Youth beats experience

My stepfather often told me when I was a teenager that, “You can’t put an old head on a young pair of shoulders”.

Which left me wondering why a young pair of shoulders would want an old head perched on them?

Still, old heads in many sports prevail against the athleticism of youth because of the wily experience factor. However that is not always the case as defending Australian Open tennis star Roger Federer, 37, learned when failing to make this year’s quarter-finals upon being ousted by 20-year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-7, 7-6,7-5, 7-6.

There is a certain resemblance in style with the graceful youngster favouring Federer’s one-handed backhand and instinctive volleys.

He also showed an excellent temperament in saving all 12 break points he faced.

Stefanos Tsitsipas knocked out tennis star Roger Federer in the Australian Open. Photo Twitter

As always, the Swiss maestro took a rare defeat on the chin although he wasn’t about to agree with interviewer John McEnroe’s premature suggestion that it was a “changing of the guard”.

At that point veterans Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovich were still in the hunt and showing little sign of their advancing years, as was 37-year-old women’s favourite Serena Williams who overcame the threat of Simone Halep 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

Nevertheless it is refreshing to see youngsters like Tsitsipas challenging the old guard who have dominated the sport for so long. And long may it continue.

Meanwhile it was also pleasing to see Canterbury Magicians cricketer Frankie Mackay returned to the White Ferns for their T20 three-match series against India after last playing for them in 2014.

Her form this year could not be ignored with her Super Smash record this summer sitting at 356 runs at an average of 89 with a high score 97 not out.

Mackay’s done even better in the ODI 50-over competition, scoring three centuries with a top score of 140. Overall she has amassed 452 runs at 90.40

With Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates other fast scoring players, Mackay’s recall gives the Silver Ferns batting even greater strike power.

Meanwhile after suffering a 13-point loss against hosts England, it was pleasing to see the Silver Ferns netball team improve with a 53-50 loss to Australia and a 62-60 win against South Africa that went beyond the normal 10 minutes extra time.

A major factor in the improvement was coach Noeline Taurua’s decision to return dynamic captain Laura Langman to centre where Samantha Sinclair had struggled against tight defences.

The other was in the combination of the shooting duo with Ameliaranne Ekenasio combining beautifully with brilliant Maria Folau.

Unfortunately the ball didn’t flow through the court and into the circle with the speed and accuracy it should, with hesitant passers going to stagnant tightly marked receivers instead of forcing them to run into space.

In contrast England, Australia and South Africa fed their shooters with greater speed and accuracy despite the brave efforts of veteran goal defence Casey Kopu whose jumping prowess is not what it was.

Still, with South Africa having upset a very good English team, the Ferns can take heart from their improvement.

Losing by just three points to Australia was also encouraging although the Diamonds were missing towering ace goal shoot Caitlin Bassett.

  • Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author

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