In life, like in sport, as often as not one abuses the sentence: “Give youth a chance”. One bets on the freshness of the new generations, hoping in futuristic and innovative ideas. We don’t reckon on the “old guys”, the ones who have at disposition an impressive experience luggage, and who still have a lot to give and show.
The glaring example is the just concluded tennis season. The ATP cellar in 2012 provided 13 triumphs to over thirty players showing that with the passing of years, like the wine, tennis players improve. Nieminen (31), Jurgen Melzer (31), David Ferrer (30), Tommy Haas (34), Radek Stepanek (34).
Some are legends of our tennis, others worthy exponents of this sport. All, with the due proportions, have written their name in the roll of honor in the tournaments of this season. It’s a fresh memory also the extraordinary Master of Paris Bercy played by Michael Llodra (32).
The French, able to hypnotize his adversaries with serve and volley and back spin back hand, stopped just at the semi-final in front of Federer. Now let’s talk right about the Spaniard. Arrived into the tennis that counts (top 100) at the age of 22, it took him 4 seasons to land into top ten at the tenth place, gaining though the name of “ clayer”, that for many it’s disparaging, not for the undersigned.
From that moment the tennis player from Java it’s a constant at the top of tennis. Always in the first 20, with picks between the fab four, conquered for the first time the 25th February 2008, Ferrer started his changing, even winning a tournament on grass ( s-Hertogenbosh).
One shout almost to the scandal, but David, who makes of the training and his constance his belief, had started a metamorphosis very important for his career. The results of this transformation one sees with the passing of time.
Aware to have to mutate his play at all costs to be competitive on all surfaces, Ferrer sacrifices his self. The work always brings him to fall in the ranking until the 23rd position of the 20th of July 2009. After it, it’s the story that we all know.
David Ferrer from 2010 gets back in the top ten, and becomes a hard client to beat for everyone. Until arriving at the fantastic 2012 of the Iberian. 7 titles, victories on every kind of surface. Auckland ( hard court outdoor), Buenos Aires, Acapulco and Bastaad (clay), s- Hertogenbosh ( grass), Valencia and Paris Bercy (indoor).
Ferrer it’s the classic example of the tennis player matured at the threshold and over his 30s. And surely he still have a lot to say. About Roger Federer the adjectives are now wasted. At the age of 31 found the strengths to go back to the top of the ranking and place new records.
302 weeks as ATP number 1 and 6 other titles in the season. The Swiss, arrived at 76 pearls in career, arrived at 17 victories in the Slam conquering the seventh Wimbledon demonstrating to be always present. In some occasions like the ATP 500 tournament of Rotterdam, the tennis player from Basel showed an enviable athletic condition other than a mad will to keep on battle on courts of all the world.
Roger is not afraid of the coming of the new generation, on the opposite, he finds higher stimulus into facing guys on the launching pad. The Swiss in the next season still will be the man to beat even of another spring on the back.
Let’s linger now on very special 34 years old: Tommy Haas. The German with the crystalline talent this year made an authentic masterpiece, bursting for the umpteenth time in the tennis Olympus, place that he would deserve in a constant way.
But Tommy’s career has been violently interrupted and more and more times. In 1996, very young, he broke both the ankles in 10 months. Two injuries at the shoulder brake him between 2002 and 2003. The next year he easily came back in the top 20.
In Wimbledon 2005, when he’s considered one of the main antagonists of Federer, during the warm up at the first round with Tipsarevic, Tommy slips on a ball ruining the ankle. Goodbye glory dreams. 2007 seems to go bye quietly.
He steps back into top ten but in November he breaks the shoulder. This time rehabilitation has a different taste, being full of doubts about the future. Actually it seems the end. In 2008 Haas goes back to walk the courts, with poor results, but the doesn’t give up at all.
The next year he calls back his old coach ( Thomas Hogstedt), and in Madrid he starts from qualifications, thing that didn’t happen since ’96.
He gives up just at the second round to Roddick grazing the challenge. A few moths after, at Roland Garros, he hoists to quarter finals where he finds Roger Federer. We all remember that match. The German ahead 2 set to 0, has a break ball in the third set to fly on 5-3.
Federer puts a winning straight to the line fore-hand on the line. From that point on begins the first Parisian triumph of the Swiss. Haas doesn’t stop, he keeps on his intent. He beats twice Djokovic on the grass, at Halle and Wimbledon, where he deservedly arrives in semi final.
But the destiny is cruel again. Two surgeries, at the hip and the elbow, tire out the season 2010.
This time seems to be really the end. Tommy disappears from the ATP rankings. He comes back with no ranking at Roland Garros 2011 and thanks to the invitations to the next tournaments the tries to taste again the tennis that counts.
The results are not satisfying. Haas overlooks at 2012 as number 205 of the world. Then it’s recent history. The magic of Tommy lights Halle. The tennis player from Hamburg beats Tomic, Granollers, Berdych, Kohlschreiber and Federer in an extraordinary final.
Not happy he conquer the finals in Hamburg and Washington, bending just to Monaco and Dolgopolov. At 34 years Haas is ATP number 21 and he prepares his self to the next season with the crazy longing of a kid, the passion and humility of a person who despite adversities never stopped to love the racket’s world.
A few days ago another 34 years old warmed the followers hearts. Radek Stepanek become the Czech hero conquering the last decisive point on the Davis Cup Final between Czech Republic and Spain. Radek has further became the oldest tennis player to give the decisive point in a Davis final 100 years after the British Parke.
In major team competition, Stepanek, together with the team mate Berdych, scored a winning line in the double winning the 4 matches played, losing only one set with the Spanish couple. Tightrope walker at the net, surely more double player than single player, Radek signed the challenge against Almagro, in a match that will remain in history.
The Czech was jumping from a side to the other one of the court with the athletic freshness of a young kid. Punchy, creative and in some moments extremely unpleasant, the Czech veteran cut a slice of glory for his self in the magic week end of Prague.
How said at the beginning, this tennis 2012 demonstrated that the passing of years doesn’t weight on some tennis players. Also Julien Benneteau and the Italian Paolo Lorenzi are the evidence that after the 30s it’s still possible to arrive at the maximum of the career.
And where did the youth end up? The experience in this sport is a fundamental factor. Further the longevity of the tennis players is growing. The medical and rehabilitative technologies allow a better recovery and a better prevention against injuries.
Planning into the minimum details the season, also an older player can give the best surprising the concurrency in determined occasions. We are at one month to the beginning of the next season. What will 2013 reserve to us? Will finally the several Tomic, Nishikori, Goffin, Paire explode, or we will still admire the triumphing of experience? Sure it’s that we are far to the victories of Ken Rosewall, able to win 2 Australian Open at 37 and 38 years.
Will some tennis players of today ever made it? The thought goes immediately to a person whose name is Roger… .