11 Reasons Why Tennis Is Hard To Learn


The top pro players can make tennis look easy. However, anyone who plays the game knows it is anything but easy, particularly when you first start. As well as being a physical and a mental challenge, there is a great deal of technique involved in playing tennis. Although it can feel challenging to begin with, perseverance is key as tennis is a very rewarding sport to play.

Tennis can be one of the hardest sports to learn. Tennis is a technical sport with many elements which need to be learned to attain an all-around game. As well as technique, tennis requires good fitness levels and a strong, positive mental attitude.

All sports provide a challenge to new participants. However, tennis is often viewed as one of the harder sports to learn the skills and the scoring system behind the sport. In this article, I will look at 11 varying factors that can make tennis a hard sport to learn.

Female tennis player serving on a hardcourt

1. Timing and Hand Eye Coordination

Tennis requires excellent hand-eye coordination.

It is pivotal in consistently striking the tennis ball on the sweet spot of the racket and maintaining control and direction of your shots.

Anyone who has learned to play tennis will know how much more difficult this simple-looking practice of hitting the ball where you want it to go actually is.

There is no great magic trick to help you improve your timing when playing tennis. Precision shot-making is a result of hours and hours of practice.

This is the most essential element of the game and quite possibly the hardest to learn. As you improve and come up against better players who hit the ball harder and with more angles and spin, you will continue to be presented with timing challenges.

Tennis also has a large range of shots that a player needs to learn compared to many other sports.

You can not just concentrate on consistently hitting the sweet spot on either the forehand or backhand side.

As you keep re-positioning the body for the type of shot required you will constantly test your hand-eye coordination. Reaction times have to be quick.

Once you start to find the sweet spot of the racket on a regular basis then shot precision will follow.

2. Technique

Even once you have started to make a consistent connection with the tennis ball you will often find improvement in your game is slow or non-existent.

Tennis is a highly technical sport and understanding techniques will help push you on to the next level. This is where outside help is usually required.

Learning the correct technique for all the various tennis shots will allow you to generate more pace and spin on the ball, execute more control, and use less energy.

Proper technique works side by side with good hand-eye coordination. You will not become a good tennis player without having good technique and good timing.

If you are serious about improving your tennis form then a coach is highly recommended. They can analyze your current technique and apply the necessary tweaks.

If you can not afford a coach then online videos and tips from fellow players can also help. Of course, these techniques will only benefit your game through lots of practice and application.

3. Athleticism and Endurance

Tennis is a physically demanding game, there is just no shying away from this fact.

It is a good sport to play to improve your fitness, and as you become fitter you should find your movement around the court is easier and the game more enjoyable.

Tennis requires lots of short sharp movements in all directions, and therefore good footwork is essential.

The top tennis players in the world are superb athletes. While we do not have to aspire to quite that level, all tennis players need the speed to cover the court to match their opponent’s shots.

This requires quick changes of direction, quick lateral movements along the baseline, and sharp sprints around the court.

However, tennis is not just about short bursts of athleticism. Tennis matches can be lengthy, which adds endurance to the equation (source).

The demands of attaining these fitness levels can be off-putting to people, to begin with.

Firstly, if you have any fitness doubts you should consult your doctor before taking up any sport, but once you begin playing your fitness will improve, and this should soon become noticeable in your overall game.

4. Different Strokes

As already touched on, tennis involves a number of different strokes which need to be mastered to have an all-around game.

Most players will have a stronger shot, but to improve you will need to work on and develop all the shots. Again this will take a good deal of time and practice.

Most players will begin by hitting a forehand as it feels the most natural of the shots.

They will then need to find a comfortable backhand stroke, whether using a one-handed or two-handed backhand. Serves, forehand and backhand volleys and half volleys, plus lobs too will all need to be learned.

Add to this learning to maneuver the racket head and wrist to create angles and spin and you can quickly see why even the basics of the game can be hard to learn.

Many sports have different types of strokes to learn, but racket sports such as tennis provide a thorough challenge in the scope of the strokes required to progress.

5. Grips

Connected to the different shots in tennis is the different grips required.

When you first start to play tennis you will most likely use a continental grip. This was used extensively in the past on the forehand side and is a comfortable grip for most players and particularly beginners.

However, tennis has changed considerably over the years, with new technologies bringing in bigger and lighter rackets.

Modern-day players face a faster game with higher bouncing tennis balls, and the grips used to hold the racket have changed accordingly. The continental grip is still often used on serves and volleys, but finding the right grip for you is what matters.

There are a number of different grips players employ for the different shots. They may only vary slightly, with a minor adjustment of the placement of the fingers on the racket.

Yet this adjustment needs to be done almost without thought once you have decided the shot you are going to play.

This can be difficult to learn and can feel like way too much information at first and an unnecessary complication.

However, with perseverance and practice, changing grips can become as instinctive as positioning the body for each different stroke.

Having the right grip for the right shot maximizes the effectiveness of the shot.

6. The Serve

Of all the shots in tennis, the serve is the one most, unlike other sports.

When starting we tend to serve fairly square on with just one intent, to make sure the ball lands in the right service box on the other side of the court.

However, to progress in tennis you need to have a good, powerful service that is not going to be smashed right back past you.

Each tennis stroke has its own technical skills, but the serve may be the most unique of them all (source).

The serve offers a series of challenges to the beginner which makes it hard to learn and master.

