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Australian tennis legend Ken Rosewall was just two months shy of his 40th birthday when he reached the last of his Slam finals – the 1974 US Open – by far the oldest in the sport’s history.
For the record “Muscles” was beaten in straight sets by American leftie Jimmy Connors who was only 21.
Rosewall is also the oldest to win a Slam at 37 and 74 days when he beat compatriot Mal Anderson (36 and 306) in straight sets at the 1972 Australia Open – the oldest Slam final in history.
Today Roger Federer is 36 and 70 days, and at the weekend defied Father Time yet again by whupping the world number one Rafael Nadal 6-4 6-3 in 70 minutes of supreme Fed Express tennis at the Shanghai Masters final.
Federer broke Nadal in the opening game, broke him twice in the second set, and lost only eight points on his own serve with 20 aces.
It was a case of the good guy dismantling the sour Spaniard, who begrudgingly shook Federer’s hand, and the central umpire.
But the story is the longevity comparison between Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer.
It’s virtually impossible to fairly compare the two as it’s not a level playing field.
Rosewall was one of the early signatories to Jack Kramer’s professional troupe between 1957 and 1967, making the Australian ineligible for Slams which were exclusive to amateurs.
As a result Rosewall missed 40 Slams and it would be reasonable to assume he would have won at least 15, taking his career tally to 23 – Federer holds the world record with 19.
But there’s no argument both have been, and are, superb ambassadors for their sport, as well as sharing two of the sweetest swinging single-handed backhands in history.
There’s also no argument over their longevity.
Federer reckons his current crack form is due to missing the entire clay court season.
“And I’m very very happy about everything,” Federer added.
Can he keep making Slam finals?
It would be a brave punter to back against it.
But to beat Ken Rosewall he must keep playing at the Shanghai level for another three-plus years.
And to put Rosewall’s career in perspective he was in four losing Wimbledon finals with 20 years between the first and last.
There were 19 years between his first Australian Open win and his fourth, 15 years between his two French Opens, and 14 years between his two US Opens.
He’s still the youngest Australian Championship winner at 18 years and two months, and the youngest between 1953 and 1955 to reach all four Slam finals.
Roger Federer proved he’s capable of anything by winning his 19th Slam at Wimbledon in straight sets over Marin Cilic at 35 years and 341 days.
But to match the Australian, Federer will be 43 at the French, 42 at both the Australian and Wimbledon, and just 37 at the US Open.
As I said, it would be a brave punter to bet against it.