The general rule on the ATP Tour is that players don’t tend to start winning until they are 18 or 19 (each of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray won their first tournaments as teenagers). Up to this age natural talent still tends to be outweighed by a lack of physical strength, what you might call ‘on-court ability’ or general tour experience. For sure, a few players do win earlier than this age (Lleyton Hewitt at just 16 being a rare example) but it’s always worth noting a player who has won an event before he’s 20 years old – as these guys tend to be the ones who go on to achieve the most in the game, provided they remain injury-free and maintain the same kind of career progression. So as a general guide, players who have won a tournament (or multiple events) whilst still 20, 21 or 22 are the ones to note. For sure, late-developers still have the ability to win tournaments, quite obviously, but the older they get before landing a first title … the less their chances are of ever winning. It’s also worth noting that players tend to peak in their early to mid-20’s before levelling off, in terms of success, around 26, 27 or 28. After this age the statistics show a marked decline in performance. Andre Agassi won the Australian Open in 2003 aged 32 but the Las Vegan was definitely the exception and not the norm! The concern is a player who is around the age of 24 (or older) and hasn’t yet won a tournament. These guys start to get the appearance of serial losers and become increasingly unattractive from a betting point of view. If they also have enjoyed no great success on the Challenger Tour then their whole ‘winning mentality’ must come under serious question. Strangely, so far in 2010, there has been a rise in the average age of tournament winners. The average for the first four months of the year comes out at around 25/26 with three titles already going to the 30-somethings (Ferrero in Costa Do Sauipe & Buenos Aires, Ljubicic in Indian Wells) and four players over30 making finals (Ferrero again, Clement, Stepanek and Karlovic). Modern fitness levels, technological advances, even the speed of the courts may continue to help the ATP Tour’s elder generation but the logical conclusion is that there is less young talent coming through. Example: Ernests Gulbis (Delray Beach 2010) W12/1Despite winning a first career title at what some might consider an early age (21), the data suggests that the talented Latvian youngster will struggle to make much of an impactat the very highest level as his first career win came after the age of 20. The fact of the matter is age is relevant. Players who win early should be noted, Nike Shox Flyknit guys who don’t win early should also be highlighted (but for quite the opposite reasons). Tournament winners tend to be under 25 and be wary of picking a guy over 25/26 who has a poor record of winning on the ATP or Challenger Tour.