For all the talk of 30-somethings at the top of the modern men’s game, tennis players decline quickly. 30 may be the new 20, but 35 is still the same old 35, and 35-year-old tennis players are usually found on the champions tour, the doubles court, or national television.
Yet Tommy Haas, aged 34 years and 5 months, is enjoying a resurgence, having reached three finals in the last two months–on three different surfaces. He’s one of the hottest players on tour of any age.
34-year-olds don’t do things like that. In the last ten years, players 34 and older have accounted for fewer than 1% of wins on the ATP tour. From 2008 to 2011, all 34-year-olds–combined–won a total of 17 tour-level matches. In the five months since his birthday, Haas has won 22.
To find a point of comparison, we need to go back five years, to the 2007 campaign of Fabrice Santoro, and slightly earlier, to Andre Agassi‘s 2004 season. Agassi at 34 was better than Haas at 34, winning 37 tour-level matches and reaching two grand slam quarterfinals. Agassi was the best “old” player since Jimmy Connors and the only man in the discussion since the 1970s.
Yet already, Haas is among the best 34-and-overs in ATP history. His 22 wins since his 34th birthday are good for 28th on the all-time list, ahead of Fred Stolle and just behind Roy Emerson. But that understates Haas’s accomplishment. With the exceptions of Santoro, Agassi, and Connors (whose 178 wins-past-34 are good for 2nd on the all time list, behind Ken Rosewall), everyone on the list retired more than 20 years ago.
Comparisons to Haas’s contemporaries do a better job of illustrating how unusual he is. The only two older men to have won a match on tour this year are Arnaud Clement and Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo, neither of whom are a factor anywhere but the challenger tour. The other 34-year-old to win some matches this season is hyper-fit warrior Michael Russell, who took advantage of the weak draws in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
As long as he stays healthy, Haas is far from finished. According to Jrank, he’s the 11th-best hard court player in the game right now. He may not have another grand slam final ahead of him, as Agassi did at the same age, but he has more wins in his future than most players a decade his junior.