© Ella Ling

Roger Federer

Vanishing teenagers, Federer and the oldest ever slam


The Great Toupee Final at Roland Garros, when Andres Gomez won the 1990 title, is going to be referenced throughout this French Open. That was the occasion when Andre Agassi, Gomez’s opponent, was less concerned with winning the title than with whether his wig was going to slide off on to the clay. Why the relevance to this year? Gomez is the last player in his 30s to have won the Musketeers Cup; Roger Federer will be trying to change that over the next couple of weeks in Paris. 

If Federer (who turned 30 last August) were to win the title, that would complete the celebration of the old guy at this grand slam – there are 37 players in the men’s tournament who are aged 30 or above, which is a record for the modern era. While Federer is the only man in his 30s who has a hope of winning the French Open, the fact that there are so many veterans in the tournament is further indication that the lifespan of a professional tennis player is changing.

Lleyton Hewitt, aged 31 and a wild card, is still hustling. Tommy Haas, 33, is in the draw after going through qualifying. There is a 32-year-old former champion on the clay, in Juan Carlos Ferrero. The oldest man in the singles competition is 34-year-old Arnaud Clement. The Gang of Thirtysomethings also includes James Blake (32), Ivo Karlovic (32), Michael Llodra (31), Nikolay Davydenko (30), Feliciano Lopez (30), David Ferrer (30) and David Nalbandian (30).

Further indications that the age demographic is changing in the locker-room? There is only one teenager in the men’s singles – Bernard Tomic. So the kids have almost disappeared from view. You have to wonder if we will ever see another teenager winning a slam, the last being Rafael Nadal, who turned 19 during the 2005 French Open. A fortnight from today, Federer could do great things for the image of the tennis player in his 30s (in addition to emulating Gomez, the Swiss would also be the first male grand slam champion in his 30s since Agassi, the winner of the 2003 Australian Open).

We could end up with two champions in their 30s, with Serena Williams, 30, the favourite for the women’s title. Monica Seles once spoke of the locker-room’s dread of reaching “the dirty thirties”, as if leaving yours 20s was career death. No more.

Thomas Johansson was the man who surprised himself by winning a grand slam, the 2002 Australian Open. The Swede, long retired, is back surprising a few people in tennis – it has been announced that he will be coaching Caroline Wozniacki. 

Early indications are the ITV are going to do a fine job covering the French Open. Here are a few comments from readers of The Tennis Space: “Enjoying the Courier and Santoro combination”; “Impressive – thought they nailed the start”; “Pleasantly surprised”; “The amount of Murray bias in their intro made me feel ill”; “The Magician sounds good on commentary”; “I like Courier a lot and the studio has a nice setting.”