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Small means Strong!

Lately, four rather “small” players have been doing great results on the ATP tour. David Goffin (180 centimetres) won two tournaments in a row (Shenzhen 250 & Tokyo 500). Adrian Mannarino (180 centimetres) reached the final in Tokyo 500 and the quarter in Montreal 1000. Damir Dzumhur (175 centimetres) reached the final in Winston-Salem 250, won his first title in St. Petersburg 250 and reached another semi-final in Shenzhen. Eventually, Diego Schwartzman (170 centimetres) reached the quarter in the US Open & Montreal 1000 and the semi-final in Tokyo 500. All these players have their best ranking at the moment, they are all ranked in the top 40.

Tennis Profiler wanted to know more about these four players: where do they make the difference against the rivals, what are their strengths & weaknesses, what are their best combos? Thanks to its own database, Tennis Profiler gathered 14’583 points of these four players and will offer you a complete stats analysis.


When compared with their rivals, the “Smalls” takes their biggest edge with their backhand. They make on average 40% more points and 20% less errors than them. For instance, if the opponent makes 10 points and 10 mistakes in a match with the backhand the “Smalls” will make 14 points for only 8 errors.

The “Smalls” take an edge with the backhand cross and down the line almost in an identical way. It goes the same in the short (between 3 & 4 shots), medium (between 5 & 8 shots) and long rallies (over 8 shots). Their domination with the backhand is complete!

Being smaller than average gives an edge with the backhand because the centre of gravity is lower and that helps to get a better balance. All the players analysed for this study are really confortable taking the ball on the rise close to the baseline in tempo. They can easily absorb or generate pace from this position.

•Small players have also a big advantage with their backhand because of the footwork. Being faster than average allows them to cut the angle off and easily take the ball on the rise. This kind of game pattern is essential to get good results attacking with the backhand. The fast players also follow more often the backhand to the net which increases their ratio of points.


The player in that study that takes the biggest edge against the rivals with the backhand is Diego Schwartzman. Playing close to the baseline with a low centre of gravity, the Argentinian puts so much pace with the backhand cross that his opponents make on average 70% more errors (forced or unforced) with their backhand than usual. It has to be said that Schwartzman also uses the forehand down the line & inside out to wear the rivals’ backhand down and that helps him to get a better result in the backhand comparison. So for Schwartzman, what explains the backhand performance above average is the constant pressure he puts on the rivals‘ backhand until they crack.

The second best backhand result is Adrian Mannarino. Being capable of attacking or counterpunching with the backhand close to the baseline, the lefty gets a double advantage against the rivals by making more points and less errors than them. His effective game plan with the backhand is the following: 80% of the time, he plays the backhand cross with pace and that gives him a high ratio of points & errors. Then, 20% of the time he changes the direction and play down the line to surprise the rivals. He knows perfectly what he has to do in every kind of situation with this shot. So for Mannarino, what explains the backhand performance above average is a clever game plan and a perfect execution of it.

Among the “Smalls”, David Goffin takes the third position with the backhand. The Belgium gets a big edge with this shot against his rivals because he makes on average 80% more points than them for the same ratio of errors. Being so quick around the court, Goffin takes a great deal of backhand on the rise. He also uses the backhand approach in a very effective way, especially on his first shot after the serve. So for Goffin, what explains the backhand performance above average is the constant attacks taking the ball on the rise.

Damir Dzumhur is the player who gets the smallest edge with the backhand against the rivals but he still takes an advantage by making more points than them. Moving so fast around the court, his specialty is the backhand down the line approach. To make that shot, he cuts the angle off and takes the ball on the rise. He makes on average almost 5 times more points with the backhand down the line than the backhand cross. So for Dzumhur, what explains the backhand performance above average is the backhand down the line approach.


When compared with their rivals, the “Smalls” takes their second biggest edge with their forehand. They make on average the same amount of points but 20% less mistakes. For instance, if the opponent makes 20 points and 20 mistakes in a match with the forehand the “Smalls” will make 20 points for only 16 errors.

The “Smalls” are effective with the forehand in every direction (down the line, cross, inside out & inside in) but surprisingly this is more in the short & medium rallies (between 3 & 8 shots) that they dominate their rivals.

The biggest edge in being small with the forehand is the footwork. Being all the time well-placed, this allows them to make less mistakes than average but also to retrieve much more balls and force the rivals to overplay. That explains why the “Smalls” get an edge mainly by making less errors than the rivals.

The amount of points made with the forehand depends more on the technique than being small, medium or tall. The four players analysed in that study get different ratio of points (low, medium & high) but all together they get results in the average.