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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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First off, the peak age for tennis is pretty homogenous with other sports. 25-27 is peak age for most sports.

To address the recent success of the oldies argument. I equate it to one thing, their pure tennis ability.

Sure the 30+ers are in great shape, but what really leads to their success is many are all court, attacking players, who end points quickly. Even the "pushers", Robredo/Ferrer have a great attacking mindset.

Anyways let's name a few players who have done fairly well in their 30's.

Tommy Haas
Feliciano Lopez
Roger Federer
Tommy Robredo
Ivo Karlovic

Tommy Haas and Federer are both all-court players. Both have looked to attack the ball whenever possible, including going to the net whenever possible. On top of that they love to run around players and confuse them with slices and wrong footing. In general, they have to move a lot less, because they dictate play with variety.

Karlovic is a no brainer. His success in 30's is based off of his ability to ONLY attack the ball. As long as his shoulder stays in tact than he should continue his good form. Once again attacking tennis has created longevity.

Feliciano Lopez's success is once again from his attacking tennis. Sure he doesn't have the penetrating ground strokes of other players, but he has innate talent at the net and will go in whenever possible. Less mileage on the body. Same could be said for GGL.

Even the likes of Robredo and Ferrer are fairly attack oriented. Yes they have incredible fitness, but if you actually watch them, you will realize that they both look for the angles and also finishing shots off with their IO forehands. Both have smart tennis minds as well. Ferrer is not afraid to throw in a drop shot or glide into the net. Same goes for Robredo.

Also it's just good to understand that these 30 year old+ players have just good tennis strokes, on top of their tennis knowledge and strategy.

The issue is that many of the younger players lack the variety and tennis smarts of the older veterans. Their games are not dynamic and are fairly straight forward, many relying more on defense and baseline play to win points. Also many of the young guns just cannot handle variety and don't really understand it themselves. Dimitrov is the closest to a younger player with variety, but has instead decided to play more defensively. Even when he does play "variety points", he often makes mistakes or sillier errors. I believe this stems from his lack of attacking tennis and general tennis strategy.

The "young guns" will only overtake the "old guns" when they learn some tennis smarts and strategy.
 

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This is pretty obvious. What is the difference between Federer of 2005 and Federer of 2015.

The anwser is speed and stamina. A player only has to lose 5 to 10% of what they once had. And they will start losing alot more. This is whats happened to Federer and now we see it with Nadal.

So they end up getting beat by journeymen they would have once blasted off the court.

There is no player that can stave off fathertime.beyond their 30th birthday. Yes occasionally you get an Agassi or Connors. But they still cant dominate like they wouldve in their primes.
 

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Discussion Starter #63
It is scarcely believable Nadal is only just 29. So many others are killing it in other sports at his age.
 

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I mentioned it before but tennis is one of the few sports where you collect playtime in a row. Meaning you play matches day by day in a week for a tournament, or several if they are clumped together and that is physically demanding, especially some matches are gruelling and you have less than 24 hours to recover and play the next one. In other sports like basketball/football, you play a match maybe once or twice a week. Thus I find it surprising there are not so many injuries or physical problems among the elite as there could be. But as Loopchi said, some styles of play are less taxing than others, and Federer is a great example of that, trying to finish pts quickly, as with big servers like Karlovic.

Having to play several matches in a row day after day is quite a tough ask for any athlete to start with, so it's incredible what these guys do on a consistent basis. Grandslam events at least give a day's rest and recovery even though it is BO5 format.
 

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At 28 years, 7 months before Wilander broke through. Presently, it is Novak at 27 years, 4 months.
Novak is about 3 weeks from matching Lendl's age. He can't lose number one, so Novak is now the oldest youngest number 1 since rankings began. If we look at Slasher's numbers, this doesn't change, even for Stan Smith - Jimmy Connors, and the only time we had an older number 1 was in the age of Laver at the dawn of the open era. And even then, we are already equal to 1967 in March, only a little more than a year before the open era began.

Pre-open era, 1964 Rosewall was 30 when Laver took over. Laver was 31 when Newcombe took over. Gonzalez 31 when Rosewall took over. Kramer 30 when Gonzalez took over. Tilden was 32 when Lacoste took over.

Generally the changing of the guard pre-open era was always 30, 31 with 32 with Tilden being the oldest that the changing of the guard has occurred.

The most recent closest changing of the guard was Laver to Newcombe when Laver was 31 in 1970. So it's been 46 years since we've seen a similar situation.
 

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< Nadal is only just 29.
29 years old.
why not mr Nadal, seeing mr Federer now?

mr Nadal, show us your love to tennis and resilience.
wishing you good health throughout 2016. you will make it. :D
 

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Lance Armstrong was probably doped-up! Yeah, I'm American... but I can't stand the dude.
...
YOU LIE !

He just works harder than everybody else.
He is a SPARTAN !
He changed his grip.
He went gluten-free.
Innocent until proven guilty.
Better nutrition.
Evolution.
The whole rest of the tour has fallen off.
Better training.
His uncle is an athlete, so it is just good genetics.
Better coaching.

