Young 40-Love

I’ll say this: Pete Sampras can still serve.

I was in the Verizon Center last Friday, watching the HSBC Tennis Cup, a exhibition-slash-leg of a tennis seniors tour. The four players (Sampras, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, and Jim Courier) have kept a lot of their shotmaking, but you can tell that the speed, the power, the endurance have all been slipping. It’s hard to admit, of people who were larger-than-life back then, but they looked . . . well, old at times.

(It was a little disquieting to be reminded that Michael Chang won the French Open 23 years ago. 23! To steal a line from a Friends episode, his French Open title is old enough to drink!)

What’s more terrifying is, of course: they’re not actually old. Chang is 39; Sampras is 40; Agassi and Courier 41. And yet, as top-level competitive athletes, they’ve been over the hill for almost a decade. In virtually every other endeavor, they would be just hitting their peaks. If they hadn’t made millions of dollars playing tennis, they’d be mid-career. (I wonder what your mid-life crisis looks like when you’ve already been a millionaire world-famous athlete.) But does any of us know when we hit our tipping point, if we already have, or will we just recognize it once we are far past appreciating it in the moment?

I’m glad they’re still playing; it was amazing to see their skills in action, even if they’ve lost a step. But entropy really does go just one way, doesn’t it?

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