Oct/18

30

Why Are Seniors Dominating The ATP World Tour?

By Scoop Malinowski

Doing research for my Facing Steffi Graf book, paging through an old 2002 Tennis Week magazine, I found an article about the Senior Tour, asking Who Will Succeed King Mac?

The article mentions how the senior tour back then consisted of a lot of players of an age that still compete on the current ATP World Tour.

The senior tour in 2002 included: Petr Korda, age 34; Pat Cash, 36; Jimmy Arias, 37; Aaron Krickstein, 34; Mats Wilander, 37; Andres Gomez, 42, McEnroe 43. The ATP top five – Lleyton Hewitt, Guga Kuerten, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Tommy Haas were all, with the exception of Kafelinikov at 29, well under 30 years of age.

The majority of the players on the senior tour back then were at an age that in today’s pro tennis world, they are still competing.

Feliciano Lopez, 37, just qualified for Paris and beat deMinaur yesterday 76 in the third.

Nico Mahut, 36, lost to Tiafoe in Paris.

Roger Federer is 37 and still going strong.

Novak Djokovic is 31 and about to regain the ATP no.l 1 ranking from Rafa Nadal, who is 32.

Victor Estrella Burgos is 38 and still competing in Challengers though his ranking has falled to around 200.

Andreas Seppi is 34 and ranked in the top 75.

Gilles Simon is about to turn 34 and still a force in the ATP.

Jo Wilfried Tsonga is 33 and just returned to action after a few months off with a knee injury.

Ivo Karlovic is 39 and ranked right around 100.

Malek Jaziri is 34 and ranked in the top 75.

John Isner is 33 and fighting for a spot in the ATP World Tour Finals top eight.

Richard Gasquet is 32 and still a top 25 player.

David Ferrer is 36 and still ranked in the top 150.

Julien Bennetteau is 36.

Marcos Baghdatis is 33.

Marcel Granollers is 32.

Tennis used to be a young man’s game. Not anymore. The senior tour has invaded and currently maintains a stranglehold on the ATP World Tour, winning most of the major titles and blocking the #NEXTGEN armada from taking over.

Why is this happening?

Probably a combination of improved fitness systems, improved dedication to fitness and nutrition, superior luxury treatment by the tournaments, greater financial reward and prize money.

It’s an interesting evolution in pro tennis that was not expected. Maybe Federer, Nadal, Djokovic fought each other so hard, so many times, and forced the absolute best out of each that they have together lifted the level of strategic, physical, technical and mental play to a freakish level that the young players are unprepared to deal with. And this phenomenon has created a vacuum for the other older players who because of their many experiences of playing and watching Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, have an inherent advantage over the young players who lack that valuable experience.

Eventually the balance of power should shift again and the younger players will be dominant again. How that could happen is an article and discussion for another time.

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22 comments

  • Hartt · October 31, 2018 at 8:17 am

    I will miss many of the older players when they retire, not just the stars, but players like Kohlschreiber. But that said, I am very happy to see some younger players doing well – guys like Sascha, Stefanos, and Karen. Am anxiously waiting for them to win big titles or, in the case of Sascha, win more big titles.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 31, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Kohlschreiber is 35, he’s a senior too, how could I forget him? Shap has pulled out of NEXTGEN finals. Another sign of weakness?

  • Hartt · October 31, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Shapo had a crazy schedule for the fall, one tourney right after another with no breaks. I complained about it a few weeks ago on another site. So it is not a big surprise that he is exhausted. I hope he and his team learn from this, and have a more sensible schedule next season.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 31, 2018 at 1:44 pm

    Hartt, it was a year of little progress for Shap, compared to last year this year was a disappointment. More was expected. He set a high bar last summer. Hopefully Shap will make a few changes to start 2019 with a fresh new mindset, enthusiasm and ideas. Thomas Johansson, Bjorkman, Muster or Safin would be good coaches for Shap.

  • catherine · October 31, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    On another note –
    Looks like the Fed Cup will follow the Davis Cup into oblivion shortly – neither Stephens, Keys or either Williams will turn out for the US v Czech R in Prague.

    Difficult to promote a competition when the top players can’t be bothered to appear.

