Age and experience vs. youth and energy

The timeless question debated on court at Wimbledon

“Experience is what you got by not having it when you needed it.” ~Author Unknown

It is time for the Anglophile in me to come out again. And, no, this time it is not about Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge. (Although I will find a way to weave her into this blog post.)

I like tennis. I have played and watched it since I was a young girl.  Wimbledon is, by far, my favorite Grand Slam.  I watch it every year, some years with more interest than others, depending on my passion for a particular player.  I was able to check it off my bucket list in 1998 when I got to go to the tournament in person. I was (and still am) a huge Pete Sampras fan.  We were able to watch him beat Tim Henman (Great Britain’s great hope before today’s Andy Murray) 6-3, 4-6, 5-3, 6-3 in the semi-finals and then Goran Ivanisevic (who beat Krajcek in the semis in the 5th set at 15-13) in the finals 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. It was incredible tennis and something that I will never forget.

So, this month, it was time to tune into Breakfast at Wimbledon once again.  In the women’s final, Serena Williams (USA) faced Agnieszka Radwanska (Poland). In the men’s, Roger Federer (Switzerland) versus the previous mentioned Andy Murray (GBR).  The media created a lot of hype for a few reasons: Andy Murray made it to the finals—something a Brit has not done in over seven decades—hence, the Duchess of Cambridge was in the Royal Box to support her country.  Serena Williams, after nearly dying a year ago due to health complications, was back in the women’s championship. And Agnieszka Radwanska was the first Pole, male or female, to make it to the championship.

But to me, there was an additional, interesting element to watch: would age and the experience of playing in numerous Grand Slam finals override youth and energy?

Both Federer and Williams are in their 30s. Young to most, but not in professional sports.  Radwanska and Murray are both in their early 20s.

Williams took the stage at the All England Club for the seventh time in her career, having won on four of her six prior appearances.  Saturday was her 18th career Grand Slam final appearance, and she has won on 13 of those occasions.  Radwanska, on the other hand, was playing in her first Grand Slam final. And it showed: Williams won the first set 6-1.

Going into the men’s championship, Murray had actually been in three Grand Slam finals.  That said, he had not won a set in any of those three finals.  Federer has played in 24 Grand Slam finals, winning 17 of them.

The men’s final started differently than the women’s. Murray actually won the first set 7-5.  While many players would panic after losing the first set of a Wimbledon final, Federer became more focused and stuck to his high-percentage shots.

In both finals, each player had won a set going into the third.  And in both finals, there were a couple of key moments in the third that determined the champion.  And at these All England Club Championships, those moments went to the player with more experience.

Federer may have summed it up best: “With age, with victories, things get a bit easier,” he said after joining Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with a record seven titles at the All England Club in London. “All your achievements—no one can take those away, so you can play with less pressure. “

Experience (on this occasion): game, set, match.

Barbie Wentworth
July 18th, 2012

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