BOARD TALK
The fastest growing tennis discussion forum on the planet.


Post Reply 
An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
Author Message
El Dude Online
Moderator
*****

Posts: 3,664
Likes Given: 615
Likes Received: 2,345 in 1,261 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
As of this writing, June 2, there are 12 men left in the 2013 Roland-Garros draw; the lower half is to the Quarterfinals and the upper half 4R will play tomorrow.

Looking over those 12 players something struck me. Let's take a look at the names:

Novak Djokovic
Phillip Kohlschreiber
Mikhail Youzhny
Tommy Haas
Rafael Nadal
Kei Nishikori
Stanislas Wawrinka
Richard Gasquet
Tommy Robredo
David Ferrer
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
Roger Federer

Take a look at those names...what strikes you about the list? I'll give you a minute.

OK, here it is: they're old. OK, not really old, but for tennis they are. The youngest player is Nishikori, who is 23. Then you have Djokovic at 26, Nadal is 27 tomorrow, Gasquet 27 in a couple weeks, Wawrinka and Tsonga are 28, Kohlschreiber is 29, Youzhny is 30, Ferrer, Robredo, and Federer are all 31. Oh yeah, Tommy Haas is 35.

Putting all that together and the average eight of those 12 is 28.8 years. 5 of 12 are 30 or over and only two are younger than 27. Let's assume that Nishikori loses to Nadal tomorrow; the last eight standing will all be age 26 or older, and by June's end only Djokovic will be younger than 27.

This has been an ongoing inquiry of mine and I don't have any firm conclusions at this point, but thought it was worth sharing. What do you think - are tennis players peaking later? Is this just a cycle? What do you think?
02-Jun-2013 02:59 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Front242 Offline
Dyslexia For Cure Found
*********

Posts: 15,763
Likes Given: 2,925
Likes Received: 3,609 in 2,602 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
I just think the young guys are poor by comparison and experience beats youth and experience comes with age. Just like MILFs, as they say, the older the fiddle the sweeter the tune. The older tennis players have years of experience and wiley tricks up their sleeves. All court tennis being one and years of having to deal with pressure situations such as facing break points all give an advantage over younger players. they know more what to do when the going gets tough than a new player fresh out of the starting blocks.
02-Jun-2013 03:42 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Denisovich Offline
Grand Slam Champion
*******

Posts: 3,826
Likes Given: 1,325
Likes Received: 877 in 627 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
Incredible that Djokovic is the second youngest. In a way, there is more time ahead of him than behind him.
02-Jun-2013 04:24 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
El Dude Online
Moderator
*****

Posts: 3,664
Likes Given: 615
Likes Received: 2,345 in 1,261 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
Maybe, Denisovich. On one hand you could say that if Roger is playing this well at 31, why not Novak? That would mean five more years (or more) as an elite player).

But we need to remember that most elite players take a half-step down around age 27, and almost all take a huge step down (or retire) around age 31-32. There are exceptions, of course, but interestingly enough most of them aren't elite players. Andre Agassi is the only truly great player since Ken Rosewall to be at or near peak form past the age of 31-32.

I have a working hypothesis that i'd like to investigate further at some point - that all-time greats peak earlier than very good players. I don't know why this is, or even if it is true, but it seems like it might be the case.
02-Jun-2013 04:40 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Front242 Offline
Dyslexia For Cure Found
*********

Posts: 15,763
Likes Given: 2,925
Likes Received: 3,609 in 2,602 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
The main reason for Fed's longevity is his style of play. He never pointlessly runs down a ball unless he's not only sure he can get it to it, but also sure he can play a winning shot from it or at least get it back into play. I'd like to see Djokovic still around at nearly 32 but tbh he's not likely to be playing the same way he does now at 32. If he's still playing I'm sure he'll have to play differently and adopt more first strike 'cos you can't be pulling splits and mad flexible antics (tearing the nads off yourself in the process) at 32. I hope to see him around as long as possible but that kind of physical game is extremely difficult at age 31/32.
02-Jun-2013 05:10 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Haelfix Offline
Seasoned Pro
****

Posts: 250
Likes Given: 4
Likes Received: 182 in 101 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
I think it's clear that it's the young generation under performing. It's very hard not to see the 20-22 year old versions of Rafa, Novak, Roger, Robredo, Nalbandian, Ferrero, Moya or Costa getting through this week and even beating there older selves.

