kids is the most alarming,” said Dr. James Andrews, former president of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM) and STOP Sports Injuries Co-Campaign Chair.  “Armed with the correct information and tools, today’s young athletes can remain healthy, play safe, and stay in the game for life.”

Supporting the STOP Sports Injuries campaign are the country’s leading sports medicine organizations along with professional athletes and business leaders who have signed on as members of the campaign’s Council of Champions. This Council will help raise additional awareness about this growing epidemic of youth sports injuries.  Some of the founding members of the Council include former Olympic champions Christie Rampone, Eric Heiden and Bonnie Blair, professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr, MLB baseball player John Smoltz, NFL Hall of Fame defensive end, Howie Long, and Heisman Trophy winner and St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford.

Improving youth physical fitness is a major objective of city, state, regional and federal government agencies, multiple organizations and trade associations, non-profits and private companies. Below is an article provided by SHAPE America (The Society of Health and Physical Education – formerly AAHPERD). The goal of this article was to provide physical educators and health professionals with new and relevant information about physical fitness. This is a very good resource that covers in greater detail the following 10 Concepts of Youth Physical Fitness.

1)      Fitness education is an important part of the total physical education program

2)      Health-related physical fitness assessment is an important part of physical education and fitness education programs.

3)      The relationship between health-related fitness and health  varies by age, but it exists for people of all ages.

4)      Although the strength of health relation­ships varies for different parts of fitness among youth, it is important to teach about all health-related fitness components in fitness education programs.

5)      Functional fitness is an important consideration in fitness education.

6)      Health-related fitness test items for use in fitness education may differ from those used in research or for national surveillance.

7)      Cardiorespiratory endurance is the recommended term for the fitness component frequently described as cardiovascular fit­ness, aerobic fitness, cardiorespiratory fitness, or cardiovascular endurance.

8)      An understanding of the term aerobic capacity is important for fitness education

9)      Fitness components classified as health-related are also criti­cal to performance in a variety of sports and other activities.

10)   Power, formerly considered a skill-related fitness component, can also be considered a health-related component of physical fit­ness.

Information from : Corbin et al. Youth Physical Fitness. JOPERD, 85 (2), 24-31, 2014

Download the 10 Aspects of Youth Physical Fitness PDF HERE

Atlanta, Ga (USA)--The International Tennis Performance Association (ITPA) today announced a new partnership with the Mexican Tennis Federation (Federación Mexicana de Tenis) to become the official sport science and physical conditioning education provider for tennis coaches, physical trainers, strength and conditioning professionals and physical therapists who work with tennis athletes throughout Mexico. The iTPA is the worldwide education and certification organization for trainers, coaches and specialists who are passionate about tennis-specific performance enhancement and injury prevention. The iTPA is the first of its kind in the tennis industry.

Through quality, evidence-based education combined with accurate, professional credentialing overseen by a Certification Commission comprised of world leading experts, the iTPA offers three levels of tennis-specific certification: Tennis Performance Trainer (TPT), Certified Tennis Performance Specialist (CTPS) and Master Tennis Performance Specialist (MTPS). “The iTPA was established to ensure that tennis players are provided with the best training from ITPA certified individuals using the latest evidence-based practical information to improve on-court tennis performance while limiting the likelihood of injuries,” said Dr. Mark Kovacs, Ph.D., FACSM, CTPS, MTPS, CSCS*D,  the ITPA Executive Director. “This exciting partnership with the Mexican Tennis Federation will allow for the latest education on tennis specific physical training to be gained by thousands of coaches, trainers and specialist who train tennis players throughout Mexico.”

The relationship allows for special educational benefits to individuals in Mexico as well as a number of unique iTPA educational events hosted in different towns throughout Mexico.

 “Training tennis players requires specific knowledge about the unique movements and demands of tennis which is different to most other sports, and the iTPA has the role of bringing the most credible information, backed by science, to educate and certify individuals who work on improving physical performance and/or preventing injuries.” said Todd Ellenbecker, DPT, FITPA, CTPS, founding chair of the iTPA Certification Commission.

“The Mexican Tennis Federation is very enthusiastic about this cooperation partnership with iTPA to help to develop a new platform of knowledge for coaches, trainers and physical specialists integrated in our National Tennis Program and in the Training Coaches System. We are supporting this joined effort for the future, which will have a tremendous impact on the tennis industry and our competitive players,” said Mr. Gastón Villegas Serralta, President of the Mexican Tennis Federation.

