How Much Do Tennis Players Run Per Match?

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Sprinting back and forth across the baseline can really add up.

Alex De Minaur (Alex Bogatyrev / Shutterstock)

Tuning into the AUS Open tennis tournament? Then you might be wondering exactly how far does a professional tennis player actually run during a match? It sure looks like a lot of work chasing balls back and forth along the baseline.

Well, according to some advanced analytics, it varies depending on playing style.

But let’s start with some research for context. According to a study done in 2015 on the Australian Open, among the top men, David Ferrer, who was known for his speed and agility, was a good example of a tennis player covering the most distance. Through three rounds of the tournament that year, Ferrer had run approximately 10,000 meters (10km), which is particularly impressive when you consider how tiny a tennis court is (8 metres wide for singles).

On the other end of the spectrum, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had covered less than half that distance, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 meters (4km and 5km) through three rounds of play.

SI.com reported that this is because Djokovic tends to play closer to the baseline, while Ferrer played farther back. It’s also worth pointing out that the length of each game, set, and match will affect how long the match goes—the longer the set or match, the more running required.

And in 2024, advanced analytics are available for nearly every major tennis tournament. A glimpse at the U.S. Open website allows users to jump into the stats of every single match. For example, in 2023, Coco Gauff in her opening round match against German Laura Siegemund covered 3.3 km to Siegemund’s 32 km. So in their three sets, they each moved a little over 3 km total.

A similar analysis conducted at the 2014 U.S. Open found that Caroline Wozniacki ran more than twice as far as Serena Williams (9,709 meters for Wozniacki, and 4,509 meters for Williams) to make it to the final. Williams defeated Wozniacki in the 2014 final, but Wozniacki famously put all that running to good use two months later when she ran her first marathon, New York City, in 3:26:33.

But Wozniacki isn’t the only top tennis player to be marathon-curious. Both Djokovic and Andy Murray have expressed interest in running a marathon after retirement. But for Federer and Williams, it’s a hard pass for now—both feeling that they are not suited for the distance.

As for recreational tennis players? The distances are about the same. In 2020, Fitbit reported that according to their user data, an hour of singles tennis generates around, on average, 10,680 steps, while an hour of doubles tennis generates, on average, 7,980 steps. That’s an equivalent of about 6 to 7 kilometres of running and 4 to 5 kilometres respectively depending on your stride length.

Is Tennis a Good Cross-Training Sport for Runners?

Because of the high-intensity of tennis, playing a few matches will help your cardio capacity. “It’s very intense. You are conditioning. It’s a very hard workout and allows you to stay in shape,” says Kevin Vincent, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the University of Florida Running Medicine Clinic. Plus, running is an activity performed primarily on the sagittal plane of motion, which includes front-to-back movements like walking. By incorporating tennis into your training, you will benefit from the lateral or side-to-side movements.

That said, your legs still take a beating, and it can cause injury. The biggest risk to worry about? Calf and hamstring injuries, says Darrin Bright, M.D., OhioHealth sports medicine doctor and ultra marathoner. “If your foot catches or you plant wrong, you could get muscle strains. Tennis elbow is common among tennis players, but I primarily see acute muscle strains,” Bright says. Ultimately. it’s fine to play (not to mention fun!), and may help strengthen your body and balance your leg muscles, just don’t try to rally on long run days or when you do a hard workout.

How Many Calories Do You Burn Playing Tennis?

Like the distance the pros run during a match, how many calories you burn depends on a lot of factors including how long you play and at what intensity. But generally speaking, tennis is a total-body, intense aerobic activity, and your calorie-burning potential will be specific to you and your weight. According to the American Council on Exercise, a 68 kilogram person can burn around 544 calories during an hour-long singles match—roughly the same amount as running at a leisurely pace for an hour.