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French Open 2017: 30 is the new 25 in men’s tennis right now

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PARIS — The very top of men’s tennis has never been this old.

For the first time in the history of the ATP computer rankings, which date to the early 1970s, the men sitting at Nos. 1-5 are all 30 or older, the latest sign that the current crop of stars has enviable staying power.

It’s also the latest reason to wonder when a new face will emerge among the elite, because there eventually will come a point – yes, there really will – when the group that was once known as the Big 3, then came to be called the Big 4, and now is considered by some to be a Big 5, is no longer running the sport.

With the French Open starting Sunday, No. 1 Andy Murray, No. 2 Novak Djokovic, No. 3 Stan Wawrinka and No. 4 Rafael Nadal (No. 5 Roger Federer is skipping Paris) all have designs on another major trophy. But could someone such as Alexander Zverev, who just turned 20 last month, or the supremely talented – and supremely enigmatic – Nick Kyrgios, 22, or Dominic Thiem, 23, make a breakthrough for the up-and-coming kids?

“We’re probably coming to the end of one of the greatest eras of tennis that, certainly, I’ve ever seen,” ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode said, “and what we need to do as a sport is look to the next generation of players.”

Federer is 35, Wawrinka is 32, Nadal turns 31 on June 3, and Djokovic and Murray turned 30 this month. That quintet has won 46 of the last 48 Grand Slam titles, a dozen-year stretch of dominance.

Zverev’s victory over Djokovic in the Italian Open final last weekend might have symbolized coming change. Zverev was the first man born in the 1990s to win a Masters 1000 title, the youngest champ since Djokovic about a decade ago.

That title also pushed Zverev into the top 10, making him the youngest member since Juan Martin del Potro in 2008.

“It’s nice … for the tour, as well, to have a few younger guys, few younger girls, as well, to be able to play at the top,” said Zverev, who is German. “As I said many times, unfortunately for tennis and unfortunately for the spectators, the top four cannot play forever. So it’s good that younger players are starting to get through.”

So then the question becomes: Why has it taken so long?

Why does someone such as former player and coach Brad Gilbert, now an ESPN commentator, say, “Today’s 30 is like 25 used to be,” as he did this week? Why have these 30-somethings had such staying power? And why is it taking so long for newcomers to make a mark?

There is a similar situation in women’s tennis, where Serena Williams has kept winning Grand Slam titles into her 30s and is the oldest No. 1 in WTA history. Current No. 1 Angelique Kerber was the oldest woman to make her debut at that spot.

“Tennis has changed in the last 15 years … since they slowed down surfaces and there is not much difference in speeds of the surfaces,” said Patrick Mouratoglou, Williams’ coach. “You rarely have many easy shots now. You have to work the points much more, and one of the consequences is you need to be physically much better and able to play long rallies.”

He points out that when Wimbledon’s grass courts, for example, used to play much faster than they do now, a player could succeed there hitting aces by the dozen and going for one winner after another, because “you don’t need the same maturity and understanding of tactics” that are required today.

Gilbert points to Andre Agassi – a man he used to coach, and who is assisting Djokovic during this French Open – as an inspiration to the current old-timers still in charge.

“It used to be, you turned 30, you were completely on the downside of your career. A lot of these guys can remember Andre making a deep run at 2005 at 35 years old. I think that was the turning point in belief, that guys could play a lot longer,” Gilbert said. “You’re seeing Tom Brady be the best quarterback in all of football, maybe ever, and he’s approaching 40, which is dinosaur for a quarterback, but not anymore. Athletes are pushing the envelope all year round. There’s no offseason. Offseason is for more training, diet, technology.”

‘Big 4’ given top 4 seedings at Wimbledon; Kerber also No. 1

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LONDON — The “Big 4” of men’s tennis were given the four highest seedings for this year’s tournament at Wimbledon.

No. 1-ranked Andy Murray, the defending champion, is the top-seeded player, followed by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Nadal and Djokovic are also in the top four of the ATP rankings, but Federer is No. 5. Third-ranked Stan Wawrinka, who has won the other three Grand Slam titles but not Wimbledon, is seeded fifth.

Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori and Alexander Zverev round out the top 10 in the seedings.

In the women’s seedings, Angelique Kerber is No. 1 in a list that mirrors the top-10 rankings. The only exception is the absence of No. 4-ranked Serena Williams, who is pregnant and skipping the tournament.

That means fifth-ranked Elina Svitolina is the fourth-seeded player at Wimbledon, behind Kerber, Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova.

Caroline Wozniacki, Johanna Konta, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dominika Cibulkova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Venus Williams complete the top 10 in the seedings.

Serena bares all in Vanity Fair cover shoot

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After accidentally revealing her pregnancy through Snapchat back in April, Serena Williams has not been shy about sharing her pregnancy with the public. In fact, Williams bares all in the cover of Vanity Fair’s August issue, wearing only the same waist chain she wore in that Snapchat.

The cover photo she tweeted Tuesday shows the tennis star’s full-body profile. Taken by renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, the photographs of Williams’ baby bump are surrounded by earthly hues of grey and burnt orange. Her fiancé, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, stepped in for a couple photos, embracing his future wife.

As carefree as she looks in these pictures, Williams probably hasn’t been having the best week after tennis legend John McEnroe questioned her athleticism when compared to men. McEnroe said in an interview with NPR earlier this week that Williams – a 23-time Grand Slam singles winner –  would rank “like 700” on the men’s tour. When he came on the Dan Patrick Show on Tuesday morning, McEnroe stated his confusion over why his comment on Williams was a big deal: “Why is it always McEnroe that gets caught in the middle of this? It drives me crazy.”

Williams, an active Twitter user, responded to his comments:

Williams’ baby, which she has yet to find out the sex of, is due this fall.