From the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona 500, the clay season has been fanning out through Europe to Portugal, Germany and Serbia before it converges again on road to Madrid, Rome and Paris—surely one of the most glamorous swings in the tennis calendar.
The youthful and zesty Rafael Nadal is stealing the headlines wherever his feet hit the red-stuff, and a swathe of young names—Milos Raonic, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Grigor Dimitrov—are attempting to carry their own new stories from hard-court success to clay-court renown.
Amid the brouhaha, though, there has been room for the occasional story about new-but-old faces breaking into the top 10: Mardy Fish and Jurgen Melzer step forward.
And in the space of barely a week, the tour has also quietly welcomed back three 30-somethings from injury, each with their own decade-long story to tell: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Tommy Haas and Fernando Gonzalez.
The upper echelons of the men’s tour, in fact, suggests that 30 is a surprisingly good age in a sport that has come to expect success before a player has barely moved beyond his teenage years. After all, Rafa won three Masters titles and a Major at 18.
Novak Djokovic won his first Masters at 19 and another—and his first Major—at 20. Juan Martin Del Potro reached a Masters final at 19 and the WTFs at 20. He took his first Major before his 21st birthday.
But take a look at the longest, most consistent and arguably the most successful career amongst active players: Roger Federer.
He won his first Masters at 20 but the next at 22; his first Major at 21, another at 22 and the next at 23. And six years on, in his 29th year, he was still winning. And he is not the only one showing that success is not the exclusive prerogative of youth.
Almost a third of the top 100 players are in their 30th year or beyond and, of the four in the top 12, three of them are enjoying some of their best form in the prime of their lives. Take a look.