The Resurgence Of The Old Guard At The 2017 Australian Open

In the aftermath of Serena Williams’ 23rd and Roger Federer’s 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, we reflect on a tournament which has seen a remarkable resurgence in the old guard. The Williams sisters final was one which was certainly not predicted pre-tournament, and when Rafael Nadal overcame Grigor Dimitrov in a pulsating five-set semi-final to set up a meeting with old foe Roger Federer, the nostalgic final foursome was complete.

It’s debatable which final would have been deemed the most unlikely to ever occur again in a Grand Slam event, but the chance to roll back the years to see these two match-ups compete for such a major prize was one which tennis fans relished.

TSZ has decided to look at how the 2017 Australian Open has panned out and look at whether the old guard have set any records on their way to the latter stages of the tournament. For the purpose of this piece, we’ve examined the records back to when the Open era began in 1968, with the first Australian Open in the Open era taking place in 1969.

The 2017 tournament has seen highest cumulative age of women in the semi-finals in the Open era at the Australian Open. Coco Vandeweghe, Mirjana Lučić-Baroni, Venus and Serena Williams combine for an age of 130, a huge 18 years higher than the previous best at an Australian Open set just last year in 2016.

The men also set a very high total with Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal totalling 121 years. However, it was only the third highest cumulative age in the Australian Open, with that total upstaged in 1972 and 1976 with 126 and 122 years respectively.

When we total the combined age of the women with the men, 2017 comes out on top by a long way and shows what an achievement it is by this group of players. Their combined ages come out at 251, which is a whopping 24 years higher than the next best of 227 set last year.

When we choose to just look at the finalists, the Williams sisters again set the tone. They check-in at a combined 71 years of age, nine years higher than the previous best which was set last year in a final that again included Serena.

Nadal and Federer’s combined age comes in at the second highest amongst Australian Open male finalists. Together, they add up to 65 years but fall short of the 1972 final, when the then 37-year-old Ken Rosewall and 36-year-old Mal Anderson clocked in at a combined 73 years of age.

The combined cumulative age of the four finalists in 2017 comes in at 136 years. This is the highest age set in the Australian Open and beats the previous highest total set in 1972 which was 119 years – yet another large difference of 17 years.

Finally, we extend our analysis to the other three Grand Slams – The French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open:

In terms of combined figures, the 2017 semi-final line-up at the Australian Open was the oldest to ever take part in a Grand Slam event – 251 years (an average age in excess of 30). Last year’s Wimbledon comes close behind with 245. Incredibly, four of the top five are from the last two years.

And finalists?

The 2017 Australian Open line-up of finalists will also go down in history as the oldest of the Open era – 136 years. Again, we see a strong presence of recent tournaments here, and with Federer, Nadal and the Williams sisters et al showing no sign of dropping off just yet, we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar figures in the next three Grand Slams this year.

Some further statistical nuggets:

  • The oldest cumulative age for female semi-finalists in any Grand Slam tournament has come about in this tournament – 130 years.

  • The oldest cumulative age for male semi-finalists was set at the French Open in 1968 – 132 years.

  • The highest age recorded for two female finalists in any Grand Slam event has again occurred in 2017 with the Williams sisters – 71 years.

  • The highest total for the male finalists occurred at the Australian Open but that came in 1972 as touched upon earlier – 73 years.

Not only has it been a thrilling tournament but records have tumbled thanks to some outstanding performances by some of the legendary older players on tour. The exploits of these great champions – supposedly in the twilight of their careers - have captured the imagination of sports fanatics around the world. It’s possibly the last time we will ever see the historic match-ups we were treated to in both finals, so for that reason, the 2017 Australian Open has been one of the most memorable Grand Slams in the sport’s history.