Author Topic: Age-based Expectations  (Read 382 times)

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Offline pawan89

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Age-based Expectations
« on: April 01, 2014, 01:37:49 PM »
So this was inspired from today's article on tennis.com and I just wanted to see what people feel about it: I think it's fair to say that the age range of our 'spotlight' players is pretty wide - from the young and upcoming players in their late teens to early twenties (Raonic, Dimitrov) to the second tier in the mid-twenties (Nishikori, DelPotro, Gulbis) as well a the late twenties (Stan, Tsonga, Berdych) as well a the top tier in their mid-late twenties (Djokovic, Nadal) and the grandpas of tennis (Federer, Haas). I am sure a similar story is true on the women's side.

When we say someone had a good year, or a good tournament, how much are we factoring in the age when setting expectations and passing judgement?
a) too little: you can't seriously expect a soon to be 33y/o Federer to be competing in back to back masters finals and beating the top players day in day out, can you? Nor can you expect someone like Jack Sock and Dimitrov to rise to the ranks of the elite when they are still a good 5 years away from the current' elite average.
b) too much: they're all competitors. Federer is a 17 time champ and plays some of the best tennis when he's on, and if Becker can win a grand slam at 17 and most multiple grand slammers have a few in the bag by the early twenties, there's no reason to cut any slack for guys like Dimitrov and Raonic.
c) about perfect.

I think it's interesting. Your thoughts? And here's a snippet from the article - I want to call out Federer fans (DALLAS!) here specifically because it refers to him. I think I agree with the point of view here - I think it's unfair to call everything Federer does now an "icing on the cake" just because he's done winning 12 tournaments and 90 matches a year. If Federer can win 4 titles this year (he already has Dubai), with a grand slam thrown in and a couple good tournament showings and high profile wins - that's a fantastic year and something I think Federer and his fans should EXPECT, and is part of his on-going legacy, not just an epilogue to his stellar career.

Quote
How much slack should we cut Federer for his "advanced" tennis age? Some is in order, of course; I don’t think anyone, even Federer himself, expects him to win 12 tournaments in a season, the way he did in 2006 when he was 25. And leaving aside his past achievements, what he’s doing at 32 is impressive. By that age, Borg, McEnroe, Sampras and most other male Open era greats were either out of the game or in terminal decline; Federer, as you said, just moved back into the Top 5, and he nearly beat the world No. 2, 26-year-old Novak Djokovic, two times in one month. Once upon a time we celebrated Andre Agassi for playing well into his 30s, but he won his last major title, the 2003 Australian Open, at the age Federer is now.

Yet I think we can make too many allowances for Federer’s age. One reason we celebrated Agassi was that at the time he was a rarity. Now we can look back and see that his career marked the beginning of a trend toward success at older ages in tennis. Federer said last month that he doesn’t feel ancient in part because so many of the guys he grew up with are still on tour with him. He’s not a outlier, but part of the aging of the sport in general. Tommy Haas, who turns 36 this week, is ranked No. 17. Radek Stepanek, who has clinched the last two Davis Cups for the Czech Republic, is 35. Stan Wawrinka, who turned 29 last week, just made his biggest career breakthrough. Only one player in the ATP’s Top 10, Milos Raonic, is under 25 (and he’s ranked No. 10). On the women’s side, the world’s two top-ranked women, Serena Williams and Li Na, are both 32.

(The phrase “aging of the game” is unfortunate; it makes it sound like a bad thing, a weakening in some way. I’d say it’s the opposite, that it’s a sign the tour has become at least slightly more humane, and less prone to burning its stars out, over the last two decades. Tennis players shouldn’t have to stop doing what they love at 30, and there's nothing wrong with fans getting to see them at or near their best for as long as possible.)

With Federer, I think we can balance the obvious fact that he won’t be the same player at 32 (or 33, as of early August) that he was when he was 25, without making excuses for him or acting like this part of his career is nothing more than icing on the cake. Federer himself doesn’t make those excuses, or act like he's simply taking a victory lap. He knows that he’ll have more ups and downs than he once did, but he still thinks he should win tournaments regularly and challenge for every Grand Slam. I hear a lot of fans say, after one of his losses, “Well, what do you expect? He’s 32.” But I’ve yet to hear those words out of Federer’s mouth, and I doubt he likes to hear other people say them. Considering that he's 22-4 so far this year, I doubt many of his opponents walk off the court thinking that he's not the player he once was.

For Federer, competing at 32 means competing full out; he couldn't be successful any other way. He has a little more perspective in defeat than he once did, but he's still eating the cake, not the icing, of his career. He's still playing with the same desire and expectation to win that he always has. We should expect the same from ourselves as fans.


