prosa
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Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:40 pm

Last Friday's Wall Street Journal had an article about Roger Federer's quest to pass Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam wins in a career. It noted that time isn't on Federer's side, because at age 25 he's approaching the point at which tennis players begin their decline. An accompanying chart made it quite clear that tennis really is a young man's game, with 25 being practically middle-aged. And note this is men's tennis; women seem to peak even younger.

What is it about tennis that causes careers to be so short? It's a physically demanding sport, to be sure, but to use the first example that comes to mind basketball is at least as tough, yet NBA players usually last some years longer. Tennis also requires precise timing and coordination, but so does hitting a baseball, and MLB players tend to last quite a bit longer.
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JJJ
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:55 pm

Quoting PROSA (Thread starter):
What is it about tennis that causes careers to be so short? It's a physically demanding sport, to be sure, but to use the first example that comes to mind basketball is at least as tough, yet NBA players usually last some years longer. Tennis also requires precise timing and coordination, but so does hitting a baseball,

Tennis is all about keeping one's concentration and confidence in victory, you're always on your own on the pitch. Once a player starts having doubts about wether the next ball will go to the net, it probably will.

Also, tennis has become a much more physically demanding sport in the last 10 years or so. We're not talking endurance, but rather very short but very numerous bursts of speed which strain one's ability to recover.
 
deltagator
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:10 am

Quoting PROSA (Thread starter):
It's a physically demanding sport, to be sure, but to use the first example that comes to mind basketball is at least as tough, yet NBA players usually last some years longer.

Basketball also doesn't have day in/day out games as tennis does over the entire year. Back to back games in basketball aren't as common as a match every day during a tennis tournament. Yes the NBA guys pound up and down the court but they can relax a little bit on plays, jog up the court, stand around passing the ball while tennis players are constantly running around the court chasing down balls.

Quoting PROSA (Thread starter):
Tennis also requires precise timing and coordination, but so does hitting a baseball, and MLB players tend to last quite a bit longer.

There's a big difference between running to react and return a 100Mph serve coming at you on a hard court versus standing in a batter's box waiting for a pitch to come at you.

Remember, a baseball player that fails 7 times out of 10 for .300 average will most likely make Cooperstown after a long career of those stats. A tennis player with the same stats returning serves would be relegated to the D flight of players in an ALTA tennis match down here in ATL.
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oli80
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:20 am

Andre Agassi wasn't exactly young now, was he? And Navratilova?  Wink

Okay, exceptions aside, it is a case of burning out.

Women's tennis especially has seen a surge of Eastern European girls. Sharapova, Myskina, Kirlinko, Ivanovic, Vaidsova etc.. These girls play every single day for hours and hours from about 4 or 5 years old. They put their bodies through a lot at such a young age that they almost age quicker.

Clijsters is a typical example of this as well. She is still only about 24 years old but is due to retire at the end of the season. This is mainly due to injury, but I'm sure mental fatigue etc. has played a big part in this decision as well.
 
Derico
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 12:41 am

I think it's partly because in team sports, if you are over age 28 and specially in your 30s, you can 'make up' your inevitable decline from your top physical level with smarts, and the help of your teammates if you know how to used them well (smarts again). You hear it time and time again in team sports: older players get 'wiser' by not trying things they would have done when they were 24, but rather relying more on teammates or strategy.

In Tennis, you are there all alone, no one to turn to. So, unfortunately as you approach your 30s, you just don't have the same peak performance as an 18 or 20 year old that is comming in the circuit. I think that is why you see that phenomenon in tennis.

Notice how in tennis doubles, players can be effective for a much longer time.
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deltagator
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:02 am

Quoting Derico (Reply 4):
So, unfortunately as you approach your 30s, you just don't have the same peak performance as an 18 or 20 year old that is comming in the circuit. I think that is why you see that phenomenon in tennis.

But those "smarts" also leads to the ability of someone like Agassi to stay on the circuit in a competitive nature as long as he did. He had the smarts to know where to put the ball, how to put it there with just the right "Oompfh", and read the minds of the opponent to have a pretty good judge of what they were going to try to do next or as a reaction to the current shot.
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oli80
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:03 am

Quoting Derico (Reply 4):
In Tennis, you are there all alone, no one to turn to. So, unfortunately as you approach your 30s, you just don't have the same peak performance as an 18 or 20 year old that is coming in the circuit

While in general I agree with everything you have written, I would ask you this question in relation to the above statement; How come pro cyclists peak in their late 20's early 30's?
 
gkirk
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:05 am

The older you get, the slower your reactions become.
Just look at Skidmarks, he's still trying to react to something that happened 10 years ago!
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oli80
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:11 am

Quoting Gkirk (Reply 7):
The older you get, the slower your reactions become

Agassi was a great returner of server, even towards the end of his career. One of the best ever.

----

I really do think it is because players burn out. Sport everywhere is becoming more professional because of the money involved. Kids are taking it up at an earlier age and just simply push it too hard too soon (it takes its toll both physically and mentally). Thropedo is another example of this.
 
Derico
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 1:18 am

Quoting Oli80 (Reply 6):
While in general I agree with everything you have written, I would ask you this question in relation to the above statement; How come pro cyclists peak in their late 20's early 30's?

Different physical needs, perhaps. I think your leg power does not decrease nearly as much as your overall body coordination and recovery. For example, a good serve in tennis involves much more than the arms, it involves the back, the back muscles, the neck, the legs, the feet. Any missalignment or ailment in any of them will cause you to not perform as well.

Quoting DeltaGator (Reply 5):
But those "smarts" also leads to the ability of someone like Agassi to stay on the circuit in a competitive nature as long as he did. He had the smarts to know where to put the ball, how to put it there with just the right "Oompfh", and read the minds of the opponent to have a pretty good judge of what they were going to try to do next or as a reaction to the current shot.

Not every young player out there is an Agassi.
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prosa
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Tue Jan 30, 2007 6:28 am

Thanks for the responses. I understand it more now.
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Alessandro
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RE: Why Do Tennis Players Peak So Young?

Wed Jan 31, 2007 9:50 pm

Agassi was 17 when he made it big first.
I think it´s due to the wear and tear on your body in tennis, but surely there are late bloomers like Todd Martin.
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