There was a time when teenage stars were ten-a-penny. Not everyone was a Martina Hingis and a Wimbledon (singles) champion at 16 but there were plenty of starlets in both the men’s and women’s game. They, we were told, were the future.
Well, in the past few years, the average age for breaking through on the Tours has risen steadily to the point where in the men’s game, the average age of the top 100 at the end of August was 27 (up from 24.6 in 2002). On the women’s Tour, it was 25.1, up from 22.0 in 2002.
The increasingly physical nature of the game is almost certainly the reason, as well as the fact that the good players hang around at the top for longer because they take better care of themselves. But there is also another way of looking it; because breaking through to the top takes longer, players outside the top 100 (who struggle to make a living) are spending a lot of money, time and effort for little reward, until they finally make it, if they do.
For every Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, there are hundreds of young players who try to make it as a professional and fail. Some do well for themselves but many fall by the wayside and with little or no education, find themselves in dead-end jobs that they hate.
But things are changing. At the US Open this year there were 17 players in the singles draws (13 men and four women) who had been to college in the United States. Add in doubles and mixed doubles and you have 30 ex-college players plying their trade at a grand slam event, including the men’s doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan.....read more