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Young Guns Watch: 2017
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Well, they've got plenty of time but yeah, Coric especially is quite disappointing - he's been stagnating for over two years now. Some of the folks over at "the other site" still think highly of him, though.

Khachanov seems to have lost momentum but it has only been a couple slow months. But it does seem that Medvedev has jumped to the top of the class of '96.
27-Feb-2017 05:09 PM
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Fiero425 Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Thanks! Storing some of this thread on my blog! Take care:

- https://fiero4251.blogspot.com/2016/10/w...4524889943 -

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27-Feb-2017 05:31 PM
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El Dude (02-28-2017)
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
The Milan tourney is a great idea by ATP. Clap. It is sure to bring some energy among young folks and might accelerate the progress of some of them.

I am glad that the ATP did not decide to host a "champion of losers" tourney like WTF. Cover

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27-Feb-2017 05:49 PM
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El Dude (02-28-2017)
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
How about Ruud, you've mentioned SF in Rio but he's won again today over fellow teen Santillan from Japan in Sao Paulo.
28-Feb-2017 04:40 PM
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
(28-Feb-2017 04:40 PM)secrettennisjunkie Wrote:  How about Ruud, you've mentioned SF in Rio but he's won again today over fellow teen Santillan from Japan in Sao Paulo.

I was very much looking forward to see if he can follow up on his run in Rio.
So far, so good.
I am very impressed by him. And despite what others said that he is just a retriever, I disagree. He has a strong serve for starters, which is very important.
28-Feb-2017 06:11 PM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
herios, as far as I know, you are basing the retriever comment on my observations in another thread. Understand that was based on watching a two-minute highlight only vs Monteiro. It was just a quick, first impression.
28-Feb-2017 07:08 PM
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Ruud has a good forehand, for sure. He is more than a retriever, in fact I got the opposite impression when I saw him play (on TV) on R1 in Rio. His results may had got a boost by the fact that, in two of his matches in Rio, he played Brazilians who got really tight during their respective matches.

He like´s bagels, by the way. I have noticed him before the Rio tournament, because he lost his last match prior to it - I guess in a Challenger, 6x0 6x0.
01-Mar-2017 08:50 AM
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
This has definitely been one of the reasons i've lost a bit of interest in the mens ATP tour of late. The lack of development within the young ranks is perhaps at an unprecedented level historically. How many lost generations have we had since the Murray/Novak generation. Other than Del Potro (who had a tragic injury that derailed his early brilliance) and one fluke Cilic run, its been absolutely quiet in the sub 28 year old groups!!!

That has never happened in tennis. It's usually the case that young players (18 year olds!!!) replace the 25 year olds. That historical trend happened all the way up to the point where Novak overcame Nadal and took the throne (albeit a bit later than most, but still within the error bars). After that point... Nothing!

There is definitely talent there, especially in some of the newer 18-20 year olds, but I don't know if the game has changed physically, or if its poor coaching in the juniors or what it is, but something is not normal when the tour is mostly filled with 30+ year olds.
03-Mar-2017 11:56 PM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Haelfix, glad to see you around. I feel your pain. I have written extensively on this topic, so will almost certainly repeat myself, but I've also done a fair amount of research so maybe what I've found is worth saying again. (Forgive me for this being so long...it is a fascinating topic and you got me excited about writing about it...I should probably turn this into a blog).

The big question seems to be: Are players peaking later, both in terms of when they start peaking and how long their prime years last, or are the older players staying in charge of the tour because of a weak generation of younger players? While it is hard to say, I think the best answer is: some of both.

For instance, it is unarguable that we are seeing three of the greatest players of all time in Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. Their dominance as a group - winning 44 of the last 55 Slams (80%) - is probably unparalleled as a small group, at least since Laver and Rosewall on the pro tour in the 60s; for the sake of comparison, Connors, Borg, and McEnroe won 26 of 44 Slams (59%) from 1974-84.

