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WIMBLEDON – Federer, soon to be 40, in the legend of epics from another age

Ken Rosewall, Australian Open 1972

In terms of longevity, this remains the absolute reference in the history books since it was on this occasion that the legendary Australian became the oldest player to win a Grand Slam title. At 37 years and two months, he had beaten his compatriot Malcolm Anderson in the final, himself not really fresh (36 years and nine months).

“There is no way my record will ever be broken,” said “Muscles” at the time. A little hastily, perhaps. Three more victories and Federer will smash this ancestral record, from all points of view.


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Ken Rosewall and Mal Anderson after their final in Australia, January 1972.

Credit: Getty Images

Ken Rosewall, Australian Open 1977

For this record, on the other hand, Rosewall can rest easy for at least three years: in 1977, for his penultimate Australian Open (26 years after the first!), he had become, at 42 years and two months , the oldest Grand Slam semi-finalist in the Open era, beaten by American Roscoe Tanner.

Without denigrating this performance, remember that the Australian Open was still largely devalued at the time. Neither Borg nor Connors were present, for example. But Rosewall had nevertheless pulled off well, notably beating the American Riessen in five sets. Not bad for an old man.

Ken Rosewall, more than a quarter century of exploits at the Australian Open.

Credit: Getty Images

Ken Rosewall, Wimbledon 1974

Promised, afterwards, we stop with Ken Rosewall. But, probably even more than his Australian epics, we retain even more his astonishing career in 1974 at Wimbledon where, at 39 years and 224 days, he became the oldest finalist in the tournament, beaten by the young Jimmy Connors.

This record still stands, especially since Rosewall had also established that of the oldest semi-finalist. But he is now under threat from Federer who, at 39 years and 337 days, has already partially erased him from the shelves by becoming the oldest quarter-finalist in the Temple (Open era).

Jimmy Connors, US Open 1991

Probably the most legendary epic achieved by an “old man” in a Grand Slam tournament. At 39 years and a few days, Jimmy Connors had ignited New York by signing legendary victories against Patrick McEnroe, Aaron Krickstein or Paul Haarhuis, before literally “dying” against Jim Courier in the semi-finals. He had thus become the oldest semi-finalist of the US Open since … Ken Rosewall, him again, in 1974 (Rosewall being also the oldest winner of the US Open, 35 years and ten months in 1970).

No one has done better since, in any Grand Slam tournament. There is no doubt that Roger Federer must also have this reference in the back of his mind.

1991 U.S. Open Jimmy Connors

Credit: Imago

Pancho Gonzales, Roland Garros 1968

Apart from the essential Ken Rosewall, only one other forty-something has reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era: the legendary American Pancho Gonzales, who was 40 years and 29 days old when he reached the semi-finals. -finals of the no less legendary 1968 edition of Roland-Garros.

And the worst is that he had done it in a fight by beating in particular, after two big marathons, the French n°1 Pierre Darmon in the 3rd round, and the world n°1 in “pre-Open” tennis. Roy Emerson in quarters. This good old Pancho had then electrified the Parisian crowd which, in full movement of May 68, had moved en masse Porte d’Auteuil.

Andres Gimeno, Roland Garros 1972

If Roger Federer won the 2018 Australian Open at 36 years and five months, another man (in addition to Rosewall) still resists the onslaught of longevity from the other members of the Big Three: the Spaniard Andres Gimeno was indeed 34 years and ten months during his success at Roland-Garros in 1972, against the Frenchman Patrick Proisy.

This record, his compatriot Rafael Nadal would have beaten him if he had won Roland-Garros this year. But we know what happened: defeat against Djokovic, who finally won the day at 34 years and 22 days.

Andres Gimeno

Credit: Getty Images

Major Ritchie, Wimbledon 1919

Not many people had heard of him before, and not many people will hear of him in the future. So this is the opportunity to slip here this record held by Major Josiah Georges Ritchie, who in 1919 became the oldest quarter-finalist in Wimbledon history, at 48 years and eight months.

Technically, Ritchie, finalist ten years earlier (at 38, therefore!), was even semi-finalist but at the time, Wimbledon was played according to the principle of the Challenge Round, the outgoing winner being directly qualified for the final.

To hope to beat this record, Federer will therefore have to play at least until 2030.


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