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Abstract Discussion - Success and Decline: Top 10 Tennis Payers Follow a Biphasic Course

Submitted by Michael Groessner, MD

Success and Decline: Top 10 Tennis Payers Follow a Biphasic Course

Guillaume M, Len S, Tafflet M, Quinquis L, Montalvan B, Schaal K, Nassif H, Desgorces FD, Toussaint JF


Institute for Biomedical and Epidemiological Research in Sport, Paris, France.


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.


This is a very interesting study measuring ranking and victory trends in top-ten men’s and women’s singles competitors. A comparison is drawn between players that began their career before 1985 and players that began their career after 1985 and draws some intriguing trends from the numbers, as evidenced by the results. The true value in this study will be time-tested in that the statistical analysis and the methods therein will be useful for future studies to compare future generations of tennis players to today’s generation. Furthermore, the awareness that peak performance age is getting younger and that women tend to peak even earlier than men in regards to age, will allow doctors and coaches to develop sport-specific skills at appropriate ages and respond earlier to the possible injuries that this precocious training will bring about.

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