About International Tennis Performance Association (ITPA):
The ITPA is the worldwide education and certification organization for trainers, coaches and specialists who are passionate about tennis-specific performance enhancement and injury prevention. The education company offers a professional training and education process that establishes recognition through 3 certifications:  Tennis Performance Trainer (TPT), Certified Tennis Performance Specialist (CTPS) and Master Tennis Performance Specialist (MTPS).  The certification materials are overseen by the ITPA Certification Commission consisting of world experts in improving tennis performance and reducing injuries; visit the ITPA website at


Download the release pdf here
By Josh Bramblett, iTPA Staff

Planning of elite junior tennis players’ development historically has been based either on the coach’s personal experiences or on the schedules of well-respected, successful pros. However, as the training of tennis athletes become more advanced and technology allows for more data-driven decisions, effective periodization as part of training and competition is one factor that separates the development of many good junior players. With so many variables affecting the schedule of a player’s program (weather, number of matches, training status, diet, health of the athlete, etc., effective coaches, Certified Tennis Performance Specialists (CTPS) and trainers must be able to adapt programs to the athlete’s individual needs.

How can you plan a Periodization training schedule with all these factors in play?

Be able to adapt!

Most juniors that have the goal of playing at the collegiate or professional level are part of a high-performance program. These programs are very structured and often have scheduled competition plans. The plans are normally focused on three competitive routes: state/national tournaments, ITF junior events, professional tournaments (ITF/ATP/WTA). Most high-performance juniors will be a combination of all three levels of tournaments during the junior career. For example, when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were 17, Nadal competed in 20 professional events while Federer competed in 14 junior events and four professional events.

Of course all plans should be made and customized to the individual player, but typical plans range from 16-30 tournaments a year. Therefore, training blocks between tournaments become very important. “Training blocks feature between these clusters of tournaments, providing coaches in the region of 20 weeks or almost 40% of total tennis time to focus on specific (technical, tactical, physical, or mental) goals.” (Reid) This is where being adaptive comes into play.


Age (y)



Tournaments/ competitive foci

18-22 tournaments (assuming competitive foci [a] but more likely [b] or [c])


(a) professional events only

20-30 tournaments (assuming competitive foci [b] or [c])

(b) Professional events with a small number of ITF junior events

(c) ITF junior events with a small number of professional events


65-80 singles

80-100 matches

Doubles as agreed by player and coach

25-45 doubles

Win to loss ratio



Reid et al (2009). Strength and Conditioning Journal

So with all the variability that can affect periodization programs how can coaches adjust?

It involves working backwards. You may be a familiar with the leadership expert Stephen Covey’s famous work “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” In his work Dr. Covey outlines 7 important habits. All these have great merit; however, the most important habit when it comes to periodization is:


Understanding an athlete’s tournament schedule and determining the priority tournaments for the year, and the priority training periods, allows for a structured and effective periodized plan. Without beginning with the end in mind, constant and longitudinal success is difficult.

See the iTPA Inner Circle website for more information on this topic (members only). Also the iTPA certification programs provide full modules on effective tennis-specific periodization and planning programs for junior, collegiate, professional and adult league players. Check out the resources at


Reid, M., Quinlan, G., Kearney, S., Jones, D., (2009). Planning and Periodization for the Elite Junior Tennis Player. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31 (4), 69-76.

Strategy used to play tennis has undergone a dramatic change within the last 20-30 years. One of the biggest changes is the difference in the need for powerful groundstrokes. The core of groundstrokes has transferred from flat and slice shots to a heavy topspin, high paced baseline game. Conventional groundstrokes were hit predominantly from a square or closed stance, but more and more groundstrokes are hit from semi-open and open stances on both the forehand and backhand strokes. In addition to the changes in stances is the increase in racket head speed due to better understanding of how to summate forces and transfer energy from the ground, up through the kinetic chain and out into the ball.

Synchronized coordination is what you think of when you are watching an old school tennis match. The player’s strokes seem very rigid and structured. They have stiff arms and their whole body follows one motion. Sequential coordination has many movements and actions taking place. The first actions are in the legs and the force they generate from the ground. This energy moves up the body and is transferred to the shoulder by rotation of the hips and trunk. From the shoulder, the energy moves to the elbow, the wrist, and then the racquet head. This generates greater racquet head speed. Having good sound technical knowledge about tennis strokes is very important for both the tennis coach as well any individual who works with tennis athletes from a physical perspective.