You may be familiar with my "generation theory," which is a handy way to look at different cohorts of players. I prefer to use the ranges beginning with birth years ending 4 and 8, because I think it more accurately groups peers than 5 and 0. So Roger is in the 1979-83 generation, Rafa and Novak are in the 1984-88 group; we can see that Cilic and Del Potro, the youngest Slam winners on tour. As you point out, these guys are now 28 and are the youngest players with either a Slam or Masters title - which is truly unprecedented in tennis history.

Now take a look at the ages of all year-end ATP #1s going back to 1973: 27, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 23, 24, 22, 23, 24, 25, 25, 26, 27, 24, 29, 24, 25, 22, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 24, 20, 21, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 22, 28, 24, 24, 25, 27, 27, 28, 29.

OK, sorry for putting you through that. The first thing that stands out is that they were all in their 20s. Now there have been players who were #1 in their 30s, although a rather short list: Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, and soon-to-be Andy Murray. Yes, Andy Murray will be the fifth player to 30 years old and #1. Who would have thought?

But let's look further at the numbers. Broken down by age, here is the number of times year-end #1 was accomplished by different ages:

20: 1
21: 2
22: 5
23: 5
24: 10
25: 7
26: 4
27: 5
28: 2
29: 3

Now as you can see, it expands at age 22 then spikes and peaks at age 24, with 25 having the second most, and then decline. We can also look at age 22-27 as the "plateau" of #1 players, with 36 of 44 years (82%) being within that range.

So what about generations? How do they represent?
1944-48: 1 (Nastase)
1949-53: 5 (Connors x5)
1954-58: 2 (Borg x2)
1959-63: 8 (McEnroe x4, Lendl x4)
1964-68: 3 (Wilander, Edberg x2)
1969-73: 8 (Courier, Agassi, Sampras x6)
1974-78: 1 (Kuerten)
1979-83: 8 (Hewitt x2, Roddick, Federer x5)
1984-88: 8 (Nadal x3, Djokovic x4, Murray)
1989-93: 0
1994-98: 0

A few really interesting things to look at. First of all, you can see which generations were strongest, with four having 8 years at #1 (and the 84-88 one with a great chance of making that 9, even 10). But most importantly, the 89-93 generation has not (yet?) had a year-end #1, and thus is the only generation of the ATP era to not do so. Or is it?

It is well known that the 74-78 generation is relatively weak, but also sandwiched between one of the strongest generations (69-73) and Roger's group which, if you include Roger, is also a strong generation (Weak Era Theory aside; actually, that's the main problem with WET - it looks at the generation without Roger. Take away the best player of any generation and it will look substantially weaker; you can't exclude Roger, because he is part of his generation...but I digress). Another very weak generation is the 1939-43 group, with only three Slam winners and one (Arthur Ashe) multi-Slam winner. That generation came on the heels of the most dominant generation in all of tennis history: the 1934-38 group which included Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Lew Hoad, Manuel Santana, Ashley Cooper, and several other Slam winners.

We don't have ATP rankings from before 1973, but TennisBase.com has their own ranking system, and we can look at who they have as the #1 in the early years of the Open Era, at least: Rod Laver in 1968-71, and then Stan Smith (44-48) in 1972. Before the Open Era it is all Laver, Rosewall, and Pancho Gonzales going back to 1954, so Ashe's group was never #1. That said, both the sportswriters and TennisBase gives him #1 in 1975, and TB also disagrees in a couple other years in the 70s, giving the #1 to Vilas in 1977 and Borg in '78, so Jimmy Connors was only #1 according to that site's deeper statistical reading twice rather than his ATP five times (although Jimmy does get one back later from McEnroe in 1982).

What about Slam titles? Well, if we look at all generations which won at least one Slam in the Open Era, we start with 1934-38.

