How the current Top 10 players fare against players taller than 6’4”
Sep 28 10 min read12:26 pm
Given the fact that five of the current Top 10 ATP players stand above 6'4" it goes without saying that a taller stature is highly advantageous in tennis. Players like Ivo Karlovic, Tomas Berdych, Milos Raonic and Sam Querrey are taller than 6'4" and have created enough problems over the last few years for the top players. Each of those giants have booming serves that generate a lot of free points in their favor. For the rest of the players on the circuit, the most crucial aspect in order to overcome these big servers is to have a solid return game. The reason why the Big Four have been able to maintain a consistent level of dominance despite being a few inches shorter than 6'4" is because of their ability to convert defense into offense against big servers. Here is how the Top 10 players have performed against players taller than 6'4":
#10 John Isner (40-44, 47.6%)
At 6'10", John Isner is the tallest guy in the Top 10. However, Big John has hit 10,757 aces in his career which is the second most on the ATP World Tour. Yet, Isner has holds a win rate below 50% fellow tall players. Isner has lost 44 matches against players taller than 6'4". Eight of those losses have come against Juan Martin Del Potro, seven each against Marin Cilic and Tomas Berdych and six against compatriot Sam Querrey. The only players over 6'4" against whom Isner has a positive head to head record are Milos Raonic (5-1) and Kevin Anderson (8-4). This year, three of his four conquerors at Grand Slams were taller than 6'4". He twice lost to Del Potro at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, and to Kevin Anderson at the semis of Wimbledon in a grueling match that last over six and a half hours. Overall, Isner is 4-7 at Grand Slams against players taller than 6'4".
#9 Kevin Anderson (43-56, 43.43%)
At 6'8", Kevin Anderson has so far managed two runs to a Grand Slam final and is widely regarded by many tennis pundits as a better athlete in terms of court coverage than the other players around his height. Yet, the South African has an unimpressive record of winning only 43 of 99 matches against players over 6'4". The World No.9 has lost to Del Potro in all seven of their meetings, trails Berdych 0-12 and is yet to register a win against Alexander Zverev in their four matches. He is level with Sam Querrey at eight wins apiece. Anderson is 6-9 in Grand Slams against players higher than 6'4". Five of these loses came against Berdych, three against Cilic and one against Querrey.
#8 Grigor Dimitrov (38-29, 56.7%)
Grigor Dimitrov has a moderate record against players taller than 6'4". The Bulgarian who has won eight singles titles on the pro circuit has struggled against Juan Martin Del Potro, Marin Cilic, John Isner and Alexander Zverev. Against Del Potro, Dimitrov has lost six of the eight matches they have played against each other. The World No.7 trails Cilic 1-3 and Isner 1-2 in the head to head record. Rising star Alexander Zverev leads Dimitrov 2-1 in head to head meetings. In Grand Slams, Dimitrov has faced only five opponent taller than 6'4" in his career so far. Of the five matches, two resulted in defeats to Benoit Paire at the 2012 US Open and to Ivo Karlovic at the 2014 French Open.
#7 Dominic Thiem (13-20, 39.39%)
Dominic Thiem, who usually enjoys a packed schedule on tour has often found 6'4" players or higher who have obstructed his run in the draw. The 6'1" Austrian has a dubious records against these players, winning only 13 of 33 matches. Six of these defeats have come against Anderson and two each against Zverev, Raonic and Berdych. He is yet to defeat Del Potro and has lost in each of their four meetings. He has a decent record against rival Alexander Zverev against whom he leads 5-2 in the head to head record. At the slams, Thiem has lost six of the nine matches he has played against players taller than 6'4". He has lost two matches each against Del Potro, Anderson and Berdych in majors. Four of his six defeats at the slams have come at the US Open.
#6 Marin Cilic (52-36, 59%)
Marin Cilic, who scales 6'6" has been better than most players who are nearly as tall as him. The Croatian has won 59% of his matches against players above 6'4". Juan Martin Del Potro and Alexander Zverev are the only notable players who have a positive head to head record against him. Del Potro has won 11 of 13 matches against Cilic whereas Zverev has won five of the six matches he has played against Cilic. The World No.6 leads 6-1 against Anderson, 7-3 against Isner, 2-1 against Raonic and 6-1 against Sam Querrey in career meetings. He is tied with Karlovic at 3-3 and with Berdych at 6-6. Cilic has an impressive win rate of 80% against players taller than 6'4" at the slams, winning 16 of 20 matches. Each of the four losses have come against Juan Martin Del Potro.
#5 Alexander Zverev (21-16. 56.75%)
German No.1 Alexander Zverev has won 21 of the 37 matches he has played against players taller than 6'4". The World No.5 has played only one match against Ivo Karlovic in 2015 at Halle, which ended in a three-set defeat for the German. He trailed Berdych 0-4 but has won each of their last two encounters to improve to 2-4. Zverev has lost both his matches against Del Potro. The younger of the Zverev siblings has a 1-1 record against Raonic. He leads Anderson 4-0, Isner 4-1 and Cilic 5-1. At the Grand Slams, Zverev has lost two of his three matches against players taller than 6'4". Both his defeats came at Wimbledon in 2016 (against Berdych) and in 2017 (against Raonic).
