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Upper and lower body power tests predict serve performance in national and international level male tennis players


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Successful outcome of the tennis serve is primarily dependent on speed (1), which is a result of effective full kinetic chain function (2-5). Specific mechanical determinants, kinetic and kinematic variables, that contribute to serve speed have been identified (2, 4, 6-9). However, current tests of physical fitness in tennis do not target all mechanical determinants (10-20). Implementation of tests that target known mechanical determinants in full kinetic chain movements have been called for (3, 21). The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between full kinetic chain tests of dynamic postural control, force and power that target known mechanical determinants of tennis serve performance.
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Upper and lower body power tests predict serve performance
Upper and lower body power tests predict serve
performance in national and international level
male tennis players
O. Eriksrud 1,A.Ghelem2, F. Henrikson 3, J. Englund 3,N.Brodin3
1Department of Physical Performance, Norwegian School of Sports of Science, P. O Box 4014 Ullevaal Stadion, 0806 Oslo, Norway,2Ali Ghelem AB, Stockholm, Sweden, and
3Karolinska Institutet, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Physiotherapy, 141 83 Huddinge, Sweden
Testing |Serve |Power |Tennis |International Level
Successful outcome of the tennis serve is primarily depen-
dent on speed (1), which is a result of eective full kinetic
chain function (2-5). Specific mechanical determinants, kinetic
and kinematic variables, that contribute to serve speed have
been identified (2, 4, 6-9). However, current tests of physi-
cal fitness in tennis do not target all mechanical determinants
(10-20). Implementation of tests that target known mechan-
ical determinants in full kinetic chain movements have been
called for (3, 21).
Aim.Determine the relationship between full kinetic chain
tests of dynamic postural control, force and power that target
known mechanical determinants of tennis serve performance.
Athletes.Twelve recreational to semi-professional (interna-
tional 5; national 4; regional 3) Swedish tennis players (age
28.3±10.3 years; body mass 80.0±6.0 kg; height 184.0±4.9 cm;
experience 17.5±5.5 years; mean±D) volunteered and com-
pleted the study. Nine players were right handed (determined
by serve hand) and the same side foot was considered as domi-
nant, also. Exclusion criterium was the inability to participate
in tennis and injuries in the past two months that limited
training for more than two weeks. All sub jects were given
written and verbal information of the study prior to obtaining
written informed consent. The study was conducted accord-
ing to the Declaration of Helsinki and the ethical standards of
Karolinska Institute (Stockholm, Sweden).
Design. The present study used a cross-sectional design were
force, power and dynamic postural control tests were corre-
lated to serve speed.
Dynamic postural control. The hand reach star excursion
balance test (HSEBT) is a reliable and valid test of dynamic
postural control (22), which consist of a total of eight hori-
zontal hand reaches: anterior (A0), left anterolateral (L45),
left lateral (L90), left posterolateral (L135), posterior (P180),
right posterolateral (R135), right lateral (R90) and right an-
terolateral (R45) measured in cm, and left (L) and (R) ro-
tational reaches (LROT and RROT) measured degrees. The
HSEBT reaches included in this study were selected based
on their ability to capture three-dimensional joint movement
interactions of the shoulder, trunk and lower extremities sim-
ilar to those utilized during the dierent phases of the tennis
serve (5, 23-26). Specifically, the R90, R135, P180, L135,
RROT reaches were performed on the dominant foot, and the
R90, P180, RROT reaches on the non-dominant foot (Figure
2). A detailed description of testing procedures is described
elsewhere (22).
Te nn i s s er v e p er f o rm a n ce . Each subject performed their
own serve specific warm-up with their own equipment and pre-
ferred position behind the baseline. The two serve targets used
were defined by dividing the service box into two equal halves,
then the rectangle closest to the service line was divided into
three equal rectangles with the rectangle closest to the singles
sideline and service center line used as targets (Figure 1). The
subjects performed two serves towards both boxes before a 2-
minute rest period. The athletes continued serving until line
judges of the Royal Tennis Club of Stockholm approved five
serves for each box. Serve speed was measured using a stan-
dard camera set up of Playsight Smartcourt (Kochav Yair,
Israel). Average serve speed (vserve) was calculated for all
valid serves.
