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Is Novak Djokovic too OLD to win Wimbledon again? Players reach their peak at age 24

The moment that tennis fans have been waiting for is almost here, with the Wimbledon Championships set to kick off on Monday.

Hundreds of thousands of tennis fans will flock to London’s SW19 to see if Novak Djokovic can successfully defend his gentlemen’s singles title for the fourth year running. 

At 35, Djokovic is by no means one of the youngest tennis players on the circuit.

In fact, the average age of Wimbledon entrants in 2021 was just 28 years and 102 days – and that was the second highest since the Open era began in 1968.

So does the Wimbledon Champion have what it takes to cling on to his title? Here MailOnline delves into the science.

Hundreds of thousands of tennis fans will flock to London’s SW19 to see if Novak Djokovic can successfully defend his gentlemen’s singles title for the fourth year running

Djokovic could have the psychological edge 

While Djokovic may be past his physical peak, his experience could stand him in good stead. 

Djokovic is known for being one of the most mentally tough athletes in the world, which could be linked to his years of experience. 

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

‘His mind is so strong, he believes in his mental exercises and with those relaxation methods of his he was able to minimise the pain as much as it was physically possible, with the help of painkillers as well.’

Having dominated the major tournaments over the past 10 years or so, Djokovic is known as one of the ‘Big Three’, alongside Roger Federer, 40, and Rafa Nadal, 36.

While Djokovic is the youngest, he’s previously joked that the three are now the ‘old guys’ of the tennis circuit.

Speaking last year at the Rome Masters, Djokovic said: ‘Rafa and I had a little laugh today in the locker room after I won against Tsitsipas.

‘We kind of joked around that the old guys are still not giving up. I saw he said somewhere a few days ago that Roger, him and I are old, but I disagree with him. I think we’re showing some different, fresh energy.’

So, is 35 too old to win at Wimbledon?

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

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

However, that study was more than 30 years ago, and things have significantly changed since then.

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

While Djokovic may be past his physical peak, his experience could stand him in good stead. Pictured: Djokovic kisses the winner's trophy at Wimbledon 2021

While Djokovic may be past his physical peak, his experience could stand him in good stead. Pictured: Djokovic kisses the winner’s trophy at Wimbledon 2021

Novak Djokovic: The key stats 

Country: Serbia

Age: 35

Birth date: 22 May 1987

Height: 6ft 2in

Weight: 170lbs 

Current singles rank: 3

Matches won: 1,005

Matches lost: 204 

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

‘By the end of last year those figures had risen to 28.26 and 25.8 respectively.

‘In the last 10 years alone the average ages have risen by 2.67 years among the men and by 2.14 years among the women.’

While the reason for this extended career remains unclear, tennishead suggests that a range of factors could be at play.

‘Improved fitness regimes and advances in science and nutrition, combined with increases in prize money which have encouraged players to carry on competing, have fuelled a remarkable rise in the number of older players, particularly amongst the men,’ it added.

While Djokovic may be past his physical peak, his experience could stand him in good stead. 

Djokovic is known for being one of the most mentally tough athletes in the world, which could be linked to his years of experience. 

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

‘His mind is so strong, he believes in his mental exercises and with those relaxation methods of his he was able to minimise the pain as much as it was physically possible, with the help of painkillers as well.’

Having dominated the major tournaments over the past 10 years or so, Djokovic is known as one of the 'Big Three', alongside Roger Federer, 40 (left), and Rafa Nadal, 36 (right)

Having dominated the major tournaments over the past 10 years or so, Djokovic is known as one of the ‘Big Three’, alongside Roger Federer, 40 (left), and Rafa Nadal, 36 (right)

What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is a popular form of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment.

The practice involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.

It is often touted as a universal tool for boosting mental wellbeing by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.

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

‘I believe in the power of the mind, very much so,’ he said in 2015, on the eve of his campaign for a third title at the Monte-Carlo Country Club. 

‘If we all trained our minds as much as we are training our muscles and physical body, I think we would achieve and maximise our potential. 

‘We don’t know how much we can really achieve until we have this kind of mindset of wanting always to evolve and improve.’

Despite Djokovic’s mental strength, upcoming tennis players are now given extensive psychological training from a young age. 

And experts have warned that these younger players are ‘not intimidated’ by the Serb anymore, leaving him ‘vulnerable.’

Eurosport’s Mats Wilander said: ‘I think the biggest difference is the guys that are coming from behind or that are surrounding Novak, they now have the confidence that they can beat Novak on any surface on any given day.

‘I think they are not intimidated anymore unless you get to a fourth or fifth set in a Grand Slam. 

‘But even then, I feel like they have seen Novak have the best year.’

Overall, the findings suggest that there’s everything to play for at Wimbledon this year – watch this space.    

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk