Saturday, January 18, 2014

Australian Open 2014: Middle Weekend

via Wikipedia
Six of the 16 men in the fourth round of the Australian Open are 30 or older.  Tennis still definitely favors the young but players seem to be remaining competitive for longer than in the past.  The sport is more physically demanding than ever so what accounts for the change?  Improved fitness and nutrition?  Is experience worth more in the sport than it used to be?  Have extracurricular drugs played a role - either fewer recreational ones or more performance-enhancing ones than in the past?  Is this a trend we can expect to continue or is the current 30+ cohort an exceptional group?

One fourth round matches pits two 30+ players against one another: Florian Mayer (Germany) vs. David Ferrer (3rd seed, Spain).  Ferrer is a regular in the late stages of Majors, having made at least the quarterfinals of all four multiple times.  He is one of the most respected players on tour and is the easy choice as best active player never to have won a Slam. 

For Mayer, making it this far is a much bigger deal.  When healthy, he has been a solid top 100 player.  However, this is only the third time in his career that he has made it past the third round of a Major and the first time he's done it at a tournament other than Wimbledon.  Ferrer's a tall order for any player but Mayer may have a shot.  His head-to-head record against the scrappy Spaniard is a respectable 3-4, including a hard court win this past fall in Shanghai.


  1. Great post! I enjoyed all the information.

  2. I'm going with improved fitness and nutrition...Let at least one sport be drug free!

  3. Dick Norman retired at 42 as the oldest ranking tennis player. I'm guessing experience plays a big role along with cardio.

    1. He bore the mantle of oldest player for nearly seven years, too. Norman was primarily a doubles player. Those guys tend to last longer anyway - you don't put nearly as many miles on the tires. Doubles is a more tactical game, too, which argues for the importance of experience.

      Undoubtedly, improved conditioning has helped. But the miles on the tires will be an interesting factor for those members of the Big Four not named Roger Federer. Nadal, Djokovic and Murray have all admitted they're not likely to play as well for as long as Fed has. His game is all about controlling the court and making the other guy do the work. For the other three, speed and court coverage are essential weapons. Add in the extra wear and tear on the body and all three will be very different players when they lose a step to the rest of the field.