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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday June 27, 2022

When you are a professional tennis player that has hit the age of 35, the opportunities seem even more special. Playing on the biggest showcourts in the world, reaching deep into Grand Slams, these are the things that players like Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and John Isner have managed routinely in their youth.

Tennis Express

But now, in the twilight of their careers, father time and gravity are conspiring to keep them on the outside looking in.

Tennis is a young man’s game, and Wawrinka learned that the hard way on Day 1 as he fell to Jannik Sinner on Court No.2. Wawrinka was broken five times by the 20-year-old World No.13, the 37-year-old falling short on his 16th Wimbledon appearance, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Before the tournament Wawrinka penned a tribute to his love for the sport in the Player’s Tribune, detailing his journey back from multiple knee and foot injuries. He talked about the pain, the frustration, the doubt – and most of all, the desire.

“You still cannot walk. When will I be able to run again?” he asked. “You know you’ll never be as good as you once were. Does it make sense for me to continue?: he wondered. “You know how much blood, sweat and tears it will take to come back. Is this really what I want?”

For now… yes!

After today’s loss, the theme was frustration.

“I'm disappointed with the way I was playing today, with the level I got,” he said. “I think I have been pushing myself way better during practice. I was expecting more, and I'm for sure disappointed with the loss.”

Such is the reality of a 37-year-old on the ATP Tour…

Andy Murray and John Isner both avoided the same fate on Day 1, setting a clash between the two in the second round. For Murray, who has been under an injury cloud since Stuttgart, when he pulled out of Queen’s with an ab injury, the joy was palpable.

"Obviously I'm getting on a bit now so I don't know how many more opportunities I get to play on this court, so I want to make the most of every time,” Murray said. “Glad I managed to get through and hopefully I get another match out here in a couple of days."

Murray has been all-in this year, rising up the rankings as his play has gradually improved, and adding former coach Ivan Lendl, the man who guided him to his three Grand Slam triumphs, for one last hopeful spin around the Grand Slam globe.

It has been an inspiration to watch him, with multiple hip surgeries in the rearview mirror, emptying his heart and soul on the court for the love of the game. Ditto for Wawrinka, whose backhand can make the hairs on the back of our neck tingle, whether he wins matches or not.

Add Isner to the group. At 37 the American talks about retiring often and has pared down his schedule significantly to spend more time with his family.

But the former Wimbledon semi-finalist still yearns to feel the magic of the big stage.

When asked about the challenge of facing Murray in the second round, Isner couldn’t help but be excited.

“It would be amazing,” he said. “I hope to play on Centre Court against him. I actually have played there – I think only twice, in the semifinals a few years ago, and I played Roger there at the Olympics.

“It was a different feel there, of course. Would love another opportunity to play on that court, because, you know, could be my last chance.”

The tennis world has already seen what age can do to its greatest players in 2022. Juan Martin del Potro and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga have retired, along with Kim Clijsters, Tommy Robredo, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Kevin Anderson and many others.

Serena Williams is at Wimbledon hoping to summon past glory, and Rafael Nadal is hanging on tooth-and-nail, fighting off pain to prolong his endless summer. Novak Djokovic isn’t getting any younger, either, and where is Roger Federer?

Not to worry…

It’s the natural ebb and flow in the sport, the natural ebb and flow of life. But it doesn’t make the end any less of a bummer, or those final brilliant moments of bliss, when it all comes together one final time, any less sweet.

That’s why we are and will continue to be moved by the way our heroes resist time for as long as they are capable, pushing it back behind its baseline with ferocious blows, even if it is for only a game, a set, a match or a run.

We know how it ends, but we don’t know exactly how – and that is why we continue to watch, and be inspired.


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