The Success and The Failures of Lefthanders in Sports
Tennis is a popular sport that appears to offer no advantages or disadvantages to either righthanded or lefthanded players. Tennis courts are symmetrical, and the rules do not favor players of one hand over the other. Tennis racquets can be held comfortably in either hand, and tennis shoes are always sold in matching identical pairs.
There have been plenty of great lefthanded tennis players throughout the history of the game, but there are still obstacles that prevent more lefthanders from learning and enjoying tennis. When lefthanded children first pick up a racquet and try to play tennis, they might not be very good at it. They have the physical skill to hold and swing the racket and to run around the court, but they have trouble learning the proper grip, form and footwork. Most of the instructions they receive are geared toward teaching righthanders, and lefthanders might find that some teachers and coaches don’t have patience for them.
Another obstacle that lefthanders might face is that some righthanded tennis players don’t like to play against them lefthanders. Righthanders get confused because the ball from a lefthander comes from a different angle and has a different spin on it, and they find it difficult because lefthanders hit more balls to their backhand side, which is usually their weaker side. Given a choice, most righthanders would rather avoid playing against a lefthander, although they aren’t always willing to admit it.
These difficulties in learning the fundamentals of the game, and in finding opponents to play and practice against, can cause some young lefthanders to give up before they have a chance to develop their skills. Those who persist and continue to play and practice can overcome the early challenges and develop into very good players.
As of April 2021, 14 of the top 100 men on the ATP tour, and 10 of the top 100 women on the WTA tour, are lefthanded players. There are many lefthanders among the best lefthanded in every era since the beginning of the game. The success of these lefthanders proves that lefthanders can play tennis just as well, or perhaps even better than righthanders. There could be even more lefthanders playing tennis, and playing it well, if there were more and better instructions available for lefthanders to learn from, and in the future there will be.
Why Not More Lefthanded Tennis Players?