In tennis these days, players are performing – and winning – later than ever before. Roger Federer is 38, Rafael Nadal is about to turn 34, and Novak Djokovic is nearly 33. They’re still among the best male players on tour. On the female side, Serena Williams is 38 and has reached four Grand Slam finals in the past two years.
What are the greatest grand slam performances in history by players over age 35? From Jimmy Connors’ amazing run at the U.S. Open at age 39 to Martina Navratilova’s Wimbledon farewell, here’s our list.
Note that this list only ranks performances in the Open era (starting in 1968), so don’t expect to read about Bill Tilden’s 1930 Wimbledon win at age 37 on our list!
(And if you’re over 35 yourself, check out our list of the top tennis knee braces to protect your knees!)
Best Grand Slam Performances in Tennis History By Players Over Age 35
5 Ken Rosewall, Australian Open, 1972 (age 37)
Four of the eight oldest grand slam victories by male players came courtesy of Australian Ken Rosewall. He won eight grand slam titles, the last of which came at his home country’s grand slam tourney in 1972 when he beat Malcolm Anderson in straight sets. Because there were competing tennis tours in 1972, the competition in that year’s Australian Open wasn’t as strong as it could have been. But Rosewall still deserves credit for triumphing at such an advanced age, with his legendary backhand. His record as oldest grand slam champion still stands.
4 Roger Federer, Wimbledon, 2017 (age 35)
Federer added to his legend by capturing a record eighth Wimbledon championship in 2017, his 19th career grand slam overall. Federer was an absolute machine, winning all 20 sets he played and beating top players like Cilic, Raonic, Berdych, and Dimitrov. Federer notched several other interesting records during the tournament, including hitting his 10,000th career ace.
3 Martina Navratilova, Wimbledon, 1994 (age 37)
Three years after winning her last grand slam title, Martina Navratilova made her farewell appearance at Wimbledon in 1994 and went all the way to the final, falling one set short against Conchita Martinez. It seemed as though Navratilova’s best days were behind her, she took advantage of a weak draw and gave tennis fans one last glorious memory. Navratilova did return to Wimbledon in 2004 for one last hurrah at age 47, reaching the second round.
2 Jimmy Connors, U.S. Open, 1991 (age 39)
Five-time U.S. Open champ Jimmy Connors gave fans one of the greatest stories in tennis history when he reached the semifinals of the ’91 Open at age 39, overcoming huge deficits and marathon five-set matches along the way as he battled players half his age. His most iconic victory was a fourth-round win over Aaron Krickstein in which Connors came back for a 7-6 win in the fifth set in the wee hours in the morning, electrifying the New York crowd. Connors finally bowed out in the semis to Jim Courier.
1 Serena Williams, Australian Open, 2017 (age 35)
Serena Williams finally eclipsed Steffi Graf’s all-time Open-era record of 22 grand slam titles when she won the Australian Open in 2017. Serena dominated, not dropping a set in the tournament, and becoming the oldest women ever to win a grand slam title. The final was one for the ages, as Serena defeated her sister Venus, who was 36 at the time. What really makes this performance legendary is the later revelation that Serena was eight weeks pregnant at the time. It will be hard for anyone to top that performance!
Oldest Male Grand Slam Champions (In the Open era)
As of May 2020
1 Ken Rosewall, 1972 Australian Open (37 years, 1 month)
2 Roger Federer, 2018 Australian Open (36 years, 5 months)
3 Ken Rosewall, 1971 Australian Open (36 years, 4 months)
4 Roger Federer, 2017 Wimbledon (35 years, 10 months)
5 Ken Rosewall, 1970 U.S. Open (35 years, 10 months)
6 Roger Federer, 2017 Australian Open (35 years, 5 months)
7 Andres Gimeno, 1972 French Open (34 years, 9 months)
8 Ken Rosewall, 1968 French Open (33 years, 6 months)
9 Rafael Nadal, 2019 U.S. Open (33 years, 2 months)
10 Rafael Nadal, 2019 French Open (32 years, 11 months)
Other notables below the Top Ten:
11 Andre Agassi, 2003 Australian Open (32 years, 8 months)
12 Novak Djokovic, 2020 Australian Open (32 years, 7 months)
15 Arthur Ashe, 1975 Wimbledon (31 years, 11 months)
17 Stan Wawrinka, 2016 U.S. Open (31 years, 5 months)
21 Rod Laver, 1969 U.S. Open (31 years, 18 days)
22 Pete Sampras, 2002 U.S. Open (31 years, 14 days)
23 Jimmy Connors, 1983 U.S. Open (30 years, 11 months)
Oldest Female Grand Slam Champions (In the Open era)
As of May 2020
1 Serena Williams, 2017 Australian Open (35 years, 4 months)
2 Serena Williams, 2016 Wimbledon (34 years, 9 months)
3 Serena Williams, 2015 Wimbledon (33 years, 9 months)
4 Martina Navratilova, 1990 Wimbledon (33 years, 9 months)
5 Serena Williams, 2015 French Open (33 years, 8 months)
6 Flavia Pennetta, 2015 U.S. Open (33 years, 6 months)
7 Serena Williams, 2014 U.S. Open (32 years, 11 months)
8 Virginia Wade, 1977 Wimbledon (31 years, 11 months)
9 Serena Williams, 2013 U.S. Open (31 years, 11 months)
10 Li Na, 2014 Australian Open (31 years, 11 months)
Billie Jean King, 1975 Wimbledon (31 years, 7 months)
Chris Evert, 1986 French Open (31 years, 6 months)