1934-38: 10 in the Open Era, tons before
1939-43: 3 in the Open Era, 2 before
1944-48: 12 in the Open Era, 3 before
1949-53: 15 in the Open Era
1954-58: 16
1959-63: 17
1964-68: 23
1969-73: 33
1974-78: 9
1979-83: 24
1984-88: 34
1989-93: 0

That "zero" is rather striking, especially considering that this group is no longer young - all players are at least 23 years old, and some are turning 28 years old this year. It is also interesting to note how you have weak generations squeezed between stronger generations. But even the previous weak generations--39-43 and 74-78--found ways to win Slams. If we look only at the 74-78 group, we have Kafelnikov (2), Kuerten (3), as well as single-Slam winners Moya, Costa, Gaudio, and Johansson. But consider this: These guys played during a time when the courts were less homogenized, and there was no clear "King of Clay" - but rather a group of "lesser kings" (dukes?). Of their 9 Slams, 7 were at the French Open.

Actually, this might give the next generation some hope. Nadal hasn't won the French Open since 2014 and Novak's struggles seem to be continuing. Even if Rafa comes back and wins it this year, it may be up for grabs again in 2018. With Dominic Thiem born in 1993, he might be this generation's best chance of winning a Slam.

Don't get me wrong: I think players of this generation will win Slams, although the clock is ticking. And it will almost certainly be far less than the 74-78 group (9) and probably even less than the 1939-43 group (5). As of this writing, I think the players of the 89-93 generation with the best chance of winning a Slam are, in order: Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, and then...Pablo Carreno Busta? Who knows, maybe he'll sneak one in at Roland Garros. Jack Sock? David Goffin? It is hard to imagine. But regardless, I do think we'll end up seeing 2 or 3 Slams won by this generation, maybe 4 or 5.

All of which is a long-winded way of telling us what we already know: That the 1989-93 generation is historically weak; certainly it is the weakest since the 1939-43 group, far weaker than even the relatively weak 1974-78 group. But the 1984-88 group is also historically strong, certainly up there with the 68-73 group as the strongest of the Open Era, although neither quite compares--in terms of era dominance--to the 1934-38 group. But here's the point: A strong generation looks even stronger with a weak younger generation, and a weak younger generation looks even weaker with a strong older generation. So both are exaggerated by the extremes of the other.

As I've written elsewhere, there's reason to hope. The 1994-98 generation looks far more promising than the 89-93 group, especially once we get to players born in 1997. If we tag on Thiem's 1993, we have some talented players to look out for:

1993: Thiem
1994: Pouille
1995: Kyrgios, Edmund
1996: Coric, Khachanov, Medvedev, Chung
1997: Zverev, Fritz, Rublev, Opelka, Paul
1998: Ruud, Tiafoe, Kozlov, Lee, Mmoh, M Ymer, Tsitsipas
1999: De Minaur, Shapovalov
2000: Aliassime

There are others, but those are the guys I think bear especial watching, with a decent chance of at least becoming a top 20 type. At least a few of those guys will win Slams and be #1.

OK, done for now.
(This post was last modified: 04-Mar-2017 04:29 PM by El Dude.)
04-Mar-2017 04:22 PM
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Fiero425 Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
(04-Mar-2017 04:22 PM)El Dude Wrote:  Haelfix, glad to see you around. I feel your pain. I have written extensively on this topic, so will almost certainly repeat myself, but I've also done a fair amount of research so maybe what I've found is worth saying again. (Forgive me for this being so long...it is a fascinating topic and you got me excited about writing about it...I should probably turn this into a blog).

The big question seems to be: Are players peaking later, both in terms of when they start peaking and how long their prime years last, or are the older players staying in charge of the tour because of a weak generation of younger players? While it is hard to say, I think the best answer is: some of both.

For instance, it is unarguable that we are seeing three of the greatest players of all time in Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic. Their dominance as a group - winning 44 of the last 55 Slams (80%) - is probably unparalleled as a small group, at least since Laver and Rosewall on the pro tour in the 60s; for the sake of comparison, Connors, Borg, and McEnroe won 26 of 44 Slams (59%) from 1974-84.

