Why are left-handers more likely to win Wimbledon?
Typically Andy Murray won Wimbledon this year and is right handed, which throws a little scorn over this article from Greg Rusedski and the BBC. But it’s the history of left-handers succeeding in tennis which is very, very interesting…
The upper hand
I’m left-handed, and lefties have managed to dominate more than our fair share of Wimbledon tournaments. Here I reveal the secrets to our success.
3.TAKE THE TEST: How left-handed are you?
Some players like Nadal play tennis with their left hand but write with their right. In fact, handedness is a continuous scale from left to mixed to right. Take the test at the link below to find out if you’re more left-handed than you thought.
This test is based on the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory (RC Oldfield, 1971). Handedness categories by Dr Milan Dragovic, NMHS MH Clinical Research Centre, Western Australia. Consultancy by Dr Gillian Forrester, cognitive neuroscientist, University of Westminster.
4. Advantaged of being left-handed
Like most people, the majority of tennis players are right-handed. They get used to playing against each other. But being left-handed is a little bit different; it makes it a little trickier for a right-handed opponent.
For example, a lefty’s forehand – usually his stronger shot – plays naturally into the righty’s weaker backhand. Of course, right-handers have a similar advantage on their forehand, but crucially, lefties get lots of practice against this.
The left-handed serve naturally spins differently when you strike it, which makes it lethal coming from the left side of the court. Creating this kind of spin – making the ball swerve and bounce – pushes the ball far out wide, onto a righty’s backhand. If my opponent is good enough to get the ball back, the court’s wide open for me to take the point.
Now you might think right-handers serving might have the same advantage from the righthand side, but they don’t. Not only are lefties used to this, the rules of tennis actually favour us on the big points. The final game point is only served from the right side when the score us 40 – 15; favouring righties. Every other game point is contested from the left side of the court. 40 – love, 40 – 30, and advantage after deuce.
From first serve to match point, it seems left-handed players have the natural advantage. It takes a pretty experienced player to claim it back.
When I was a junior, three of my left-handed heroes – Martina Navratilova, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe – dominated Wimbledon. Since that glorious run, just five singles titles have been claimed by left-handed players.
It could simply be a lull before lefties dominate again. Or right-handers may have been gradually closing the gap, with improvements in match preparation.
Elite players and their coaching teams now have video analysis and performance statistics at their fingertips – able to scrutinise every detail of their opponent’s game.
But making this knowledge count is another matter. When righties face a left-handed player, they can’t just play on auto-pilot. It requires a big bag of tricks and lots of practice to be able to adapt your strategy.
This year at Wimbledon, right-handers will be upping their preparation. And unfortunately, with Nadal out of the tournament and certain left-handers in the draws not fulfilling their potential, it will be hard to see a left-hander winning Wimbledon this time round.