Poll: Why is the peak age for a male tennis player so low compared to other sports?
The thing I find most interesting about Tennis is that players seem to peak at a very early age and then their fall from grace is quite rapid and torrid to watch.
There are always exceptions to every rule of course, Tommy Farce for example is 31-32 and had probably his best season in 2009, at least where the grand slams were concerned and best of 5 set tennis is the hardest. Tommy Haas also did very well against Federer on clay, playing that well on clay is hard endurance wise for a 31 yearold like Tommy Haas.
But if you look at the best male players, they generally hit their peak about 24-25 and the fall from grace in terms of their playing style is quite apparent. Federer had probably his best 2 years of tennis in 2005/2006, he only lost 3 or 4 matches each year. He has been good enough to win grand slam titles since then, including playing better at 28 for a brief period during AO 2010, than he probably played when he was 27 in 2008. But movement wise hes very much slower, in AO 2009 for the first time I saw him not chasing down many shots he would have in the past, and against a retriever like Nadal it cost him dearly in the final.
Lets compare to some other sports stars from other sports, where endurance/strength/spped and fitness plays just a big or bigger part than Tennis. No point comparing Cricket or Golf or Fat/Old mans sports like Darts or 8 ball;
Lance Armstrong was 28 when he won his first of the 5 consecutive Tour De France titles, and 33 when he retired, but he retired very much on top, and as we have seen in 2009 Tour, at 38 or 39 he is, albeit not as good as he was, his peak could probably have extended into his mid 30's at least.
Haille Gebreselassie was in his mid 20's when he won his first Olympic Gold 10 000 metres, but at 35 years old he set the Marathon World Record of 2:03. Granted he is past his best at 5 000 and 10 000 meters, but he still finished 7th in the Olympic Final in 2008.
Rugby League has a host of players who, although starting to show their age, are still playing very strong at 33-36 years of age. Rugby League is a sport where you have to constantly sprint back and forth 10 meters after every tackle, and those guys don't seem to have lost too much speed. Although in Tennis we only see very short acceleration over 10-20 meters and 15-30 meters horizontially, so perhaps comparison is limited.
Peak age for body building seems to be early - mid thirties.
Swimming seems to have a low peak age, if we took Phelps as an example. But then again he is not going to compete beyond 30 largely by choice..could he still dominate most of the field at 30-35 even if he didn't win absolutely every medal under the sun? Quite probable I think. Much like Federer is not winning 3 slams a year anymore, Phelps wouldn't win 6-8 gold medals, but he might win 3 or so,as much as or more than anyone else anyway.
Triathlon, being a young sport, has many guys hitting their straps who are in their early 30's at the moment and still running very strong.
Boxers hit their peak at 32-37 and have strong showings into their early 40's.
Mixed Martial Artists are similar, but once they reach about 40 they are toast as far as being the best of the best. Ken Shamrock, Bas Rutten, Kimbo Slice, numerous others prove this point.
All these sports are probably as demanding as Tennis. Yes tennis players play a lot of matches and tournaments, but the NRL season is very long, runners and cyclists run 100 miles a week and in excess of 1000 miles a week cycled, so they train day in day out for sure, there really is no break for them. I have seen some of the workouts that MMA guys do, and they are some of the fittest athletes in the world.
I am not by any means creating this topic to suggest tennis players are weak or pussy compared to other sports, quite the opposite, I am just wondering what it is about tennis that seems to make competing beyond early 30's at anything close to your best an impossible task. I mean look at Andre Agassi, yeah he was good, but he was an aging bald wreck before Bagdartis put him out of his misery at US Open 2006. Far from the kind of form Lance Armstrong showed at neally 40 in the Tour De France after 3 years sitting on the couch drinking beers.
"I did not play my best tennis, no? And..that is what enable him to win..to win this match no? "
- Rafael Nadal, ever so "humble", - press conference after shock 4 set loss to Robeen Soderling @ 2009 French Open 4th round.
Proud member of the Anti Dull Alliance