3 of the 4 finalists in the men’s and women’s singles of the Australian Open are 35 years old or older. Venus Williams was the first player to punch their ticket into the final, she’s 36; next was Serena, 35; then Roger Federer pulled out a grueling 5-set victory to reach the men’s final, 35. We are constantly told that youth reigns supreme when it comes to sports, but lately we are reminded that success can be achieved later than expected.
In the case of Roger Federer, the bar was set low going into this season. He was coming off a six month break from tennis as he recovered from a knee injury and subsequent surgery. Most “experts” and fans gave him ZERO chance of ever winning another major title let alone making the final of one. Well, just as Federer has done throughout his career, he’s defied these naysayers through some exemplary Australian Open performances.
In the case of the Williams sisters, both are in their mid-30s and looking hungrier than ever. Serena has been on the cusp of winning a slam since she won her last Wimbledon title in 2016. Venus on the other hand has had a significantly longer drought. She has not hoisted a grand slam singles trophy since 2008 at Wimbledon.
Venus has overcome the most adversity, having been diagnosed with sjogren’s syndrome in 2011—a physical ailment causing overwhelming bouts of fatigue. Doctor’s told her it was unlikely she would ever compete at a high level again, and here she is. This is her first final appearance since that ’08 title.
The understanding in tennis is that if you’re past the age of 29, you’re finished. 30 is a dirty word. You’ve forgotten how to hold a racquet by then and you’re doomed to waste away into the sports abyss. Well times they are a changin’, and athletes are able to performance at a high level much later into their careers these days.
How do you maintain your peak performance later into life? Don’t be afraid to take some time off for rehabbing. Let’s face it, aches and pains will occur more frequently with age; but rather than pushing through them (or forcing through them), don’t be to take time off to fully heal. This is what Federer did after his knee injury. Instead of coming back for the U.S. Open to compete at half health, he sat out for the rest of 2016 to return to 100%. Now he’s playing his best tennis in years, and he attributes it to his time away.