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Longevity is changing the way people live their life. As a consequence, activities that used to be strictly for early youth can now be done until a much older age. In tennis there are several examples of this phenomenon.

It is certainly a sport that has been around for many years. The game originated in French monasteries in the late 12th century. The name, back then, was palm game which means “palm game”. The racket, of course, was not yet in use. The ball, on the other hand, was hit with the hand. Only after four centuries, the racket became a central element and this is how it became “tennis”, which in French means “to keep” or “to receive”. The game soon reached the English court and, for example, Henry VIII built several tracks, including the one in Hampton Court Palace, which still exists.

But tennis changed a lot to become the game we know today. Although the first championships arose at the end of the 19th century, the game was completely amateur until 1926, the year in which the first professional tour took place. Players turned professionals, exhibition matches and championships began. But, even so, the prizes of the important tournaments were without money. This changed only in 1968 in the Open Era, when tournaments were unified and the professional tennis circuit was first created. During this period, the competitiveness of the players increased enormously, and tennis players began to retire while still very young, as a result of the incipient struggle between the best in the world.

However, today, we see that many continue to play professionally, despite having crossed the threshold of 35 and even 40. Today, players provide themselves with personal tools to continue playing, and at the same time, They use technology to improve performance on the court.

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Why the change?

Physical endurance and the correct mindset

There is a long list of players who continue to play professionally, despite the passage of time. Without going any further, the number one in the 2021 men’s tennis ATP is Novak Djokovic, who is 34 years old. Many continue to trust his ability to play, despite his age. In fact, it appears among the safe bets for today.

Spanish Rafael Nadal is number 4 in the world and is 35 years old. Already in position nine, is the Swiss Roger Federer, one of the oldest on the list, since he is about to turn 40.

In a recent interview with La Nacional’s Sebastian Torok, Roger Federer’s former physical trainer, Paul Dorochenko, explained how Federer managed to prolong his career. Dorochenko is a specialist in osteopathy and was an important figure in the player’s early years. In another interview he had foreseen that he could play until 40. For the former physical trainer there are two key aspects behind Federer’s longevity: his physical condition and his mindset, that is to say the mentality with which he has faced each challenge of his career.

While many tennis players have a hard time enjoying life when on tour, Federer always took advantage of this experience. Its great adaptation to a context full of pressures and demands is something to highlight. Also, according to Dorochenko, Federer got along with most tennis players in the locker room, another reason he enjoyed touring.

Technology

With the arrival of new technologies in sports, the level of precision has become relentless. This is another reason why many players in their 30s continue to play.

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In the 1870s, the only “technology” available it was a wooden racket. Over the years, rackets changed materials to improve precision and power. In the 1960s, rackets were made from metal. Instead, now, they are made of graphite, carbon fiber and titanium. This greatly improves the game on the court.

On the other hand, the data technology has been added to improve player performance. Tennis is still in the early stages of integrating this type of technology. This is because it is a sport that has specific characteristics. Players often compete on different surfaces, and the bounce of the ball is very different in each game. Also, the micro movements of the players are very difficult to monitor. Players change direction all the time during an entire match. But a new metric has been established called “redirect steps.” This new measure shows the lateral movements of the players. There are some who stay relatively still from where they hit, or take an extra step to reverse the momentum of the ball. Taking that extra step indicates that they are tired.

This information can be very valuable to coaches during a tournament. By obtaining this type of data, the team can make changes to the strength program, help condition the player to optimize their performance, as well as identify why the game is deteriorating.

In short, tennis and ways of life have changed enormously throughout history. If longevity is already a common phenomenon in the general population and technology continues to develop to optimize sports performance, we will have our favorite tennis players as protagonists for a while!



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