Tennis: Just How Much of an Advantage Do Left-Handers Have?

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIFebruary 21, 2012

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 29:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a forehand in his men's final match against Novak Djokovic of Serbia during day fourteen of the 2012 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 29, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal is probably who you are thinking of right now.

That's understandable. He leads the lefties in a worldwide movement of advantageously different players.

There are a few other lefties in the game, such as Fernando Verdasco, Michael Llodra, Feliciano Lopez, Adrian Mannarino, Bob Bryan and even John McEnroe when he plays on the ATP Champions Tour.

Before facing a lefty in a Grand Slam, many players seek to find a left-hander to practice with and play against to get used to the physicality of their game and the visualization of a different style of player.

“Coaches really put a high importance on finding a lefty," Bob Bryan told the New York Times. "Whenever Roger [Federer] plays a lefty, I’m the first guy to get the text message."

In a familiar situation, Roger Federer appears to be not as good at handling lefties, simply because of his losses to Rafael Nadal. However, this is not true—his record against lefties is remarkably outstanding.

Clearly Nadal is just a great competitor and handles Federer better than the rest, but why does it still seem that the forehand of lefties is more extreme than the forehand of righties?

Nadal doesn't believe it seems so: 

“The thing that everybody say, ‘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.”

He does have a point.

But, what he does not acknowledge is that it is a different kind of spin coming off of the left-hander's racket. A lefty hitting a crosscourt forehand seems to get a little bit more penetrating side spin than does a righty hitting the same shot.

Also, the most important factor is the serve. The lefty has what seems to be a more natural slice serve although the kick is not as useful.

The ad-side is more crucial than the deuce-side because every ad out and two out of three other break point chances come on that side of the court.

When a right-hander is serving to the lefty's backhand on the ad-side, it pulls the lefty into the middle of the court on the return, while a serve out wide would guarantee the lefty a very big angle to hit crosscourt into.

Yes, it is an advantage to be a lefty, but perhaps it is not as great of an advantage as we thought.

Still, consider yourself blessed if you are not only a left-hander but still a great player to back that feat up.


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