You may be familiar with my "generation theory," which is a handy way to look at different cohorts of players. I prefer to use the ranges beginning with birth years ending 4 and 8, because I think it more accurately groups peers than 5 and 0. So Roger is in the 1979-83 generation, Rafa and Novak are in the 1984-88 group; we can see that Cilic and Del Potro, the youngest Slam winners on tour. As you point out, these guys are now 28 and are the youngest players with either a Slam or Masters title - which is truly unprecedented in tennis history.

Now take a look at the ages of all year-end ATP #1s going back to 1973: 27, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 23, 24, 22, 23, 24, 25, 25, 26, 27, 24, 29, 24, 25, 22, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 24, 20, 21, 21, 23, 24, 25, 26, 22, 28, 24, 24, 25, 27, 27, 28, 29.

OK, sorry for putting you through that. The first thing that stands out is that they were all in their 20s. Now there have been players who were #1 in their 30s, although a rather short list: Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, and soon-to-be Andy Murray. Yes, Andy Murray will be the fifth player to 30 years old and #1. Who would have thought?

But let's look further at the numbers. Broken down by age, here is the number of times year-end #1 was accomplished by different ages:

20: 1
21: 2
22: 5
23: 5
24: 10
25: 7
26: 4
27: 5
28: 2
29: 3

Now as you can see, it expands at age 22 then spikes and peaks at age 24, with 25 having the second most, and then decline. We can also look at age 22-27 as the "plateau" of #1 players, with 36 of 44 years (82%) being within that range.

So what about generations? How do they represent?
1944-48: 1 (Nastase)
1949-53: 5 (Connors x5)
1954-58: 2 (Borg x2)
1959-63: 8 (McEnroe x4, Lendl x4)
1964-68: 3 (Wilander, Edberg x2)
1969-73: 8 (Courier, Agassi, Sampras x6)
1974-78: 1 (Kuerten)
1979-83: 8 (Hewitt x2, Roddick, Federer x5)
1984-88: 8 (Nadal x3, Djokovic x4, Murray)
1989-93: 0
1994-98: 0

A few really interesting things to look at. First of all, you can see which generations were strongest, with four having 8 years at #1 (and the 84-88 one with a great chance of making that 9, even 10). But most importantly, the 89-93 generation has not (yet?) had a year-end #1, and thus is the only generation of the ATP era to not do so. Or is it?

It is well known that the 74-78 generation is relatively weak, but also sandwiched between one of the strongest generations (69-73) and Roger's group which, if you include Roger, is also a strong generation (Weak Era Theory aside; actually, that's the main problem with WET - it looks at the generation without Roger. Take away the best player of any generation and it will look substantially weaker; you can't exclude Roger, because he is part of his generation...but I digress). Another very weak generation is the 1939-43 group, with only three Slam winners and one (Arthur Ashe) multi-Slam winner. That generation came on the heels of the most dominant generation in all of tennis history: the 1934-38 group which included Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Roy Emerson, Lew Hoad, Manuel Santana, Ashley Cooper, and several other Slam winners.

We don't have ATP rankings from before 1973, but TennisBase.com has their own ranking system, and we can look at who they have as the #1 in the early years of the Open Era, at least: Rod Laver in 1968-71, and then Stan Smith (44-48) in 1972. Before the Open Era it is all Laver, Rosewall, and Pancho Gonzales going back to 1954, so Ashe's group was never #1. That said, both the sportswriters and TennisBase gives him #1 in 1975, and TB also disagrees in a couple other years in the 70s, giving the #1 to Vilas in 1977 and Borg in '78, so Jimmy Connors was only #1 according to that site's deeper statistical reading twice rather than his ATP five times (although Jimmy does get one back later from McEnroe in 1982).