Here are some exercises to increase strength in tennis specific techniques for groundstrokes.

1.      Medicine Ball Deep Groundstroke - To create greater force off the ground and to lean into deep shots behind the baseline this drill is perfect. To simulate a deep defensive forehand, have the player start on the service mark. The trainer should toss a medicine ball to the right of the player 3-5 feet behind him/her. The player should retreat back to catch the ball in the same motion as the stroke. After catching the ball, players forcefully throws the ball back mimicking the stroke of a deep forehand or backhand.

2.      Medicine Ball Short Groundstroke - To practice moving to and hitting short mid-court balls. Have the player start on the center service mark. The trainer should toss a medicine ball to the right or left of the player 3-5 feet in front him/her. The player should advance forward to catch the ball in the same motion as a stroke. After catching the ball, players forcefully throws the ball back mimicking the stroke of a short aggressive forehand or backhand.

3.      Medicine Ball Wide - To help create greater power from an open stance groundstroke. Have the player start on the center service mark. The trainer should toss a medicine ball to the right or left of the player about 5 feet from him/her. The player should shuffle sideways to catch the ball in the same motion as a stroke. After catching the ball, players forcefully throws the ball back mimicking the stroke of an open stance forehand or backhand.

4.      Medicine Ball Wall Open Stance - The athlete starts 5-8 feet from a solid wall. Focus on loading the hips and stretching the obliques in an open stance. Rotate the hips as the medicine ball is released as hard as possible at the wall.

5.      Wrist Roller - This is important to increase forearm strength, flexion, and extension. Using a wrist roller device, have the athlete grab the device and extend his/her arms out at shoulder height. Slowly lower the weight by flexing and extending the wrist. Once it has reached the ground reverse the process till the weight is at the starting position.

For more details about tennis-specific education check out the Tennis Performance Trainer (TPT) certification program which is aimed toward the tennis coach to better understand aspects of physical training for tennis focused on improving performance and reducing injuries

Fitness professionals, strength and conditioning coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors and other healthcare providers that train and/or treat tennis athletes should look to become a Certified Tennis Performance Specialist (CTPS) which is specifically designed to help individuals that understand sport science/anatomy/physiology and biomechanics, but are looking for tennis-specific information to help apply your knowledge in a more tennis-specific nature.

*iTPA Members: More in-depth article posted on the iTPA Inner Circle Member Only Website.

By Josh Bramblett, iTPA Staff

The modern game of tennis continues to progress and evolve. There are numerous ways for any player at any skill level to participate. Physicality of tennis continually grows along with the demands placed on the body. The focus of the game has changed from finesse to power and speed.

The primary skills needed to play tennis are racquet and ball handling skills along with strokes. Even if a player has fantastic strokes these attributes are not enough to overcome a top-notch opponent. A high level of physical fitness is required to take the game to the next level. “Increasing evidence suggests that motor skills such as power, strength, agility, speed, and explosiveness, as well as mental strength, and a highly developed neuromuscular coordinating ability correlate with tournament performance.” (Fernandez)  Non-conditioned athletes can impair all other tennis specific skills such as technique and tactics if fatigue sets in early into the match. A great article was published a few years ago by Dr. Jaime Fernandez-Fernandez in the Strength & Conditioning Journal. Here is a short summary providing the major practical aspects:

Match activity during tennis play

A tennis match consists of short 4-10 second spells of high intensity exercise interrupted by 10-20 second periods of recovery. Further recovery of 60-90 seconds appears at changeovers. An average tennis match lasts about 1.5 hours. Of this time, a relatively small percentage is effective playing time. Players can run anywhere from 1,300 to 3,600 meters per hour of play depending on the levels of players. Take this information into account when scheduling training.

Factors affecting match activity:

  • Court Surface
  • Tactical Behavior
  • Gender
  • Thermal Stress

How to apply this information to a training program?

1. Training players should focus on performing high intensity exercise and recovering quickly. This is because the body gets its energy from anaerobic and aerobic pathways. Therefore, it is beneficial to perform aerobic and anaerobic training. For example, running sprints one day and running several miles the next.

