Monday, April 29, 2013

Is Old is the New Young? by Gabe Gonzalez

          When I started playing tennis 30 years ago, the pro circuit was jam-packed with teen wunderkinds.  Tracy Austin, Jimmy Arias, Andrea Jaeger, and Carling Bassett were all media darlings, each one hailed as the next big thing.  The message was, "If you don't make it big by 16, you have no chance."  But, injuries cut short many of those happy endings. 

          Today, Old is the new Young.  As I hit the courts in my early 40's, I feel like I have company on the ATP and the WTA.  Roger Federer, while not at his peak, is still the Number 2 player in the world and the reigning Wimbledon champion at the age of 31.  David Ferrer is at a peak position of Number 4 at the age of 31.  Tommy Haas, up to Number 14 in the world, is having a renaissance at the age of 35.  In the doubles arena, only two of the top 15 players are under 30.  They are surrounded by the likes of the Bryan brothers (34),  Leander Paes (39), Nenad Zimonjic (36), and Daniel Nestor (40, and a three-time defending champion in doubles at Roland Garros).  These seasoned veterans are usually the first on a captain's list when Davis Cup squads are being formed.

The WTA is no different.  Five players in the top 20 are at least 30 years old, including the Number 1 player in the world (Serena Williams, Li Na, Nadia Petrova, Roberta Vinci, Klara Zakopalova).  And, these players are not coasting.  While Williams and Petrova had success in earlier years, Na, Vinci, and Zakopalova only hit their stride as they got older.  Much like the men, the women's doubles scene is dominated by the older generation, with nine of the Top 15 at least 30 years old (including Vinci, Number 1 in doubles).  And, then there's 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, who, after a Top 5 career, returned from a 12-year retirement to ensconce herself in the Top 100 again (currently, Number 74). 

          So, when you think about your game, no matter your age, don't automatically think that your best days are behind you.  In fact, your best days may be right now, or a year or two into the future.  Tennis is a physical game, but it is also very much a mental game.  And, your experience is an advantage that you bring to every match.

-Gabe Gonzalez
Avid Tennis Fan

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