What about Slam titles? Well, if we look at all generations which won at least one Slam in the Open Era, we start with 1934-38.

1934-38: 10 in the Open Era, tons before
1939-43: 3 in the Open Era, 2 before
1944-48: 12 in the Open Era, 3 before
1949-53: 15 in the Open Era
1954-58: 16
1959-63: 17
1964-68: 23
1969-73: 33
1974-78: 9
1979-83: 24
1984-88: 34
1989-93: 0

That "zero" is rather striking, especially considering that this group is no longer young - all players are at least 23 years old, and some are turning 28 years old this year. It is also interesting to note how you have weak generations squeezed between stronger generations. But even the previous weak generations--39-43 and 74-78--found ways to win Slams. If we look only at the 74-78 group, we have Kafelnikov (2), Kuerten (3), as well as single-Slam winners Moya, Costa, Gaudio, and Johansson. But consider this: These guys played during a time when the courts were less homogenized, and there was no clear "King of Clay" - but rather a group of "lesser kings" (dukes?). Of their 9 Slams, 7 were at the French Open.

Actually, this might give the next generation some hope. Nadal hasn't won the French Open since 2014 and Novak's struggles seem to be continuing. Even if Rafa comes back and wins it this year, it may be up for grabs again in 2018. With Dominic Thiem born in 1993, he might be this generation's best chance of winning a Slam.

Don't get me wrong: I think players of this generation will win Slams, although the clock is ticking. And it will almost certainly be far less than the 74-78 group (9) and probably even less than the 1939-43 group (5). As of this writing, I think the players of the 89-93 generation with the best chance of winning a Slam are, in order: Dominic Thiem, Grigor Dimitrov, Milos Raonic, Kei Nishikori, and then...Pablo Carreno Busta? Who knows, maybe he'll sneak one in at Roland Garros. Jack Sock? David Goffin? It is hard to imagine. But regardless, I do think we'll end up seeing 2 or 3 Slams won by this generation, maybe 4 or 5.

All of which is a long-winded way of telling us what we already know: That the 1989-93 generation is historically weak; certainly it is the weakest since the 1939-43 group, far weaker than even the relatively weak 1974-78 group. But the 1984-88 group is also historically strong, certainly up there with the 68-73 group as the strongest of the Open Era, although neither quite compares--in terms of era dominance--to the 1934-38 group. But here's the point: A strong generation looks even stronger with a weak younger generation, and a weak younger generation looks even weaker with a strong older generation. So both are exaggerated by the extremes of the other.

As I've written elsewhere, there's reason to hope. The 1994-98 generation looks far more promising than the 89-93 group, especially once we get to players born in 1997. If we tag on Thiem's 1993, we have some talented players to look out for:

1993: Thiem
1994: Pouille
1995: Kyrgios, Edmund
1996: Coric, Khachanov, Medvedev, Chung
1997: Zverev, Fritz, Rublev, Opelka, Paul
1998: Ruud, Tiafoe, Kozlov, Lee, Mmoh, M Ymer, Tsitsipas
1999: De Minaur, Shapovalov
2000: Aliassime

There are others, but those are the guys I think bear especial watching, with a decent chance of at least becoming a top 20 type. At least a few of those guys will win Slams and be #1.

OK, done for now.

I saved what I could in 1 post! A good read though long: - https://fiero4251.blogspot.com/2017/02/w...8380426261 -

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04-Mar-2017 06:35 PM
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Haelfix (03-05-2017)
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Nice write up, Dude. Ok, it counts as one pretty chart. You are still missing two.

It is interesting to plot the ages of the year end #1´s. The pattern is very interesting.

While I do believe that the age window in tennis is shifting, I also believe that this effect is being enhanced big the big 3 + 1. (That is, I agree with you). But interestingly this plot still does not show this (yet), but I guess in two years maybe we´ll see things changing.

