2017: The Year of the Veterans?

AP Photo/Andy Wong

2017: The Year of the Veterans?

Has age become irrelevant in tennis? What happened to champions retiring in their mid- to late-twenties? What gets the credit for longer tennis careers: equipment, training, technique, improved court surfaces?

Considering that most of the players who reached finals of the three first majors of 2017 were 30 or over brings into question the conventional wisdom that after a certain age, tennis players are not able to compete at the higher levels of play. At the Australian Open, Men’s Singles Champion, Roger Federer, was 35 and the finalist, Rafa Nadal, 30; Women’s Singles Champion, Serena Williams was 35 and the Finalist, Venus Williams, 36.

Nadal also won the French and Federer became Wimbledon Men’s champion, while Venus Williams at 37 was the finalist on the women’s side. Martina Hingis, the Mixed Doubles Wimbledon Champion was also 36.

Could this have been a fluke? I don’t think so.

Ja Allen, in an article published in 2012 for Bleacher Report, reviewed some of the old-time greats who ‘survived the 30-something years.’ In 2017, however, they are not just surviving but dominating!

As stated by Allen, many point to the game becoming more physical and requiring a high level of emotional maturity to handle the challenges on and off the court. Teenagers and #NextGenATP stars, and their counterparts on WTA, may lack the emotional stability to deal with stardom and attention as they succeed on the court. They may also be unable to nail down the proper fitness routines and scheduling needed to endure long and grueling matches.

Players over 30 may experience a drop in speed, power and stamina, but they well compensate for these changes through experience by adapting to the opponent across the net, better shot selection and increased mental toughness.

A post in Men’s Tennis Forum by Bob Ibrahim, in June, chronicles male champions over 30 not including Roger Federer’s win at Wimbledon. What about the ladies over 30? Among others, women champions who won Grand Slam Titles after 30 include: Billie Jean King with three singles and nine Doubles Titles, Martina Navratilova with five Singles and 15 Doubles, while Serena Williams added 10 Singles and two Doubles Grand Slam titles to her impressive list of accomplishments.

Experience is trumping youth!

So, all you over-30 players, take heart: your best playing days may be in front of you. Have fun on the court!

 


 

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