Who Is The Fittest Tennis Player Ever?
Fitness in sport has changed rapidly over recent years, with the advance in technology and our understanding of nutrition and diet, it's almost impossible to reach the top of any sport without being in peak physical condition and tennis is no exception.
Tennis is a very fast game, that is often played with huge bursts of energy over a long period of time. There are many different components that make up a physically fit tennis player, this does not only include endurance but also skill elements. As a professional tennis player performing at the very top level, you have to possess great flexibility, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance and speed, all of which make up a players physical fitness. In addition to this, agility, balance, reaction time, coordination and power are all elements of skill based fitness that a top player requires.
Tennis is a sport that includes some of the fittest athletes on earth and can only really be compared to sports such as boxing, decathlon and ironman events. During team sports like football or rugby, it is possible for the individual participants to have a break from the action even when the ball is still in play, with tennis this is not an option.
Looking back over the years, some of the fittest tennis players include Martina Navratilova, who won a Wimbledon double title at the age of 46, Michael Chang, who seemed to cover every inch of the court in each match he played and Ivan Lendl who employed strict training schedules to keep in top physical conditioning. Other players from the past who would also come into this bracket include John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf.
In modern times, there are many players on both the men's and ladies tours who can be considered to be in peak physical condition. However, the players that really stand out are Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Federer boasts ease of movement on court coupled with great stamina and is still able to beat players much younger than himself. Perhaps a few years ago Djokovic would have struggled to keep up with Rafael Nadal in terms of match endurance but seems to have over come this and continues to get fitter and stronger on court. Nadal on the other hand has seen injuries hinder his progress recently. Serena Williams is still considered a favourite for any tournament that she is involved in and this is due in no small part to her fitness levels and physique as well as her skill.
This all leaves the question, who is the fittest tennis player of all time? Well, if players who were at the top fifteen or twenty years ago were to come back now , in the condition they were in at the time and play the likes of Novak Djokovic or Serena Williams in a full five or three set match would they be able to sustain their level of play for the entire match? The answer has to be no, simply because the nutrition, technology, training, preparation and understanding of the game has improved vastly during this time, which makes Novak Djokovic currently the fittest tennis player, now and possibly of all time.
In the Future?
This article was written in 2014. Undoubtedly there will be very fit players in the years to come which will challenge the champions listed here. Even a poll from a couple of years ago is starting to be dated. The poll by ESPN on the greatest tennis 'athlete' of all time, conducted in 2012, shortlisted Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras, and Serena Williams, with Federer being crowned the greatest.
- The ESPN Sport Science poll to determine the Greatest Tennis Athlete of All Time.
- Our discussion of the greatest ever tennis player.
- More about tennis