Comparing Roger Federer's Year at Age 30 to Other All-Time Greats

JA AllenSenior Writer IOctober 5, 2012

Comparing Roger Federer's Year at Age 30 to Other All-Time Greats

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    In the long and storied history of tennis, there have been many players whose game and whose fame rose and fell quickly.

    A few, however, have hung on to play top-notch tennis into their 30s. This is truer today than at any time prior to 1968 when the Open Era in tennis began.

    Prior to 1968, most of the best male players left the amateur arena, which allowed them to play in the most prestigious tennis events for the financial rewards of the pro tour.

    They were, after all, professional athletes deserving of pay for their performances on court.

    Many played well into the their 30s and some into their 40s—but as professionals they played under conditions and with formats unlike the modern game.

    We survey the top 10 (plus one) who played some of their best tennis during their 30th year and for some, well beyond that milestone.

    In order to make this list, the player had to win at least one major at age 30 plus remain active on tour throughout that year.

    There is little difference between these 11 tennis professionals who each played the game a long time and played it very well throughout their illustrious careers.

11. Chris Evert, United States

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    1 Grand Slam Title

    Chris Evert turned 30 on December 21, 1984.

    During her 30th year she won the 1985 French Open, defeating Martina Navratilova in the final 6-3, 6-7. 7-5.

    Just prior to turning 30, Evert won the Australian Open which concluded on December 9. Evert defeated Helena Sukova in the final 6-7, 6-1, 6-3.

    She was runner-up to Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon and at the 1985 Australian Open, reaching the semifinals at the U.S. Open.

    At age 30, in 1985, Evert’s singles record was 81-8 with eight titles. 

    Evert played on until 1989 when she retired from the game.

10. Andre Agassi, United States

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    1 Grand Slam Title, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    Andre Agassi turned 30 on April 29, 2000. Until September of 2000, Agassi held the No. 1 ranking.

    Early, during his 30th year, he was the runner-up in Washington D.C. and finished second at the Tennis Master's Cup in Lisbon—losing to Gustavo Kuerten.

    Agassi won his third Australian Open title in January of 2001, defeating Arnaud Clement in the final 6-4, 6-2, 6-2.

    He finished second in San Jose to Greg Rusedski plus won back to back titles at Indian Wells and Miami defeating Pete Sampras and Jan-Michael Gambill.

    Agassi would continue to play professional tennis until 2006—another six years.

9. Jimmy Connors, United States

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    1 Grand Slam Title, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    Jimmy Connors turned 30 on September 2, 1982. From that day until September 1, 1983, Connors continued his stellar tennis career.

    Just prior to reaching that third decade milestone, Connors won the Wimbledon title in 1982 for the second time, upsetting John McEnroe in an epic five-set final.

    A few days after celebrating his 30th birthday, he won the U.S. Open, defeating Ivan Lendl in four sets.

    Connors won four titles in 1982 including the U.S. Open.

    He won Memphis over Gene Mayer and Las Vegas defeating Mark Edmondson. Connors also won the 1983 Queen's Club over John McEnroe.

    Just after turning 31, Connors won the U.S. Open again, defeating Ivan Lendl in another four-set final.

    Throughout his 30th year, Connors regained the No. 1 ranking—losing and regaining it as he and McEnroe battled for the top spot.

    Connors would continue to play tennis for another decade, officially retiring in 1996.

8. Bill Tilden, United States

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    1 Grand Slam Title, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    Bill Tilden turned 30 on June 5, 1923. 

    During that year Tilden won eight titles including the U.S. Open. 

    He also served on the U.S.A.’s Davis Cup team that defeated the Australians for the Davis Cup 4-1 in 1923 and 5-0 in 1924.

    Tilden played well into his 30s—even into his 40s—but much of the time late in his career he played as part of the professional tour.

    He held the No. 1 ranking during his 30th year, dominating tennis in the United States. 

    Tilden would continue to play tennis until his death in 1953.

7. John Newcombe, Australia

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    1 Grand Slam Title, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    John Newcombe turned 30 on May 23, 1974.

    He was one of the last of the great wave of Aussies to dominate tennis, starting in the 1950s and 1960s.

    During his 30th year, Newcombe won the Australian Open in 1975 defeating Jimmy Connors in the final.

    Teaming with Tony Roche, Newcombe won the Wimbledon doubles title in 1974.

    Newcombe’s single-season record during his 30th year was 10-4, winning four titles in the 1974-1975 year.

    The Aussie was also ranked No. 1 during his 30th year.

