HOW IMPORTANT IS POWER IN GROUNDSTROKES?
We analyze the current Top 10 Men and Women and their groundstroke speeds.
Power is continually increasing with each generation in tennis. When you watch the professionals play, the first thing you may marvel at is the power with which they’re hitting the ball. Speed has become an increasingly visible statistic, with radar guns on most courts and the speeds displayed after each serve so the viewing public can look on in awe.
We here at Breakpoint Tennis Analytics wanted to address the question, “Are the best players in the world also the hardest hitters?”
We looked at the 2019 US Open and broke down the speeds of each stroke for both men and women.
2019 US OPEN MEN - AVERAGE GROUNDSTROKE SPEED (MPH)
2019 US OPEN WOMEN - AVERAGE GROUNDSTROKE SPEED (MPH)
There is at the most a 1 mph difference in strokes between the all player averages and the Top 10 men and women. What are the odds of winning the match if you are the harder hitter? 49%. If you have the fastest serve, you have 54% chance of winning the match. So, even if you are consistently outswinging your opponent, it doesn’t give you a dynamic edge.
In fact, some of the top players (Barty, Federer, Thiem) average much slower paces. Barty’s backhands average 60 MPH compared to the tournament average of 64 MPH, and Federer and Thiem’s backhands average 62 and 63 MPH vs the overall average of 66 MPH. This is largely due to their willingness to incorporate the backhand slice into their game. Mixing up the speed may be a key factor in their success
Since this article is about speed, let’s crown the hardest hitters in the tournament:
Nicolaz Basilashvili clocked 83 mph (vs average 73) from the forehand side in his 3rd round match and 78 mph (vs average 66 mph) on his backhand in his 1st round match. These were both records for the 2019 tournament. Despite hammering rockets, the world #19 was beaten in four sets by Dominik Koepfer in the 3rd round.
Madison Keys and Dayana Yastremska both averaged a tournament high of 79 MPH on their forehands (vs average 68 MPH) against Elina Svitolina. Svitolina beat both in straight sets.
Camila Giorgi and Jelena Ostapenko hit the hardest backhands, averaging 73 mph (vs average 64 MPH) in their matches. Giorgi fell in straight sets in the first round, and Ostapenko in the third round.
WHAT FACTORS CONTRIBUTE TO GROUNDSTROKE POWER?
TEMPERATURE AND ALTITUDE
The ball travels faster in hotter temperature. A night match at the US Open would be slightly slower than the same match during the day. Tournaments at altitude also mean faster ball speeds, since the air is thinner.
OPPONENT GROUNDSTROKE SPEED
If you are playing a hard hitter, it is easier to use their pace and send it back faster. An opponent that slices forces you to expend energy to create your own pace. Let’s take for example Dayana Yastremska, who played Monica Niculescu and Elina Svitolina in the tournament. Yamstremska, a big hitter, was able to muster 79 MPH on her forehand against the hard hitting Svitolina. However, against Niculescu (who uses a slice forehead almost exclusively), she was taken down to 70 MPH.
The weight of the racket, string type, and string tension all affect speed. It is common for players to alter their string tension depending on their environment at match time. In cold weather, decreasing the tension supplies more power.
None of these factors replace solid fundamental technique. The correct form and movement stores and release power through correct kinetic chain sequencing.
The data above demonstrates that the top 10 players in the world do NOT have a significant power advantage over their peers. There is always that balance between hitting hard and remaining consistent, and the top ten players in the world obviously balance that the best.
Read on for a breakdown of the Top 10 men and women and how they compare to the total average of the field:
TOP 10 MEN GROUNDSTROKE SPEEDS (MPH)
TOP 10 WOMEN GROUNDSTROKE SPEEDS (MPH)
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