Meanwhile the young players who should be good, eg have the talent for clay, are dropping in the first round (Dolgopolov). Only Dimitrov really has impressed so far. Actually, it's interesting to note just how bad the young guys are on dirt. The best of the bunch seem to be more natural fits on grass and fast hards. Whereas the trend on the ATP recently has been the dominance of slow hards and clay court style players.
02-Jun-2013 06:01 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
herios Offline
Multiple Slam Winner
********

Posts: 5,287
Likes Given: 316
Likes Received: 1,709 in 1,243 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
El Dude, you just beat me with thread. I intended to open it, with the analysis on the top 16, at this year's RG. If you will include the 4 eliminated today , 3 of them are 27: Anderson, Almagro and Troicki and Simon is 28, the 28.8 average changes to 28.4.
I kept reading your various analysis, comparing the current generation of greats with the previous ones and trying to determine when the new all time great might break-out, and I kept saying to myself, the comparison is not having the same basis anymore.
It might have been true a fe decades ago that players peaked at 25, but these days it is quite clear that things have changed. These might not be all time greats, but many very good players have been peaking recenthly around 28. I could give you many examples: Melzer, Kohlschreiber, Seppi, Monaco, Tipsarevic, Fish, Feli Lopez. All of them have reached their best ranking in their late 20â€s.
That is for starters. Many around this age are still work in progress.
When you choose two pools of data and try to compare them, you always have to take in consideration the parameters affecting the result. And in tennis players cases, I think quite a fe things have changed:
1. Equipment
2. Physical off court preparation
3. Financial Incentives to remain active
IMO, everything has shifted with about 2-3 years forward: when they are choosing to become pro, when they are breaking into the top 100, when they are winning their first title, when they retire.
There are quite a fe "youngsters" breaking right now into the top 100, but none are teenagers, and they are mainly between 20-23 years of age. Some of these will climb slowly, year after year, achieving ther top around 28, and they could makeit into the top 20. or 30, and 40 at one point, some of them even into the top 10.
02-Jun-2013 06:07 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Moxie629 Offline
Multiple Slam Winner
********

Posts: 9,429
Likes Given: 3,414
Likes Received: 2,277 in 1,599 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
I don't know if you folks saw this article from the NYTimes that I posted on Dude's earlier thread about the Young Guns, but I'll re-post here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/sports...ennis&_r=0

Forgive me if you did see it, and don't find it interesting, but it addresses some of the issues, and not only in a purely anecdotal way. One point is that, with the increased prize money in the lower rounds, there are more players who can afford physios and otherwise attention to their training that used to be only available to the more elite players. So the "mid-carders" are not just more savvy, and professional, they're also in better shape. It's boys playing fit and committed men, and with the financial incentive there, I don't see that the trend will change.

That said, I do think another phenom will show up. It may just take more to be one, and there isn't one, right now.
02-Jun-2013 06:50 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
herios Offline
Multiple Slam Winner
********

Posts: 5,287
Likes Given: 316
Likes Received: 1,709 in 1,243 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(02-Jun-2013 06:50 PM)Moxie629 Wrote:  I don't know if you folks saw this article from the NYTimes that I posted on Dude's earlier thread about the Young Guns, but I'll re-post here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/31/sports...ennis&_r=0

Forgive me if you did see it, and don't find it interesting, but it addresses some of the issues, and not only in a purely anecdotal way. One point is that, with the increased prize money in the lower rounds, there are more players who can afford physios and otherwise attention to their training that used to be only available to the more elite players. So the "mid-carders" are not just more savvy, and professional, they're also in better shape. It's boys playing fit and committed men, and with the financial incentive there, I don't see that the trend will change.

That said, I do think another phenom will show up. It may just take more to be one, and there isn't one, right now.

