Opinion 36

New Balls Please: Where Are The PS4/XB1 Tennis Games?

Sport. The word divides some and unites others. Lately, sports games have struggled in maintaining my attention for more than a couple of hours. My Xbox 360 was a hub of FIFA, Top Spin and Madden enjoyment. But no matter how many fancy tweaks developers made to ball flight, team management and impact engines, each new iteration suffered from the same thing; beyond a roster update, it was the same game.

As a tennis fan, my beloved sport has had no attention in games since the late-2000s. I would love to see some brave developer, and an equally brave publisher, take a punt and make a tennis game for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.

Though tennis games are few and far between, that’s all the more reason to give them a go. There‘s lots of room for potential and even greater room for innovation and improvements to gameplay. Top Spin 4 deserves credit for putting a telecast edge on each match, whether it was at a suburban or Grand Slam level.

However, the best depiction of the sport I’ve played would have to be Smash Court Tennis 2 (2004, PS2), with its realistic tournament progression (that is, qualifying tournaments for events higher than your ranking) and intuitive match progression systems. The latter played through the ‘clutch’ moments in a match and used that momentum to simulate to the next big moment. Quite simply, it was the best. It was a superb way of giving each match an extra bit of visual appeal and intensity. Also, the player was no longer forced to play drawn-out six-game sets.

The crux of any sports game lies in its career mode. For too long, tennis career modes have been hampered by an arcade feel with mundane calendar management and boring lessons built around hitting balloons for accuracy or dodging falling rocks to build agility. In this day and age, a tennis game needs an in-depth and realistic career mode – no more arcade-y lessons and tutorials. Leading the way should be the micromanagement of your finances (consumables, equipment, sponsors, coaching fees, etc.), media appearances and interviews, and a simple yet robust button layout.

Furthermore, possible play styles have always been built around skill sets such as baseliner, serve/volley, all-rounder, etc. It’s simple enough, and makes sense, but more sophisticated mechanics need to be implemented. Small, RPG-like building blocks could be in the form of responses to press critique – affecting your fan base and sponsor approval rating.

Reaching the world number one ranking is always the ultimate goal of any tennis video game. Its main problem is that players can reach the top 10 into their second or third year after turning professional. With a fifteen year career, the next 12 aren’t going to be very exciting for the player, are they?

To combat this, an introductory season on the Junior World Tour could be used to sculpt the player into their future self (strengths, weaknesses, on-court/off-court personality, etc.). Reaching the dizzy heights of world number one has always been extremely easy, and applying a slower rank progression system, as well as other talented junior players being labeled the ‘Next Big Thing’, would be invaluable.

It would also be awesome for a publisher to nail the feeling of grassroots and telecasted matches, whilst delivering some sweet graphics that a game of this generation deserves. The genre of sports needs as many variations representing it as possible – otherwise the market will inevitably be swallowed up by football.

What would you like to see from a new tennis game? Have your say in the comments section below.

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  • mike

    Thank you for this article. I have seen very few articles reflecting the lack of tennis games. I realize we are fans of a niche sport here in the U.S. as compared to it’s stature a couple decades ago, but it’s now the second most popular sport next to Football(Soccer).

    With that kind of popularity around the world, I’m actually really surprised that there are not more games made. I think the best thing would be to create a game that is so deep, so multi-layered, that it would be difficult to top. Aim for the stars.

  • marc jacobs


  • ElasmoFan

    As a fan of baseball and golf I have games like PGA Tour and MLB The Show but Tennis has always been something I’ve enjoyed more then others. Even though they have some of the “fun” games that are cartoony and amusing, there just aren’t any realistic ones that give me the same feeling for the game. Having a go to game for Tennis would be amazing and this article’s ideas of the game sounds very appealing.

  • Scott Johnson

    The best tennis game I’ve played is Tennis Elbow (patched version of course, so includes realistic animations, players, etc). The graphics are shit, but you can apply real world tennis tactics to the game. Above all, something which for some ultra strange reason hasn’t been included in other tennis sims, the serve actually matters.

    When I play as Nadal against Federer, I just keep working Feds backhand, just like in real life.

    If a indie game with a few modders can make a game like that, EA etc can do it too. I really, really want Tennis Elbow animations and ball physics (patched versions) combined with PS4 graphics and the presentation and movement of Grand Slam Tennis and Top Spin 4. Problem is, it would need to make money. That is obviously why nobody has made such a game for the PS4 yet.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but even if someone does make a tennis sim, I worry that it won’t be any good. The people who made Grand Slam Tennis 2 have obviously never played tennis to any real level in real life, as the animations were a complete joke (as was the A.I., stradegy, and so on). Top Spin animations felt off as well. Virtual Tennis animations were better, but not good enough. Ball movement is a lot harder to get right than people might think. I knew Grand Slam Tennis 2 was gonna be terrible when one of the developers said something like ‘ball animations are easy, one of the first games was pong’. Problem is, these games are being made by people who don’t understand the sport. That’s bad.

