Above 30 tennis players growing in stature

January 12 2018

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 Forty-three per cent of the men players in this year's Australian Open will be at the age of 30 years or more, proving that experience has a major say in tennis supremacy and in all sport in general.

"The trend of 30 somethings thriving in today's tennis landscape doesn't end with Roger (Federer), Rafa (Rafael Nadal), and the Williams sisters. I've looked at each of the Australian Open draws from 1990, breaking down the players appearing in the first round into four age categories -- teenagers, 20-23, 24-29 and 30-plus -- and in both the men's and women's game, the proportion of players aged 30 and over is on the rise," said Stephanie Kovalchik, who works for the Games Insight Group of Australian Tennis.

It is no wonder that Roger Federer at 36 can produces such electrifying and immaculate tennis, comfortably taking out power tennis players and baseline warriors with a mix of court craft, deceit and anticipation.

This trend started showing up from 2011 and is set to continue according to the study published recently. Forty six players in the main draw this time are in their thirties again showing that power play and aces just do not make a great tennis player.

Most of the plus-30s too can serve above 200 kilometres per hour, but they also follow it up with canny understanding of how to stop their opponents. 

The study also found that players in the age group of 24-29 find themselves a bit lost, neither young enough to go for the kill or old enough to call up court strategy to see them through.

This actually could be a bit of a statistical exaggeration because a player's rise is gradual and steady and not a series of ups and downs. History shows that a top player has to be among the top , say among the top 25 for a period of time, to move into the top five.

"Over time, tennis has become more physically demanding - something the men experience over five sets, the women over three. To succeed at the majors, endurance and stamina have become an increasingly necessary ingredient as baseline play has come to dominate the game. That tends to favour the older more experienced player rather than a player in their teens or early twenties," the study says. 

The number of teenagers entering the main draw has also declined. This also points to the absolute tenacity and mental muscle that is needed to survive on the tour. 

This year's Australian Open has been deprived of some of the biggest names including Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori. To add to this Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are not fully fit, making it the Grand Slam of the walking wounded. But those who survive the grind have all it takes to reach the top, the study proves. 

Among women, the number of 30-plus players is 17.3 percent. That could be because women mature physically at a younger age and in any case many women players do not last long, though Venus Williams at 37 and Serena Williams at 36 are shining examples of fitness and endurance in womens sport. 

"I've been playing tennis since before my memories started. At my age, I see the finish line. And when you see the finish line, you don't slow down. You speed up," Serena Williams told Vogue magazine in its latest issue published on January 10. 

Serena Williams also revealed that she was bedridden for six weeks after the birth of her child due to blood clot in her lungs. 

Fitness, training and dieting methods have become extremely scientific making it possible for players to last till the age of 35 years and more. 

Players have complained that the tour is too hectic but they are forced to play in maximum tournaments to keep their ranking where it is. This has also resulted in injuries to top players and this years Aus open is an example.

(Binoo K. John can be contacted at binoojohn@gmail.com) 

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  • IANS