Four years ago, The New York Times ran a wonderful, inspiring article about 3 rabbis and a judge–all in their 80s–who play tennis doubles each week and have been doing so for more than 45 years.
The writer noted in the February 19, 2016 article that the judge is Alvin K. Hellerstein, 82, who still oversees federal court cases. The three rabbis are Dr. Michael Shmidman, 82, and Haskel Lookstein, 83, and Jonah Kupietzky, 81, who is an ordained rabbi but a kosher caterer by vocation. Rabbi Shmidman is my personal rabbi and knows as much about tennis and baseball as he does about Talmud, Jewish law and the proper way to lead public prayer.
Despite their age at the time, none would have qualified for International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) 85 and Over tennis league. Now, the three rabbis and the judge do!
I was delighted when I checked my email this morning and read about the ITF Senior Tour. The ITF Seniors Tour is a global tennis Tour that provides players aged 30 and over with a high quality and enjoyable competitive experience. For perspective, there are few athletes in other sports who compete through their late 30s and early 40s. Two exceptions are the NFL’s Joe Flacco (35) and Tom Brady (43).
The ITF reports that 2019 saw 27,500 registered players for their Senior Tour, with 502 tournaments taking place across 70 nations. They further note, “The ITF Seniors World Championships are the pinnacle of the ITF Seniors Tour and include both individual and team competitions across three age categories, Young Seniors (30-45+), Seniors (50-60+) and Super-Seniors (65-90+). In 2020, it was announced that 30 and over, and 90 and over, categories will be introduced in 2021 to provide age-appropriate competitive levels to our existing and future playing communities.”
A quick Google search reveals several videos of 95 year olds playing tennis regularly.
There are plenty more! Leonid Stanislavskyi, a 95-year-old man from the Ukraine, plays tennis regularly, and takes part in World Championships. He is reportedly the world’s oldest player to take part in ITF Super-Seniors World Championships.
Todays’ ITF newsletter indicates that the ITF Seniors Men’s and Women’s 85 and over World Team Championships to be renamed Lorne Main Cup and Angela Mortimer Cup, to recognize two legends of the sport – Lorne Main and Angela Barrett (née Mortimer).
David Haggerty, ITF President said: “Tennis is a sport for life and through Seniors tennis we are on a mission to provide opportunities to compete, socialize and enjoy all the benefits of the sport to as many people around the world as we can.”
I have always loved playing tennis. It is particularly exciting to watch the players on the other courts. Tennis is truly a sport to be enjoyed at all ages and at all levels. I have watched parents teaching four years olds on one court while four 90-somethings play doubles on another court. And these days, tennis is the sport for being sociable while also socially distancing.
I look forward to many more years of playing and watching fellow players of all ages!