Former Grand Slam champion Gustavo Kuerten believes that sports science has helped Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal extend their careers and given them an unprecedented edge over the previous generations.
The 34-year-old Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic, 33, in the final of the French Open on Sunday to win his 13th French Open title and equal Federer’s record of 20 majors. Meanwhile, Federer, who is 39, is set to return to the tour in 2021.
“They have five or eight years of extra tennis life compared to previous generations,” Kuerten is quoted as saying in an interview.
“They are from a generation that has science at its disposal, they (Federer and Nadal) have the physical capacity to do things much better for much longer,” said Kuerten, the only Brazilian man to be ranked No 1 in the sport.
‘Guga’ as he is fondly called, was one of the best clay-court players of his generation and won the French Open thrice (1997, 2000 and 2001). He added that with the advance in sports science, players can remain competitive till the age of 40.
“If you think about a 15-year career, it’s 50 percent more than a ten-year career. They started before us and will finish later. Tennis players will play for 20 years and will still be competitive at 40.”
“The fact is that life is going to change a lot over the next 50 years, and this is a reflection of what is to come,” the 44-year-old continued.
“The human being is different, one is born to live 150 years. Sport, and tennis, are on the crest of that wave.”
Nadal, Federer and Djokovic are currently the lead players in the ‘Greatest of All Time debate’, and their physical longevity and consistency are a major part of it.
But there have been tennis players before them too who have defied time and age to script success stories. Ken Rosewall won the 1972 Australian Open at the age of 38, making him the oldest men’s singles Grand Slam champion.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Connors was 39 when he made the US Open semi-finals in 1991. The American retired in 1996, at the age of 43.