Tennis: The dominance of middle-aged men produces an amazing statistic

Novak Djokovic of Serbia; Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland. Photo / Getty Images
Novak Djokovic of Serbia; Rafael Nadal of Spain and Roger Federer of Switzerland. Photo / Getty Images

There are all sorts of mind-boggling stats about men's tennis' 'Big Three' (or Big Four if you count two-time Olympic gold medallist and current world No. 1 Andy Murray).

One of the stats that stands out is the fact that the 'Big Three' consisting of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have won 18 straight Grand Slams and 28 of 29 from 2005-2012.

Throw Murray into the mix and that record extends to 36 of 38. In the second-tier of men's events - the Masters, which has a field that's as good at the top as any major - the foursome won 76 of 90 tournaments over the past 10 years and faced off in 40 finals.

But while the Grand Slam dominance is at least understandable, the Masters 1000 events, contested nine times per year, would surely have a few random winners here and there.

The top players are in a constant state of exhaustion from playing deep into tournaments every week, so surely some young up-and-coming players break through to claim victory, right? Not exactly.

No Grand Slam, Masters 1000 or Olympic tournament has ever been won by somebody born after January 1st, 1989.

That's incredible. It's unbelievable. At the conclusion of the 2016 season, no player 27 years old or younger has a win of consequence on the ATP.

Baseball's Bryce Harper has an MVP at 24, while Mike Trout has two at 25. NBA All Stars Anthony Davis and Kyrie Irving were born in 1993 and 1992 respectively. American Olympic swimming sensation and five-time gold medallist Katie Ledecky is yet to reach 20.

All of those elite athletes, with the exception of Ledecky, are excelling in sports where one's prime can usually be found from the ages of 27 to 31. Tennis was a sport that saw teenagers winning majors and world No. 1s barely in their 20s.

Up until 20 years ago, age 27 was way too late for anyone seeking Grand Slam titles. John McEnroe won his last Slam at 25, the same age that saw Bjorn Borg head into retirment. This is good news for the 'Big Four', who theoretically can keep on winning due to the lost generation and for the players 21 and under who will soon benefit from the same.

In 2013, when no players under 24 had won, it was one a sign that men's tennis had become an older man's game. In 2014, it showed that the younger generation was taking longer to develop. In 2015, it spoke to the overall dominance of the 'Big Four' and how the players they've faced in the juniors and pros for the past 15 years have clearly benefited from the competition. In 2016, it's just insane.

The youngest player to win a Slam is Croatia's Marin Cilic, who was born on Sept. 28, 1988, five days after Juan Martin Del Potro. Cilic is also the (current) youngest to win a Masters event. But Del Potro was 20 when he won his lone Slam at the 2009 U.S. Open, which was older than Djokovic (who was a few months younger than Del Potro) and Nadal at their first major wins (Nadal had just turned 19).

It becomes a chicken and egg question: Have middle-aged pros failed to win because the Big Four is so good or is the Big Four so consistent because the middle-aged pros are unable to string together five, six or seven victories?

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