Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978? - MensTennisForums.com

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post #1 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-29-2012, 06:38 PM Thread Starter
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Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

This thread confirms what most of us have noticed:

It seems that as the years go by, more and more matches end with players retiring due to an injury (e.g. 12 at the USO last year).

I tried to look at the rate at which this happens at the slams.

The table below contains the number of retirements (and walk overs) at RG, USO and Wimbledon since 1978, and at AO since 1988 (corresponding to when AO's surface changed from grass to hard courts). There were very few walkovers, so most of these numbers represent retirements during the match:
Code:
Year	AO	RG	Wim	USO	Average

1978		4	2	2	3
1979		1	1	7	3
1980		2	0	3	2
1981		3	0	2	2
1982		2	0	3	2
1983		3	4	1	3
1984		1	3	1	2
1985		0	0	3	1
1986		2	1	0	1
1987		1	0	1	1
1988	3	1	1	2	2
1989	2	0	0	3	1
1990	4	2	0	4	3
1991	1	6	1	5	3
1992	3	1	3	7	4
1993	2	0	3	7	3
1994	7	6	4	4	5
1995	3	2	3	4	3
1996	6	4	1	4	4
1997	5	5	2	4	4
1998	9	5	2	6	6
1999	3	3	2	7	4
2000	3	6	4	3	4
2001	2	6	6	3	4
2002	5	5	3	10	6
2003	9	7	4	5	6
2004	7	6	1	7	5
2005	6	5	4	4	5
2006	4	9	3	2	5
2007	6	8	4	7	6
2008	4	1	10	6	5
2009	4	6	7	4	5
2010	6	5	5	8	6
2011	6	3	6	12	7
I computed the correlation between years and number of retirements at each major, and got the following r-coefficients:

AO: 0.43 (p = 0.04)
RG: 0.59 (p = 0.0003)
Wim: 0.69 (p = 0.000054)
USO: 0.57 (p = 0.0005)

*See note below for more details about the stats.

This means that as the years increase, so do the number of retirements at every major.

I'd be interested to know why you guys think this is happening. Are the athletes playing harder? Is the schedule too busy?

Or do you think it has to do with the slowing of the surfaces (e.g. look at the numbers for Wimbledon)?

I don't think it's one factor by itself. For example, if it was just the slowing of surfaces, then why do we see the trend at RG as well? The consensus seems to be that RG was sped up over the years.

My guess is that the homogenization of the surfaces does have something to do with it, but so does the accompanying homogenization of playing styles. There seem to be an abundance of grinders these days. Tennis matches have become increasingly more physical, and the lengths of rallies seem to have increased.

It would be interesting to take a sample of wimbledon matches from the early 1990s and compare their lengths with recent wimbledons to see how they compare. But the ATPs duration values from the 90s don't seem reliable.

Anyhow, I'd like to hear why people think the number of retirements are increasing at the slams.
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*Ideally I would have used an ANCOVA or a multiple regression, but I did not have the necessary software to do so.

Also, I computed for r-coefficients without correcting alpha. But even applying a bonferroni correction to alpha = 0.01 still leaves the RG, Wim, and USO correlations significant. The overall trend in the number of injuries across years is very clear.

I also compared the correlation coefficients using a z test and found no significant difference between these values.
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post #2 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-29-2012, 06:42 PM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

I would be interested in a breakdown of how many of those retirements are early round matches.
In the 70s and 80s the early rounds weren't as competitive and didn't take as much of a toll on players. Now the tournament is a grind from the first point.

The matches between players ranked 10-50 are just wars.

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post #3 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-29-2012, 09:02 PM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

Very interesting stats Raging Lamb. And it`s even more curious considering that players are much better physical prepared than 15 years ago.

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post #4 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-29-2012, 11:12 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

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Originally Posted by justafanYYC View Post
I would be interested in a breakdown of how many of those retirements are early round matches.
In the 70s and 80s the early rounds weren't as competitive and didn't take as much of a toll on players. Now the tournament is a grind from the first point.

The matches between players ranked 10-50 are just wars.
Interesting observation, I hadn't look at what rounds these injuries tended to occur. I'll try to go back and check.

But maybe that's another factor. Do you think tennis has become more competitive since the 70s and 80s?

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Very interesting stats Raging Lamb. And it`s even more curious considering that players are much better physical prepared than 15 years ago.
I agree. I really think the change in surfaces and styles has something to do with this. I can't think of any other explanations.
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post #5 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 12:29 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

Finally a truly interesting matter to have a discussion on.
Yep, I do think it has a LOT to do with 1) modern racket technology, adjustment to 2) homogenization of the courts, slowing down HC as much as speeding up clay, which 3) forces players to continuously play a long-lasting grinding baseline defensive game, as the obsolete S/V style is kind of "Suicide Solution" nowadays. Much tougher on the bod, as anyone should be able to notice.

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post #6 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 12:32 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

Players these days are just clumsy and unco. Theres no need to concoct some far fetched conspiracy theories about moonballing and homogenization.

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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

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Originally Posted by Sunset of Age View Post
Finally a truly interesting matter to have a discussion on.
Yep, I do think it has a LOT to do with 1) modern racket technology, adjustment to 2) homogenization of the courts, slowing down HC as much as speeding up clay, which 3) forces players to continuously play a long-lasting grinding baseline defensive game, as the obsolete S/V style is kind of "Suicide Solution" nowadays. Much tougher on the bod, as anyone should be able to notice.
Exactly. The ATP wants to attract more viewers, and they have. But the players are paying the price for it.
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post #8 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 01:16 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

I think there is only one reason for this. More prize money means players that are not quite healthy are going to play and get their money. To me, that is all there is to it.

