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Why is it so hard for a tennis player to play at their best post 30?

  • Tennis is the toughest sport, simple.

    Votes: 20 13.2%
  • It's because tennis is tougher on the body than the other sports.

    Votes: 45 29.6%
  • Because tennis has a lower doping rate than the other sports.

    Votes: 4 2.6%
  • Reaction time is what tennis players lose more than the other athletes

    Votes: 50 32.9%
  • Because tennis players make more money so lose motivation

    Votes: 2 1.3%
  • It's not true, tennis players last as long as any other sportsmam

    Votes: 24 15.8%
  • It remains a mystery

    Votes: 7 4.6%

  • Total voters
    152
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In addition to the physical aspect, many players are mentally burnt out by their mid-to-late 20s as well.

Tennis players generally take up the sport and enter junior level tournaments at a very early age. This requires a lot of dedication and sacrifices. For a lot of their lives they show tunnel vision, eating, sleeping and breathing tennis, and they are ball machines with no lives. Sure they have coaches and entourages, but they have no team-mates to pick up the slack or hang out with, and eventually that becomes tiring and boring.

It's no surprise that after a while many tennis players seem to hate, or at least don't like, their sport/profession compared to athletes in other sports, and lose the will to focus mentally.
 

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In addition to the physical aspect, many players are mentally burnt out by their mid-to-late 20s as well.

Tennis players generally take up the sport and enter junior level tournaments at a very early age. This requires a lot of dedication and sacrifices. For a lot of their lives they show tunnel vision, eating, sleeping and breathing tennis, and they are ball machines with no lives. Sure they have coaches and entourages, but they have no team-mates to pick up the slack or hang out with, and eventually that becomes tiring and boring.

It's no surprise that after a while many tennis players seem to hate, or at least don't like, their sport/profession compared to athletes in other sports, and lose the will to focus mentally.
This.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
Most sports people take up at 3-5 years old nowadays though.

Surely running 100 miles a week year in year out pounding the pavements in distance running is harder or as hard on the joints than tennis.

Those guys dont seem to burn out quite as quickly and running is a lot more one dimensional than tennis.
 

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Discussion Starter #44
At least in tennis players have options, they can try to end points early as they get old, or improve their serve to get more cheap points.

What can you do in cycling, running, swimming etc? Nothing. Its so one dimensional.

Mind you swimming does also have a low peak age.
 

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Ok i stopped taking you seriously after reading Kimbo Slice in regards to MMA...and being ''The best of the BEst''...shame because you had a good point tennis wise..but you obvioulsy could't stop yourself from writing more and more..it happens to all of us... :p
 

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For most tennis players there must come a point where training becomes so monotonous and really can't be bothered with it any more.

When I was younger, I thought that being a professional tennis player would be such a dream lifestyle, but now I think after a while it would become a very boring one.

In team sports at least you play 50% of your games at home and don't have to travel as much. The daily grind of travelling, training and being away from your family and friends for so much of the year must really take its toll fairly quickly.
 

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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.

You need to compare the AVERAGE age from all sports, not cherry pick some older players from other sports and compare them to the tennis average.

I'm guessing tennis is pretty typical if we discount sports that are primarily skill based like golf and billiards.

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.
You need to compare the AVERAGE age from all sports, not cherry pick some older players from other sports and compare them to the tennis average.

I'm guessing tennis is pretty typical if we discount sports that are primarily skill based like golf and billiards.
 

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The season just stops for a single month they travel too much, play one day but the other too. You can't rely on a team to pass the ball to the the other side for you.

Even with all that I still think that if tennis players could relax their minds from time to time for a few months hey could use that time to get mentally refreshed and physically rested. But they start playing constantly since childhood and never stop till retirement.

If you decide to take time for yourself your ranking drops and you don't earn money, there was always an Agassi o Mcenroe just running away for a little time or a Sampras not caring anymore or a Borg. But in recent if you decide just to leave the sport for some time you're badly penalised for it, and because of that we have Nadal lying about the state of his knees.
 

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Most cricketers tend to peak in their early 30's, some batsman in their mid 30's, even though reaction time has slowed by then.
Both tennis and cricket though have evolved so that older players can keep going with better, and individualized training regimes.
Tennis though is much more fitness and endurance based, as well as skill etc, hence winning Majors in the 30's is at a lowish level, Andre Agassi the last one to win a Slam at 32 or more, and was 33 when he last regained the Number 1 spot.
 

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It would be interesting if someone made a excel with frequent flyer miles. Hours playing, but hours training can not be determined.

As for ops questions i think after a few years most loose focus, interest and motivation. Plus they want to have family-

One all time great was Borg and he left the game too soon.
 

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It's hard to play at your peak post 30 in every individual sport like tennis.
 