Forc e an d p ower . The force and power tests that tar-
geted serve specific mechanical determinants (in parenthesis)
were: 1) countermovement jump (CMJ) (leg drive) (2, 9), 2)
isokinetic single leg squat (SLS) (leg drive) (2, 9), 3) dominant
hand vertical press (vertical shoulder and leg drive) (2, 7-9),
4) bilateral arm anterior overhead push (hip and trunk flex-
ion) (7, 8) and 5) dominant hand anterior push (rotation) (27)
(Figure 3). All tests were carried out using a robotic resistance
device (1080 Quantum, 1080 Motion Nordic AB, Stockholm,
The testing procedures were standardized as follows: 1)
starting position of subject on a custom-made floor (foot posi-
tion in X and Y coordinates (cm) and orientation in 45-degree
increments based on HSEBT definitions with A0 defined as
the subject facing the machine) and 2) position of adjustable
arm: low (floor height), high (2,4 m above floor), knee height
(NK) or shoulder height (NS) (Figure 3). Resistance for power
tests was set to 10% body mass except for CMJ and SLS (37
kg). Concentric and eccentric speed was set to 8 m s1and
6ms1respectively for the power test, whereas 0.5 m s1
Fig. 1. Overview of tennis court and how the service box was divided into two
targets. 1 SPSR - 2018 |Dec |42 |v1
Upper and lower body power tests predict serve performance
Fig. 2. Horizontal and rotational reaches dominant (left) and non-dominant (right). Visual representation of all reaches (photographs). Horizontal reaches (center graphs)
with average (cm, black line) and standard deviation (±SD, grey shaded area) with correlations ()tov
serve . Rotational reaches ( , circular graphs) with average (±SD)
with correlations ()tov
serve . Value in grey font for non-dominant leg (R135) calculated as average of P180 and R90 for visual presentation.
and 2 m s1were selected for the isokinetic tests. A general
warm-up (10 minutes) preceded familiarization. Then, five
repetitions of maximum eort with a 5-minute rest between
tests were recorded. In order to get the best representation
of strength and power the repetitions with lowest and highest
peak power (Pmax) (power tests) and average force (Favg)
(isokinetic tests) were removed and the average of the three
remaining repetitions used for analysis. The results from the
SLS were also normalized to BW.
Statistical analysis. Serve speed was correlated to force, power
and dynamic postural control tests using two-tailed Spearman
rank-order correlation () since v
serve was not normally dis-
tributed (Shapiro Wilk s test <.05) (IBM SPSS version 21.0).
Outliers were removed from the analysis using the outlier la-
belling rule (28).
Serve speed (164.1±22.5 km h1) was significantly correlated
(moderate to good) (29) with all power tests (Pmax), ex-
cept for the dominant hand anterior push (=.413, p=.183).
Non-significant correlations were observed between vserv e and
isokinetic strength tests, with fair to moderate (29) correla-
tions for dominant hand vertical press and SLS (Table 1).
All correlations between vserve and dynamic postural control
tests were non-significant, except dominant foot L135 reach
(=.607, p=.036) (Table 1).
Serve speed were significantly correlated with power tests that
targeted leg drive (CMJ, dominant hand vertical press), ver-
tical shoulder drive (dominant hand vertical press) and trunk
and hip flexion (bilateral hand anterior press). This is a valu-
able addition to the body of knowledge considering the lim-
ited information available on the influence of musculoskeletal
power on tennis serve performance. Previously, serve speed
has been found to have no correlations with lower extremity
power, squat jump (SJ) and CMJ (13, 19, 20). Our data
contradict these findings with a good correlation (=.715)
between vserve and CMJ Pmax. The greater normalized
Pmax values observed by Girard and co-workers (59.5 to 63.8
Wkg1) can be contributed to the calculation of Pmax in
1080 Quantum which is based on pulling force and speed only.
Furthermore, Ulbricht and co-workers (18) found that power
tests (overhead, forehand and backhand medicine ball throws)
and serve speed to be the best predictors of tennis performance
(national ranking), which indirectly supports our findings. In
addition, Behringer and co-workers found that plyometric con-
ditioning focusing on lower and upper body speed had a bet-
ter eect on serve speed than resistance training at moder-
ate speeds (30), which is supported by our findings with all
power tests having better correlations with vserve than the
force tests. However, one test, dominant leg SLS, approached
significance (Table 1), which agrees with multi- and single joint
lower extremity strength tests having variable relationships to
serve speed (10, 13-15). The absence of significance of the
dominant hand anterior push power test supports the idea
that transverse plane power has a lower significance in deter-
mining serve speed (7, 27).
