Oldest Professional Athletes 3 - who?


Sometimes you have to make an exception. This is one of those times - and not just one exception but two. Two exceptions in one, actually, since not only was the person not past the age of 50 at the time but also the sport in question is not an extreme or adventure sport. However, .....


Sometimes you have to make an exception. This is one of those times - and not just one exception but two. Two exceptions in one, actually, since not only was the person not past the age of 50 at the time but also the sport in question is not an extreme or adventure sport. However, we are making the exception as the athlete is herself exceptional, and she is certainly at the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to achievement in sport.

 

So, here it is.

Martina Prague 2006

Martina Navratilova at the
Prague Open 2006

 

Martina Navratilova won her final tennis Grand Slam title at the age of 49 years 11 months, so far the oldest player to have done so. The title was for the US Open Mixed Doubles in 2006, with Bob Bryan.

 

However, although that last Grand Slam title was just prior to the age of 50 she did in fact play professional, competitive tennis after that age since, in 2009 when she was 52, she played her 20th season of World Team Tennis, for the Boston Lobsters.

 

Among the many important contributions that Martina Navratilova made to the world of sport, one of the most significant was her ultra-professional approach to the preparation of physical conditioning in tennis, particularly women's tennis. In 1981, spurred on by her rivalry with Chris Evert, she started to work with a fitness coach - basketball player Nancy Lieberman - to improve her own physical conditioning and thereby improve her game. Subsequently, having been working with Lieberman since mid-1981, she went on to become the dominant woman tennis player of the early-to-mid 1980's. She was the year-end world ranked No 1 woman tennis player for five consecutive years from 1982-86 and, within that period, during the 3 years 1982/83/84 she only lost a total of 6 singles matches out of 260 played.

 

She retired from full-time singles matches soon after appearing in her 12th and last Wimbledon singles final, losing to Conchita Martinez, in 1994 at the age of 37. When in 2000 she returned to the tour to play doubles she did play the occasional singles, and holds the record for the oldest player to win a professional singles match in the open era, winning a singles match at Wimbledon 2004 at the age of 47 years and 8 months.  

 

We have never met Martina Navratilova and have no inside knowledge of what we are about to say, but we are confident in our belief that the physical training that enabled her to build her fitness to such a high level and which contributed so much to her success during the most successful period of her career, would certainly also have been one of the things that enabled her to continue her tennis career for such a long time, and to compete professionally at tennis past the age of 50.

 

So, not just chance, then, but a belief that hard work in the gym, and at whatever other training ground, leads to a longer sporting life if you want it. At whatever level you are, keep up the training and continue doing what you love as long as you can.