Wimbledon 2016 marked the third and so far the last Grand Slam title for Andy Murray, who had turned 29 just a month earlier, and this was the last Major crown for the players who are yet to turn 30, with the following nine finishing in the hands of the 30&over players, which has never been seen in Grand Slam history.
Between 1968-2014, 19 Grand Slam titles had been lifted by the veterans who already celebrated their 30th birthdays and thanks to Stan Wawrinka, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic we had 10 winners in that age group in the last four years alone, something that was unthinkable just 10 years ago.
Wawrinka won the US Open in 2016 at the age of 31 while Federer, Nadal and Djokovic claimed all Major titles in 2017 and 2018 to extend the streak to nine, with not likely to be over anytime soon as well, especially when we know that Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro both turn 30 this month! Djokovic was without a Slam title for two years after winning Roland Garros in 2016 but he has now won two in a row after turning 31 to join the veteran party and give more fuel to the fact that the 30’s are the new 20’s.
Overall, his win in New York was the 29th Grand Slam crown won by the player who turned 30 in the Open era and the occasion is perfect to remember all that champions and examine the periods that were the most fertile ground for the most experienced players to rule the biggest tennis stage.
30&over Grand Slam champions in the Open era:
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1968 Roland Garros – Ken Rosewall (33y 7m)
1969 Australian Open – Rod Lavel (30y 5m)
1969 Roland Garros – Rod Laver (30y 9m)
1969 Wimbledon – Rod Laver (30y 10m)
1969 US Open – Rod Laver (31y 1m)
1970 US Open – Ken Rosewall (35y 10m)
1971 Australian Open – Ken Rosewall (36y 2m)
1972 Australian Open – Ken Rosewall (37y 2m)
1972 Roland Garros – Andres Gimeno (34y 10m)
1975 Australian Open – John Newcombe (30y 7m)
1975 Wimbledon – Arthur Ashe (31y 11m)
1982 US Open – Jimmy Connors (30y)
1983 US Open – Jimmy Connors (31y)
1990 Roland Garros – Andres Gomez (30y 3m)
1998 Australian Open – Petr Korda (30y)
2001 Australian Open – Andre Agassi (30y 8m)
2002 US Open – Pete Sampras (31y)
2003 Australian Open – Andre Agassi (32y 8m)
2012 Wimbledon – Roger Federer (30y 11m)
2015 Roland Garros – Stan Wawrinka (30y 2m)
2016 US Open – Stan Wawrinka (31y 5m)
2017 Australian Open – Roger Federer (35y 5m)
2017 Roland Garros – Rafael Nadal (31y)
2017 Wimbledon – Roger Federer (35y 11m)
2017 US Open – Rafael Nadal (31y 3m)
2018 Australian Open – Roger Federer (36y 5m)
2018 Roland Garros – Rafael Nadal (32y)
2018 Wimbledon – Novak Djokovic (31y 1m)
2018 US Open – Novak Djokovic (31y 3m)
Between 1968-1972, three players had won nine Grand Slam titles after turning 30, with Ken Rosewall and Rod Laver sharing the first eight before Andres Gimeno took the Roland Garros in 1972 at the age of 34, standing as the oldest champion in Paris and overall at Majors before Roger Federer managed to surpass him at the Australian Open 2017! Rosewall was already 33 when the Open era started but that was hardly an obstacle for him, winning Roland Garros in 1968 and the US Open in 1970 to become by far the oldest winner in New York at the age of 35.
Like that wasn’t enough, he conquered the Australian Open crowns in 1971 and 1972, the last one at the age of 37, standing as the oldest winner at the home Major. After four straight years with 30&over Grand Slam champions, we had to wait until 1975 to see the extension of our list, with John Newcombe lifting the crown in Australia and Arthur Ashe who took Wimbledon at the age of 31 years and 11 months, good enough to stay the oldest champion in the temple of tennis until 2017 when Federer raised the bar for another four years, going all the way just before turning 36.
Jimmy Connors managed to win his last US Open titles in 1982 and 1983 just after the 30th and the 31st birthdays, standing as the only 30&over Grand Slam champion between 1976-1989! Andres Gomez joined him seven years later at the Roland Garros as the first player from this age group who lifted the trophy in Paris after 18 years and then again it all stopped for another eight years, as it was impossible to beat the young guns born in the early 70’s. For more than 20 years (between 1976-1997) Connors and Gomez were the only Major champions after turning 30 and it was Petr Korda who had joined the list in Melbourne 1998, just a few days after celebrating his 30th birthday.
Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras took charge in 2001, 2002 and 2003 and was the oldest winner since 1972 when he conquered his eighth and last Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2003 when he was 32 years and eight months old. In the next nine years, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were the dominant figures on the Tour and the veterans stood no chance against them, having to wait for Roger to turn 30 to add another player to this article when he claimed the Wimbledon crown in 2012, just before his 31st birthday.
For the last four seasons, there was at least one 30&over Major champion and it all started with Stan Wawrinka who grabbed his first Grand Slam title at Roland Garros 2015 just after turning 30, the first player to do so in Paris in 15 years. A year later the Swiss went on to conquer the US Open as well, becoming the first 30&over player with two back-to-back titles on this list since Jimmy Connors in the early 80’s and also the oldest winner in New York since Ken Rosewall 36 years ago! Since then, every Grand Slam crown has settled in the hands of the veterans, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic sharing all eight Major tournaments in 2017 and 2018, just like in good old times.
Roger had become the first 35-year-old champion in three and a half decades when he won the Australian Open in 2017, followed by Rafael Nadal who celebrated his 31st birthday with the title in Paris, standing as the oldest champion of the Roland Garros since Gimeno in 1972! As we already said, Roger won Wimbledon as by far the oldest player in the Open era a few weeks later and Rafa completed a perfect year for those two with the trophy in New York, making it the first season since 1969 with four 30&over champions.
2018 brought nothing new in terms of the players’ age, with Federer pushing the limits again in Melbourne to celebrate at the age of 36, standing just behind Rosewall who performed 35 years before Roger in a completely different sport. In Paris, Nadal had become only the third Roland Garros champion in the Open era who turned 32 after Rosewall and Gimeno decades ago and it was all about Novak at the last two Majors of the season.
Novak has become the 14th 30&over Grand Slam champion in the Open era and also the oldest who bundled the titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, passing Rod Laver who did that at 30 almost 50 years ago in 1969! Novak is the third oldest Wimbledon champion after Federer and Ashe and we should see more from the Serb in the years to come, looking eager to get his name on this list many more times before ending his career.
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