Of course, one of the reasons we don´t see much yet is because we are witnessing a new, short term effect within the context of a larger time frame. We should be more patient to draw conclusions, but the actual fun is to make good educated guesses...
04-Mar-2017 07:08 PM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Yes, exactly, mrzz. We simply don't know yet. All we know is that the 84-88 group is very strong and the 89-93 group is very weak. We don't have conclusive data that the prime age is expanding and/or getting older.

As to that last, some might say "but Federer and Stan and Ferrer!" To address each, and why they aren't conclusive evidence--whether individually or as a whole:

*Roger: Yes, he just became the first 35 year old to win a Slam since the 70s, and yes he's still elite at a time when most great players have retired. But consider that "decline" is relative. Roger was so damn good during his peak that a late career plateau is still very high. Furthermore, there is precedent for great players still remaining very good into their 30s: Agassi and Connors, and Roger is better than either (or both put together!).

*Stan: He's an outlier, no doubt. But again, he could just be an unusual player. If Jo-Willie and Berdman start winning Slams, then maybe something fishy is afoot.

*Ferrer: He peaked in his late 20s and early 30s, but again, others have done that before. It isn't totally unusual for a second tier player to have a late career boost. Not typical, but it happens. And of course he is now clearly in decline, and has been declining for a couple years now.

I don't want to write another dissertation, but if I had to guess I would say that the age has creeped up a bit, and also extended a bit, but perhaps not as drastically as people think. Ages shift over time. We could also look at the 80s-90s as the historical anomaly, as players were winning Slams at 17, but some of those same players were done in their mid to late 20s, whereas earlier on players were maintaining peak level deep into their 30s, and before the Open Era some players were playing well into their 40s.

It is different for every player, but where for most of the Open Era the peak was 21ish to 27ish, maybe now it is 22ish to 30ish. In the past players could still maintain prime form (or a post-peak plateau) until they were 30-32ish; maybe now it is more 32-34ish.
(This post was last modified: 04-Mar-2017 07:41 PM by El Dude.)
04-Mar-2017 07:36 PM
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Haelfix Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
So the Haas/Kuerten/Rios/Kafelnikov group is an interesting one. They were actually pretty strong early in their careers, and got a lot of wins over their older colleagues (the great Sampras/Agassi generation). The problem is through a combination of attitude, injury and disinterest tailed off in their early to mid twenties, and were almost completely gone after 26 or 27.

This in many ways it led to the (wrong) belief that there was a weak era in the Federer years. That's actually incorrect, if anything it misses the mark by a couple of years too early. It was actually weak at the end of Sampras/Agassi's reign. There was a 3 year period roughly from 2001-2003 where things weren't at their best, but then Federer's very talented generation quickly came of age (eg 20) and rescued tennis from the geriatrics and the lack of Kuerten et al who should have been in their primes.

This pretty strong state lasted until about 2006, where some of Federer's talented compatriots started to fall off the map a bit, and the old generation retired (Agassi was gone), Safin/Hewitt/Nalbandian/Davydenko were injured or had mailed it in, and the younger generation were still 18 year olds and a little too young (but beginning to get good). A few years later (2008, 2010+), it was very strong again with the rise of the big 4 and the beginning of a golden age.

All of this ebb and flow is pretty normal. I'd say it was normal at least all the way through 2012. It just started to be really weird after that point, where absolutely no young player pierced through and where instead of falling off the cliff (like Federer had at ~27) the Djokovics/Murrays have continued to be as strong as they ever have been. Whats so strange is that tennis is as physical now as its ever been. The athleticism required, the speed and ability to grind. However its bizarre that 30 year olds are edging out 21 year olds in this regard. That's really not normal. Tennis players normally lose some of their wheels after 24-25, but we have guys now that look basically as fast as they've ever been.
05-Mar-2017 01:24 PM
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Yeah, things have been "really weird" since 2012, which I think if we used Chinese-style year naming, it would be called the Year of the Big Four because it was the year that they were most balanced, and the only year in which all four won Slams. It is almost as if that should have been the high point, with gradual decline from then on. But instead a continued range of varying peaks came after: Rafa's surge in 2013, with Novak right there with him. 2014 looked wobbly, with Rafa declining, Novak not quite regaining his 2011 form, but Roger returning to a high level. And then Novak had his 2015, and Andy took the reins in 2016.

