With the Australian Open coming along soon, questions of age naturally surface, particularly whether or not Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, old men by tennis standards, can still come anywhere near what they did in 2017.
There is limited precedent.
Ken Rosewall was 37 years and two months of age when he won the 1972 Australian Open. Rosewall in also second on the list, as well as fourth. How Rosewall never managed to win Wimbledon is one of those mysteries that will forever go unsolved.
Rod Laver last won a Grand Slam event in 1969, when he was 31, the same age as Nadal currently, but Laver added the extra icing on the cake by winning all four Grand Slams that year.
Limiting the discussion to singles, John Newcombe was also 31 when he won the Australian Open in 1975.
Which brings us to Roger Federer. He would have to win a Grand Slam in two years to equal Rosewall, which seems implausible, but not any more implausible than it was for him to win two Grand Slams in 2017 after missing half of 2016.
Aussie tennis legend Lleyton Hewitt weighed in on the 2018 prospects of Federer and Nadal. Asked if the two could extend last year’s dominance into the coming year, Hewitt said, “You wouldn’t think so but I don’t know if those two are normal, especially Roger. At his age, he’s wound back the clock. Even against Rafa, he’s done the best he ever has against him. I wouldn’t say there’s anything those two can’t do.”
The main threats in 2018 for both Nadal and Federer would seem to be from Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, both of them, like Nadal and Federer, returning from injury-force layoffs.
Hewitt is holding out hopes for some of the younger Aussies, including Nick Kyrgios, Thanasi Kokkinakis and Jordan Thompson.
There are others figuring into the equation that are also returning from injuries, said Hewitt. “You’ve got (Stan) Wawrinka, (Milos) Raonic, (Kei) Nishikori — a lot of top guys coming off an extended break from injuries or surgeries at the end of the year.”