    Newcombe officially retired from tennis in 1981 at age 37.

6. Roger Federer, Switzerland

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    1 Grand Slam Title, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    Roger Federer turned 30 on August 8, 2011.

    It turned out to be one his best years in a long while.

    After being dismissed by Novak Djokovic at the 2011 U.S. Open, Federer went on to win at Basel, the Paris Masters Indoors, as well as the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

    In 2012 Federer would take the title in Rotterdam, Dubai, Indian Wells and Madrid.

    The piece de resistance came at the All England Club when Federer captured his seventh Wimbledon title.

    The Swiss would fail to win gold at the 2012 Summer Games but he did bring home the silver.

    During his 30th year, Federer won nine titles including his seventh Wimbledon title.

    Plus he resumed his place at the top of the ATP rankings, overtaking Djokovic for the top spot.

    Not bad for an "old" guy.

5. Roy Emerson, Australia

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    2 Grand Slam Titles

    Roy Emerson turned 30 on November 3, 1966.

    During his 30th year he won the Australian Open for the sixth time defeating American Arthur Ashe in the final 6-4, 6-1, 6-4.

    It was played on the grass courts of Adelaide in January of 1967.

    Later that year, Emerson would win his second French Open title, defeating Tony Roche in the final 6-1, 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

    His win at the French would be Emerson’s last Grand Slam title which numbered 12 by 1967. 

    He was also the runner-up in doubles at Wimbledon and the French Open in 1967, partnering with fellow Aussie Rod Laver.

    Emerson remained active on tour until he retired in 1983.

4. Serena Williams, United States

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    2 Grand Slam Titles, Plus Gold Medal

    Serena turned 30 on September 26, 2011.

    During her 30th year she won her fifth Wimbledon title, defeating Agnieszka Radwanska in the final.

    Serena followed that by winning gold medals at the 2012 Summer Games in women’s singles and doubles.

    She polished off her 30th year by winning the U.S. Open, eliminating Victoria Azarenka in the final.

    With sister Venus, Serena also won doubles at Wimbledon as well the at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

    Yet, she is still only ranked world No. 4. Amazing.

    In all, her singles record through the end of September in 2012 stands at 53-4.

    Will 31 prove to be an even better year for Serena?

2. (tie) Martina Navratilova, Czechoslovakia/United States

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    2 Grand Slam Titles, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    Martina Navratilova turned 30 on October 18, 1986.  She remained very active throughout the year.

    At age 30, Navratilova won her eighth Wimbledon title, defeating Steffi Graf in the final.

    Martina also won the 1987 U.S. Open defeating Steffi Graf again. It was her fourth and final U.S. Open title.

    She also won the Australian Open, the French Open and the U.S. Open in doubles. In addition to those accomplishments in singles and doubles she won the U.S. Open in mixed doubles.

    In November of 1986, Navratilova won the WTA Year-End Championship In New York City over Steffi Graf.

    She ended 1986 world ranked No. 1 and won four titles in 1987.

    Martina never really retired from tennis—she finally faded away in 2006.

2. (tie) Margaret Court, Australia

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    2 Grand Slam Titles, Plus the No. 1 Ranking

    Margaret Court-Smith turned 30 on July 16, 1972.

    Just prior to her 30th year she gave birth to her first child in March of 1972 and did not return to action on court until after Wimbledon.

    She went on to win the 1973 Australian Open, defeating fellow Aussie Evonne Goolagong.

    Court also won the French Open over Chris Evert 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. 

    The Aussie would later win the U.S. Open just after turning 31.

    Court also won the Australian Open, the French Open and later the U.S. Open in 1973 in women’s doubles.

    In a huge publicity stunt, Court was challenged but lost her match against Bobby Riggs in 1973—all in an effort to promote the women’s game.

    She was world ranked No. 1 in 1973 at age 30.

    Court retired from the game in 1977.

1. Rod Laver, Australia

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    3 Grand Slam Titles, Plus No. 1 Ranking

    Rod Laver turned 30 on August 9, 1968 just as the Open Era in tennis began. 

    His 30th year extended from August of 1968 through July of 1969. 

    By the end of August 1969, Laver would have won a calendar year Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same year.

    That fact alone makes Laver's 30th year quite special.

    Laver had accomplished the same feat in 1962, winning all four majors. Then he turned to the pros in order to gain financially for his genius on court.

    He was the acknowledged world No. 1 player in 1968 and 1969, winning 14 titles, including his three grand slam wins while still age 30.

    Laver retired from the game in 1979.