2. It is important to train one’s aerobic capacity because a larger portion of energy needed can be supplied aerobically. This allows players to work at higher intensities for longer periods of time preventing fatigue.

3. Most of a tennis player’s training is focused on low to moderate intensity exercise. These exercises include “technical and tactical on-court training”(Fernandez). Therefore, additional high intensity aerobic exercise must be incorporated into training. Increasing the rate of rise in oxygen uptake is the goal. This can be accomplished by interval training.

Effective training is planned for players to use maximal effort for periods of less than 10 seconds with rest periods long enough for players to replicate maximal or near-maximal effort.

4. Develop a hydration schedule. While every player is unique, all players can take advantage of some general guidelines. While playing in competitions players should drink at every change over drinking anywhere from 1.2-1.6 Liters per hour. It is also recommended players drink a combination of water and sports drink.

5. Acclimatizing to hot humid conditions is critical. Acclimatization can help prevent major physiological problems and heat illness during competition. At least 2-3 days of preparation in hot/humid environments can help before competitions.

Feel free to share any specific exercises for interval training! *iTPA Members: A much more detailed version of this post is now on the iTPA Inner Circle Member Only Website.


Fernandez, J., Sanz-Rivas, D., Villanueva, A. (2009). A review of the Activity Profile and Physiological Demands of Tennis Match Play. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 31(4), 15-25.

Can Roger Federer reclaim his position as a top 4 player in the world?
by Josh Bramblett, iTPA Staff

After the 2013 season, Roger Federer has dropped in the rankings from number 2 in the world to number 6. Not making a grand slam final since 2002, Roger decided to make some drastic changes. He changed his coach, adjusted racquet head size from 90 square inches to 98 square inches, and reset mentally ready to start anew.

The 2014 Australian Open is the first major viewing point of how Federer will deal with all these changes. So far they seem to be paying off. Flying through his first 4 matches, Federer is into the quarterfinals to face his young rival Andy Murray who is coming off his best year on tour. In 2013, Federer went 0-7 against the other members of the big 4 (Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Federer) Going into the quarterfinal match Federer’s serve has been unstoppable. He has only been broken once in the tournament and his service numbers are higher than the whole 2013 season.
One year ago, at the 2013 Australian Open, Murray defeated Federer in 5 sets winning 6-4, 6-7, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2. Murray played with great poise and showed the 17-time grand slam champion that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Murray: 21 aces, zero doublefaults, 64 percent first serves, 63 percent second serve points won, 62 winners, 47 unforced errors, for a +15 differential.

Federer: 5 aces, 2 doublefaults, 61 percent first serves, 42 percent second serve points won, 43 winners, 60 unforced errors, for a -17 differential.” (Roger, 2013)

Looking at Federer’s serve statistics in the 2014 Australian Open it certainly shows his game has progressed. With Federer’s game improving, he defeated Andy Murray winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 to earn a spot in the semi-finals.
Not only are Federer’s serve numbers impressive, his winner percentage and points earned percentage are higher than the top 4 seeds going into the quarterfinals. These statistics look promising for Federer to have a great 2014 season. With a deep run at the Australian Open, Federer has a chance to further extend his legacy as one of the all time greats in 2014.

This year’s semifinal draw looks completely different from 2013. Federer is the only remaining player that made it to the semifinals in 2013. In addition, last year's draw had the 4 top seeded players make it to the semi-final: Andy Murray, Roger Federer, David Ferrer, and Novak Djokovic. This year is very rare with only 1 of the top 4 seeded players making it to the semifinals. Why is this year's Australian Open so different from 2013? What has changed?

Federer has shown he is committed to returning to 1 of the top 4 players in the world. He has relegated going back home (to Switzerland) for the holidays to continue training in Dubai. Federer has also started his Australian Open campaign earlier than usual by playing at the Brisbane International Tournament.  Rafael Nadal is also back to reclaim a second Australian Open (the only Grand Slam he has not won twice). Nadal’s presence affects the draw; without him Djokovic and Murray would be on opposite sides and Federer would be on the same side as Djokovic. Although Roger ultimately came up short against Nadal, it does show positive signs for him for the remainder of 2014.

Another factor is the heat wave in the first week of the tournament. Could the heat wave have possibly had an energy depleting effect on some of the players? Or have the other players in the top 10 (Tomas Berdych and Stanislas Wawrinka - semifinalist) stepped up, determined to reach their potential?


