When will Federer and the Williams sisters stop? Maybe never.

WIMBLEDON, England – Most tennis pros are retired in their mid-30s. But last week there was Serena Williams, who was nearly 41, grinding for more than three hours at Wimbledon against a competitor just over half her age.

Venus Williams is here too. She was playing mixed doubles, taped on her right knee and not so much in the crotch at the age of 42. Roger Federer, who has not played since limping from Wimbledon last year, wants to return to the tennis tour in September he will be 41. Rafael Nadal is threatened with a deep Wimbledon run and the Grand Slam in mind aged 36 after a medical procedure that numbed nerves in his troublesome left foot.

To varying degrees, the biggest names in tennis carry on. Why do they have such a hard time stepping off the stage and kicking back with their millions once they’re past their prime? And it’s not just tennis. Tiger Woods, with one estimated net worth of $1 billionis fight to come back from devastating leg injuries at 46. Tom Brady can’t stay away from football. Normal working people go through life believing that retirement is the end game. Not so with professional athletes.

It’s not just advances in physical preparation and nutrition that keep your body in the game. The changing nature of the sports business and celebrity conspired to keep the stars on the ball much longer than in the past. But there is another element that has remained constant across generations.

“I understand 100 percent why they want to continue,” he said Martina Navratilovaa longtime No. 1 and 18-time major singles champion who retired in 1994 at 37, returned to play doubles and only retired for good when she was nearly 50.

“You really appreciate it, and you realize how lucky you are to be out there doing what we’re doing,” Navratilova said. “It’s a drug. It’s a very legal drug that many people would like to have but can’t get hold of.”

Serena Williams left Wimbledon in the first round for the second straight year, far from their fittest and gasping for air on the track. She and Federer soon find themselves without a rank in the sport they dominated for decades. Venus Williams made a last-minute decision to play mixed doubles at Wimbledon. But there were no announcements on exit strategies; no target dates on end dates.

“You never know where I’ll turn up,” Venus Williams said on Friday, before she and Jamie Murray lost in the round of 16 in the third set to Alicia Barnett and Jonny O’Mara in a tiebreak on Sunday.

Earlier Sunday at a ceremony on Center Court, Federer, who has a men’s record eight Wimbledon titles but has not played a match in a year, said he hopes to play Wimbledon “one more time” before he is in go into retirement.

It’s a new kind of limbo: great champions well past their prime but not yet ready to make a career while underdogs grapple with speculation as to when the call will come. Nadal, who has been the source of plenty of retirement talk himself and said he was close to retiring only a few weeks ago due to chronic foot pain, understands the public’s quest for clarity. Famous athletes “become part of so many people’s lives,” he said after progressing to the third round at Wimbledon.

Even Nadal said he was unsettled after seeing his friend Woods become just a part-time golfer. “It’s also a change in my life.”

But Woods and the Williams sisters, like other aging and often absent sports stars, remain active rather than retired. There may be commercial incentives to keep it that way. The official retirement does not just end a playing career. It may terminate an endorsement deal or sponsorship deal and reduce a star’s visibility.

“Usually it’s in black and white that when you announce your retirement, it clearly gives the company a right to terminate,” said Tom Ross, a longtime American tennis agent.

But there are exceptions, Ross said, and champions who are late in their careers and are the stature of Federer and Serena Williams often have contracts that give them security, even if they retire before the contract expires. Federer’s 10-year clothing deal with Uniqlo is an example.

Like Serena Williams, he also has the luxury of time.

Almost every other unranked tennis player would not be able to secure regular participation in top tournaments if they decided to continue. But Federer and Williams have access to wildcards with their eye-catching seal of approval, allowing them to choose their spots.

As Federer and several others have found, Nike is reluctant to give big bucks to superstars who are about to retire, preferring active athletes with longer runways. But Mike Nakajima, a former tennis director at Nike, said Williams, who is still sponsored by Nike, is in an exceptional position. She has her own building on the Nike campus.

“Your building is larger than Portland International Airport,” Nakajima said. He added, “She has her hands on so many different things, so many interests, so many passions, that I think in a lot of ways it doesn’t matter when she stops. Serena will always be Serena.”

This week, EleVen by Venus Williams, her lifestyle brand, launched an all-white Wimbledon collection that was not marred by the fact that Williams was actually playing at Wimbledon, albeit only on the mixed doubles tour, after an absence of more than 10 months .

“Only inspired by Serena,” said Venus Williams.

Navratilova, like many in the game, believes Venus and Serena Williams will retire together when the time comes. when it comes The benefits of formally announcing retirement are small: a temporary surge in publicity and an end to random drug testing. It can, in some cases, start the clock for your retirement or qualify you for election to a sport’s Hall of Fame.

Retirement is perhaps more of a rite than a necessity. John McEnroe, for example, never officially retireda technicality which, in his case, allowed him to earn more on some existing contracts for a while.

“Well, look how well retirement has worked for Tom Brady; it got a lot of attention and then it was like, ‘Oh, I’ve changed my mind.’ OK!” Navratilova said with a laugh. She added, “Ask a doctor or a lawyer how long you’re going to practice? People put thoughts in your head that might not otherwise be there.”

Federer has been hearing questions about retirement since he finally won the French Open in 2009, completing his string of singles titles at each of the four Grand Slam events at the age of 27. she’s been listening for over a decade too.

“If it’s my last, I’ll let you know,” she said at Wimbledon last year.

Here she is, back for more, just like her little sister, although perhaps even the Williamses don’t know how much more. Navratilova advises against giving notice too far in advance. When she announced that 1994 would be her last season, she regretted it.

“If I had to do it again, I definitely wouldn’t say anything because it was exhausting; it was a lot more emotionally draining than it would have been otherwise,” she said. “For your own good, forget what it may do for or against your brand. I wouldn’t announce it until the time comes.”

And it wasn’t. She came back and ended Won the mixed doubles title at the US Open with Bob Bryan in what was truly her last tour-level match at the age of 49, one of tennis’ better last acts.

“My thing is if you like to play and you really still have some of it, then play,” said Navratilova. “Venus has been acting and people say she’s violating her legacy. No, those titles are still there.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *