Success and Decline: Top 10 Tennis Players follow a Biphasic Course

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The victory percentages for tennis players who entered the top 10 women and men rankings show various evolutions related to age and time since 1968.


The study analyzed the careers of all top 10 players: 97 women (50,933 matches) and 144 men (92,450 matches). For each player, we describe a biphasic performance course. Two generations were compared: the first one (G1), including players who started their professional career before 1985, and the second one (G2), with players starting after 1985.


The average career length is 16.1 ± 3.8 yr for the top 10 men and 15.8 ± 4.4 yr for women. Compared with G1 players, G2 players begin earlier (women = 1.3 yr, men = 0.8 yr), but career length remains the same. An exponential model describes the time course of the victory percentage with a great similarity for both genders. Using this equation, the peak victory rate reaches 82.5% at 21.5 yr for number 1 (no. 1) women and 78.5% at 23.7 yr for no. 1 men, showing a greater precocity and earlier decline in women. Finally, the area under the curve shows a potential that is 22.8% (men) to 56.8% (women) larger for the no. 1 players as compared with all other numbers 2-10.


Tennis players in the top 10 show a biphasic career. Women reach their highest level earlier than men, consistent with their more precocious biological development. For the current generation, the peak performance tends toward a younger age than the first generation. We show how to precisely quantify and compare tennis performances using indicators that follow the trends of development and aging and demonstrate that precocity does not provide a larger victory potential.

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