    • Chris Jones

      the control system in GST2 was the best i used…. i love tennis, played since the game boy. GST2 used both sticks, one for movement and one to hit the ball with addition shots added by pressing shoulder buttons, perfect…. yes the physics weren’t great, but the control system was the best….

    • Tunde Alele

      How can you compare these games to the standard of Top Spin? If you are speaking about a simulation of tennis, nothing compares. Whatever studio picks up the project would refine the engine, add all the new Top 30-40 players and some legends, and design a deep career and online mode. It can be done.

  • Brad

    I also think that the best tennis game is Smash Court Tennis Pro Tournament 2. I played it when I was younger and still love it today. I wish they could take ideas from this game and use it to create new one. I also think that having your player start younger, even when you just start playing at about 6 years old would add a great element to the game and make it more interesting.

  • Onotu Aliyu

    It’s been more than 4-5 years we’ve not seen a tennis game on latest consoles via ps4/xbox1 consoles. What makes me very upset is the fact that games like WWE is already making waves on these consoles,despite the fact that tennis is far more popular than wrestling. And I feel that time is running out. We need tennis that is revolutionary, and we are anxious to see exciting tennis of players like Federer,Nadal and Djokovic. Thank you.

  • Marvin Bischof

    for me it’s very important, that i have a myplayer mode there i can choose clothes between original brands like nike, lacoste, adidas etc. if there are only possibilties like sega polos i spit on the screen…

  • Miguel Alonso Granja

    They should make a real tennis simulator for PS4. I got tired of Virtua Tennis and Top Spin. They should make one “Tennis Elbow” (with possibility of EyeHawk, code violations, arguing with umpire) and make a longer list for players, not just the first 10. Furthermore, DLCs for Online Tournaments or Legendary Players with their exact attributes. (ATP Real Events, not Open Dublin or Crusade Final) lol

  • Chris Jones

    Great artical…. Grand slam tennis 2 control system was the best for me. the physics were a little of, but using one stick to move and another to hit the ball for me was the best. then using the shoulder buttons to change shot types was perfect…. any tennis game has to offer a similar control system, updated physics and progression tree. although, i loved online play more that career. i got up in the mid 20’s in ranking on grand slam tennis 2 for 360…. think im still in the top 100, not played for 2 years….. CHRISJONES1974 is my xbox name… i think…. ps4 man now…..

  • Hudders91

    Top Spin 4 is my most missed last gen game since I sold my 360. I really want them to do Top Spin 5 or even just port Top Spin 4 as is and stick it out for £20. Would buy it yesterday.

  • dzgonzalez

    Dear lord, I would go apeshit for a tennis game on ps4, especially one from 2K, Top Spin 4 still holds up on ps3 after all these years, can’t imagine what a mycareer mode like NBA2k would look like in a new Top Spin, awesomeness beyond comprehension.

  • Anthony Montana

    It’s making me consider buying a PS3 again. Just so I can play Top Spin and Fight Night. No tennis games. No boxing games. Shocking stuff.

  • Ryan Jackson

    For me it was the original top spin of rank doubles. Nothing like creating your own character DNA and becoming part of that player and joining a game with a friend. Don’t know why they haven’t made another tennis game with rank doubles. Fun factor was high for me in rank doubles

  • stbutt

    Tried all tennis games. Top spin 4 was the most addictive tennis game or for a matter of fact, the most addictive sport game i have ever had the pleasure of playing. How it did not break records is beyond me. 2k need to get there finger out and make a sequel using the same principles.

  • panigale

    WHEN? Tell me, when tennis game coming to PS4?

  • Matt Williams

    everything you’ve pointed out would make a tennis simulation game on ps4/xone addictive and great to play , i would lean towards making a grand slam tennis because EA do career mode and graphics better than anyone as grand slam tennis 2 on ps3 was a good game but the hardest difficulty was to easy and their wasn’t enough real pro players to keep me hooked and the career was still too arcade-y. can’t wait to see what get’s released tbh.

  • NickATennisFinatic

    An awesome article. The main problem is game play to easy and no variation. There needs to be an in depth analysis as to what players abilities are and what they are actually good at and what they are rather average at for example Murray and djockovic would be very simular on a game when I actual fact Murray is not on the same level and there games are totally different. I also think that the game play needs to display a better understanding of speed. If a forehand is wolloped at 110mph that needs to be noticed and not just another easy returnable shot that goes for serves to. I could go on all day. I think if we use top spin game play and made major improvements with the game scope of smash court tennis pro tournament 2 it would be closer to real life as we can get at the moment. Also needs at least 20 pro women and 20 pro men players at least!!! Come on game developers LET’S GET THIS DONE.

  • http://home.brandthunder.com/mlbyankees/ Mr. Sassy

    Seriously, when the f*ck is there going to be a tennis game for the PS4?