Brown, S. (Jan. 20, 2014). Roger Federer’s Start to the Australian Open. BSports. Retrieved from

Roger Federer vs. Andy Murray: Australian Open live analysis, (2013). Retrieved from

About the Author:

Doug Eng is a Master Professional with the US Professional Tennis Association and an International Master Professional with the Professional Tennis Registry, one of just 10 people worldwide to hold both honors. He is also CTPS Certified through the iTPA. Doug is co-chair of the USPTA National Education Committee and College Curriculum Committee and has worked with athletes of all levels, including ITF, WTA and Davis Cup players. In addition, Doug teaches and consults in sport psychology and physical training and does technical and tactical research. He has both a PhD in chemical engineering and an Educational Doctorate in Sports Psychology.

Do Lefties Have an Advantage in Tennis? By Doug Eng EdD PhD, CTPS, CSCS

One of tennis’ most often asked questions is whether lefties have an advantage. In recent years, Nadal-Federer rivalry has really stirred that question. But during the mid-70s, lefties flourished in the game as Connors, McEnroe, Laver, Vilas, Roche, Orantes, and Tanner were among the very best.

The recent article posted on the iTPA website by Loffing, Hagemann and Strauss [1] adds one of the most detailed studies of handedness in tennis players. It includes a quantitative analysis of the WTA and ATP tours over a 38-year period. Comparatively, it also examines a large cohort of amateurs (3793 men and women) at the club level. The authors conclude that left-handers at the ATP level have had an advantage over the years (since 1973), but that advantage has significantly diminished. WTA players, however, showed almost no impact on handedness. In amateur rankings, for both male and female players, rankings were slightly skewed towards lefties.   

Basically, we can ask, what are implications of the study? One of the most fascinating bodies of research concerns that of handedness in sports. It has been often suggested that mano-a-mano sports such as fencing [2] and boxing [3] can confer a distinct advantage for the left-handed competitor. In many team sports, handedness also confers an advantage if tactical options are similar for left and right playing fields. For example, ice hockey and baseball have abnormal number of left-handed athletes. But if asymmetry exists as in golf, lefties are rare. Furthermore for sports that pit competitors against the environment, the lefty population is the same as the non-playing normal population. The mano-a-mano advantage has also been demonstrated in primitive cultures [4] where the more violent cultures have higher percentages of left-handers in the population and less violent cultures have fewer lefties. In addition, we long accept that men tend to be more aggressive or violent than women. In fact, male lefties outnumber female lefties 1.23 : 1 [5].

Most of the sporting world’s handedness is based on two basic types of lefties: natural and environmental. Rafael Nadal is an example of an environmental lefty. He is a natural righty but was changed to a lefty by his uncle and coach, Toni Nadal. In team sports like baseball and ice hockey, there are quite a few environmental lefties. They are natural right-handed athletes who adapt to their positions (e.g, left wing) to seek tactical advantages. Some sports including golf have fewer lefties than the general population. Part of the reason had been offered that golf left-handed equipment is less available and many feel that golf courses are naturally designed with an advantage for right-handed players. Therefore, many lefty golfers conform to rules of the game and play right-handed. The same is also true for some cultures. Many formal cultures such as Mexico, China, India or Japan impress conformity and most natural lefties become environmental righties. In these countries, typically the lefty population is 4% or less [6]. Many natural lefties change according to the rules of the game or society.

Lest we get too far from the sport of tennis, let’s bounce back to the court. Loffing et al found that the lefty advantage is small and exists at the ATP level and the club level but not the WTA level. Over the years, the ATP advantage of lefties has diminished. Like other researchers they attribute the lefty advantage to frequency-dependent selection. In short, that means if an athlete is not accustomed to seeing lefties, the element of surprise or better yet, the righty, will make a few more mistakes against the lefty as opposed to the righty. Today’s athletes are better prepared and perhaps train against lefty practice partners more often than thirty or forty years ago. The authors explained that this frequency of preparation might sink the lefty advantage. It is generally accepted that there is no genetic advantage of left-handed tennis players except this frequency-dependent selection.