  • Scoop Malinowski · October 31, 2018 at 6:49 pm

    Fed Cup is not going anywhere just because of American star snobbery about it. Surely CZ R will send there big guns. America will still send Coco, Collins, Sands, Davis, McHale, etc.

  • Krzysztof · October 31, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    And don’t forget Verdasco who is 35 and great attacking player without major injuries throughout his career

  • Dan Markowitz · October 31, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Jack Sock wins a match! And against Gasquet in Paris! Pretty impressive. The guy is hot. Expect him to dominate going forwards.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 1, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Krzysztof, Yep, Verdasco is a senior player still hanging around the main tour.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 1, 2018 at 8:46 am

    Sock should dispose of Jaziri, to get back into top 100 and AO main draw. What a huge win to beat Gasquet, but Sock has always played well vs Gasquet, I saw them play a night match in DC when Sock was lower ranked about four years ago, Sock has Gasquet’s number.

  • Chazz · November 1, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    Blowing out Gasquet and Jaziri is really impressive. Makes you wonder if he’s turned the corner or just plays really well in Paris. Not sure he can beat the winner of Thiem/Coric in the QF though.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 1, 2018 at 4:21 pm

    Sock is a great player and he affirmed it last year. Beat Nishikori in IW, won paris, SF of WTF. Only a great player does these things. He had a major slump which now appears over. Lots of players have sharp declines – Agassi, Delpo, Djokovic, Young, mcEnroe, Safin, but they come back.

  • Chazz · November 2, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Khachanov beating Zverev 6-1, 6-2 is shocking. Was there an injury?

    Sock-Thiem was a great match, both were playing top 10 quality tennis. Good news for Sock, his backhand looks better than it has ever looked. He wasn’t running around it all the time and it wasn’t a liability at all. Whoever his coach is now is doing something right. Both players’ girlfriends were there. I have no idea how Sock is able to get Boulter.

  • Hartt · November 2, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Sascha had a shoulder injury which definitely affected his play, especially his serve. He also had a lot of UFEs, either hitting the ball into the net, or just long. But Karen played very well, making those powerful deep shots, but keeping the ball in the court. He also made a few nice shots at the net, an aspect of his game that is improving. I think Karen would have won today even without the Sascha injury. Full credit to Sascha for not retiring in what must have been a very discouraging match.

  • Hartt · November 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    I have to admit I was surprised the Sock vs Thiem match was so close. Sock was the better player in the first set, but Thiem managed to turn things around, and was playing better in the decider.

    Three of my favourite players, Fed, Karen and Dominic, are still in the tourney. But I am realistic enough to expect that Novak will take the title.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 2, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Chazz, Sock has been taking lessons from Stepanek πŸ™‚ Duke could give us further details about Sock’s charm skills but he’s busy on assignments I reckon. After a long long dry spell Sock is finally back despite this loss to Thiem, this was top ten tennis and the perfect way for Sock to bounce his way into 2019.

  • Hartt · November 2, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    Sock is No. 105 int he live rankings, so things could be much worse for him. At least he should make the main draw of the AO.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 2, 2018 at 7:15 pm

    He may lose WTF SF points from last year. Not sure about that.

  • Hartt · November 3, 2018 at 8:55 am

    I thought the WTF points have already come off. I read that they came off at the same time as Paris, but am not absolutely certain if that is correct.

  • Hartt · November 3, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Wang just beat Muguruza 6-2, 6-0. Wang played very well, much to the delight of the crowd. For example, she had 34 winners to 11 UFEs. Garbine was terrible, as the score indicates.

    Wang looks like a new Chinese star, which is great news for developing tennis in China.

  • Scoop Malinowski · November 3, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    Hartt, this Chinese explosion has been foretold. Paul Mcnamee now works as a coach in China for close to a decade and about five years ago he told me there is a ton of female talent in China and at some point China may begin to dominate the WTA. He said there are very talented boys too but they are not as driven or ambitious as the girls.

  • Hartt · November 4, 2018 at 6:33 am

    Given the attention the WTA has given to China they must be very relieved to see some good Chinese players on the horizon. I enjoy watching Wang, but it sounds like Barty won their match quite handily. Ash is a lot of fun to watch, so a nice win for her.

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