Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Super Fit but Can Old Guard Break Ken's Record?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Super Fit but Can Old Guard Break Ken's Record?

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Jones @dgjones Read Dan Jones's column every Tuesday

ACOUPLE of days after New Year in 1972, Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open on the lawns of the old Kooyong courts in Melbourne. It was an upset, of sorts. A crowd of 13,000 had come to watch and the feeling was that Rosewall's opponent and fellow Aussie, Mal Anderson, would probably carry the day.

Not so. Rosewall, the defending champion, turned up to the court just 30 minutes before the start of the match, having been stuck in traffic; despite a near-total lack of warm-up time, he sailed through the match, putting Anderson to bed 7-6, 6-3, 7-5. Rosewall completed his fourth Grand Slam victory of the Open era to sit along another four from his amateur days and an absolute hatful from his time on the Pro Slam circuit. It was, as it turned out, his last big win, though he played on until 1978, leaving the game as he is remembered today: as one of the best men to hold a racquet.

Looking back, Rosewall's career was a weird and wonderful thing, awkwardly straddling as it did the transition from amateur to Open tennis. But the 1972 Australian Open Final was especially odd, not least because the combined age of the two men contesting the title was 73: Anderson was 36 and Rosewall (below) 37.

"It is the first time," sniffed one American journalist, "that such aged players will meet in the final of a major national tournament and a reflection on the standard of tennis Down Under."

Be that as it may.

In winning the title, Rosewall left a mark on the record books which has yet to be overwritten, for he became the oldest man ever to win an Open Grand Slam singles title. Today, 45 and a half years later, no one has caught him. And, indeed, for all that we talk now about the current ageing generation in men's tennis, as a group they have some way to go.

Yesterday, Andy Murray turned 30.

The previous day, his rough-contemporary Rafael Nadal won the Madrid Open; by the time the French Open is through, on June 11, the Spaniard will be 31. …

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