Most people will use a continental grip to serve as this now aligns the racket to an angle that positions the strings to face the opposite court when standing side-on at the baseline.

Once the grip is mastered you then have to practice your stance and position on the baseline depending on the type of serve you want to make.

The knee bend, body rotation, and ball toss are further elements of a serving stroke.

As the serve is such a key element of tennis, yet has so many constituent parts to master, it can frustrate people trying to learn the game.

7. Strong Mental Attitude

Aside from doubles, the tennis court is a one on one scenario. The buck stops with you and you alone for your performance.

When things are not going well you know it is down to you, there are not any teammates around you to either blame or to help you recover. This can be mentally trying.

Every sport has its up and downs and rarely does a match go perfectly. Coping with the downs in a match is key to recovery and ultimately victory. Even momentary lapses in concentration can be damaging, both to self-confidence and to the momentum of a match.

For the top players having the right mental attitude starts way before a match. Techniques such as visualization are used, but experience is key.

The more you play the more self-aware you become of how you handle scenarios during a match.

By recognizing your triggers you can develop coping techniques to best deal with stress on the court, even if it is a few deep breaths.

A long tennis match provides ample time for things to go wrong, a time where you can’t discuss possible causes with anyone but yourself.

Developing a strong mental attitude to see you through the difficult moments is key if you want to win matches and progress.

8. Adaptability

A lot can happen during the course of a tennis match, and a player has to think on their feet to react to these changing scenarios.

This could be because an element of a player’s game such as the backhand is misfiring or your opponent’s tactics are starting to swing the game their way.

This need for adaptability during a match can test the most seasoned of tennis players.

There are no teammates to work the issues through with, or half time break to discuss with a coach. You must work out any adjustments while playing or during the break when changing ends.

When playing tennis and things start to go wrong is when you realize the value of good coaching.

While coaches are very important in tennis off-court, there are few circumstances when they can truly affect how you are playing once the game begins.

Some professional competitions like the Davis Cup have the coaches court-side, while the WTA also allows coaches to be called on to court once per set.

However, in general, the singles player has to quickly think their own problems through and show their adaptability.

9. All Round Game Required

In many sports, you can get away with a weaker part of your game, even at the highest level.

Think how many times you have shouted at the television because the international soccer player can’t strike the ball with his left or right foot. If you want to progress in tennis you have to have a good all-around game.

Any weak shot in tennis will soon become noticed and pounced upon by an opponent.

If you have a strong forehand but a weak backhand it does not take a tennis superstar to work out which side your opponent is going to predominantly hit toward.

If you know you have weaknesses you must work on them, practicing hard to bring them up to the level of the rest of your game.

A player with an obvious weakness will be a one-dimensional player and their progress will be stunted.

Whereas the aforementioned soccer player seems to get away with little practice on his weaker foot, any tennis player looking to progress competitively does not have this luxury.

It can be hard to work on and use your weaker elements, but it is crucial for improvement.

10. Speed of Thought

Picking your opponent’s shot and deciding which shot to play in return all happens in a matter of seconds. As you progress and play better players, your speed of thought needs to be faster and sharper.

For some beginners, this reaction time can be the most difficult part of the game to learn and master.

There is a ridiculous amount of calculation your tennis brain needs to make as the ball comes hurtling toward you. The speed of the ball, the angle across the court, the spin on the ball, and your own position on the court are all factors in how you react. Add in some unpredictable qualities like the court surface and wind conditions and there is a lot to process in a short space of time.

The quicker you make a decision on your shot the sooner the brain can send the message to the relevant muscles. Once again reaction times increase with practice and experience.

Not being able to adjust the body quickly enough can be off-putting to a beginner, but with practice against different players and different playing styles, the reaction process can start to feel almost instinctive.

11. Patience

Patience is not always the greatest virtue for some of us, but it can be an essential ingredient for a tennis player.

Learning to play tennis even to the level where you can just knock the ball back and forth with friends in a rally on a regular basis can take months of practice.

Learning how to position the racket head, how to strike the ball properly, and how to execute the various tennis strokes can require countless hours of practice.

Try and practice against different players, practice different shots, and watch lots of tennis. This all helps to add to your understanding and appreciation of the game.

To play tennis well you need to begin with the mindset that this is not going to happen overnight. By accepting it will take time and significant practice you will reduce the chance of becoming disheartened early on.

They say all good things come to those who wait.

Tennis is a technical game where hundreds, if not thousands, of rapid decisions, are made every game.

Patience is a key attribute when learning how to play tennis.

Conclusion

Tennis is not an easy sport to learn, particularly if you want to progress through the ranks to a decent level within the game.

It requires time spent on the practice court plus a lot of patience to persevere and learn the required skills for the sport.

A positive mental attitude is important in coping with the inevitable frustrations which accompany learning any new skill.

However, the fact that tennis is a difficult sport to master can be viewed as a challenge, and definitely as a challenge worth taking.

The best players in the world only get to where they are through practice and sheer hard work. Though one crucial further element needs to be remembered, and that is to have fun as you learn, because that ultimately is surely the point of sport.

Stephen Hands

Stephen is a competitive long-distance runner who takes part in races around the UK. He has a lifelong love of many sports, particularly tennis, running, and soccer. He shares his passion and his knowledge of many several different sports on our site.

Recent Posts