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As Serena Williams prepares to retire, experts reveal how athletes compete for longer

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She’s widely often called the GOAT (biggest of all time) on the earth of tennis, but after greater than 26 years on the skilled circuit and 23 singles grand slam wins under her belt, Serena Williams is finally preparing to retire.

Williams signalled her intention to retire earlier this month and is widely believed to be playing the US Open as her final event.

Studies have suggested that tennis players reach their highest levels of performance aged just 24, yet Williams, who will turn 41 later this month, has managed to remain at the highest of her game for significantly longer than this.

And she or he is not alone – other notable athletes across a spread of sports are also now of their 40s, including cricketer James Anderson, American footballer Tom Brady, and surfer Kelly Slater.

So, why is it that more athletes are retiring later?

Experts say it’s all the way down to a mixture of higher training, nutrition and recovery techniques.

She’s widely often called the GOAT (biggest of all time) on the earth of tennis, but after greater than 26 years on the skilled circuit and 23 grand slam wins under her belt, Serena Williams is finally preparing to retire

Serena Williams: Key stats 

Age: 40

Height: 5’9′

Plays: Right-handed 

Current rating: 605

Grand Slam singles titles: 23

Prize money: $94,618,080 

Back in 1988, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh set out to know the height age of performance for athletes across various different sports. 

Their findings suggested that while golfers peak at about 31, and skilled baseball players at 28, tennis players reach their highest levels of performance aged just 24. 

Nevertheless, that study was greater than 30 years ago, and things have significantly modified since then.

More recently, in 2018, a study conducted by tennishead found that the typical age of the world’s top 100 tennis players has risen sharply within the last 10 years. 

‘Thirty years ago, the typical ages of the world’s top 100 men and ladies were 23.74 years and 22.56 years respectively,’ tennishead explained.

‘By the tip of last 12 months those figures had risen to twenty-eight.26 and 25.8 respectively.

‘Within the last 10 years alone the typical ages have risen by 2.67 years amongst the boys and by 2.14 years among the many women.’

Considered one of the important thing changes that has helped athletes to compete for longer has been to the approach to training, in accordance with Gary Brickley, a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science on the University of Brighton.  

‘The “old skool” approach to training consisted of high-intensity exercise to failure or fatigue – essentially pushing an athlete until they couldn’t do any more during that training session,’ he explained in an article for The Conversation

‘The foremost good thing about this approach is that it’s time-efficient, because the more intense the exercise, the less time is required to attain the advantages of coaching.

Older athletes have the psychological edge 

Older athletes could have the psychological advantage over younger pros.  

Novak Djokovic, 35, is understood for being probably the most mentally tough athletes on the earth, which might be linked to his years of experience. 

Speaking after Djokovic won the Australian Open, despite having an injury last 12 months, his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said: ‘Novak is just stronger than everybody else and other people have a tough time admitting that.

‘His mind is so strong, he believes in his mental exercises and with those rest methods of his he was capable of minimise the pain as much because it was physically possible, with the assistance of painkillers as well.’

Djokovic has previously spoken about his use of mindfulness, which he claims is as essential as training the physical body. 

‘I feel in the facility of the mind, very much so,’ he said in 2015, on the eve of his campaign for a 3rd title on the Monte-Carlo Country Club. 

‘If all of us trained our minds as much as we’re training our muscles and physical body, I believe we might achieve and maximise our potential. 

‘We do not know the way much we are able to really achieve until we’ve got this sort of mindset of wanting all the time to evolve and improve.’

‘But a more structured approach is now favoured by many athletes and coaches. 

‘The explanation for this shift in training styles is thanks largely to research over the past 20 years showing burnout and injuries are more common because of this of overtraining attributable to high-intensity exercise.’

In line with Dr Brickley, most athletes now favour polarised training, which is less intense.  

‘Polarised training still improves performance, but with less likelihood of injury or burnout,’ he explained. 

‘Athletes can also use concurrent training, which mixes each strength and endurance training in the identical session. 

‘This sort of training is particularly useful, considering most varieties of sports mix each strength and endurance.