The authors, however, do not consider the evolution of the two-handed backhand. Forty years ago, few players used the two-hander on either tour. Today, typically at least 95% of the WTA players have a two-handed backhand that may be good as the forehand. On the ATP Tour, the number of one-handers in the top 100 is typically around 25%. If one considers the equality of the WTA forehand/backhand combination and the relatively strong return of serve (neutralizing any lefty serves), then it should be predicted there is no advantage on the WTA Tour. With 25% one-handers on the ATP Tour, there apparently is room for some lefties to exploit the one-handed backhand. Throw in the lefty serve and that may explain why the Nadal statistically may dominate the Federer’s. But since only 25% of the ATP population are one-handers, that advantage becomes small. Of course, this is theoretical and has not been proven. In fact, even in modern times, we have seen more one-handers as dominant players (e.g, Sampras, Federer) than two-handers. Nevertheless, the authors point out that a return to a lefty-dominated tour is very unlikely.

The suggested frequency-dependent selection indicates that coaches can prepare their right-handed players by regularly sparring with lefties. After getting used to the lefty game, the right-handed player can neutralize any advantage that lefties may have. Best practices may involve 1) selection of left-handed practice partners, particularly on the serve and 2) adjustment of tactical patterns such as hitting down-the-line more frequently if to a weaker side. Such is one reason Novak Djokovic has good success against Rafael Nadal as Novak’s down-the-line backhand (to Rafa’s backhand) may be the best in men’s tennis. Another tactical adjustment might be practicing the inside-out, inside-in pattern with emphasis on the inside-in as the setup shot. Most right-righty matches rely on the inside-out rally from the ad court to open the court by pounding the backhand. In the righty-lefty match, the inside-out becomes the precursor to the inside-in forehand, possibly as an approach shot.  A final tactical change to coach can be the increased use of the right-handed slice serve. Today, most players are content with flat, big serves or heavy topspin or kick serves. The slice serve isn’t utilized as much at the elite junior boy’s, college men’s or ATP level. So lefties may taste some of their own medicine.

As a team coach, it is always good to have a couple lefties for the rest of the team to practice returning serve. In addition, in doubles, we always hear of the great lefty-righty duos like McEnroe-Fleming, Woodbridge-Woodforde or the Bryan brothers. We see similar match-ups with ice hockey front lines and baseball pitchers.

From a training perspective, it is important to train athletes symmetrically in preparation of movement and core strength. Tennis is already an asymmetric sport where the dominant side takes a heavy toll. Tennis players can use dumbbells in asymmetric training where they can work the left and right sides of the body separately. Athletes then become more aware of which side is weaker and which is stronger. For example, the one-legged Romanian deadlift or one-legged squat can be useful for training to support the high eccentric forces involved in tennis (e.g, landing on the serve). In addition, asymmetric training can reduce the total amount or weight to lift which can reduce forces on the back or other injury-susceptible areas. Also, it involves more proprioceptive balance in tennis-specific body positions. Separately training both sides of the body can also important in lefty-righty matches since rallies may tend to actually differ from righty-righty matches due to tactical differences. For example, in a medicine ball toss, training both sides equally is important. Most players favor the forehand over the backhand. And lefties, like Nadal does to Federer, may exploit the backhand side of the righty. Training for the lefty is not unlike dealing with a pusher versus a serve-and-volleyer in terms of using slightly different energy systems. Against the pusher, most players will involve the aerobic energy system more than against a player who likes to end points quickly by coming to the net. Hence, the training principle of specificity and deliberate practice are strongly implicated.

As a final note, such tactical and training implications can be important for the recreational or advanced male tennis player as Loffing and co-workers suggested. But for female elite players, the authors concluded there was almost no advantage. Why not an advantage? It is difficult to say why. The amateur players were slightly skewed towards a greater number of lefties ranked high at the clubs. There could be a number of reasons. First, the skew may be related to the best servers and at the club level, the lefty servers may have an advantage, male or female. In addition, at the club level, the study probably included some adults 30-60 years old. Chances are more of these players may have one-handed backhands than the WTA Tour (<5%). Thus, the female club players may show a lefty effect. In addition, at the WTA level, the return of serve is considered relatively more effective than at the ATP level. For 95% WTA players with two-handed backhands, many may have equal backhands and forehands. And at the club level, typically among older populations, the one-handed backhands for men and women are more frequent than the WTA. With a lesser serve and equal backhand-forehand sides, the WTA scenario confers little advantage for the lefty.