Online Babblelot

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Re: Age-based Expectations
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2014, 02:02:26 PM »
I think about this a lot when formulating a counterargument to "Federer is past his prime." My argument goes...
(1) the game and competition is much different today than when it was in 2005 and 2006, and (2) he's arguably playing the best tennis of his life. In fact, the latter can be said of several players 28 and older.

I know it mollifies the injury when a Fedfan says, "He's not dominating because he's past his prime," but I'm not buying. Because of the competition and change in surfaces, his game has had to evolve. Today, surfaces favor terrible tennis* -- ask "Killer" [LOL at the irony] Cahill and Patrick McEnroe, the ESPN boys are the biggest cheerleaders of terrible tennis -- but that's conflating evolution (bad) with Roger's age.

As for the young guns, it's hard to set expectations high today. Our expectations have been high for years, and all that's made us is disappointed.

*terrible tennis def. stand well beyond the baseline, wait for your opponent's UE or drop from fatigue, play high % shots, i.e. don't strike first
best (i.e. worst) example: Djokovic-Murray
others: any combination of Djokovic, Murray, and Nadal

Terrific tennis: 2013 2R Wimbledon, Stakhovsky def. Federer 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 7-5, 7-6 (5)
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 06:04:20 PM by Babblelot »
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Offline Dallas

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Re: Age-based Expectations
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2014, 06:23:10 PM »
I think about this a lot when formulating a counterargument to "Federer is past his prime." My argument goes...
(1) the game and competition is much different today than when it was in 2005 and 2006, and (2) he's arguably playing the best tennis of his life. In fact, the latter can be said of several players 28 and older.

I know it mollifies the injury when a Fedfan says, "He's not dominating because he's past his prime," but I'm not buying. Because of the competition and change in surfaces, his game has had to evolve. Today, surfaces favor terrible tennis, but that's not the equivalent of saying Roger's too old.

As for the young guns, it's hard to set expectations high today. Our expectations have been high for years, and all that's made us is disappointed.

The surfaces today are too much alike.  Playing in Miami and/or Indian Wells on a hard court was just like playing on blue clay.  Everything is slow.  Maybe too slow.  Wimbledon went away from the fast grass to the really, really, really, slow grass.  I wanted them to slow it down, but not slower than clay!!!!  I think Roger's game is in respective to how his health is.  If his back is acting up, he can't run and can't move and can't play.  If he's healthy, then he's playing at a high level.  The problem is consistency.  He can play great in one match (like the Gasquet match)....then the next he can't find a first serve! Back when he was dominating, he was very consistent week after week after week....tournament after tournament after tournament.

Offline monstertruck

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Re: Age-based Expectations
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2014, 10:00:25 PM »
I think about this a lot when formulating a counterargument to "Federer is past his prime." My argument goes...
(1) the game and competition is much different today than when it was in 2005 and 2006, and (2) he's arguably playing the best tennis of his life. In fact, the latter can be said of several players 28 and older.

I know it mollifies the injury when a Fedfan says, "He's not dominating because he's past his prime," but I'm not buying. Because of the competition and change in surfaces, his game has had to evolve. Today, surfaces favor terrible tennis, but that's not the equivalent of saying Roger's too old.

As for the young guns, it's hard to set expectations high today. Our expectations have been high for years, and all that's made us is disappointed.

The surfaces today are too much alike.  Playing in Miami and/or Indian Wells on a hard court was just like playing on blue clay.  Everything is slow.  Maybe too slow.  Wimbledon went away from the fast grass to the really, really, really, slow grass.  I wanted them to slow it down, but not slower than clay!!!!  I think Roger's game is in respective to how his health is.  If his back is acting up, he can't run and can't move and can't play.  If he's healthy, then he's playing at a high level.  The problem is consistency.  He can play great in one match (like the Gasquet match)....then the next he can't find a first serve! Back when he was dominating, he was very consistent week after week after week....tournament after tournament after tournament.
Spot on young lady!
CONK da ball!!!

Offline pawan89

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Re: Age-based Expectations
« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2014, 03:26:43 PM »
I think about this a lot when formulating a counterargument to "Federer is past his prime." My argument goes...
(1) the game and competition is much different today than when it was in 2005 and 2006, and (2) he's arguably playing the best tennis of his life. In fact, the latter can be said of several players 28 and older.

I know it mollifies the injury when a Fedfan says, "He's not dominating because he's past his prime," but I'm not buying. Because of the competition and change in surfaces, his game has had to evolve. Today, surfaces favor terrible tennis, but that's not the equivalent of saying Roger's too old.

As for the young guns, it's hard to set expectations high today. Our expectations have been high for years, and all that's made us is disappointed.

