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-   -   Age distribution of all Open Era major finalists (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=453446)

falstaff78 02-02-2013 06:39 AM

Age distribution of all Open Era major finalists
 
Folks

I have plotted below the age distribution of all the finalists of Majors and Season-Finales (i.e. TMC, WTF etc) in the Open Era.

There have been 221 such finals since the 1968 French Open, (plus 2 season finales decided by round robin.) That gives us a grand total of 444 winners and runners-up. What you see in the chart below is the frequency of ages for each of these 444 appearances.

So for example, 64 of the 444 appearances were by 25 year olds. (This chart counts repeat appearances by a player; so for example Ivan Lendl appears 28 times in the list at various ages - 19 times for his Major finals and 9 times for season-finale finals.)



I’d love to hear what you guys make of the data. To me this chart is a great visual interpretation of the effect that age has on elite tennis players’ performances. It gives historical context to two questions which are frequently discussed on these boards, and which are important to me as a Federer fan.

1. The extent to which Roger Federer’s abilities have declined since 2004-07.

This question can already partially be answered by looking at his win percentages: 93-95% from 04-06, 88% in 07, 82-84% from 2008-11, and 86% in 2012).

Strictly speaking, in order to conclude from these win-pcts that Federer’s powers have waned, we would need to be able to assess the strength of the field in 04-07 compared to 08-12. It is very challenging to objecively assess the relative strength of the field in two eras. (Beyond the hypothetical and, IMHO, perfectly reasonable assertion that the strength of the field doesn’t change rapidly over short periods of time.)

What this chart does therefore, is allow us to triangulate Federer’s declining winning percentage with much broader, concrete and statistically significant evidence of the age when abilities decline. For example, the 4 peak performance years in the data are ages 22, 23, 24 & 25. For Federer this was the period from August 2003-August 2007 when he was at his destructive best. His results thereafter have stayed more or less true to the trend predicted by the data.

2. The extent of the handicap Roger faces while competing against a 25 year old

On the chart I have taken the liberty to highlight Roger’s current age (31) and also Andy and Novak’s current age (25). It’s clear to see that at 31 players have historically performed much poorer than when they were 25. So when Roger compiles a 6-6 record against Rafa, Murray and Nole in the last 12 months, the chart really puts this achievement into perspective.




Few sundry notes:

- You may have a concern that the distribution would be different for the 180 major winners, which is a more exclusive club than the 444 finalists of majors and season finales. So here is the age distribution for only for winners of the 180 Majors in the Open Era. The short answer is, nothing much changes.



- You may also have a concern that the distribution may have changed over time. In a subsequent post I will share the age-distribution of major finalists by decade. Once again, the main message doesn't change. This histogram is very consistent across time.

- Finally, you may have a concern that some players are early or late bloomers, and this data does not apply to them. There are some deviations from this trend in the data (e.g. Lendl, Agassi and Connors were on the late side while Becker and Wilander were on the early side - see chart below). However the large size of the original sample (n=444) suggests these guys are statistical outliers.




Enjoy,
Falstaff78

falstaff78 02-02-2013 06:39 AM

Here's the age distribution of the 360 major finalists in the Open Era, broken out by decade. (i) 68-79 (ii) 80-89 (iii) 90-99 (iv) 00-13

Peak performance consistently remains in the early and mid twenties. What you will notice however is that teenage major finalists are almost exclusively a 1980s phenomenon. It's only happened 11 times, 7 of which were in the 1980s.

The implication is that the lack of teenage major finalists is a reversion to default - not a trend towards uncharted territory!





falstaff78 02-02-2013 06:40 AM

And finally, here's the age distribution of finalists at the 4 majors.





Quite Please 02-02-2013 06:49 AM

Great statistics, really shows you how big of an anomaly Agassi was during his last years.

