30-plus not too old in men’s draw anymore
In 2002, there were 11 men playing singles in the French Open who were age 30 or older. A decade later, there were 37 of them, making up nearly a third of the initial singles draw.Updated: Jun 01, 2012, 00:57 IST
In 2002, there were 11 men playing singles in the French Open who were age 30 or older. A decade later, there were 37 of them, making up nearly a third of the initial singles draw. That is an Open-era record, and the ‘trentenaires,’ as the French call them, are not just here to make up the numbers.
There is no doubt that the men’s game has grown more physical. But this has not led to older athletes breaking down earlier and ceding territory to the prodigies.
There is only one teenager in the men’s singles draw here this year: Bernard Tomic, the rising Australian star who will turn 20 in October. There were only two 20-year-olds in the main draw: Ryan Harrison of the United States, who lost to Gilles Simon in the first round, and the Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic, who lost in a hurry to 32-year-old French qualifier Nicolas Devilder. This year’s group has one superstar in Roger Federer, who will turn 31 in August, and other former top-ranked players like Lleyton Hewitt, 31, and Juan Carlos Ferrero, 32. But it also has plenty of journeymen like Devilder or Bjorn Phau, a 32-year-old German, or Volandri.
“The older guys really own their shots for whatever reason,” said Jay Berger, a former top-10 player now involved in player development for the United States Tennis Association. “They are more skillful, and I think also the technology of taking care of your body has improved.”
Asked if Federer, now ranked third, was any slower at 30, Pierre Paganini, his longtime fitness trainer, chuckled.
“I’m convinced that he has not lost a step,” Paganini said. “You also can’t forget that Roger has a quality of anticipation that is enormous. In tennis, you don’t only need to be fast. You need to run cleanly and use speed intelligently, and Roger is very intelligent in this department.”