NEW YORK — At age 36, Roger Federer is defying all tennis odds. When injuries sidelined him for a good chunk of 2016, fans and experts alike predicted that he would never be the same Federer again. But he has proved them wrong this year, winning the Australian Open — after a vintage Federer-Rafael Nadal final — and Wimbledon.
On Monday, Federer sailed into the US Open quarterfinals again with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 win against Philipp Kohlschreiber, another player who is into his fourth decade of life.
As Federer seeks his 20th career Grand Slam championship, here at the Open, he has already established his position among athletes across sports who remained at the top of their games in their late 30s and even into their 40s. Here’s a look at other great time-defying figures in sports history.
At one point, Abdul-Jabbar had been playing for so long — 20 seasons — that basketball fans couldn’t imagine what it was like before he was a part of the NBA. The 7-foot-2 Hall of Fame center even bulked up to over 260 pounds so he could play into his early 40s. He regularly practiced yoga to help his flexibility during his celebrated career with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. At age 38, he won the 1985 NBA Finals MVP, becoming the oldest player to win the honor.
Favre’s career from ages 37 to 40 was more prolific than the entire careers of many quarterbacks. This 20-year NFL veteran led the Minnesota Vikings to the 2009 NFC Championship Game when he was 40. He was the first quarterback in NFL history with 4,000 passing yards in a season after turning 40. Of his 11 Pro Bowl selections, three came after he turned 38.
At age 39, after the 2015 season, Manning became the oldest quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl. He also won the Associated Press MVP, NFL Offensive Player of the Year ad Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year for 2013 at age 37 after leading the NFL in passing yards. Another fact that shows his longevity: He is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two franchises — the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos — and the only quarterback to start more than one Super Bowl for two franchises.
Hogan won three of the four majors in 1953 — the Masters, U.S. Open and The Open — at age 40. He won eight of his nine career majors after turning 35 and is one of five golfers to win all four major championships. He achieved this even though he served in the U.S. Army from 1943-45, during World War II, and endured a near-fatal car accident in 1949.
Apart from his record 27 MLB seasons played, Ryan is the only player in MLB history to throw multiple no-hitters after his 40th birthday. This eight-time All-Star was known for regularly throwing pitches over 100 mph — and this continued well into his 40s. He led his league in strikeouts four times after turning 40 and pitched until he was 46.
One of the greatest cricketers of all time, Tendulkar was the only Indian to be included in the all-time Test World XI in 2013 as part of Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack’s 150-year celebration. He scored his 100th international century in 2012 when he was 39. When India won the 2011 World Cup, Tendulkar, then 38, was the second-leading run scorer in the tournament with 482 runs and two centuries. His celebrated 24-year international career ended when he retired in 2013 at age 40.
Gordie Howe and Jaromir Jagr
They are both in the top three in NHL history in goals — Howe at No. 2 and Jagr at No. 3 — behind Wayne Gretzky. Howe and Jagr are the only players in NHL history to score at least 100 goals after turning 40. Howe actually played into his 50s, and Jagr is a free agent at age 45 but has no intention of retiring, making him the NHL’s oldest active player.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.