DropShotArtist 02-02-2013 07:05 AM

Yup I've pretty much said this all along. Biological age is pretty much an absolute. You can't fight it.

tudwell 02-02-2013 07:19 AM

Holy crap, who's the 37-year-old that won a major (or the year-end final)?

beernutz 02-02-2013 07:27 AM

This list covers grand slam winners but itis interesting: http://www.tennis28.com/slams/agerecords_winners.html

Phoenix1983 02-02-2013 07:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by tudwell (Post 7186408)
Holy crap, who's the 37-year-old that won a major (or the year-end final)?

Ken Rosewall (37 when winning the AO in 1972).

He was also the finalist at W and the USO aged 39, in 1974.

If you want to know more about him, ask BobbyOne in the former players section. :twisted:

tudwell 02-02-2013 07:37 AM

Ah, I should have known it was Rosewall. His last three slams were the three oldest in the Open Era!

mattennis 02-02-2013 08:34 AM

Great stuff. Thank you so much!!

zagor 02-02-2013 08:39 AM

Great thread, it is something most us fans knew of course but it's still nice to have it displayed in such format, might be an eye opener for some here (though I rather doubt it).

Cosmic_Colin 02-02-2013 08:57 AM

Interesting stats and nice analysis, thanks for taking the time to put it all together.

I guess the question is:
Is Federer an outlier because his level has continued into his 30s...

or...

has he followed the normal path of decline, but his mid-20s level was so high that he is still a slam contender.

kishnabe 02-02-2013 09:18 AM

Brilliant use of Data. Can't wait to see him reach 2-3 finals next year to offset the 32 year old data.

zagor 02-02-2013 09:20 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cosmic_Colin (Post 7186570)
Interesting stats and nice analysis, thanks for taking the time to put it all together.

I guess the question is:
Is Federer an outlier because his level has continued into his 30s...

or...

has he followed the normal path of decline, but his mid-20s level was so high that he is still a slam contender.

As far as I'm concerned it's not really a question, it's the 2nd option.

That said, I'm a Fed fan so you can call me biased.

TMF 02-02-2013 09:21 AM

If nadal wants to catch Roger, he better start playing and not wasting precious time.

tudwell 02-02-2013 09:23 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Cosmic_Colin (Post 7186570)
Interesting stats and nice analysis, thanks for taking the time to put it all together.

I guess the question is:
Is Federer an outlier because his level has continued into his 30s...

or...

has he followed the normal path of decline, but his mid-20s level was so high that he is still a slam contender.

Definitely the latter. Agassi was an outlier in that he won most of his slams aged 29 and older. Rosewall was an outlier just by his sheer longevity, winning slams consistently into his mid-late 30s! Federer has not proven to be an outlier as such (ignoring for now that his peak level of play was very much an outlier) and has declined at a pretty normal rate, it seems.

tudwell 02-02-2013 09:25 AM

Is there any chance of getting the values in the first graph expressed as percentages of total Open Era slams? I think that would make it even easier to compare the likelihood/difficult of winning a slam at various ages.

powerangle 02-02-2013 09:37 AM

Thanks for the very interesting graphical presentation!

Cosmic_Colin 02-02-2013 09:47 AM

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong here, but I was trying to work out the probability of winning a final, once it has been reached.

So there are 444 finalists, which means 222 winners, which means each of the winner bars should be half of the finalist bars.

Finalists at 24-25 = 64 + 64
Winners at 24-25 = 33 + 31
(exactly half)

Finalists at 31-32 = 8 + 2
Winners at 31-32 = 4 + 1
(exactly half)

Because the counts of 31 & 32 year olds are so low that there aren't enough data points, here are the combined counts for 30+ year olds:

Finalists at 31 & up = 24
Winners at 31 & up = 10
(just under half)

So what I think this means is that if someone in their 30s reaches a slam final (particularly their early 30s) then they are just as likely to win as they would have been at a younger age - about 50%. Otherwise, we'd see fewer winners in comparison to finalists at that age; less than 50%.

Does this mean that as players age, it isn't winning finals which is the challenge, but getting there?

NRod2 02-02-2013 10:10 AM

Watching Federer gas vs. Murray supports this thread 100%.


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