OOOH, I am so angry at you, I am going to give you multiple badreps.
 

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< Nadal is only just 29.
29 years old.
why not mr Nadal, seeing mr Federer now?

mr Nadal, show us your love to tennis and resilience.
wishing you good health throughout 2016. you will make it. :D
Many players in the past were declining at 29.
Michael Chang
Pete Sampras (still won a slam but it was miraculous and helped by a nice draw and a subpar Agassi in the final)
Muster started declining at 29 (really similar player to Nadal)
Jim Courier, former world number 1, became a "nothing special" player after his 25 yo birthday, and retired at 29.
Pat Rafter retired around 29 as well IIRC
Hewitt declined really quickly (not helped by injuries)
Safin
Roddick

Players peaking at 29 is not the norm.
 

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Many players in the past were declining at 29.
Michael Chang
Pete Sampras (still won a slam but it was miraculous and helped by a nice draw and a subpar Agassi in the final)
Muster started declining at 29 (really similar player to Nadal)
Jim Courier, former world number 1, became a "nothing special" player after his 25 yo birthday, and retired at 29.
Pat Rafter retired around 29 as well IIRC
Hewitt declined really quickly (not helped by injuries)
Safin
Roddick

Players peaking at 29 is not the norm.
:D
hello Manu_ser,
thanks for your solid and enlightening refutation. :worship:

when i posted it, the players in my mind are, to take a few...
mr LOPEZ Feliciano
mr FERRER David
mr FEDERER Roger

and for the players you kindly taught me do i know only by their big names, which seems to me also interesing.

is there any possibility that the tennis as an athleticism has changed from then and now? it is my wild guess. waiting for your insight on this issue, your input will be apprecaited.
 

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You are welcome. There was a solid thread posted on another forum, showing that it was more about the number of matches played.
This thread noticed a very interesting pattern, once a player reaches the 800 matches mark, he is usually bound to have more bad days, and slowly decline.
Safin for instance, played a total of circa 750 matches, and I include the matches play on the future and challenger tour.
Hewitt is a bit over 900 matches right now, and will retire in a week.
Roddick played a total of circa 870 matches (future and challengers included).

Ferrer is at 1100 matches, that is crazy.
Stepanek as old as he is, is at 900 matches.
Youzhny is around 920 matches and looks like he will retire really soon.
Federer is at circa 1350!! while Lopez is like Stepanek around 900 matches.
Nadal is at 1050 matches give or take a match.

Ferrer and especially Federer are incredible cases. Nadal is one as well as he still plays pretty well.

So who knows? My opinion. They dope, officially or not, I mean perhaps some medecine were forbidden in the 90s and are allowed now. But of course knowledge, nutrition always improve so it could be this as well. A combination of several factors.
But I strongly believe several guys in the top 10 (if not all) take PEDs. (We will probably never know and this is just a personal opinion).
 

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The man who will rewrite this decline at 29 thinking is Djokovic. Because the bad news for every Federer, Nadal and Sampras fan out ere is Djokovic is only JUST coming into his peak now. And that's no joke. It means slam after slam will fall to him in the next three years. And 17 is not even safe. Djokovic will come out of 2016 with at least 13 slams to him name. Then the panic and fear will spread on these forums.
 

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Its individual sports where u have to play every single day with intensity using back, legs, elbow, forearm, in grand slams train in off days. Muscle aches come more as u age. Once 1 part of the body ache, player don't feel 100% and hit many errors giving up the match to the fitter person.

It will be extremely weird for players to see peak after 30 in tennis, will have to question whether legit or using substances. Agassi case was unique, he took time off and when he peaked the game was slower for him to capitalize, not physically demanding yet, until Federer retire him physically.
 

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It's more physically and mentally demanding that any other sport imo. Reflexes and footwork are extremely important in tennis and they decline fast with age. The mental and physical pressure is always constant on tennis players unlike the mental and physical pressure on players in team sports. It's all on you in tennis. Not to mention the constant travelling part which is pretty tiring mentally and physically. So yeah, tennis is tough as hell. :p
 

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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.

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.
The thing you 'try to understand' is this ... I'm a 50 yo woman who looks like this. Focus on my lips and you will be happy.

capture
 

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I remember Lendl making a comment about why he retired. he said it wasnt a decline in strength or speed that caused his game to drop off as he got older but it was his reaction time. i guess he was saying that he could hit a ball as hard as before (which is not surprising as strength stays longer) and he could sprint as quickly as before (or at least not so far off it was not a critical issue) but it was his ability to respond immediately that fell away and with that goes your ability to get to the ball in position in time against bigger hitters/servers. I would love to see his return of serve stats over time bc if it was his reaction times dropping then that would be the easiest way to spot it.
 

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Team sports can't be compared to tennis. When you are on a tennis court, you are on your own, no breaks, no time limit
 
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