Much like the ATP tour, older players are thriving in the women's game

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At the recently-completed Rogers Cup in Montreal, the final four came down to a battle of 20-somethings, with the oldest one, world No. 1 Simona Halep, prevailing at the end of the weekend.

Halep’s second career Canadian Open title marked the second week in a row that the WTA tournaments leading up to the US Open were won by a player past the age of 25, a sign that the veterans are ready to fend off their younger opponents.

The week prior, it was Svetlana Kuznetsova and Mihaela Buzarnescu—two players past 30—who made waves.

If Kuznetsova were to decide to retire today, she’d be able to look back at her borderline Hall of Fame career with pride: Two Grand Slam singles titles among her 18 championships, a career-high No. 2 world ranking and three Fed Cup victories.

As she recently showed in Washington, D.C., though, the 33-year-old Russian is far from done. And while she was winning her first tournament in nearly two years, Buzarnescu, 30, captured her maiden title in San Jose, Calif., which pushed her into the world’s Top 20 for the first time in her career.

Coming on the heels of the over-30 title tilt at Wimbledon between Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber, it’s evident that experience is going a long way on the WTA tour. 

That’s not to say the younger players are being left behind, as half of the Top 20 is 25 or younger. Rather, it’s a sign that there is room for the older ones on the tour to thrive, with Halep (26) and Caroline Wozniacki (28), the top two players in the world, among their ranks.

In Washington, Kuznetsova—who entered the tournament ranked 128 in the world as she makes her comeback from injury—dominated every match en route to the final, as she didn’t drop more than two games in a set. That run included a semifinal victory over former world No. 9 Andrea Petkovic, who had a resurgent tournament of her own. The German reached her first semifinal as a 30-year-old, defeating last year’s US Open champion Sloane Stephens and young Swiss Belinda Bencic in a third-set tiebreak on her way to the last four.

The final saw Kuznetsova fend off four match points against Donna Vekic in the second set then romp through the decider. It’s experience that makes the difference in a situation like that, as Kuznetsova was playing the 41st final of her career, while Vekic was only contesting her sixth.

Late-career peaks are also transpiring with some frequency. Buzarnescu, who was forced off the tour for an extended period of time due to shoulder and knee injuries, has had her best year on tour to this point.  Playing deep into multiple draws this year and defeating such players as Jelena Ostapenko, Elina Svitolina and Elise Mertens, Buzarnescu hit a high note in San Jose. Unfortunately, her momentum took a hit in Canada as she was forced to retire from her match against Svitolina with an ankle injury and will miss the US Open.

Another member of the post-25 set that’s been on a tear before going out in the opening round in Cincinnati has been Julia Goerges. At the end of 2017, the now-29-year-old won two tournaments, her first in more than six years, to close out the season. Her form carried over into 2018, as she added another title, cracked the Top 10 and reached her first Grand Slam semifinal at Wimbledon.

The seemingly eternal Williams, 36, halted her run to set up a third career Grand Slam final match against Kerber. Their encounter last month was the first women’s final between two 30-somethings at the All England Club since Williams defeated her sister Venus back in 2009.

Could a similar outcome be on the horizon at the last Grand Slam of the year, the US Open? The young contenders are well aware that the older players are capable of shaking up the draw to possibly emerge as the last woman standing.

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