‘Sports scientists and coaches now also understand quite a bit more in regards to the demands of a sport, in order that they attempt to tailor training to focus on specific weaknesses or strengths in an athlete’s performance. 

‘All of this results in less overtraining, illness and injury – which may also help extend an athlete’s playing life.’

Recovery – each immediate and long-term – can also be key for extending athletes’ careers. 

Through the recovery period, the body is capable of adapt to repair and strengthen itself, while the remainder period also gives athletes time to recuperate psychologically. 

Recovery techniques have come on leaps and bounds lately, and now include hydrotherapy, lively recovery, stretching, massage and ice baths – something that Williams has usually spoken about

Sleep is one other essential aspect of rest and recovery on the subject of sports performance. 

‘Athletes who’re sleep deprived are prone to losing aerobic endurance and will experience subtle changes in hormone levels, which may result in higher levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in addition to a decrease in human growth hormone, which is lively during tissue repair,’ explained Kris Swartzendruber from Michigan State University. 

Serena Williams was forced to retire from her first round match at Wimbledon 2021 due to an injury

Serena Williams was forced to retire from her first round match at Wimbledon 2021 as a consequence of an injury

While Williams describes herself as a ‘night owl’, she sticks to a strict sleep schedule during tournaments. 

In an interview with Glamour, she explained: ‘My sleep schedule typically doesn’t change much even when I’m in the course of a tournament. I all the time strive to get eight hours, but I’m definitely a little bit of an evening owl.’  

When it comes to eating regimen, good nutrition is vital for an extended profession. 

‘It’s well-known that as we age we’d like to keep up our muscle mass otherwise,’ explained Dr Brickley. ‘This will likely require adjustments to protein intake depending on the changing demands of exercise.’

Many skilled athletes go for personalised diets, which take note of their genetics, immune function and digestive system to spice up performance and enhance recovery. 

‘Personalising diets and changing them throughout their profession can allow athletes to keep up their health and performance,’ Dr Brickley added. 

Finally, older athletes could have the psychological advantage over younger pros.  

Novak Djokovic, 35, is understood for being probably the most mentally tough athletes on the earth, which might be linked to his years of experience. 

Speaking after Djokovic won the Australian Open, despite having an injury last 12 months, his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, said: ‘Novak is just stronger than everybody else and other people have a tough time admitting that.

‘His mind is so strong, he believes in his mental exercises and with those rest methods of his he was capable of minimise the pain as much because it was physically possible, with the assistance of painkillers as well.’

Djokovic has previously spoken about his use of mindfulness, which he claims is as essential as training the physical body. 

‘I feel in the facility of the mind, very much so,’ he said in 2015, on the eve of his campaign for a 3rd title on the Monte-Carlo Country Club. 

‘If all of us trained our minds as much as we’re training our muscles and physical body, I believe we might achieve and maximise our potential. 

‘We do not know the way much we are able to really achieve until we’ve got this sort of mindset of wanting all the time to evolve and improve.’

HOW DOES THE TENNIS SCORING SYSTEM WORK?

In tennis, players must win enough games to win a set, after which a specific amount of sets to win the match. 

This unique layout implies that in lots of games, the eventual victor of a game actually wins less points. 

The important thing to a victory in tennis is to ‘break’ the opposite person’s serve – winning a game when the opposing player serves the ball into play.

This may be done by winning just 4 consecutive points, and provides an enormous advantage.

Winning one point takes the rating to 15-0. That is read as ‘fifteen love’, with love meaning zero.

One other point will take the rating to 30-0.

The subsequent point would take the rating to 40-0.

The subsequent point, should or not it’s won by the identical person, would win the sport.  

If the sport becomes tied at 40-40, that is then called deuce. 

When the sport is on deuce, the subsequent point doesn’t win the sport.

On this instance, the winner of the enxt pint gets ‘advantage’. 

At this point, in the event that they win again they are going to win the sport, in the event that they lose the rating returns to deuce and the method returns until a platter wins two consecutive points.

This may win the ‘game’ after which the subsequent one will start, with the opposite person serving. 

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