Rafael Nadal won his 16th Grand Slam and third US Open, capping off a wonder year for two of the greatest tennis players who’ve taken an even share of the grand slams trophies in 2017.
Both finalists, Nadal and Kevin Anderson are 31 years old making it one of the oldest finals in US Open history. Just for a comparison, the year both players were born (1986), the average age of the finalists at the US Open was 24.
The older Nadal-Anderson final isn’t an aberration. It’s growing pattern in Grand Slam tennis - players reaching the finals are among the oldest in the draw. Among all the male Major finalists in 2017, Marin Cilic was the only player below the age of 30.
Since the 2007 Australian Open final against Fernando González, Federer hasn’t faced a single player older than him in a Grand Slam final - not since he was 25 years old.
In men’s tennis, time seems to stand still. The big four continue to dominate the slams, but they’re not the only ones in their age bracket making life hard for the next generation of players. As of August 28, 2017, 23 of the men’s top 50 are either 30 years old or above and significant number of the players are in their late 20s.
The US Open final demonstrates how consistent older players are at the top level, but also how careful they’ve become with their schedules. Younger players on the tour tend to play a lot more tournaments over the course of the year, and crash out relatively early in the slams.
If men’s tennis is still being dominated by older men, then women’s tennis is overpowered by the dominance of Serena, 35, and Venus Williams, 37.
Since Venus made the US Open finals in 1998, a Williams sister has been a part of the championship match 37 times right up until this year’s Wimbledon.
If historical trends are anything to go by, then both Williams sister’s prowess should have diminished by 2012.
Venus after a long absence from a finals appearance, made her way to two this year alone at Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
All these players are bucking an age old tennis trend of fading away after their 30s.
Even though these players have aged, their games have not. They might be older, but still remain the marquee names of any tennis tournament. Time can be a cruel equaliser, but for Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray and the Williams sisters, it’s been business as usual.