When Do Tennis Players Retire?

  • 4 Factors: Results, Playing Style, Injuries and Personal Life are major factors when tennis players retire.
  • The average retirement age for tennis players is somewhere around the early to mid-30s, but this depends on a series of factors.
  • With advancements in Medical and Technology could help tennis players to extend their tennis careers.

   Your Guide

Gavin Davison   Gavin Davison

When do tennis players retire?

If you asked me this question several decades ago, it would have been easier to give a CONCRETE answer (not that I was born until the early 90s).

When do tennis players retire?

Back in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, it was fairly rare that tennis players would continue to compete much beyond their EARLY 30s.

Peak performance was probably reached in the early to mid-20s, and from here, a tennis player’s career would usually tail off, their ranking would drop, and eventually, they would hang up their rackets.

But these days, everything has changed. 

It’s not just tennis where we are seeing this either – look at guys like Cristiano Ronaldo in football.

At the time of writing, the man is 36, yet a recent study showed that he had the body and PHYSICAL CAPABILITIES of a man in his early 20s.

Now that’s significant, but let’s come back to tennis.

If you follow tennis closely, you will know that the big three (Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic) are all still competing in their mid to late 30s, with Federer having recently turned 40!

Without question, Djokovic is still the dominant force in men’s tennis, and despite being in his mid-30s, he is playing the best tennis of his career.

So, putting an exact age on a tennis player’s retirement these days is pretty tricky, as you’d imagine, and there are a few factors to consider.

Factors that impact a player’s retirement age

1) Results

Without question, this is one of the most important factors of them all.

Do you think that Federer would continue to compete at 40 years of age if he didn’t still feel he had a shot at winning high-profile events?

I don’t believe so, and he’s still managing to get results on the big stages.

But when you ignore the TOP guys, or the top women for that matter, once players start to reach their early 30s, if they are not at the top of the tree, they are more likely to retire – it’s that simple.

Keep in mind that it is fairly difficult to make a living in tennis, and you have to be within the top 100 really to be making significant sums of money.

This begs the question if a player is feeling tired and not really racking up much cash from the game, why would they keep going? 

2) Playing Style

I believe that another CRITICAL factor that determines when tennis players might retire is how they play the game.

I could use my own playing style as an example.

I am very much a ‘GRINDER’ when it comes to tennis, which means that I play long rallies, and work the opponent around the court to win points.

Naturally, this takes its toll on the body over the years, and even now in my late 20s, I can feel little NIGGLES in my ankles and knees that I would never feel before.

Another prime example of this, not that I would put myself in his category by any means, is Rafael Nadal.

His playing style is absolutely brutal on the body, with challenging rallies, long matches, and his court coverage is INCREDIBLE.

That’s why he has had to write off the back end of the 2021 season – because his knees simply couldn’t take the pressure anymore.

3) Injuries

Another area which I simply have to mention is injuries. It goes without saying that when we get older, the body doesn’t quite RESPOND as it used to when we were younger.

We might not recover as quickly, we might be more prone to injuries, and these can have a real impact on a player’s motivation and their will to keep playing over time.

Perhaps the best example of this would be Andy Murray, the Great British tennis player who managed to win Wimbledon not once, but twice while he was in his prime.

Murray, much like Nadal, has a very brutal playing style for his body. He exerts SIGNIFICANT EFFOR when hitting the ball, and he is very happy to engage in long rallies, unlike someone like Federer.

Without question, Murray’s career was cut short because of this, and his troublesome hip resulted in him undergoing surgery as he hit the 30 marks.

He had struggled for years because of this, and today, while he can still play fantastic tennis, he is not the player that he used to be. 

4) Personal Life

This is an area that many people don’t actually think of…

…When we see professional tennis players on TV, especially those at the top such as Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, we forget that they are human beings as well.

Naturally, this means that they have families, spouses, personal interests, hobbies, and not all of their life is taken up by the tennis court – even if much of it is!

There can be many changes to a player’s personal life that may bring on the decision for them to retire.

For WTA players, this could actually be the decision to start a family, and it’s quite rare that players can have a child and then come back to reach the top of the game.

However, there are other things that can happen in a player’s personal life that could prompt early retirement too.

While I’m not saying that retirement is on the HORIZON for this young superstar, Naomi Osaka is displaying personal issues that could bring her away from the top of the game.

She has been struggling with mental health for a while now, and this is just another factor of many that could lead towards retirement. 

My Conclusion

If I had to put a figure on it, I would say that currently, the AVERAGE retirement age for tennis players is somewhere around the early to mid-30s.

But as you have learned throughout this piece, this depends on a series of factors.

And as time marches on, and with various IMPROVEMENTS in technology, medical advancements, as well as other areas, I firmly believe that the retirement age for professional tennis players will continue to increase.

So while a tennis player’s career might have lasted for 10 years at a push back in the day, now it is perfectly possible for a career to last for as long as 20 years and above! 

Has this answered your question? Do you have anything to add? Jump into the comments and let us know!

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