Roger Federer, at 35, won the 2017 Australian Open in Melbourne on 29 January, making him the oldest male grand-slam tennis finalist since Ken Rosewall, 39, in 1974, when he was the runner-up in the United States Open. Rosewall lost to 22-year-old Jimmy Connors. At 35, Serena Williams won the Australian Open this year and her 23rd major title on 28 January, making her the oldest woman to win a major title (the first time at Wimbledon, and twice since). Both Federer and Williams set age-related records in a sport usually seen as a young person’s game. And Ivo Karlovic, who at 37 was the second-oldest player in the singles draw, won the event’s most dramatic first-round match: a late-night marathon against Horacio Zeballos that lasted five hours.
Roger Federer (1981-), who defeated Rafael Nadal to gain his 18th major title, has reached four grand-slam finals since the Swiss called time on his career in 2016.
Some say advances in sports medicine and racquet technology—which have permitted aggressive shotmaking without the physical wear-and-tear of the serve-and-volley style of yesteryear—has enabled tennis stars to continue playing past their ‘used by’ date. In 1990 the average age of the men ranked in the top 100 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) was 24.6. The average age of the women ranked in the top 100 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) was 22.8. Today the equivalent ages are 28.6 for men and 25.9 for women.
Some say the conditions at Melbourne Park during the Australian Open were unusually conducive to attacking tennis, providing the environment to favour hard-hitting veterans like Serena Williams and Roger Federer.
Some say Federer’s run-up to the final was aided by the early exits of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. However, even Djokovic said that Federer achieved the feat by playing some outstanding tennis.
But Federer and Nadal were both returning to the tennis circuit after injury lay-offs that saw them miss most of the 2016 season. Federer had not played in a ranking tournament since Wimbledon in 2016, while Nadal cut short his season in October due to wrist problems.
Nevertheless the final between Federer and Nadal was one of the greatest rivalries of all time in tennis. “Nadal, too, played very well and they both showed why they are great champions on and off the court,” said Djokovic.
Federer and Nadal (five years younger than Federer) have been playing each other since 2004. Federer has a winning record on grass (2–1) and indoor hard courts (5–1), while Nadal leads the outdoor hard courts (8–3) and clay (13–2). From 2006 to 2008, they played in every French Open and Wimbledon final. Then they met in the 2009 Australian Open, where Nadal defeated Federer (7-5, 3-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-2).
Federer is among the greatest tennis player of all time, and the first men’s singles player to reach10 consecutive grand-slam tournament finals. He has been ranked among the top eight players in the world continuously for 14 years and 2 weeks, from 14 October 2002 until 31 October 2016, when injuries forced him to forgo much of the 2016 season.
Federer, the Federer Express or FedEx, or the Swiss Maestro, has said “It is nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.” It is this motto that has made him a well-liked person on tour with a reputation for being a ‘Mr Nice Guy.’ And sometimes nice guys come first.