Nick Matthew column: You’re never too old to learn

Roger Federer
Roger Federer
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It is remarkable that Roger Federer, at the age of 33, is still in with a shout of finishing the year as the best men’s tennis player on the planet.

Twelve to 18 months ago, it looked as if Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had got the better of Federer and he was on the downward spiral. But Federer has had an unbelievable season and nearly claimed an eighth Wimbledon title.

I don’t know how Federer is performing as well as he is because he recently had a second set of twins. As somebody who has a young child myself, I take my hat off to Federer how he has managed to carry on playing so consistently well. Maybe, with the money he is earning, he’s got a good nanny!

If results go his way in the Paris Masters this week, Federer will leapfrog Djokovic at the top of the rankings. I’m sure Federer is always a danger in the Grand Slams but you have to be consistent over a full year to be number one.

In squash, Mohamed Elshorbagy leads the way and he is 23-years-old. I probably said a year ago I wasn’t worried about the rankings anymore and I was trying to peak for the big events. I didn’t think at 34 it was a realistic goal and then, three months after saying that, I got back to World No 1, becoming the second oldest player of all time after Australian legend Geoff Hunt to achieve the feat!

As you get older, you take the pressure off yourself. You are safe in the knowledge that if you had to hang up the racquet tomorrow you can be proud of what you have achieved. When you get to a certain age, you have to be careful of not over playing. I’ve lowered my schedule from 16 domestic events a year to around 11. You have to be smarter.

I noticed in Ryan Giggs’ last season at Manchester United he wouldn’t play two weeks in a row. He might play one week and then would be on the bench the following week. Recovery is so important when you are looking at prolonging your career.

Giggs was a winger but he lost his turn of pace to beat a full-back and was converted into a central midfielder. He was not as fast but could pick a pass. Yoga was something he did to help him extend his career and I’ve got into that over the last couple of years.

Athletes have to make sure their diet and nutrition is good but sports science is so much more advanced now that people, such as Giggs and Federer, can go on longer at the top level.