#4 Juan Martin Del Potro (58-19, 75.32%)
The most successful player on tour standing above 6'4" is Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro who recently lost his third spot in the rankings has a positive head to head record against all other notable players of his height. He has denied Anderson and Zverev a win against him in all their career meetings. He has dominated Cilic 11-2 and is edged ahead 5-4 against Berdych. The Tower of Tandil has lost 19 matches against players taller than 6'4", the last of which came against John Isner at the Miami Masters earlier this year. Isner recorded only his fourth win against Del Potro from 12 meetings. At the majors, Del Potro has lost only two of his 11 matches against players taller than 6'4". Of his nine victories at the majors, five of them came at Roland Garros. Both his defeats came at the Australian Open. In 2010, he lost to Cilic in a Round of 16 match that lasted for more than four and a half hours. The second loss came to Berdych earlier this year, which the Argentine lost in straight sets.
#3 Novak Djokovic (109-20, 84.5%)
Former World No.1 Novak Djokovic has the best win rate against players taller than 6'4". The 14-time Grand Slam champion has enjoyed tremendous success against players who are taller than him by at least three inches. The Serbian has a positive head to head record against most of these players except Karlovic whom he trails 1-2 and against Zverev against whom he lost his lone meeting at the final of the Rome Masters in 2017. Djokovic leads Del Potro 15-4, Cilic 15-2, Raonic 9-0, Berdych 25-3, Anderson 6-1 and Querrey and Isner by 8-2 each. At the slams, he has a stellar record of losing only four of 32 matches he has played against players over 6'4". All four of his loses came at Wimbledon in 2006, 2010, 2016 and 2017. Two of these loses came against Tomas Berdych, one of which was a result of a mid-match retirement from the Serb's end.
Of the 129 matches he has played against those tall men, 12 were finals. Djokovic lost only two of them - against Zverev at the 2017 Rome Masters and against Cilic at the 2018 Queen's Championships. This year, Djokovic finished as the most successful player at slams, bagging the titles at both Wimbledon and the US Open. In the finals of both these majors, he defeated players taller than 6'4" (Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin Del Potro).
#2 Roger Federer (137-31, 81.5%)
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is the third best player among the Top 10 players with a win rate of 81.5% against players taller than 6'4". The Swiss Maestro is one of the three players in the Top 10 to have a positive head to head record against the most successful active players taller than 6'4". Federer has won 137 of 168 matches, leading Berdych 20-6 and Del Potro by 18-7. However, the Argentinean won their previous meeting earlier this year at the Indian Wells Masters where the Swiss squandered championship points in the process.
At the slams, Federer has lost nine matches against players taller than him by at least four inches. The former World No.1 has never lost to these tall players at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. In 2002 Mario Ancic and Max Mirnyi (both of them being 6'5" tall) defeated Federer at Wimbledon and the US Open respectively. After that Federer was undefeated against players taller than 6'4" at the majors for seven straight years. In 2009, Del Potro faced Federer in his first ever slam final and defeated the five-time defending champion. In 2017, Del Potro would defeat Federer at the US Open yet again in the quarter-finals. Like Del Potro, Berdych has recorded two wins against Federer at the slams. The Czech defeated Federer in 2010 at Wimbledon and in 2012 at the US Open. In both these tournaments, Federer was the top seed. Earlier this year, Federer, who was the top seed and defending champion at Wimbledon, lost to Kevin Anderson in a match that lasted for more than four hours. Federer lost despite winning the first two sets. The match was also the longest match that the Swiss champion had played against a player taller than 6'4".
#1 Rafael Nadal (99-22, 81.8%)
World No.1 Rafael Nadal is the second most successful player against players taller than 6'4". The Spaniard, along with Federer and Del Potro is the third player to have a positive head to head record against the most successful players taller than 6'4". Considered to be one of the best returners on tour, Nadal has a win rate of 100% against Kevin Anderson, John Isner, Alexander Zverev and Ivo Karlovic who have all played at least five matches against the Spaniard. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has a record 33 ATP Masters 1000 titles to his name. In those events, Nadal has lost three times each to Del Potro and Berdych. All of his loses against players taller than 6'4" at the Masters events have come on hard court. The last time Nadal lost in a Masters event to an opponent taller than 6'4" was at the 2015 Indian Wells Masters against Raonic.
Out of the 22 matches that he has lost against players taller than 6'4", six have come against Del Potro and four against Berdych. Nadal won his first match at a slam against a player taller than 6'4" at the 2003 Wimbledon. He was 6-0 at the slams against players taller than him by at least 4 inches before Del Potro came in and defeated the Spaniard at the 2009 US Open. Nadal is currently 24-6 against players taller than 6'4" at the majors. He has never lost to players this tall at Roland Garros. Lukas Rosol and Dustin Brown, who are both 6'5" tall defeated Nadal at Wimbledon in 2012 and 2015 respectively.