For two decades, men's tennis pretty much meant : Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Now, Federer is retired and hobbled. Nadal is nearing the end. Djokovic won three Grand Slam events last year, but at 36 he is suddenly struggling, even as he headed into the French Open ranked No.1.

But below Mount Olympus, life is different for tennis mortals. Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic all won Grand Slam events and are still playing, as are Gael Monfils, Richard Gasquet, Fabio Fognini, Roberto Bautista Agut and Kei Nishikori, players who once cracked the top 10.

These players scuffle along in reduced circumstances, far lower in rankings than during their halcyon days.

These old men of the court - all 34 to 39 years old - win a few matches here and there without much chance of regaining their former glory, yet they keep grinding.

Not only Monfils, ranked 36th, is even in the top 50. Murray is 75th, while Bautista Agut, Wawrinka, Fognini and Gasquet are from 80th through 124th.

Cilic has fallen to 1,063rd but just had a second knee surgery in the hopes of coming back, while Nishikoriis ranked 347th and still striving to get back to the court.

[ The miraculous to all this is Adrian Mannarino, who suddenly at 35 cracked the top 20 for the first time this year.]

'' Every day I ask myself why I'm still doing this,'' Monfils said with a laugh, before citing his '' passion for the game'', as his motivation.

[ He has extra incentive : His wife, Elina Svitolina, who is 29 and still in the WTA's top 20, '' pushes me quite a lot.'']

Staying on the court requires a physical and mental transformation.

The World Students Society thanks Stuart Miller.


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