But I think all of this points to the next generation being particularly weak - really no player has been able to challenge the Big Four, except for Stan - another member of the 84-88 generation. The 89-93 group is a generation that is being skipped and that may never see a year-end #1, especially if we think of Thiem (born 93) in the 94-98 group, and look at 89-92. We could consider it as a transitional generation, like the four-year span after Laver and before Ashe and then Newcombe (so, birth years 1939-42).

So the difference between the late 90s to early 00s and now is that the older generation now is both stronger, or at least with greater longevity, than the Sampras generation was, and the next generation is weaker; that is, 89-93 is weaker than 74-78. The two factors combine and the result is the 84-88 generation reigning longer than they would have, if the younger generation was stronger.

One more thing. You say that "tennis players normally lose some of their wheels after 24-25," but is this "normalcy" just based upon the Open Era? What you say seems to be true of the power era that started with Connors and Borg, but not as much before when you had Laver and Rosewall maintaining high levels into their mid or even late 30s (and Rosewall being competitive into his 40s), or Pancho Gonzales still being a dangerous player into his 40s. Going back further, plenty of "old-timers" maintained elite levels deep into their 30s and even 40s, and some even played decently in their 50s. A different game, I know, but it makes me wonder--again--if we might be rebalancing to longer term historical norms. I'm not sure exactly why this would be the case because, as you point out, greater athleticism and vigor is more required now than it has ever been.

I guess my question is: If Andre Agassi and Roger Federer could maintain an elite form into their mid-30s, why couldn't Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, or Ivan Lendl? Or even Pete? What is different now, or is it really more based upon the individual and their will and desire to succeed? In other words, maybe it has less to do with era and more to do with the individual players involved?
(This post was last modified: 05-Mar-2017 02:13 PM by El Dude.)
05-Mar-2017 02:10 PM
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Haelfix Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Definitely the power era. So historically, even in the old days, the amount of tennis a player has to play in order to reach the pros was pretty extreme. The wear and tear on the joints, even for a young player is pretty large, especially if you were playing a lot on hard courts. It was often the case that you were at your fastest point when you were 18-21, and then it was a pretty rapid drop. So you might be improving in other areas, but your movement was dropping.

One of the big differences now, is that there are medical treatments available to high level athletes that tread this ligament damage. Platelet spinning, stem cell treatments, etc. I do strongly suspect that helps add ~3 years to a players lifespan.

Its worth comparing tennis to soccer and sprinting. The best sprinters peak at 27-28, quite a bit later than what tennis players did (at least until recently). However soccer was relatively more like tennis, where you can easily see a 16-17 year old kid being the best player in the world, and then having a relatively brief reign and then losing movement abilities by the time he is 23. Of course, like tennis, soccer players ages have been trending upwards and I don't think its a coincidence.

As far as Edberg/Lendl and Pete. It sufficed to just watch them play at the end. Their legs were shot, and they looked 'old' and stiff on the court. Now while Federer has definitely lost a step and a half since he was 21, at no point in his recent AO victory would I say that he looked 'slow'. So whatever he's been doing in the gym has been slowing his movement loss and is pretty remarkable. He's basically teh same speed now as he was in 2011.
05-Mar-2017 09:40 PM
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mrzz Online
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Haelfix raised a good point, but I guess there maybe something else playing here. The change, or shift, seems to be not only at the top, but in all layers of the rankings. More and more we see "older" guys reaching their highest ranking positions (well, maybe we should check this, it could be selective memory).

