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Saturday 23 September 2017

Legends rolling back the years

Weird Wide world of Sport

Rafael Nadal congratulates Roger Federer after his win in the Australian Open final
Rafael Nadal congratulates Roger Federer after his win in the Australian Open final

Dave Devereux

There's nothing like the month of January to make you feel bereft of energy and about as enthusiastic as a Sunderland season ticket holder heading to see David Moyes mastermind another crippling defeat.

It's been more of a drag than a sly tackle from a wily old centre-back in the box when a dead ball is being delivered into the danger zone, and by the time this God-forsaken month is over I'll be as grey as a badger's behind and as stiff as a vodka on the rocks.

However, it's not all doom and gloom as it seems it really is a good time to be as old and decrepid as Methuzelah's beard.

Last week I extolled the virtues of snooker genius Ronnie O'Sullivan as he battled past fellow veteran of the green baize, Joe Perry, in the final of The Masters.

At the weekend the golden oldies were again to the fore, but this time in a more physical activity as the greatest-ever exponent of the art of tennis, Roger Federer, overcame his old adversary Rafael Nadal in a classic Australian Open final.

Unfortunately for my good self I was standing on a sideline getting wetter than an eel's backside with my reporter's notebook turning mushier than peas accompanying a slab of battered cod as Federer made history by winning his 18th Grand Slam title at the ripe old age of 35.

Thankfully I managed to keep up with the action thanks to the wonders of modern technology and caught the highlights later in the day.

Mid-thirties mightn't seem overly long in the tooth to many, but given the rigours top-class tennis puts on the body it's a gargantuan achievement to be even mixing it with the big boys, never mind winning Grand Slams in the twilight of a career.

Most felt father-of-four Federer's best days were a distant memory, like Liverpool winning the league, but in Melbourne he managed to roll back the years and capture the sweetest of all of his Grand Slam victories.

The Swiss superstar, having battled back from injury and slipping to number 17 in the world rankings, would have been expected to give a good account of himself, as he consisently does, but to win it would have surpassed even his most ardent fan's expectations, and beating fellow giant of the game Rafa Nadal, who has struggled in majors in recent times, in the final made it even more special.

The hair might be thinner and the brows more furrowed than when the two met in a classic Wimbledon final in 2008, but one thing that hasn't changed is how the pair seem to bring the best out of each other and they can illuminate an arena with more vigour than a hot Australian sun.

The success for the more seasoned professionals wasn't just reserved for the men's tournament as 35-year-old Serena Williams beat big sister Venus, who is a year her senior, in the women's final to record an incredible 23rd Grand Slam win.

Another sporting maestro who hit the headlines over the weekend was 16-times darts world champion Phil Taylor as he announced this will be his final year on the PDC tour.

His domination of the sport will almost definitely never be matched, although in terms of high standards current kingpin Michael van Gerwen is taking the game to another plane.

We have to appreciate the stars that have shaped our sporting viewing while they're still on the scene, and the ideal scenario is to see them bow out while they can still compete at the highest level, because viewing once shining stars fade away is always a difficult watch.

For now it's great to see legends that have long thrilled an ageing generation still manage to rouse the emotions and get the hairs standing on the back of the neck.

Thanks for the memories.

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