Even if HSEBT reaches were selected based on eliciting
combinations of joint movements similar to those used in the
preparation and acceleration phase of the serve (5, 24-26)
vserve was only significantly correlated with one reach, the
dominant foot L135 reach. This particular hand reach elicit 2 SPSR - 2018 |Dec |42 |v1
Upper and lower body power tests predict serve performance
Table 1. Power (W), force (N and N kg1) and Spearman correlation coecients () to serve ball speed
Test Po we r pPowerp
Dominant hand anterior push 1243 185 .413 [-.181, .838] .183 254 30 -.431 [-.871, .311] .162
Dominant hand vertical press 874 178 .650 [.007, .977] .022* 240 32 .459 [-.178, .759] .134
Bilateral hand overhead anterior push 1046 208 .643 [.419, 739] .024* 218 32 .119 [-.463, .694] .713
CMJ 1316 237 .715 [.356, .899] .009* NA NA NA
Dominant leg single leg squat NA NA NA 884 161 .524 [-.068, .853] .080
Normalized dominant leg single leg squat NA NA NA 11.1 2.0 .566 [-.092, .902] .055
Non-dominant leg single leg squat NA NA NA 871 110 .218 [-.309, .697] .519
Normalized non-dominant leg single leg
squat NA NA NA 11.0 1.5 .391 [-.253, .791] .235
Note: * p<0.05; NA: Not Assessed
Fig. 3. Description of power and isokinetic strength tests.
CMJ: Countermovement jump; NS: Normalized to shoulder height; NK: Normalized to knee height; A0=Anterior (0 ) reach; R90=Right lateral (90 ) reach; P180=Posterior
(180 ) reach; L90=Left lateral (L90) reach
dominant arm shoulder flexion, trunk extension, minimal ip-
silateral rotation and contralateral lateral flexion (23). The
non-significant reaches were either bilateral or non-dominant
hand reaches and might therefore lack specificity to the serve.
Based on these findings it appears that the combination of
dominant shoulder flexion, previously found to be significantly
correlated to serve speed (11), with trunk extension and ipsi-
lateral rotation oer the best representation of joint movement
combinations, or represent significant boundary conditions as-
sociated with the preparation and acceleration phases of the
tennis serve. The ability to utilize the combination of these
joint movements of a certain magnitude might allow players
to produce greater linear and angular momentum and thereby
increasing serve speed (2). This has been corroborated in a
study in which elite players with high serve speeds were ca-
pable performing backswings of greater magnitude (20). In
addition, it is important to consider that the HSEBT reaches
assess maximum reach capacity, which might not be necessary
during a serve. In fact, it could be that the subjects had su-
cient capacity in the non-significant reaches, which raises the
question of what portion of maximum reach capacity was uti-
lized during the serve and the margins of error between safe
and possible at-risk movements.
Practical Applications
Power tests that target established mechanical determi-
nants of serve speed can be a valuable addition to the test
batteries of tennis players.
Considering the lack of dynamic postural control tests that
target full kinetic chain movements in tennis players, the
HSEBT can be a valuable assessment tool. 3 SPSR - 2018 |Dec |42 |v1
Upper and lower body power tests predict serve performance
Longitudinal studies or larger cohort studies consisting of
players of dierent sex, age and performance level should be
evaluated to better understand the implications of current
findings on serve performance.
The sample size is small (n=12), but comparable to other
cross-sectional studies (8 to 15 participants) (15, 16, 19,
Conflict of interest.
Ola Eriksrud and Ali Ghelem are shareholders in 1080 Motion
Acknowledgments. All athletes and the Royal Tennis Club of Stockholm for allowing
us to use their facilities and line judges.