You get a guy like Estrella-Burgos, for example. He hang in there, and won his first title well further the 30 years mark. Being a lower ranked player all his life, I suspect he had no access to such things as stem cell treatments (but I am just guessing and have no info about this).
05-Mar-2017 09:50 PM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
I hear what you are saying, mrzz, and have similar thoughts, but in the end I think those are outliers - especially someone like Estrella Burgos whose career path is quite unusual. Or we can look at Roger's generation and players like Karlovic, Ferrer, Lopez, plus plenty of lesser players that are still hanging out in the top 100. But the fact is that the bulk of the best players of Roger's generation are retired, and many for 5+ years. And even in the 84-88 group, some of the older players are starting to fade a bit: guys like Almagro, Simon, Isner, Gasquet, and of course Berdych. Rafa's definitely not the player he was, and Novak may be starting to slip. Stan remains a bit of an outlier, and Andy had his best year at age 28-29, although that is largely due to a power vacuum.

I've researched all of this quite a bit, but I have an idea for another study that could help illuminate the issue. Stay tuned.
06-Mar-2017 01:04 AM
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herios Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
I think the point mrzz tried to make by bringing Estrella up is not that they are doing better than ever in their mid thirties, rather that the tour is full of players who keep improving a lot later than they used to in age, across the board, tier 1, 2, 3 etc players, not just the current elite holds the status quo in place.
Estrella Burgos is a complete extreme example, because he broke in the top 100 at 33 and then win events and was able to rise to top 50 as well, so he was not just a fluke who had a good week.
I am sure if I had time now to analyze all the active players who are let's say above 30 when did they peak in their career, the median will be not in the 24-26 range, as the historical data shows it, rather closer to 28-30 or so.
The whole point is that all these veteran players are still vastly populating the tour and the youngsters are rising with difficulty.
Probably few are peaking above 30, but the majority will fall somewhere between 26-30.
Beside Burgos, Lopez, Ferrer who all peaked past 30, here is a short list from the top of my head:
Mahut, Muller, Lorenzi, Ram.
Someone very typical these days: Anderson. He kept climbing steadily until 29. The he succumbed to an injury. He will probably never will climb back where he peaked.
But the point is he peaked at almost 30.
The problem is there so few youngsters who you can write about something remarkable.
There are only 4 players under 23 on tour who have won at least a title: Kyrgios, Pouille, Khachanov and Zverev.
(This post was last modified: 06-Mar-2017 11:00 PM by herios.)
06-Mar-2017 10:54 PM
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El Dude Offline
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Well again, this is hard to say. I mean on one hand I agree with you - I see the age ranges in the top 100, with tons of players age 30+. And it may also be that players are, by and large, peaking later. But again, without thorough research this is all anecdotal. Further, this isn't in a vacuum. It is perhaps partially due to a very weak group born 1989 and later. Further, it is important to note that the majority of Roger's tier 1 and 2 peers peaked way before 30, more in the early 20s. That in itself is interesting: Why are so many of the lesser peers of Roger hanging around, while almost all of the best players of his generation are gone?

Anyhow, I started on research. Give me a day or two to pull something together.
07-Mar-2017 12:28 PM
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mrzz Online
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RE: Young Guns Watch: 2017
Herios put in detail exactly what I had in mind. Yes, it is ultimately anecdotal, but Herios list was long enough to in itself have some statistical meaning (within a group of, say 200 players), not to mention all that could emerge once detailed study is made.

But your point is ultimately true, El Dude, and yes, I agree that only in a few years we might have a definitive answer. I also agree that one particularly week generation could offset the analysis, but, on the other hand, if in two years Dimitrov, Raonic, Nishikori and maybe someone else from their group is dominating -- instead of Zverev, Kyrgios and the like -- it will be then hard to argue against the "peak shift" theory.
(This post was last modified: 07-Mar-2017 05:45 PM by mrzz.)
07-Mar-2017 01:49 PM
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