First of all don't be too worried about the future of men's tennis being dominated by 7 foot giants, pushing powerful serves past their opponents to win matches, I can't see this happening, read on and I will tell you why.
One of the great things about tennis is the physical diversity it has with its athletes. And this will always be there. Being a certain height is a benefit, but not a necessity if you want to play great tennis or make it to the top. Olivier Rochus at 5'6" has had a long and successful career on tour; David Ferrer at 5'9" is currently ranked 3 in the world. Then you have the tall boys, John Isner and Ivo Karlovic at 6'10". Matching any of these players up against each other would not mean the taller players would win or even out serve their shorter opponents. Read on to find out Why?
Did you know the average height for the ATP top 100 leading into the Australian open 2014 is 6'2½” Leading into the US open in 2013, 9 out of the top 32 players were 6'5 or taller (Ivo karlovic being the tallest at 6'10)
If you look at the height and builds of the current players who have dominated men's tennis over the last 5 years (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray) you can start to see the similarities. Height, arm span, leg lengths, and body weight, muscle mass and body fat.
Compared to the averages of the top 100 players, these four players fall pretty close to each other. So, are they the perfect build? The statistics would say so, 3 out of the 4 have the potential to be the greatest player ever and the other one already is.
I recently read that Tony Nadal was concerned about the future of men's tennis because players seemed to be getting taller; he is worried the game would become a serving contest. I don't think this will happen and here is why;
Tennis is a complex game and sure being tall and having a huge serve helps tremendously, BUT, having a great return, anticipation and dynamic movement can be more beneficial then height and a big serve. Taller players will tend to struggle with movement and quick reaction. There is a point where being too tall can impact other physical factors needed to be a well-rounded player, in my opinion, 6'5" would be the cutoff. Under 6'5" players still have the capacity to move efficiently for prolonged periods of time, over 6'5" I feel movement, reaction time and wear and tear on the body is hindered.
Let's quickly look at body weight, muscle mass, and body fat %. Players are definitely getting leaner. Over the years I have noticed a shift towards a more lighter frame, "long and lean" it backs up my beliefs about tennis bodies, that you want lean strong bodies, you don't want to be carrying around extra body fat or useless muscle. Most players would sit between 9-12% body fat and their BMI readings would be close to ideal (20) getting this balance right is important for performance and longevity in the game. Tennis is a power endurance sport, carrying etc. kilos around whether it is body fat or muscle can impact both tennis performance and longevity (overuse injuries, longer recovery)
I think the majority of people out there would be surprised how lean and slender the top players are these days. " Long, lean, strong and flexible" and yes it is possible to be lean and strong, big muscles does not mean more powerful hitting!
So whether you are short, tall or average height, every tennis player out there has hope. Through hard work, the right balance and passion for the game, progress will always come.