oldest tennis players while active martina navratilova john mcenroe

6 Oldest Tennis Players While Still Active

Tennis players start young—as young as six years old.

Some players, however, chose to play while they can. Did you know that the oldest tennis player is aged 71 years old? She is Gail Falkenberg, who still plays at lower level pro tennis matches.

It looks like Roger Federer is heading towards this path too.

Nonetheless, here are the oldest tennis players while still active. 

1) Martina Navratilova (49 years)

Navratilova played until she was 49 years old before retiring in 2006. She became a pro in 1975. 

She was inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame because of her achievements. She has won 167 singles titles, 177 doubles title, and a total of 2,189 matches.

2) Younes El Aynaoui (47 years)

El Aynaoui played tennis until he was 47 years old. He started playing as a professional in 1990 and retired in 2018.

In 2017, El Aynaoui won a match against Bernd Kossler, who was 23 years old then. He was the oldest player to have an ATP ranking.

However, it was his 2003 Australian Open quarterfinals match against Andy Roddick that made him a standout. It was the fifth-longest Grand Slam match. He reached his highest career ranking at No. 13.

El Aynaoui has five titles. 

3) Billie Jean King (47 years)

King started playing professionally in 1968 before retiring in 1990 when she was already 47 years old. 

In 1973, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). It was the same year when she first lobbied for equal prize money between male and female tennis players. King was the first woman to earn $100,000 prize money.

She was also the other half of the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match.

She was named Sportsperson of the Year and was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1987.

King has a total of 168 titles.

4) Kimiko Date (47 years)

Date played professional tennis for almost three decades (1989-2017). She was 47 years old when she retired. She last played at Japan Women’s Open in 2017.

It was in 1994 when she won her first NSW Open in Sydney, Australia. Because of this, she became the first Japanese player to obtain a WTA ranking at No. 9.

Date has 22 titles. 

5) John McEnroe (46 years)

McEnroe is legendary for his tantrums, but he is more than that. He was dubbed an artist when holding a racquet. His plays are passionate and intense.

He was one of the players who ranked No. 1 at both the men’s singles and doubles division.

His famous rivalries are against Björn Borg and Jimmy Connors.

He played from 1957 to 1980 and won a total of 155 titles.

McEnroe was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.

6) Ken Rosewall (46 years)

Rosewall retired in 1980 with a total of 133 career titles.

He has many records under his name. For instance, Rosewall was the oldest major tournament winner when he was 37 years old. It was during the 1972 Australian Open.

Interestingly, Rosewall was also the youngest Australian Open champion.  He won the title in 1953 when she was only 18 years old.

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How Tennis Has Changed Over the Years

If you are wondering how tennis has evolved the years, the most straightforward idea is: with wide variations in tennis, no one player is dominating the sport.

Sure, tennis fans indulge in the prowess and experts of the super trio, namely Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic. However, this is how concentrated the sport is. On the one hand, we got the three, and on the other hand, we got Serena Williams (as if saying women’s tennis is a pretty diffused territory.

How tennis has changed 

A lot of things have happened since tennis became a pro sport in 1968.

If there’s one word to describe modern tennis, that would be power. 

For one, tennis players are using racquets made from graphite composites and carbon fibres. The racquets are lighter but equally durable like wooden racquets. 

The strings, whether they are synthetic or power strings, tend to be looser and generating more spin. As such, a tennis player can hit the ball harder to make it land deep into the court. 

Forehands were Eastern grip before compared to their Western grip counterpart that is mostly used today. Even tennis schools are teaching open-stance forehands. Safe slice serves were also inexistent today than the pre-Open era. 

Tennis courts are totally different today as well. Plays are faster, reinforcing the need for speed. One has to be professional about training, for example, since consistency is also crucial in dominating the charts and records.

The style of play has also changed. It was no longer the serve-and-volley type of game that we saw before. Instead, tennis has become a baseline power game. Tennis has become a more physical sport that tests endurance and agility on the court, among others.

