At 43, Thomas Muster is still a relative tennis youngster

By Sean Calvert
thomas muster
It has been the month of the golden oldies on the ATP and WTA tours this October with 43-year-old Thomas Muster returning and 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm reaching a tour final

thomas muster

It has been the month of the golden oldies on the ATP and WTA tours this October with 43-year-old Thomas Muster returning and 40-year-old Kimiko Date Krumm reaching a tour final.

With today’s tennis stars reaching their peak and retiring at a much younger age than ever before, we take a look a dying breed and salute the veterans of the game.

Muster’s bid to turn back the clock and relive the glory days of the 1990s smacks more of boxing than tennis, but a select few have managed to return and walk away with the big prizes in the past.

The current record—and this is never going to be beaten—for oldest men’s grand slam winner is held by 1909 Wimbledon champion Arthur Gore, whose century-old glory was achieved by winning the third of his singles titles at the age of 41.

Tennis in the early years of the 20th century, however, was not overly competitive. Indeed Gore only had to play one match as defending champion from the previous year.

Once we head into the modern era, starting in 1968, there are far fewer older players who managed to win titles, apart from a few notable exceptions.

Spain’s Andres Gimeno won the French Open at 34 in 1974 and a revitalised Andre Agassi claimed the Australian Open in 2003 at the age of 32. Agassi also topped the world rankings at 33—becoming the oldest man to do so—but that is about it as far as veteran men’s slam winners go.

The women’s game has had its share of older winners, with Billie Jean King still holding the record of oldest champion from when she won the Dow Classic in Birmingham in 1983 when just over four months shy of her 40th birthday.

That record was in severe danger last week, however, when Date Krumm lost out to 33-year-old Tamarine Tanasugarn in the final in Osaka, which unsurprisingly became the oldest WTA final in history.

Even in defeat Date had earlier in the tournament become the first player over the age of 40 to defeat a top-10 ranked opponent when she beat defending champion Sam Stosur.

Any discussion regarding determined old campaigners simply has to include Jimmy Connors and he gets recognition here for reaching the 1991 US Open semi-finals at the age of 39.

Coincidentally, a much younger Connors defeated another 39-year-old twice in grand slam finals many years earlier when he hammered Ken Rosewall at both Wimbledon and the US Open in 1974.

Rosewall refused to let that finish him off though and went on to win titles and reach finals into his 40s, the last one being the Hong Kong event in 1977 when he was 43 – the same age as Muster today.

But former world No1 Muster still has time on his side in comparison to the legendary Richard Gonzalez, who was still giving Connors and the young upstarts a run for their money in his 45th year.

Gonzalez won the title in Des Moines three months before his 44th birthday in 1972 and was still playing—and reaching the latter stages of events—the following year before taking part in what was supposed to be his final match in Los Angeles, coincidentally against Connors, in 1973.

Gonzalez, however, clearly still had a bit of suppleness in his limbs a few months short of his 48th birthday when he came back to play the event in Salisbury, Maryland in 1976, where he lost in the first round.

Almost matching Gonzalez in the longevity stakes was Martina Navratilova, who was still beating top-100 ranked opponents in singles aged 47 in 2004. She still plays doubles to this day.

If the Austrian were to come anywhere close to matching that or any other of the above feats it would surely be the most remarkable comeback in tennis history.

Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. © The Sporting Exchange Limited

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