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Hm... I feel people are focusing too much on the (in)famous "peak", for example if it's about Federer, many will say his peak was 2 or 3 seasons, 2004-2007, while it's more accurate to say he played on a very high level for over a decade, same goes for Nadal, and Nole is not far from that. Roddick was also in the top 10 for a decade or so, several other players were near the top for 5 or 6 years straight, how many basketball or football or whatever other players can say they were top 10 in the world for 10 years? Or even 5 years? Very few I think. :)
 

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Interresting topic, tennis players used to play older few decades ago, than tennis became more phyisical sport so age of retirement was lower - closer to 30, before it was probably close to 40, but what happened in last few years is opposite way again, young guys are struggling, because it is to physical, so guys past 30 can hang around, right now tennis is i think in similar balance to other sports - at least if i compare to ice hockey and football which i have best knowledge outside tennis i would say it´s similar if we put on paper top 50 tennis player, hockey and football players, i don´t see major difference, guys past 30 are slower and less competitive in each sport, but there are far differances, like what positio you play on, in tennis there are no positions, you are 1 guy, in football goalies can be older no problem, in ice hockey we have all time greats like Jagr, Sellane past 40 and still teaching young guys left right, they don´t have the speed, but have their skills and train hard. But honestly i don´t se major difference, howeer we can see difference in total longevity of your career, tennis players play let´s say from 18-19 to 33 for example while guys in NHL can play from 19 to 39, in football it depends a lot of other factors, but also longevity is longer, this i think is benefit of team sports that even bellow your average last decade level you can still play few years on team - as leader, respected older guy, while in tennis when your level is lower, you just start loosing, not making money, struggling on challengers - unless you were famous before and have endorsements you just retire, no sense to struggle in challengers at 33 years of age
 

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This young and upcoming Raonic generation is close to being the slowest ever. The oldest youngest slam winner was in the early open era period prior to Connors/Borg when they broke through. Stan Smith.

Stan Smith was born December 26th, 1946, and was the youngest slam winner until Connors won the Australian Open in 1974. At the time, he was 27

Marin Cilic was born September of 1988, and he is now 26. Basically the Raonic generation has all of next year to win a slam.
 

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Oldest youngest number 1 in the rankings was Ivan Lendl. At 28 years, 7 months before Wilander broke through. Presently, it is Novak at 27 years, 4 months. Earliest anyone can overtake is next years Wimbledon, so Novak has at least another 9 months baked in, making him 28 years and 1 month. Will he beat Lendl?

Next year will be a very important one for the Raonic generation. They have 4 more chances to break into a slam before being the most delayed.

Novak is the second oldest youngest number one. Sampras was 26 years and 7 months, when Rios finally broke through.

That generation with Rios was number 1 from 1998 until Kuerten in late 2001. So they had 3 and some years at number 1.

Rios also had 2 years and change before the generation behind them (Fed's), broke through.

Depending on what happens with the Raonic generation, it's looking like they won't be number 1 for very long.
 

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I think there are several reasons:

1. In "endurance sports" like cycling or long-distance running it is normal to have a later "peak". You barely see great cyclists at the age of 23 or less. But I think your reactions and your sprint abilities go downhill at your mid/late 20´s. Tennis is based on both, endurance and sprint, but your sprint are more important. But in Tennis being 5% quicker is more important than having like 10% more endurance I think.

Example: Federer can´t beat ballbashers so easily because he can´t get in the perfect position as often.
Nadal got slower and can´t outgrind and defend as good as he used to.
---> Both of them based their game on great athletics (Nadal more than Federer).

2. It´s mentally / emotionally. You need to work so hard and you´re always on your own on court. You don´t have a team to carry you on bad days. You don´t have only a few races a year you care about like a cyclists or marathon runner.
When you give 100% to achieve something and you do it then it gets even harder to back it up. You can see that in every sports. Especially in Tennis where you just don´t get a longer break to enlight the fire again.
After so many years on tour and so many matches played week for week there are many players who are just mentally not able anymore to give 100%, only 98%. Since Tennis is a sports where just a few shots here and there can decide matches and tournaments, that really makes a difference.
 

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Cycling? Triathlon? Box? Rugby League? Why would anyone compare tennis to such sports? Best comparisons would be football, basketball, handball, basketball. Even if they're team sports, they are comparable as players have to run, stop, accelerate and control a ball on top of that. And the peak age seems the same. Anyway probably on average the peak age is the same for athletics too. Contact sports may permit a longer peak age due to the fact that the growing brute force (grows with age up until some point) is more valued and can substitute the diminished agility, speed and reflexes.
 

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It's odd, as it is very difficult on the men's side for older players to be doing well.
It's funny, because from 2010 to now, the oldies on the women's side have been doing really well.
 
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