Updated: Monday, 26 May 2014 02:07 | By Agence France-Presse

Teenage kicks hard to find as maturity pays off

Kids these days, they're having it tough when it comes to winning Grand Slam titles.


Teenage kicks hard to find as maturity pays off

Switzerland's Belinda Bencic returns the ball to USA's Venus Williams during their French tennis Open first round match at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris on May 25, 2014 - by Patrick Kovarik

Just ask Belinda Bencic, the 17-year-old 2013 French Open junior champion whose main draw bow ended in a 6-4, 6-1 loss to 33-year-old Venus Williams on Sunday.

Bencic was one of just eight teenagers in the first round while the 30 and over brigade boasted 15 players.

"I think it's more physical, the game, and also the older players are more experienced and we are also having limited tournaments we can play," said Bencic.

"So it's just harder than the time before."

Bencic was still two and half years from being born when Venus Williams made her professional debut in 1994.

And although Williams had just turned 20 when she captured her first major at the 2000 Wimbledon, she still played in an era when teenagers were regularly winning majors.

Sister Serena was 17 when she won the 1999 US Open while Martina Hingis was only 16 when she swept to the 1997 Wimbledon, Australian and US Open titles.

Throughout the 1990s, 15 Grand Slam singles titles were won by players in their teens.

In a previous time, Tracy Austin was 16 when she lifted the 1979 US Open trophy and Steffi Graf was 17 at the time of her French Open triumph in 1987.

In stark contrast, the last teenage women's champion at a major was in 2004 when a 17-year-old Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon.

"Yeah, young folks today, eh?," said Venus. "I'm just trying to hopefully stay alive myself as an older player. I guess it takes younger people longer to develop.  

"Maybe they don't get to play as much, but there is still a lot of great talent out there, that's definitely for sure."

But it's the veterans of the tour who are still standing at the final weekends.

Serena Williams, now 32, has won four of the last seven majors with Marion Bartoli winning last year's Wimbledon at the age of 28 while 32-year-old Li Na claimed her second major at this year's Australian Open.

"When I was 30 I thought I would retire," said Serena on Sunday after breezing past Alize Lim and into the second round of the French Open where she is the defending champion.

"It was just what players did. But when I got to 30, I felt like I didn't want to stop.

"Technology has changed and so has training. Our bodies are healthier and careers are longer because of more modern thinking."

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