Thanks, Excellent article moxie, right into my alley, just underlining my thoughts.
I will "digest it", after my dinner and pinpoint t a few more things on this subject.
02-Jun-2013 07:21 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
El Dude Online
Moderator
*****

Posts: 3,664
Likes Given: 615
Likes Received: 2,345 in 1,261 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
Interesting article. I'm not sure, though, that it isn't a cyclical thing. Notice the ATP numbers just compared over the last decade; the average age in the 70s, for instance, was much higher - at least in the top 10. This is not to say that I disagree with the basic premise of the article, or what herios is saying - I basically agree - but that we also need to look at at least two further factors: one, generational cycles, and two, different levels of players.

In terms of generational cycles, as we know just looking back over the last 20-25 years, there are periods in which there are a lot of great players playing at or near their peak level, and periods in which few elite players are at that level. The late 80s to early 90s was a bit of an unsung Golden Era, in my opinion. People always talk about the late 70s-early 80s as the Golden Age--with Connors, Borg, McEnroe, and Lendl--but a decade later you had Lendl, Becker, Wilander, Edberg, and then Courier, Sampras, and Agassi all playing at or near peak levels. In mid-to-late 90s the field dwindled and tennis went through a bit of a "dark age"--at least in terms of top talent--until the emergence of "Fedal" in 2004-05, and then "Djokoray" in 2007-08.

The point being, talent comes in cycles, and in order to make meaningful statements about age trends we have to look beyond a relatively short period such as a decade.

In terms of the latter, I think we should look at at least three levels: all-time greats (multi-Slam winners), near-elite players (Slam challengers, top ten players), and top 100 players. Regardless of what is happening right now, as I've said before historically almost all all-time greats peaked around age 24-25 and gradually declined after that so that they become more like top 10 players in their early 30s. I'm not sure this has changed; the only current all-time great that we can really look at (that is old enough) is Federer, who certainly supports the idea of a peak around 24-25, a half-step back around 27, and a plateau until a further decline sometime in the 30s. We'll know more about current trends in the next year or two as Rafa, Novak, and Andy all reach that "half-step back" phase. Rafa is entering it now and COULD be showing signs, but it is hard to tell. I think we'll know more by the end of the season.

But this doesn't necessarily oppose the idea that MOST players are peaking a bit later. As I suggest before, it is a very light hypothesis of mine that great players reach their absolute peak in their mid-20s, while second tier players more frequently peak a bit later - or at least don't decline from their peak established in their mid-20s in the same way that true elite players do. This might seem counter-intuitive, but think about it: the difference between the all-time greats (say, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic) vs. near-elites (say, Tsonga, Ferrer, and Berdych) is a combination of greater consistency and an ability to tap into a "supra-level" of talent, but the baseline talent level isn't that different. What might happen is that once these elite players reach their late 20s their ability to tap into that supra-level diminishes and becomes less frequent, so they start falling back towards "mortal" levels like those of the near-elites, whereas the near-elites never reach those supra-levels, beyond a stray tournament or two, so are able to maintain their best.

In a way you could say that elite players reach a high peak in their mid-20s and then come back to a plateau in their late 20s, sometimes into their early 30s, whereas near-elite players reach a plateau but never a higher peak and just maintain that level throughout their late 20s. This could be similar to the difference between someone who is brilliant and a genius; a genius is also brilliant--that's their "baseline talent level"--but they are more frequently able to tap into an even higher level of brilliance, aka genius, whereas the "merely brilliant" can also tap into genius, just not nearly as frequently.

If we look at a near-elite player like Tomas Berdych we see the promise of an elite level in 2005 when he was 20 years old and won Paris Masters, his only ATP 1000 or higher title. But instead of continuing upward, he plateau-ed for a few years, and then went up a level in 2010 at the age of 24-25. Just about every elite player, however, keeps rising in their early 20s.

Other near-elite players like Tsonga and Ferrer broke into the pro tour a bit later. Ferrer didn't reach the top 20 until 2005, the year he turned 23; for Tsonga it was 2008, also the year he turned 23. Ferrer has a few years outside the top 10, but both have been essentially been top 10 players since age 23, with Ferrer having his strongest run in the last year or two at age 30-31. Tsonga has pretty much played at the same level since 2008.

