Age and treachery may yet overcome youth and skill; we will see on Day 4 at the US Open. While most tennis observers view players age 21-29 to be in their prime, fully one-third of the 32 male singles players in today’s section of the draw are either in their 30s or under the age of 21.
Grand Slam Seeker
Seven of the players remaining in this half of the draw are in their 30s. #1 seed Novak Djokovic leads the over-30 gang. At age 34 the world’s top player seeks to become the first male to win the calendar-year Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
Djokovic also aims to become the oldest Calendar Year Grand Slam winner by surpassing Laver who turned the trick at 31 years old. Additionally, if he claims the US Open crown Djokovic will surpass Stan Wawrinka as the oldest to win this event. At 31, Wawrinka took the title in 2016. To continue on this path, Djokovic must defeat 25-year-old Tallon Griekspoor in Round 2.
The 30 Somethings
While Djokovic is the best known of the thirty-somethings in action today, he is not nearly the oldest. Gael Monfils turned 35 on Wednesday, while the day’s elder statesman is 37-year-old Andres Seppi of Italy. Monfils faces fellow elder, 31-year-old Steve Johnson, in Round 2. Seppi, who saved five match points in round 1, squares off against #10 seed Hubert Hurkacz, a man 13 years junior of Seppi.
The other aging veterans to compete today include Canada’s Vasek Pospisil and Japan’s Kei Nishikori–who are both 31– and 33-year-old Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
Youth Also Served
While seven men over 30 remain alive in this half of the draw, youth is still present. #13 seed Jannik Sinner is arguably the world’s best player under 21 years old. However, at age 20, Sinner is the old man in his match Thursday as he faces 18-year-old American Zach Svajda for a spot in Round 3. In contrast, when the veteran Seppi made his US Open singles debut in 2004, Svajda was born in 2002.
Other under-21s competing today are 20-year-old American Jensen Brooksby and 19-year-old Lorenzo Musetti of Italy. They take on “old men” Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka who are 23 and 24 respectively.
While Djokovic is the odds on favorite to become the oldest male US Open champion in the open era, crowning the youngest champion of all time seems doubtful. Only Zvajda qualifies as being younger than the 19 year, 0-month champion from 1990, Pete Sampras
Now 50, Sampras likely looks back at one of the defining moments of his teenage years and marvels at how quickly time has passed. Don’t we all?
Main Photo from Getty.