Old age is creeping up on a generation of crocked tennis stars as last year’s champion Andy Murray heads the Wimbledon Tournament sick parade.
Murray limped out of the centre court in the quarter finals with a recurrence of a long-lasting hip injury that has hampered his game in recent years.
He joined a queue of the walking wounded that includes former Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, who also had to hobble off court.
But former Wimbledon champion Boris Becker says hitting 30 years old is a milestone for tennis players who face a gruelling international tournament schedule that leaves little time for them to recover from major setbacks to their health and stamina.
He argues that a player’s goals should change from winning games and retaining their world ranking to looking after their ravaged bodies because once they lose their fitness, it’s hard to regain an edge on the court because opposing players target their weaknesses.
Follow logic not emotions
“It’s about how you play and how you handle your injuries,” said Becker.
“The attractions for me when I was unable to play were always the same – every week brought another tournament and more ranking points, and of course you want to get back to doing something you love.
“I am sure Andy is the same – that desire to keep playing tennis is not his problem, but I think emotions are the wrong things for him to follow right now. He has to follow logic and just think about the rest of his career.
“As you get older it does get harder to come back. If it is a new injury every year then it is manageable. If it is the same injury for a number of years, then eventually it can affect your mind-set – and that is the crucial thing here.
“In my experience, your motivation changes with age. It cannot be the same at 30 as it was at 20, and you cannot have the same motivation to win Wimbledon again when you have already won it once, because the second time is not the same.
You have to find different ways to stimulate yourself, because ultimately that is what prolongs your career and means you keep coming back.”
Other aging champions, such as Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, have suffered serious injury and taken long-term sick leave to recover.
They have come back to the game lean, fit and in the right state of mind to win.