There is often a good deal of conversation about average ages on tour and various milestones that ‘need’ to be achieved in a player’s career by certain ages. The following stats, from #GameChangersIBM, were, I believe, true as of Weds May 27th 2015 and they throw up some very interesting discussion points.

Let’s look at the Mens ATP Tour first:

MEN – Average age of players on ATP Tour

Top 200 – 27 yrs, 4 mth
Top 100 – 27 yrs, 8 mth
Top 50 – 28 yrs, 7 mth
Top 20 – 29 yrs (40% of top 20 players are over 30)

The numbers are broken down slightly further, looking at the comparison between the oldest and the youngest-

Top 20
Teenagers – 0
Over 30 – 8 (40%)

Top 50
Teenagers – 0
Over 30 – 17 (34%)

Top 100
Teenagers – 4 (4%)
Over 30 – 27 (27%)

Top 200
Teenagers – 8 (4%)
Over 30 – 54 (27%)

So what is the immediate reaction to this? Of course, it is an average and by its very nature there will be some higher and some lower than the averages. That said, however, it is clear that the idea of the young prodigy bursting onto the scene and into the top 20 is the exception rather than the norm; it may happen but it is rare. The fact that the average ages are 27-29 shows that it takes time to develop in tennis, to maintain a high level of consistency. Personally I also think it indicates that players are taking better care of themselves physically and being able to maintain a high level for longer.

WOMEN – Average age of players on WTA Tour

Top 200 – 25 yrs
Top 100 – 25 yrs, 6 mth
Top 50 – 26 yrs, 2 mth
Top 20 – 26 yrs, 6mth

Top 20
Teenagers – 0
Over 30 – 2 (10%)

Top 50
Teenagers – 1 (2%)
Over 30 – 7 (14%)

Top 100
Teenagers – 3 (3%)
Over 30 – 12 (12%)

Top 200
Teenagers – 17 (8.5%)
Over 30 – 26 (13%)

So here, compared to the men, we see the average ages come down slightly, though not by much. Again, the misconception is that the women’s game is littered with teenage prodigies such as a Capriati or a Hingis (showing my age?!) but evidently, the numbers do not necessarily back that up. The numbers would also indicate that the career span on the WTA tour is perhaps longer than some would believe, although it doesn’t stretch into the 30s as much the men do, with fewer over 30s in the top 200.

So some concluding thoughts:

…let’s let players take the time to develop rather than rushing them to achieve milestones. This development is all encompassing, whether technically with their game, tactical awareness and abilities, physically to withstand the demands of the tours, mentally and emotionally, to mature as adults. And here’s the thing, this development will be different for each and every player. Let’s be aware of that and respect that.