In summary that doesn’t mean teach every player a two-handed backhand. Otherwise we wouldn’t have the Sampras, Grafs and Federers of the tennis world. We need to consider that the one-handers usually have better all-court games and if the game ever changes to encourage more net play, things might shift. This argument is somewhat speculative as the authors did not investigate the one-handed backhand efforts. Finally, today’s ATP and WTA one-handers evolve in a world of two-handers and to reach a high pinnacle they need to survive with a high-caliber one-handed backhand. Forty years ago, generally almost everyone had one-handers and didn’t have to compete with the modern two-handers so competitive natural selection wasn’t as great a factor. Today ATP and WTA players with one-handers today have to be good on that side. That may also diminish the left advantage.

Ultimately we will have to wait for another chapter in the southpaw debate. Meanwhile, keep training those players!


1.      Loffing F., Hagemann N., Strauss B. (2012). Left-Handedness in Professional and Amateur Tennis. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49325.

2.      Harris LJ (2010). In fencing, what gives left-handers the edge? Views from the present and the distant past. Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, 15(1-2):15.

3.      Gursoy R. (2009). Effects of left- or right-hand preference on the success of boxers in Turkey. Br J Sports Med 43:142-144

4.      Faurie C., Raymond M. (2005). Handedness, homicide and negative frequency-dependent selection. Proc. R. Soc. B 272, 25–28.

5.      Papadatou-Pastou M., Martin M., Munafò MR.., Jones G.V. (2008).Sex differences in left-handedness: a meta-analysis of 144 studies. Psychol Bull. 134(5):677-99.

6.      Shimizu A., Endo M. (1983). Handedness and Familial Sinistrality in a Japanese Student PopulationCortex 19(2) 265–272.
 A few months ago  we posted a short blog titled Tennis The Best Sport For Education and Health In The Young Athlete ( highlighting some of the findings of the report from a study commissioned by USTA. Here are a few more interesting facts from the report. In a very interesting report funded by USTA Serves (The National Charitable Foundation of the United States Tennis Association) were data from over 54, 000 youth in the United States between 8th and 10th grade were analyzed with 4,278 of these youth being tennis participants. The purpose of the study was to analyze various academic, social and behavioral outcomes (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).   Achieving an “A” in School The data presented in 2013 seems to show a shifting on the typical tennis youth participant from a history of being an “elite” or “country club” sport to being similar to other non-contact sports in the US demographic. The suggestions in the report that this shift is likely due to greater opportunities and accessibility to tennis over the past two decades (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).

The percentage of tennis participants in this study who reported an average grade  of “A” was almost twice as high as non-sports  participants. 48% of tennis players throughout the US reported an average grade of “A” as compared with only 25% for non-sport participants. (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). 48% of students in 8-10th grade reporting an “A” is a very interesting statistic. Interested to hear from the iTPA membership what you feel this statistic is saying. Is it how smart tennis players are? Is it a sign of grade inflation in the school system? Is it due to parental/family expectations on academics over individuals that do not play sports?  

Suspensions In School

17% of tennis participants reported being suspended during the past school year, which was considerably lower in contact sports (27%), non-contact sports (23%), non-athletes (27%) (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).    “Because youth athletic participation in the U.S. is generally greater among more affluent and predominantly White populations, the discovery of positive outcomes attributed to sport participation are often later found to be owed to socioeconomic differences or racial/ethnic differences (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).” What are initially considered the “benefits” of youth sports participation are often more fundamentally owed to larger social forces that flow through sports rather than the primary influence of sports (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). However, this study found that positive relationships between tennis participation and academic performance were evident across family socioeconomic levels (low, middle and high) (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013).  Meaning that at every socioeconomic level, tennis participation was most highly correlated with higher academic performance than other sports participation and non-sport participation (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). This paragraph is one of the most impactful findings from the entire report. It clearly shows that tennis participation is linked to greater academic performance even when socioeconomic levels are accounted for.

An interesting finding for parents: High School tennis athletes had lower rates of consumption for alcohol, marijuana and cigarette smoking compared to other athletes and especially to non-athletes (Sabo, Veliz et al. 2013). Interesting tip for parents: One way to reduce your child’s potential for performing illegal activities and using illicit substances is to have them participate in tennis.  

Here is the link for the executive summary of The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health 

Here is the link for the full report of the survey data of The USTA Serves Special Report, More Than a Sport: Tennis, Education and Health