My tentative conclusion, or at least theory based upon the initial hypothesis, is that there's a crucial developmental range in the early 20s when it is determined whether a very talented player will become elite or not. If you haven't shown elite status by age 22-23, chances are you'll never get there; this doesn't mean that players can't improve after 22-23, but that they'll almost certainly never be elite unless they show that level in their early 20s.

A bit rambling, but I hope that makes sense! I might put it all together with further research in my much-neglected Tennis Frontier blog!
03-Jun-2013 08:08 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Asmodeus Offline
Pro
***

Posts: 87
Likes Given: 4
Likes Received: 16 in 12 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
Did you know with Nadal's win and with the asumption that Gasquest wins the average age of the last 8 jumps to 29.5.

Sorry, thar's with Gasquest at 27.
(This post was last modified: 03-Jun-2013 11:21 AM by Asmodeus.)
03-Jun-2013 11:20 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
El Dude Online
Moderator
*****

Posts: 3,664
Likes Given: 615
Likes Received: 2,345 in 1,261 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
Here's the eight quarterfinalists with their current ages, starting with oldest and going to youngest:

35 Tommy Haas
31 Roger Federer
31 David Ferrer
31 Tommy Robredo
28 Stanislas Wawrinka
28 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
27 Rafael Nadal
26 Novak Djokovic

Average: 29.6
03-Jun-2013 09:18 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Moxie629 Offline
Multiple Slam Winner
********

Posts: 9,429
Likes Given: 3,414
Likes Received: 2,277 in 1,599 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(03-Jun-2013 09:18 PM)El Dude Wrote:  Here's the eight quarterfinalists with their current ages, starting with oldest and going to youngest:

35 Tommy Haas
31 Roger Federer
31 David Ferrer
31 Tommy Robredo
28 Stanislas Wawrinka
28 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
27 Rafael Nadal
26 Novak Djokovic

Average: 29.6

Obviously, Haas is skewing the curve. Smile Of everyone, no one would have voted for Robredo to be in that group, even 2 weeks ago. Notably, however, none of these guys are strangers to clay success. And all of the Tall Trees are out. So, except for age, and comeback, there is nothing counter-intuitive about the list.
03-Jun-2013 09:35 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
lindseywagners Offline
Pro
***

Posts: 130
Likes Given: 6
Likes Received: 15 in 10 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(02-Jun-2013 03:42 PM)Front242 Wrote:  I just think the young guys are poor by comparison and experience beats youth and experience comes with age.

Experience doesn't necessarily beat youth. If the youth had better games they'd beat the guys with more experience.
03-Jun-2013 09:44 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
ricardo Offline
Banned
*

Posts: 633
Likes Given: 3
Likes Received: 72 in 50 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(03-Jun-2013 09:35 PM)Moxie629 Wrote:  
(03-Jun-2013 09:18 PM)El Dude Wrote:  Here's the eight quarterfinalists with their current ages, starting with oldest and going to youngest:

35 Tommy Haas
31 Roger Federer
31 David Ferrer
31 Tommy Robredo
28 Stanislas Wawrinka
28 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
27 Rafael Nadal
26 Novak Djokovic

Average: 29.6

Obviously, Haas is skewing the curve. Smile Of everyone, no one would have voted for Robredo to be in that group, even 2 weeks ago. Notably, however, none of these guys are strangers to clay success. And all of the Tall Trees are out. So, except for age, and comeback, there is nothing counter-intuitive about the list.

Actually he is not. Take him out and you still have average of almost 29. If we take out the oldest and youngest (which is how they do in stats) then the average is 29.3, so dude's point about old age is still obvious.
03-Jun-2013 10:19 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Moxie629 Offline
Multiple Slam Winner
********

Posts: 9,429
Likes Given: 3,414
Likes Received: 2,277 in 1,599 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(03-Jun-2013 10:19 PM)ricardo Wrote:  
(03-Jun-2013 09:35 PM)Moxie629 Wrote:  
(03-Jun-2013 09:18 PM)El Dude Wrote:  Here's the eight quarterfinalists with their current ages, starting with oldest and going to youngest:

35 Tommy Haas
31 Roger Federer
31 David Ferrer
31 Tommy Robredo
28 Stanislas Wawrinka
28 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
27 Rafael Nadal
26 Novak Djokovic

Average: 29.6

Obviously, Haas is skewing the curve. Smile Of everyone, no one would have voted for Robredo to be in that group, even 2 weeks ago. Notably, however, none of these guys are strangers to clay success. And all of the Tall Trees are out. So, except for age, and comeback, there is nothing counter-intuitive about the list.