Dataset available on
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Tests of dynamic postural control eliciting full-body three-dimensional joint movements in a systematic manner are scarce. The well-established star excursion balance test (SEBT) elicits primarily three-dimensional lower extremity joint movements with minimal trunk and no upper extremity joint movements. In response to these shortcomings we created the hand reach star excursion balance test (HSEBT) based on the SEBT reach directions. The aims of the current study were to 1) compare HSEBT and SEBT measurements, 2) compare joint movements elicited by the HSEBT to both SEBT joint movements and normative range of motion values published in the literature. Ten SEBT and HSEBT reaches for each foot were obtained while capturing full-body kinematics in twenty recreationally active healthy male subjects. HSEBT and SEBT areas and composite scores (sum of reaches) for total, anterior and posterior subsections and individual reaches were correlated. Total reach score comparisons showed fair to moderate correlations (r = .393 to .606), while anterior and posterior subsections comparisons had fair to good correlations (r = .269 to .823). Individual reach comparisons had no to good correlations (r = -.182 to .822) where lateral and posterior reaches demonstrated the lowest correlations (r = -.182 to .510). The HSEBT elicited more and significantly greater joint movements than the SEBT, except for hip external rotation, knee extension and plantarflexion. Comparisons to normative range of motion values showed that 3 of 18 for the SEBT and 8 of 22 joint movements for the HSEBT were within normative values. The findings suggest that the HSEBT can be used for the assessment of dynamic postural control and is particularly suitable for examining full-body functional mobility.
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Measuring dynamic postural control and mobility using task-based full-body movements has been advocated. The star excursion balance test (SEBT) is well-established, but it does not elicit large upper body joint movements. Therefore, the hand reach star excursion balance test (HSEBT) was developed. The purpose of the current study was to assess the inter-rater and test-retest reliability and validity of the HSEBT. Twenty-nine healthy male subjects performed ten HSEBT reaches on each leg on four different occasions, led by three different raters. Reach distances were recorded in centimeters and degrees. Then, twenty-eight different healthy males performed the HSEBT while using a standard motion capture system. Reliability was assessed using the intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) (range 0.77–0.98). Stability of measurement was assessed using the standard error of measurement (SEM) (range 0.3–2.8 cm and 1.7°–2.6°) and coefficient of variation (CV) (range 2.1–14.6%). Change scores were obtained using minimal detectable change (MDC 95 ) (range 0.9–7.9 cm and 4.7°–7.2°). Observed (Max m ) and calculated (Max kin ) maximum hand reach measurements showed good to excellent correlations. Bland Altman analysis established a fixed bias for all tests, which can be partially explained by the kinematic calculations. In conclusion, the HSEBT is a valid and reliable full-body clinical tool for measuring dynamic postural control and functional joint mobility.
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The purpose of this study was to compare the shoulder and elbow joint loads during the tennis serve. Two synchronised 200 Hz video cameras were used to record the service action of 20 male and female players at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. The displacement histories of 20 selected landmarks, were calculated using the direct linear transformation approach. Ball speed was recorded from the stadium radar gun. The Peak Motus system was used to smooth displacements, while a customised inverse-dynamics program was used to calculate 3D shoulder and elbow joint kinematics and kinetics. Male players, who recorded significantly higher service speeds (male = 183 km hr(-1): female = 149 km hr(-1)) recorded significantly higher normalised and absolute internal rotation shoulder torque at the position when the arm was maximally externally rotated (MER) (male = 4.6% and 64.9 Nm: female = 3.5% and 37.5 Nm). A higher absolute elbow varus torque (67.6 Nm) was also recorded at MER, when compared with the female players (41.3 Nm). Peak normalised horizontal adduction torque (male = 7.6%: female = 6.5%), normalised shoulder compressive force (male = 79.6%: female = 59.1%) and absolute compressive force (male = 608.3 N: female = 363.7 N), were higher for the male players. Players who flexed at the front knee by 7.6 degrees, in the backswing phase of the serve, recorded a similar speed (162 km hr(-1)), and an increased normalised internal rotation torque at MER (5.0%), when compared with those who flexed by 14.7 degrees. They also recorded a larger normalised varus torque at MER (5.3% v 3.9%) and peak value (6.3% v 5.2%). Players who recorded a larger knee flexion also recorded less normalised and absolute (4.3%, 55.6 Nm) peak internal rotation torque compared with those with less flexion (5.6%, 63.9 Nm). Those players who used an abbreviated backswing were able to serve with a similar speed and recorded similar kinetic values. Loading on the shoulder and elbow joints is higher for the male than female players, which is a reason for the significantly higher service speed by the males. The higher kinetic measures for the group with the lower knee flexion means that all players should be encouraged to flex their knees during the backswing phase of the service action. The type of backswing was shown to have minimal influence on service velocity or loading of the shoulder and elbow joints.
