"I've told the WTA they should loosen up the rules," says Roger Federer.
Roger Federer plays timeless tennis. The 37-year-old Swiss says it's time for the WTA to loosen its age-eligibility rule.

The eight-time Wimbledon champion knows about teenage prodigies. Federer once served as a ball boy for his friend, Martina Hingis, when the Swiss Miss was a teenage phenom. The pair later partnered to lead Switzerland to its first Hopman Cup championship.

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Federer, whose Team8 Management firm represents 15-year-old rising star Coco Gauff, said while he understands the intentions behind the rule are good, he's told the WTA it's time for a change.

"I understand the rule completely that they want the young players not to play too much," Federer told the media following his 6-1, 7-6 (3), 6-2, Wimbledon second-round win over Jay Clarke. "I've told the WTA they should loosen up the rules. I loved seeing Hingis doing what she did at a young age."

The WTA age-eligibility rule states: "Between the date of a player’s 15th birthday and the day before her 16th birthday, a player may participate in a maximum of 10 professional tennis Tournaments; plus the WTA Finals or WTA Elite Trophy (if she qualifies); plus Fed Cup."

The rule was initially designed to protect teenagers from over-playing and suffering burn-out. Some say it was created in response to Jennifer Capriati's issues after her initial teen-age success.

The second-seeded Swiss says his business connection to Gauff hasn't influenced his stance, he just believes limiting the number of tournaments teenagers can play puts more pressure on the events they do play.

"This is not me being involved in any shape or form as Team8 through Coco," Federer said. "I try to give her as much advice as I can through Team8. I think it would be nice, you know, if they could play more. I feel like it puts in some ways extra pressure on them every tournament they play.

"It's like their week, this is now where I finally am allowed to play, I have to do well, right? I'm not sure if it's maybe to some extent counterproductive."

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Federer favors allowing teenagers to play more tournaments and advocates expanding the WTA's mentoring program as an aid to young players.

"They could maybe do a mentoring system that there is maybe still a rule about how many tournaments they're allowed to play, but maybe it should be more, in my opinion," Federer said. "Then the mentors should come in, the legends like Billie Jean or Chris Evert, Navratilova, others, maybe speak to the parents, the coaches, the player for that matter, and really, like, educate them so they don't fizzle out.

"Maybe your best time, and your best time is from 14 to 20 for some reason. It's not like for everybody else from 20 to 30. So in a way you take away that opportunity, you know. Some want to have kids maybe at 24. At least you had a strong career for 10 years, from 14 to 24. I don't know. It's up to debate. I don't have the perfect solution. I see why they did it, because we've had the history of some tough parents out there. But at the same time you're also increasing the pressure for that player each week to produce." 

Photo credit: Coco Gauff Instagram