lebron james

How Roger Federer Differs From Other Age-Defying Elite Athletes

Jeff Bercovici had just undergone emergency surgery when he pondered the question.

At a time when it has never been physically harder to be a professional sportsperson, why is it that many of the best ones are also the oldest?

Bercovici had injured his back after pushing himself too hard when playing soccer “a few times a week” at a local league in Brooklyn.

The likes of Roger Federer – who is 8/11 in the tennis betting to win his ninth Wimbledon title – LeBron James and Tom Brady, meanwhile, have continued to succeed “well past what would’ve been considered the peak age for their sports a generation ago”.

Bercovici, a journalist, realised after doing “a little bit of research” that his personal curiosity could become a professional endeavour, and in 2018 he published his first book, Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age.

“It’s a look inside this phenomenon we’re seeing in the world of sports,” he says, “and how sports science is the driver of that phenomenon.”

Bercovici, who spoke to ex-players, coaches and experts in “training, nutrition, psychology, surgery, other therapies, sports tech and genetics”, says the “single most powerful force” in extending athletes’ careers has been the shift to maximising their freshness, rather than fitness.

“The amount of time players devote to different recovery techniques now versus what they did 15 years ago is not even remotely comparable,” he says.

Take LeBron James, who has just enjoyed the finest season of his 15-year NBA career at the age of 33, playing the most minutes of any player in the league.

“After every single game of the NBA Finals, he’d give this press conference and the word that came out of his mouth most was ‘treatment’,” says Bercovici.

“So, he’s talking about a variety of different things, from ice baths and cryotherapy, to cupping, electrical stimulation and laser stimulation.”

While those technologies – which are typically pioneered by the military or private tech companies, but rely on stars such as James to “evangelise” them – do accelerate physical recovery, they also perform another important role.

“Athletes are much smarter now about not over-training, yet they still have this really strong commission bias,” says Bercovici. “They want to do, do, do as much as they can to improve their performance.”

He cites the training regime of an in-his-prime Tiger Woods, which famously included long-distance running, heavy weight sessions, several hours at the driving range and 18 holes of golf every single day.

“Now, everyone knows that’s a really good way to wear down your body,” says Bercovici, “so instead, they lift in the gym for 90 minutes, then they go to the hot tub, the cold tub and all that kind of stuff.

“It’s not necessarily helping them recover faster, but being focused on recovery rather than on doing more training is absolutely extending their careers.”

No career has been extended as beautifully as Roger Federer’s, who recently returned to No. 1 in the men’s world rankings, just weeks before his 37th birthday.

Bercovici believes that, despite being “totally consistent with all trends I tracked throughout this book”, Federer is “probably the most incredible example of longevity and durability in all of sports”.

That’s because his endurance is a consequence of how he plays the game.

“If you were designing a tennis player from scratch, you would create Roger Federer,” says Bercovici.

“If you talk to a kinesiologist, what they will tell you helps explain a large portion of his longevity. He intuitively plays in this style that is both beautiful and conducive to him maintaining an unprecedented level of health. I think he’s the great tennis genius of all time.”

Bercovici recalls a decade-old quote about Federer which describes his footsteps during matches as being “like a ghost”.

“Well before people were talking about how this guy avoids injuries or how amazing his longevity is, he was practising this form of movement that’s so different from everyone else’s and so much more sustainable,” he says.
Bercovici, who is fit again after using some of the methods explored in Play On to rehabilitate his back, learned over the course of writing the book that every enduring athlete has one thing in common: a love of their sport.

“It’s sounds like a cliché,” he says, “but there’s a reason it’s not.

“To be an elite athlete, the first gate to pass through is that you have to be able to take a game and treat it like it’s a job. You have to take all the fun and spontaneity out of it.

“So, if someone has passed through that gate and then 20 years on they still have that sense of fun, that’s really, really, incredibly rare. And that’s what unites these people who are still working incredibly hard approaching 40.”
Jeff’s book, Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age, is out now.

Sony Ericsson highlights: Ana Ivanovic dances the Petkovic

So how is everyone’s first week of the Sony Ericsson Open coming along? Are your favorites still in or are they already out of the singles tournament? I hope for many of you that it is an enjoyable ride so far.  It has been for me and it is not because of the news that Roger Federer tied with Pete Sampras’ 7th place with 762 victories each.  Or that Kim Clijsters is feeding daughter Jada extra jodium to counteract radioactive radiation that hit the atmosphere after the tsunami in Japan two weeks ago.  Because of that disaster Clijsters has said to the press that she will not play in Japan or Beijing for this year. In  a statement released by the WTA Tour, Clijsters had the following to say:

“Most importantly, my thoughts and sympathies are with the people in Japan,” Kim Clijsters said in the statement. “It’s heart-wrenching to see what they’re going through right now. Of course the health and safety of anyone traveling to a potentially impacted area is my top priority as well as the WTA’s, and I know that the WTA will continue to monitor the situation.”

It is very understandable that you don’t want to go play there but I also think that a tennis tournament could be the furthest thing on their mind. Ofcourse we are very greatful for the great message that Kim Clijsters and other WTA tour and ATP Tour players have sent to Japan. From benefit soccer matches to Caroline Wozniacki & Victoria Azarenka creating a huge ad. It is great to see that tennis players are so involved with the world and are politically aware . They raised money for Haiti in 2010, Australia in 2011 and now Japan.It is a great gesture.

To complete my ongoing list of  remarkable things that happened this week in the world of international tennis, the racy ad that featured a very sexy Serena Williams in a Topspin 4 commercial. Now I don’t have a problem with that advertisement but then again I am from the Netherlands. I don’t know if that makes a difference with whereever you are but it does, apparently, in other parts of the world. But then again I can understand 2K Sports for not running it. They are selling a tennis game and not subscriptions to Playboy.

Ofcourse one of the biggest the surprises this week was Andy Roddick’s demise. He didn’t give up without a fight though. He admirably finished his lost match versus Paraguay’s Pablo Cuevas 6-4, 7-6. After three visits from his trainer in the second set and his  trouble breathing because of chest congestion Roddick admitted to the press that he has sustained an injury but would not ellaborate any further.Roddick has struggled with a bronchial infection since last month and plans to see a doctor when he gets back to Texas.

More exciting news was  LeBron James and Dwayne Wade came to watch Rafael Nadal’s match. And they didn’t just watch the game but they were also part of the coin toss.

“There’s certain things in Miami that guys should experience,” Wade said. “So I had to drag LeBron out here, but I think this is something he’ll probably come back to next year and come back for years after that. This is a good experience. It’s something different and it’s a great day off, getting over here with the kids.”

Now that is interesting. Last year we had Kim Kardashian and this year we have two major basketball stars. I wonder who they will get for next year’s edition. And to be honest all this makes me wonder why Europe does not have such a pre  event. A coin toss with soccer players or former soccer players like Zinedine Zidane or Lionel Messi would be great. We did have Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos and others watch the Madrid Open of last year. That was pretty cool but no coin toss.

My highlight of the week was Ana Ivanovic dancing the Petkovic!  I was just as baffled when I first saw it as you who is going to hit play in just a moment. Even Petkovic was baffled by the fact that she managed to pull it off to have Ana dance her dance.

 

And here is the video:

And I found another funny video of Ana Ivanovic. She won the official bomb competition in Australia. Bomb competition? Yah, just watch the video and you will see what I mean!