Are Left Handed Players Better? (What You Should Know)

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According to ATP tennis analysis, left handed tennis players have been believed to have an advantage over right handed tennis players.

In general, lefties have an edge in every sport. Left-handed tennis players perform better in the game, mostly because the opponent may not be well-acquainted with how lefties pitch the ball, do a serve, or hit the ball. That said, right-handed tennis players have more control over the ball, since it’s a lot easier for most players to hit with their right hands.

In order to determine if left handed players are better than righties, we will need a lot more than a statement from ATP. 

There are numerous reasons that could make one believe that left handed players are better tennis players. The conditions in which tennis is played gives lefties an advantage which often makes them outperform their opponents. Lefties dominated the tennis sport in the twentieth century.

However, their dominance became less visible in the 21st century. According to Jeff Cohn, left handed players are no better than righties. If you consider the game play of ATP world tour players from the year 2006 till 2015, you will see that lefties lost more matches.

Accomplishments of Left Handed Tennis Athletes

If left handed players are better, they would all be at the top, but that is not the case. Besides Nadal, other left handed legends include McEnroe, Laver, Kerber, Navratilova, and Seles.

In the 20th century, tennis was played with wooden rackets and gut strings. The courts were more slicker, and the sport was mostly played against one-handed opponents. The offbeat spins and fast play of lefties in the 20th century always overwhelmed righties.  

Righties dreaded playing a leftie because of their fast pace and unique spins. They also found it difficult to return the lefty’s wide serve to the backhand side of the ad court. These shots were mostly fired at crucial junctures in the game and often led to a win for the lefties. 

Navratilova, Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and many others accumulated gobs of Grand Slam titles in the last four decades of the 20th century.

The domination of the sport by tennis lefties began to wane out in the 1980s. Left-handed males won 12 of 40 majors from 1970 to 1979 but just three from 1990 to 1999.

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Their performance has not gone up since then. Only two lefties had won major titles in the past two decades: Petra Kvitova at Wimbledon and Angelica at Australia’s Open.In addition, the only left handed man to win a grand slam title besides Nadal in the past 15 years is Goran Ivanisevic.

The WTA generally has fielded fewer lefties in the top 100 and counts just six today. At this week’s French Open, no female left-handers advanced past the third round for the first time since 2010.

The last lefty women’s winner in Paris was nine-time Grand Slam champ Monica Seles in 1992, almost a quarter-century ago (and she played double-fisted off both wings).

Certain Advantages Favour the Performance of Lefties

The Ad Court

The main condition that gives lefties an advantage is the fact that the game of tennis begins from the right side of the court (deuce court).  The game is sustained by continuos switching of shots between the deuce court, the ad court (right side), and the back of the deuce court. 

The implication of this arrangement is that whenever the score of the service game is 40-40(deuce), the last serve came from the ad court. This is one of the advantages which position lefties to over-perform.

There are four possible situations where a player can close out a game: 40-0; 40-15; 40-30; A-40. Of course, the same logic applies to the four possible opportunities for a player to break the opponent’s serve: 0-40; 15-40; 30-40; 40-A. 

From these eight scenarios, in six of them the server will start the point from the Ad side while only in 25% of the situations will start from the Deuce side:

  • Deuce Side: 40-15; 15-40;
  • Ad Side: 40-0; 40-30; A-40; 0-40; 30-40; 40-A

Left handed players find it easier to open the court from the Ad side. This advantage increases the chances of securing a win for the lefty because 75% of the time, these players will be serving from their favorite side of the field.

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Population

If you consider the world in general, lefties are rare, you can’t find them as easily as you would find right handed people. This also applies to the game of tennis, they’re a rarer breed in tennis. 

As a result, when right handed players play lefties, they are thrown off their game. When this occurs consistently, as we have seen, the general belief will be that lefties are better players in the game of tennis.

The total number of left handed people in the world today represent just 13% of the world population. Left handed people represent just 10% of the tennis athletic population. 

The United states tennis association revealed that only 10 percent of the players in the world are left handed. Based on this information, we can assume that of all the players an average tennis player will face in his career, only ten percent of the population will be left handed. 

But left handed players will face 90% right handed players. When you consider this, you will easily see why left handed players play better against righties. In fact, lefties are not fond of lefties either. 

Left handed players are used to competing with athletes who use the right hand, but it is not the same for right handed players. When right handed athletes face lefties, they have to change their entire playing strategy.

In a fast game, chances are the lefty will be better because of the fact that the opponent will most likely be caught off guard with each return the lefty makes.

Before any serious right handed tennis player goes against a leftie in a grand slam, his coach will most likely get him a leftie with whom he can practice. The goal of this is to get them used to the new strategy which they will adopt when playing the leftie. 

Rafael Nadal

The phenomenal Rafael Nadal is the first player to come to mind when asked if left handed players are better. His story is a particularly interesting one. When Rafael began playing tennis, he could use both hands to make a serve and he is still capable of making certain strokes using his right hand. 

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It begs the question why did he switch? and Will he be as good as he is today if he focused more on his right hand rather than his left when coming up? Answers to these questions are not readily available.

However, we know for a fact that there are more right handed players at the top than left handed players, today.  

Rafael is an extraordinary player. The great feats he has achieved in his career has very little to do with the fact that he is left handed. The athlete is popularly known for his lasso-like forehand which finishes high above his head.  

Righties describe facing left-handers as a minor inconvenience rather than a strategic headache. Today, athletes do not dread facing lefties. They see them as minor problems rather than the strategic headaches they used to be. 

Fewer lefties dominate the majors today. If lefties were better athletes, they will dominate the game but that is not the case.Whenever Rafael (the top left handed player) and Rodger Federer play, Rafael ends up with more wins.

However, this is not the case for other talented lefties who play against Rodger Federer. The major complaint of elite tennis against lefties is their lethal forehand. However, Rafael Nadal opined differently.

His exact words were: “The thing that everybody says,’Well, you have your forehand against the backhand of the righty,’…But the righty have the forehand against the backhand of the lefty. 

The outside slice, outside serve against the backhand, the righty have the same on the deuce. Seriously, the only thing is probably you play less times against lefties than righties. That’s the only advantage.”

The opinion of Nadal makes a valid point. However, the spin that comes off the racket of a leftie is completely different. The crosscourt forehand of the lefty has a more penetrating side spin than that of a righty. The lefty is also equipped with what is believed to be a natural slice.

In the game of tennis, the ad-side is more crucial that the deuce side. More plays are made from that side of the court. All ad out and two out of three breakpoint chances are played from the ad side of the court.

Furthermore, when a right hander serves the ball to the lefties back hand, the return short pulls the leftie to the middle of the court, and when the serve is made out wide, the leftie will have a big hitting angle. 

This and many more advantages make tennis easier for the leftie and aid his performance.

Conclusion

Lefties once had the overall advantage in the game of tennis and as a result, they performed better.

However, this is not the case today. Performance in the big leads today depends more on skill. Lefties have an advantage, but they are more than an advantage to dominate the game today.

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