Actually he is not. Take him out and you still have average of almost 29. If we take out the oldest and youngest (which is how they do in stats) then the average is 29.3, so dude's point about old age is still obvious.

I was joking, a bit, because I understand your point. And, even if you shave off a couple of years from Haas and Robredo for being out-of-commission, it's still a high age-average. I think the other points are more interesting, however.
03-Jun-2013 10:29 PM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Front242 Offline
Dyslexia For Cure Found
*********

Posts: 15,763
Likes Given: 2,925
Likes Received: 3,609 in 2,602 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(03-Jun-2013 09:44 PM)lindseywagners Wrote:  
(02-Jun-2013 03:42 PM)Front242 Wrote:  I just think the young guys are poor by comparison and experience beats youth and experience comes with age.

Experience doesn't necessarily beat youth. If the youth had better games they'd beat the guys with more experience.

Of course but we're talking reality here and not what ifs and they currently don't.
04-Jun-2013 12:08 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
the AntiPusher Offline
Multiple Slam Winner
********

Posts: 5,161
Likes Given: 919
Likes Received: 1,283 in 963 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(04-Jun-2013 12:08 AM)Front242 Wrote:  
(03-Jun-2013 09:44 PM)lindseywagners Wrote:  
(02-Jun-2013 03:42 PM)Front242 Wrote:  I just think the young guys are poor by comparison and experience beats youth and experience comes with age.

Experience doesn't necessarily beat youth. If the youth had better games they'd beat the guys with more experience.

Of course but we're talking reality here and not what ifs and they currently don't.

Its the era that we are currently in with the technology, physical conditioning, strength training and nutrition ( I have some doubts about this but I will refrain from touching that subject ). I have been saying it for years, but there isnt any super teenagers on the horizon, Rafa was the last one.

Who knows, maybe when its all said in done, Federer, Nadal and Djoker may all be in the top ten tennis players of all time(Rafa and Fed are already in the top 5 , IMO.)
(This post was last modified: 04-Jun-2013 12:26 AM by the AntiPusher.)
04-Jun-2013 12:25 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
tented Offline
Potential GOAT
*********

Posts: 11,618
Likes Given: 4,705
Likes Received: 3,392 in 2,108 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
(04-Jun-2013 12:25 AM)the AntiPusher Wrote:  Its the era that we are currently in with the technology, physical conditioning, strength training and nutrition


All of which the young guys have access to, so it can't be that either, unless you have something more specific in mind.

Quote: I have been saying it for years, but there isnt any super teenagers on the horizon, Rafa was the last one.

Like Borg, Rafa is a once-a-generation prodigy, so it could be decades before there's another super teenager.

Quote: Who knows, maybe when its all said in done, Federer, Nadal and Djoker may all be in the top ten tennis players of all time(Rafa and Fed are already in the top 5 , IMO.)

IMO, Fed is the GOAT, and Rafa is in the top 5. I don't think Djokovic is in the Top 10 yet, but that could change over the next few years. Winning RG alone would bump him up the list.
04-Jun-2013 02:01 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
johnsteinbeck Offline
Major Winner
******

Posts: 1,010
Likes Given: 338
Likes Received: 307 in 177 posts
Joined: Apr 2013
RE: An interesting note about the 12 men left standing (at Roland-Garros)
it's true that the Rafa and Borg are once-a-generation (or less) things, but i think AP might have meant a lower level of "super teenager" as well - the teenage slam winner. think of the late eighties, early nineties - Becker, Chang, Wilander, Sampras. Agassi had the goods to do it, won the Masters Cup equivalent at age 20, Hewitt came close as well, being #1 and winning the USO at barely 20. even Roddick started early-ish.
04-Jun-2013 02:22 AM
Find all posts by this user Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply 




User(s) browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)