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The aims of this study were to analyze the relationship between maximum isometric strength levels in different upper and lower limb joints and serve velocity in competitive tennis players as well as to develop a prediction model based on this information. Twelve male competitive tennis players (mean ± SD; age: 17.2 ± 1.0 years; body height: 180.1 ± 6.2 cm; body mass: 71.9 ± 5.6 kg) were tested using maximum isometric strength levels (i.e., wrist, elbow and shoulder flexion and extension; leg and back extension; shoulder external and internal rotation). Serve velocity was measured using a radar gun. Results showed a strong positive relationship between serve velocity and shoulder internal rotation (r = 0.67; p < 0.05). Low to moderate correlations were also found between serve velocity and wrist, elbow and shoulder flexion - extension, leg and back extension and shoulder external rotation (r = 0.36 - 0.53; p = 0.377 - 0.054). Bivariate and multivariate models for predicting serve velocity were developed, with shoulder flexion and internal rotation explaining 55% of the variance in serve velocity (r = 0.74; p < 0.001). The maximum isometric strength level in shoulder internal rotation was strongly related to serve velocity, and a large part of the variability in serve velocity was explained by the maximum isometric strength levels in shoulder internal rotation and shoulder flexion.
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Three dimensional (3-D) high-speed photography was used to record the tennis service actions of eight elite tennis players. The direct linear transformation (DLT) method was used for 3-D space reconstruction from 2-D images recorded from laterally placed cameras operating at 200fps. Seven of the eight subjects initially positioned their center of gravity toward the front foot during the stance phase. When the elbow reached 90° in the backswing, the knees of the eight subjects were at or near their maximum attained flexion, and the upper arm was an extension of a line joining both shoulder joints. A mean maximum vertical shoulder velocity of 1.7ms⁻¹ during the leg drive produced a force at the shoulder that was eccentric to the racket-limb, thus causing a downward rotation of this limb as measured by a mean velocity of the racket of −5.8ms⁻¹ down the back. This leg drive increased the angular displacement of the loop and therefore provided a greater distance over which the racket could be accelerated for impact. All subjects swung the racket up to the ball, and all but one hit the ball with the racket angled slightly backward (M = 93.9°). An effective summation of body segments was apparent because resultant linear velocities showed an increase as the more distal segment endpoint approached impact, although all subjects decelerated the racket immediately prior to impact. Mean resultant ball velocities of 34.4ms⁻¹ for the female subjects and 42.4ms⁻¹ for the male subjects were achieved.
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The serve is an important stroke in any high level tennis game. A well-mastered serve is a substantial advantage for players. However, because of its repeatability and its intensity, this stroke is potentially deleterious for upper limbs, lower limbs and trunk. The trunk is a vital link in the production and transfer of energy from the lower limbs to the upper limbs; therefore, kinematic disorder could be a potential source of risk for trunk injury in tennis. This research studies the case of a professional tennis player who has suffered from a medical tear on the left rectus abdominis muscle after tennis serve. The goal of the study is to understand whether the injury could be explained by an inappropriate technique. For this purpose, we analyzed in three dimensions the kinematic and kinetic aspects of the serve. We also performed isokinetic tests of the player's knees. We then compared the player to five other professional players as reference. We observed a possible deficit of energy transfer because of an important anterior pelvis tilt. Some compensation made by the player during the serve could be a possible higher abdominal contraction and a larger shoulder external rotation. These particularities could induce an abdominal overwork that could explain the first injury and may provoke further injuries. Key pointsIn the proximal-distal sequence, energy is transmitted from lower limbs to upper limps via trunk.The 3D analysis tool is an indispensable test for an objective evaluation of the kinematic in the tennis serve.Multiple evaluations techniques are useful for fuller comprehension of the kinematics and contribute to the awareness of the player's staff concerning pathologies and performance.