The surfaces today are too much alike.  Playing in Miami and/or Indian Wells on a hard court was just like playing on blue clay.  Everything is slow.  Maybe too slow.  Wimbledon went away from the fast grass to the really, really, really, slow grass.  I wanted them to slow it down, but not slower than clay!!!!  I think Roger's game is in respective to how his health is.  If his back is acting up, he can't run and can't move and can't play.  If he's healthy, then he's playing at a high level.  The problem is consistency.  He can play great in one match (like the Gasquet match)....then the next he can't find a first serve! Back when he was dominating, he was very consistent week after week after week....tournament after tournament after tournament.

Is that characteristic AGE related? Or just a matter of mental focus/strength and overall discipline? Because the same thing about consistency can be said about younger folks like Gulbis and Dimitrov - in fact they are a LOT worse than Federer but they are young enough that people don't blame it on their "decline due to age", and they have been around long enough so you can't blame the inconsistency on lack of experience. I do agree that Federer is a lot more up and down than back in the day but we can't just chalk it all up to age, can we?

when he's moving well and  healthy, he's still one of the best movers out there, his offense is still second to none and he's as sharp and crisp around the court as ever. And unless we're talking about 5+ hour matches, I think playing a 3 set match is very much within his capacity and he CAN dominate as much as he did in the past. The reasons he's not dominating in my opinion is that his competition (who just happen to be younger, i don't believe it's age related at all) happens to be able to defend better than his older competition could, is able to exploit his weakness more than his older competition could, and break down Federer's own defense by a combination of sheer consistency of quality defense and capitalizing on Federer's natural higher-risk game. Those are things that Safin's and Roddick's and Hewitt's couldn't consistently do back in the day. And as you pointed out, I think a big part of this is how the courts have changed and more importantly how the younger folks have taken advantage of the changing surface - in part due to the fact that they have been around the slower surfaces longer - that's the only reason that most of Federer's competition today that is keeping him from dominating seems to be younger than him. Federer's older competition grew up on faster surfaces and didn't have the advantage the younger folks do, and they weren't as good as Federer to adapt to the changing conditions.

That's the only reason Federer's old in relation to today's youngsters. Apart from that, I really don't think age is a big factor (except situations such as recovery from strenuous matches and injury). So it's unfair, both to Federer and his younger competition to chalk up Federer's sub-2005-2008 standards to age.

In short, I agree with you (Dallas) and Babblelot, just wanted to stress why at least as far as Federer is concerned, Age shouldn't be given that much weight. As for the young guys, my theories will need another post and you guys are probably tired of reading my wordy posts anyway.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 03:28:26 PM by pawan89 »


Offline dmastous

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Re: Age-based Expectations
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2014, 06:34:26 AM »


The surfaces today are too much alike.  Playing in Miami and/or Indian Wells on a hard court was just like playing on blue clay.  Everything is slow.  Maybe too slow.  Wimbledon went away from the fast grass to the really, really, really, slow grass.  I wanted them to slow it down, but not slower than clay!!!!  I think Roger's game is in respective to how his health is.  If his back is acting up, he can't run and can't move and can't play.  If he's healthy, then he's playing at a high level.  The problem is consistency.  He can play great in one match (like the Gasquet match)....then the next he can't find a first serve! Back when he was dominating, he was very consistent week after week after week....tournament after tournament after tournament.

Is that characteristic AGE related? Or just a matter of mental focus/strength and overall discipline? Because the same thing about consistency can be said about younger folks like Gulbis and Dimitrov - in fact they are a LOT worse than Federer but they are young enough that people don't blame it on their "decline due to age", and they have been around long enough so you can't blame the inconsistency on lack of experience. I do agree that Federer is a lot more up and down than back in the day but we can't just chalk it all up to age, can we?


I believe it is age related. It's not that he has less talent, or less dedication. But his body just can't recover from exertion as well as it could 5 years ago. He can't be as consistently "up" and ready for each match.
The body stops producing certain chemicals at about 30, things that allow your muscles to move freely. By 50 things really start to tighten up (unless you work at keeping them somewhat loose).
That's what age does for you.
Of course Federer has the talent to play well on a given day, or in a given tournament. But his ability to do so day after day, match after match is in question because of his age. Can he win a tournament, yes. Can he win a major, yes. But as well as he can play, it's much more in question now that it was 5 or 10 years ago.

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Online Babblelot

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Re: Age-based Expectations
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2014, 05:15:23 PM »
The thing with age is that not every body is the same. We see examples in every sport. Some body's are exceptional. It a mistake to play the averages with Federer. He's an outlier. Besides, he's only 32.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2014, 05:30:42 PM by Babblelot »
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