Wimbledon’s old boys roll back the years

Wimbledon's old boys roll back the years
Jonas Björkman and Wayne Arthurs are proving that while young bucks spring about the court, the oldest swingers in town can still creak their way through the Wimbledon draw.

The pair are set to clash in the third round in what men’s tour chiefs believe will be the only time that two singles players aged 35 or over have ever crossed rackets at Wimbledon.

“New balls, please!” is a regular cry at the All England Club, but it could take on a more personal touch when Björkman, 35, and Arthurs, 36, renew their on-court rivalry on Saturday.

A few years ago, Swedish number two Björkman blasted a ball into Arthurs’ nether regions, and it is still a sore point even if the pain has faded away.

Björkman shows no signs of giving up yet.

“I’m still playing well, still playing good tennis,” said the world number 35, who leads Arthurs 4-2 in their clashes so far, though honours are even at one apiece on grass.

“I’m taking one year at a time and going to try to see what happens through this year, and if my ranking is still decent, it’s an Olympics coming up next year that I never really believed I would be close to.

“But since it’s only one year away, it’s something that I’m starting to look at a little bit. But it all depends if my ranking stays up and if my body is holding up.”

And the Swede reckons the enjoyment of defying their ages keeps him and Arthurs interested.

“For both of us it’s something – an excitement in us, a little thrill inside the body that we can still go out and compete with the youngsters who are just under 20 or just past 20 and still show that we can still play some good tennis,” he said.

“I think these days we play so different to the rest of them, but sometimes we can take benefits of that. We’ve got a different style, and when we play our best tennis, it’s still possible to beat these guys. That helps us to keep going a little bit.”

World number 195 Arthurs admits he gets stiff hips these days and takes anti-inflammatory pills.

“I came off the court, and there’s a couple of Aussie guys in the locker room who manage the locker. I was standing out the front here and they had a wheelchair with my name on the back,” he said.

Though friends off the court, the pair have “a bit of history” on it, as Arthurs puts it.

“He hit me pretty hard in the nether regions in Davis Cup and there’s been a few on-court incidents.”

Björkman hopes Arthurs will not attempt to reply in kind.

“It was a normal forehand volley, so he didn’t have time to react, so he got it in an uncomfortable place,” he said.

“Hopefully he’s not going to hit me there. I think we both need to keep those alive for a little bit more.”