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post #9 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 01:57 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

Quote:
Originally Posted by justafanYYC View Post
I would be interested in a breakdown of how many of those retirements are early round matches.
In the 70s and 80s the early rounds weren't as competitive and didn't take as much of a toll on players. Now the tournament is a grind from the first point.

The matches between players ranked 10-50 are just wars.
Interesting point. Just as a general observation, based of following the recent Grand Slams as an average tennis fan, I think a have indeed seen a good amount of retirements in early rounds. A lot of the time the retirement is not even due to an injury but rather lack of fitness from some qualifier or low ranked player. There have even been times that some of these guys have retired just to avoid an embracing score or because they could not compete at a high level. For example in 2010 AO, Gil retired to Ferrer, most likely to avoid a triple bagel. Nalbandian had a retirement like that against Berankis at last years AO, although he was carrying at injury( which he continued to play with for a few of the next tournaments.) Not everyone can be like Berlocq and endure a 6-0,6-0,6-2 thrashing to Djokovic.

I respect the ones that stick around and just let the match play out even if they are not going to compete. At this years AO R1: Greg Jones looked absolutely gassed after ~1.5 hours of tennis that was not even that physical. He probably could have retired somewhere in the fifth, but didn't add to the stats for this year. Some will tough out a match but in todays game even a few of the top players are quick to retire even if they could have let the opponent serve out the match. I'm not sure how many of those "preventative retirements" are genuine and which are there to protect one's ego. I also don't know about the history of tennis well and whether they had characters like this in other eras.

Nevertheless, I bet today's athletes do have more difficult playing conditions and styles and that does contribute to retirements, even if they are these "preventative retirements" or from a player not being in shape. The old timers did have longer schedules though and I wonder how much more difficult that made it.

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post #10 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 02:34 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

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Originally Posted by RagingLamb View Post
Interesting observation, I hadn't look at what rounds these injuries tended to occur. I'll try to go back and check.

But maybe that's another factor. Do you think tennis has become more competitive since the 70s and 80s?



I agree. I really think the change in surfaces and styles has something to do with this. I can't think of any other explanations.
I think so. As an example look at Borg's road to his 3 GS finals (French, Wimbledon, US Open) in 1980. Did he play anyone until quarters? semis? Guys in the top 8 were guys like Solomon, Mayer and Fleming. There weren't any Tsongas or Berdychs, Del Potro etccc back then.

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post #11 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 03:01 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

Great work RagingLamb and you pretty much nailed it in your analysis mate.

Evolution of the physical game combined with surface homogenization leads to longer matches which in turn results in injury.

I mean you could write about 30,000 words on the topic but that is it in it's simplest explanation.

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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

Stop over analyzing shit guys. I mean you have baffoons like Hass stepping on balls in the warm up and retiring which says it all. The modern day player is just a bumbling oaf and an accident waiting to happen.

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post #13 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 05:45 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

I wonder how many of those retirements are down to a lack of fear about retiring.
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post #14 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 10:22 AM
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

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I think there is only one reason for this. More prize money means players that are not quite healthy are going to play and get their money. To me, that is all there is to it.
I think that's one factor, and separating early rounds from the others would help to analyze that.

Remember Marcos Daniel walking on court against Nadal and then saying that he was injured but he has a family to feed ?

Generally speaking, I think that one factor of the increasing number of retirements and withdrawals in tennis has to do with the players being more careful at their body because more professional and being helped by a medical team : then when they feel during the match that they have a problem and they will make it worse by playing longer on this, they will stop.

Two or three years ago, I read an interview from a doctor in Roland-Garros who said that he saw less big injuries than in the past because players were now more careful at their body and stopped earlier : players in the past kept on until they got a big injury.

I think it would be interesting to compare the number of players having long-term injuries now and in the past : I'm not sure there are more now than in the 80s from my memories.

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post #15 of 17 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 01:43 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Why has the number of retirements increased at every slam since 1978?

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I think there is only one reason for this. More prize money means players that are not quite healthy are going to play and get their money. To me, that is all there is to it.
I agree, if the money is good enough, then it's probably worth it for some to take the risk. So you don't think that the tennis players of today are more injury prone due to the way the game has changed, just that they're more motivated to show up and cash in?


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I think that's one factor, and separating early rounds from the others would help to analyze that.

Remember Marcos Daniel walking on court against Nadal and then saying that he was injured but he has a family to feed ?

Generally speaking, I think that one factor of the increasing number of retirements and withdrawals in tennis has to do with the players being more careful at their body because more professional and being helped by a medical team : then when they feel during the match that they have a problem and they will make it worse by playing longer on this, they will stop.

Two or three years ago, I read an interview from a doctor in Roland-Garros who said that he saw less big injuries than in the past because players were now more careful at their body and stopped earlier : players in the past kept on until they got a big injury.

I think it would be interesting to compare the number of players having long-term injuries now and in the past : I'm not sure there are more now than in the 80s from my memories.
That's an interesting way to look at it. So the higher number of retirements corresponds to a cautionary step to prevent serious injuries.

But does this mean that there are now more minor injuries that can become more serious later, or that the athletes are simply more cautious?

The latter would mean that the changes in surfaces, styles, etc. have not necessarily made the athletes of today more injury prone.
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