In the dawn of the Open era, the experienced had ruled over the youth and five of the first seven Grand Slams had been won by the players who turned 30, as Ken Rosewall and Rold Lave stole almost all the glory in 1968 and 1969.
Since Roland Garros 1968, we have had 27 Majors that have been won by those who already turned 30 or more, including the last six that have been taken by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, which never happened before in the Open era.
Ken Rosewall and Roger Federer were able to push the age records to the limits, winning multiple Grand Slam crowns after turning 35, a true testimony of their amazing consistency and everlasting quality. Claiming his 17th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros on Sunday, Rafael Nadal has become only the fourth player in the Open era with at least three Grand Slam crowns after turning 30 (Laver, Rosewall and Federer are all on four) and he is also the third player who has won the title in Paris after turning 32, exactly 50 years since Ken Rosewall did that in 1968 and 46 after Andres Gimeno who was 34 when he lifted the French Open crown in 1972.
Overall, 13 players have won a Major title at the age of 30 or more in the Open era and here is a chronological list of all the players who achieved that in the last 50 years:
As we already said, the first Golden age for the experienced players at Majors came right in the opening five years of the Open era, with a third of the list being occupied by players who won big titles after turning 30 between 1968-1972. Rod Laver did that in his famous 1969 and Ken Rosewall followed him until the Australian Open 1972, defending his title at the age of 37 to stand as the oldest Grand Slam champion. The Spaniard Andres Gimeno did an amazing job at Roland Garros in 1972, taking advantage of a favorable draw to win the title at the age of 34, not playing in Paris since 1969 when he lost in the quarters to Laver! After a short break in 1973 and 1974, John Newcombe and Arthur Ashe embraced a Grand Slam glory in 1975 at the age of 30 and 31 at the Australian Open and Wimbledon (they have both beaten Jimmy Connors in the final) and we had to wait for seven years to see another veteran with a Grand Slam title in his hands.
Jimmy Connors conquered the US Open in 1982 and 1983 to become the second player on the list who successfully defended a Grand Slam title after turning 30, joined decades later by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal who both achieved that in 2018. The Golden 80's were mainly reserved for the youngsters and Jimmy was the only player from that decade on our list, managing to beat the upcoming stars like John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl for his last Major crowns. Ecuadorian Andres Gomez had wiped out the dust from this special chart at Roland Garros 1990 to claim his only Grand Slam crown at the age of 30, becoming the fourth oldest champion in Paris after Gimeno, Rosewall and Laver. Between 1984-1997, Gomez was the only 30&over Grand Slam winner and he was joined by a surprising 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, another player from the one-Slam wonder list.
The Czech just turned 30 some 10 days before beating Marcelo Rios in the final and the next players we are going to mention are much bigger names. Three years after Petr, Andre Agassi won the title in Melbourne as well, becoming the oldest champion since Ken Rosewall in1972, and a year later it was Pete Sampras who finished his career with a title at the US Open, writing the record books as the oldest winner in New York since Rosewall in 1970! The last eight 30&over Grand Slam champions did that at the age of 30 or 31 and Andre Agassi managed to break the mold at the Australian Open in 2003, going all the way at the age of 32 years and eight months, the oldest Grand Slam winner since Gimeno at Roland Garros in 1972.
We had a 30&over winner for three years in a row, not seen since 1972, and there was a nine-year drought before we got another veteran with Grand Slam title, as Federer, Nadal and Djokovic stole the glory between 2004-2011. Roger broke the spell at Wimbledon 2012, lifting the trophy at the age of 30 years and 11 months, standing as the oldest champion at the All England Club since Ashe in 1975. He was unable to repeat that in the following years and it was another Swiss who stepped in in 2015, with Stan Wawrinka winning his maiden Major at Roland Garros, two months after turning 30. That opened the door for the other players over 30 who were still in the great shape thanks to modern technologies and their dedication to work on their game on regular basis.
Wawrinka performed a miracle in New York a year later as well, toppling Novak Djokovic in the final at the age of 31 years and five months, the oldest US Open winner since Rosewall in 1970. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took charge after Stan and we are on a quite a run when it comes to the veterans with Major crowns, as the last seven were won by the players who turned 30, something that never happened before! Roger made an outstanding comeback last year in Melbourne, winning his first title in five years and becoming only the second player after Rosewall who lifted Grand Slam trophy at the age of 35.
He did the same at Wimbledon, breaking all the records as by far the oldest winner in London, and he was victorious in Melbourne again this January to raise the age bar to the scale of 36, something that will stand for a long time. After two poor years, Rafael Nadal found his fire again in 2017, winning the Roland Garros and the US Open (the first player since Laver in 1969 who did that after turning 30) and adding another Roland Garros crown to his tally last Sunday for his third Major after turning 31. Roger and Rafa are still at the top of the game and we should expect more Grand Slam titles from them in the near future, as they still look eager and determined to extend their greatness and hit this list a few more times before they retire.