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Elite level tennis players have shown a high incidence of lower back injuries. The objective of this study was to generate a descriptive profile of trunk extension and flexion strength as well as to examine the relationship between trunk strength and several field tests of physical fitness in elite junior tennis players. Measurements were obtained on 60 nationally ranked junior tennis players between 13 and 17 years of age. Trunk flexion and extension data were obtained concentrically on a Cybex 6000 Isokinetic dynamometer with TEF modular component at speeds of 60° s-1 and 120° s-1. Peak torque/body weight and work/bodyweight ratios were statistically analyzed in comparison to the field tests. A descriptive profile of isokinetic flexion/extension ratios was generated for elite junior tennis players. Trunk flexion/extension ratios ranged from 102 to 122% for peak torque at 60° s-1 and 120° s-1. The field tests consisted of a standardized fitness testing protocol which included measurements of strength, power, speed and agility, endurance and flexibility. The correlated measurements included the total distance thrown on a forehand, backhand, overhead, and reverse overhead medicine ball toss. The analyses yielded significant correlations (range 0.47-0.82) between all isokinetic trunk flexion/extension data and the series of four medicine ball tosses, which were used in the field as a measurement of power (P < 0.01). These results demonstrate the relationship between isokinetic trunk testing and functional movement patterns. In addition, the isokinetic testing results provide an initial profile of trunk flexion and extension strength in elite junior tennis players.
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Aim: This study aims at investigating the possible relationships between anthropometric and functional parameters and maximal serve speed in professional tennis players. Methods: Eight professional male tennis players (age 23±4 [mean±SD] years;; height 181±4 cm; body mass 80±4 kg;; playing experience 14±4 years;; weekly training practice 29±6 hours) were recruited. Anthropometric parameters (height, body mass, arm--racquet length, arm muscle area), jump performance (Squat Jump, Counter Movement Jump;; Counter Movement Jump Free), handgrip strength and first and second maximal serve speed were assessed. Results: Pearson's correlation coefficient showed significant (p<0.05) positive relationships between height and ball speed in both the first (r=0.78;; p=0.02) and second (r=0.80;; p=0.017) serve, and a significant negative correlation between serve speed and arm muscle area in first serve only (r=--0.78; p=0.03). In addition, a trend towards a positive correlation was observed between string tensions and serves speed for both first and second serves (r=0.54;; p=0.16 and r=0.60;; p=0.11, respectively). No significant relationship was found between serve speed and the other variables considered, including jumping performance parameters. Conclusions: Height was confirmed to be the main anthropometric determinant of serves speed in professional tennis players.
The impact of fitness characteristics on tennis performance in adolescent players is not clearly understood. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to test whether physical characteristics are related to players' competitive level (i.e. national youth ranking). A secondary aim was to compare adolescent tennis players by performance level (i.e. regional selected players and the national team). A total of 902 male and female junior players (aged 11-16 years) in Germany were evaluated using a physical testing battery: grip strength; counter movement jump (CMJ); 10 m and 20 m sprint; tennis-specific sprint (TSS); overhead, forehand and backhand medicine ball throws (MBT); serve velocity and tennis-specific endurance test (Hit and Turn Tennis Test). Results showed that serve velocity (r = -0.43-0.64 for females [♀]; r = -0.33-0.49 for males [♂]) and upper body power (e.g. MBT r = -0.26 to -0.49 ♀; r = -0.20 to -0.49 ♂) were the most correlated with tennis performance (i.e. national youth ranking) in both female and male tennis players. Moreover, national selected players showed better performance levels than their regional counterparts, mainly in the most predictive physical characteristics (i.e. serve velocity [ES 0.78-1.04 ♀; ES 0.92-1.02 ♂], MBT [ES 0.66-0.88 ♀; ES 0.67-1.04 ♂] and specific endurance [ES 0.05-0.95 ♀; ES 0.31-0.73 ♂]). The present findings underline the importance of certain physical attributes, especially serve velocity as well as strength- and power-related variables (upper body), and suggest the need to include these parameters in the area of training, physical testing and talent identification of young tennis players.