The average age of the top tennis players in both men’s and women’s is higher than that of the previous generations. Both men’s and women’s top 100 feature dozens of players over the age of 30. This is further reflected in the statistics with respect to wins: during the last few years, there have not been many Grand Slam champions under the age 25. Let us have a look at the reasons behind this intriguing phenomenon.
One of the most commonly cited reasons for the rising age curve in this sport is how physically demanding tennis has become. Although young players might have the latest knowledge from their lessons, and have excellent technique, touch and feel, the truth is the maximum level in speed and strength in an athlete is not reached during the teenage years. Furthermore, because of the fact that a lot of strength and speed are needed in tennis, these factors favor older players, assuming that they have taken good care of their bodies. For example, Roger Federer gets stretched out twice a day, an hour each session; Novak Djokovic does Yoga to keep himself injury-free. This plays to another point, as the player gets older, he or she knows better what works for him or her preparing for a tournament, and that only comes through experience.
However, it can also be noted how the young guns coming through the ranks could not develop their physical attributes and see the impacts it has on their bodies. Impacts which can, for sure, be manifold. Likely, there will be certain (possibly less important, if you allow me this expression) tournaments in which the physical workload might affect the immediate or short-term performance of that week but in the long-run it is this refining of the physical attributes of a young player that will allow a player to reach his or her maximum potential later on.
A lot of times you see an older player play against an up-and-coming junior, and even if the older player is not quite in the shape he or she was ten years ago, one can argue he is still a favorite against the young gun. And boy, there is nothing like watching the battle between these generations’ on court. The senior player struggles to get back from the corners of the court, yet somehow manages to put the ball in a spot in order for it to remain squarely outside the comfort zone of the clean-hitting young lion. The latter can also hit a lot of impressive winners, but for some reason often makes more errors in the course of the match.
Needless to say, mental and psychological components are just as important as physical conditions in leveraging one’s performance on court. “Keep your eyes on the ball”, as the old saying goes, also illustrates how, as one’s mind ventures out of the court, the performance on court can easily be disturbed. Various distractions are possible; relationship issues, stress, eating and sleeping habits etc. After all, a human body is a whole; and all the pieces in this puzzle need to come together in order for us to be at our best, whether on court or off it. And with age comes not only maturity, but also the knowledge of and respect to one’s body. This can also be reflected in the practices; better self-awareness and knowledge of one’s limits also leads to less injuries. However, sure enough, there also lies a danger of becoming over confident and relying too much on one’s strengths; as our weakest links are usually those which would need the most re-enforcement.
Now, you have to admit that tennis is a game. No matter how well a player is striking the ball in practice, at the end of the day, the one who wins the match is the one who is able to hit more balls inside the lines. More often than not, that is the more experienced player. Beating the senior player is oftentimes also the ultimate task for the young gun, as it is oftentimes a match-up, where the young player will play right at the edge or even outside of his own comfort zone, providing him with valuable lessons.
A senior player knows how to use the slice and change the depth and direction of his or her shots, and often knows how to naturally move forward. When it gets tight, they are able to play within his or her self and are not looking to get on the highlight reel, but choose to hit the ball into the court. The shot selection is more often the right one, and it comes more naturally through the experience.
At the end of the day, there is only one solution to master the skill of tennis: to play more and gain more experience. The technical molding of strokes and basket drills can get a player quite far, but ultimately what matters is how the player knows chooses to use his or her shots and attributes.
This is another great reason as to why you should get out on the court and hit again.