Tennis scoring is also radically different nowadays. A tie-breaker was introduced to quicken the pacing of the match. The players are also entitled to challenge specific calls like those in the lines. A hawkeye instant replay can be used to back either the decision or the call. 

When not playing tennis, the activities are still about the sport though. This is particularly true for diet and fitness regime. It takes a village now to tend to the needs of a tennis player. And that includes a nutritionist or dietician and trainer – both physical and mental, in addition to the actual coach. 

The last one was made possible by this change: prize money. And we are talking about huge prize winnings—hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is expected considering that the first US Open gave away $100,000 in winnings. By 2019, it was $57.2 million.

Athlete endorsements have been an additional source of income too. Federer and Djokovic once earned $25 million each in sponsorship deals in just one year.

Prizes and endorsement earnings also changed the attitude of tennis players for the best, but some for the worst. Knowing, compassionate players launched their own foundations and poured over their earnings to various causes. 

Tennis players are competitive today, nevertheless, because of both financial and non-financial rewards of playing tennis.

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How tennis has changed over the years? Can you name other changes not mentioned in the article?

tennis racquet smashing

Racquet Smashing: Why Tennis Players Do Such Craziness

Big ego. A fit of rage. Public display of violence.

These are just some of the phrases to characterise racquet smashing in tennis.

No one is indispensable when it comes such display of aggressiveness. Even the most polite tennis players ~ looking at you, Roger Federer ~ had their fair share of racquet smashing moments.

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Alexander Zverev’s racquet smashing during an Australian Open match

What is it about racquet smashing that makes it so controversial?

Racquet smashing is as controversial as it appears because of bad behaviour modelling. Kids are watching the match, and they have this natural tendency to emulate how their idols behave.

Tracy Austin, a former US Open champion, said that the practice is destructive. It does not help anyone.

Not to mention, a racquet is expensive—almost a luxury to the fans. Seeing tennis players ruin the racquet like it was not instrumental to their success is next to absurd. 

Why do tennis players smash their racquets in the first?

Tennis players smash, spike, bounce, and harm their racquets in any way they can to release emotions such as anger and frustration. When emotions take over, no player can avoid doing it.

Ex-player Ernests Gulbis said that he is against racquet smashing personally since a player can always fix the problems on the court in a different manner. However, admittedly, it helps in making feel better afterwards.

Naomi Osaka also mentioned that releasing the anger is easier than keeping it inside throughout the match.

Regarded as reverse psychology, it is also a strategy to make the opponent think that you are upset with the game.

Novak Djokovic echoes the same sentiment. A well-timed racquet smash can change the direction of any match. He sees it as a way to free himself from the pressure.

Djokovic pounded racquet during a French Open game. While it was something that he wasn’t proud of doing, it happens.

What happens if you smash a racquet?

A physical form of ranting, smashing a racquet has its costly consequences, including resulting in hefty fines or losing a point. 

The latter was demonstrated in Serena Williams versus Osaka in the US Open where Williams lost a point since an earlier warning was already issued.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) issues a US$200 fine for smashing the racquet during the qualifying rounds. This can escalate to US$500 for the main rounds. It can go as high as US$5,500, which happened to Daniel Medvedev when he attacked the grass-court with his racquet.

Which tennis players have smashed their racquet?

Roger Federer, John McEnroe, and Nick Kyrgios are just three of the tennis players who have smashed their racquet several times on the court.

In 2009, Federer smashed his racquet again after about eight years. The crowd booed him and punished for a code violation. Indeed, he was once regarded as a bad boy on the court.

McEnroe, on the other hand, is a name synonymous to the biggest ego in tennis and, thereby, racquet smashing. Due to several moments so intense, people would label a dummy spit as “throwing a McEnroe.” However, McEnroe is a different case because he was usually much better after an incident.

And Kyrgios is definitely following his footsteps with his unique albeit violent on-court antics. He shattered his racquet once and handed it to a young fan as a keepsake.

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A form of emotional release or disruptive behaviour? What’s your take on tennis players smashing their racquets? Let us hear from you!