  • Hayden

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone. Nice to see this article still has traction 6 months after publication. It’s great to know I’m not in the majority here and there is still a place in the industry for a game like this. Hopefully it happens soon!

  • http://edomacalister.wordpress.com/ forever_rachel

    I would like a tennis game that is a better tennis game, while still being playable by videogame players and without starting to draw closer to a flight simulator (see certain “tennis simulators” that are around, and are called “tennis games” by their cult).

    PR elements and RPG elements are best to be kept out. A Top Spin 5 with enhanced physics and AI would be great, although I have to tell you that the core of any sports game is online multiplayer, not career mode.

  • Tunde Alele

    Thank you for expressing the desire the majority of tennis enthusiasts have to once again experience a top level tennis game. There is no reason why companies like 2K Sports or EA Sports cannot manage the development of a new Top Spin, Grand Slam Tennis, or even a new series. Take elements from all the most popular tennis games ever produced. 2K Sports Czech, the studio behind Top Spin 4, folded. This does not mean that another studio can’t do what it takes to make a next Gen Tennis game a reality.

    Top Spin 4 won sports game of the year in Europe in 2011. It also sold decently well here in the U.S. for a market focused on domestic American sports and Fifa. A tennis title, no matter how well designed it is will never be as marketable as those other big sports titles here in the U.S. Global sales wold be very respectable.

    There are so many possibilities on the PS4 and X Box One. The graphics would be unprecedented. Dramatically improved gameplay, physics, and character specific styles and form. Tennis has changed a lot since Top Spin 4 in 2011. New players on the ATP and WTA Tour and Hawkeye. MAKE IT A REALITY!

  • Alex Burton

    I think a game with the telecast and gameplay similar to top spin 4 combined with the graphics, stadia rights and commentary from grand slam tennis (Mcenroe please) would make the best game. I think that developers need to also realise that more often than not, if you delivered one fantastic game per console generation with all the goodies, that is all we’d need as you say top spin 4 still massively successful. Small updates with more rights to pro players as they rise up/agree deals would be all we’d need. They could even make money out of this say $10 for an update that includes 10 new players as a ballpark figure. That would make the game more viable from a developer/publisher standpoint I reckon. Guys who are not even near the top twenty would still be great to have for realism purposes, and their rights wouldn’t necessarily cost all that much. I’m talking types like Simone Bolelli and Jiri Vesely here. Guys who huge tennis fans know and respect and would be easy enough to add. The micro management idea is also excellent. It adds another dimension that has proven popular in games like Football Manager. It would not need too much but just a little gameplay that does not involve the court.

  • Kay

    WHEN!? I have an Xbox One collecting dust because there are no tennis games for it 🙁

  • cultavix

    Please, someone, make a Tennis game for us to play. SadManFace

  • Senor M.

    To have the possibility to have a realistically challenging career, the games should be designed in such a way as to allow degrees of difficulty, not only in matches but in careers.
    In fact, the foundation should be a very realistic progression that could be quickened for those who don’t want to spend a whole playing year reaching the top 3.

  • Urim Hetemi

    great article hope we’ll see a new tennis game

  • Ricardo Costa

    A tennis game with online tournemants and online rankings

  • Leonardo prado faria

    Bom demais o artigo, estamos precisando de um jogo de tênis com a mesma proporção do torneio da vida real, e tem que fazer um jogo urgente, pois acho que todo mundo quer jogar com o Roger federer estando ativa e não aposentado.. Os criadores pode pensar nisso, ele é uma lenda, e fazendo um jogo que represente ele e todos os outros, vai estimular muito os jogadores do game, então que comecem fazer o jogo, tendo todos os atp e grand slam, para diversão de todos !

  • Joe Jones

    Still none? Us in the uk want one aswell!!

  • Ian M. Cullen

    No Athletics or Olympic Games either. Which sucks. At one time owning a console there were two sport games I could rely on to have on rainy days in the summer. Tennis and Olympic Games.

    • Hayden Waugh

      Thanks a lot for the comment, Ian. Golf games aren’t what they used to be, for instance, so i don’t see why they couldn’t be given a break to make room for a tennis video game; it needs to happen. I hope 2KSports and EA Sports are paying attention!

  • http://www.splintercell.com Sam Fisher

    I’ve always dreamt of a Tennis game where you can play a proper career. More realistic hawk eye and general graphics. Where’s the commentary too?! Tennis games need a new mechanic mid game that makes you feel under pressure to win points and ultimately enjoy the challenge

  • d_henderson1810

    I would like to see a “Create-A-Tennis-Superstar”, where people can build and create either actual players, or their own creations, and upload them for others to download. Like a CAW system for tennis games.

    You could have a hundred slots. Imagine how many players you can then ask the circuit.

  • Mathew Falvai

    You know Milos wants another game