Vic Seixas is known for being among the most modest of world-champion athletes. But even he has to admit that this year’s birthday merits a little extra attention.

“It’s a big one,” he says with a chuckle.

Big, indeed. Triple digits big. The Philadelphia native turns 100 today. A winner at Wimbledon in 1953 and the U.S. Nationals in 1954, Seixas is the oldest living Grand Slam champion, and the oldest living member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

What does he credit for his longevity? Genetics has played a role; his parents lived well into their 80s. But Seixas also points to the conditioning that was at the core of his tennis game.

He was the “fastest man to the net,” according to one commentator in the 1950s, with a powerful serve and smash. He was nearly 30 when he won Wimbledon, and he played at Forest Hills a record 28 times between 1940 and 1969. He didn’t decline much physically as he aged, either. In 1966, at 42, Seixas lost a 34-32 first set—yes, that’s games, not points—to Bill Bowrey, a player two decades his junior. Instead of throwing in the towel, Seixas came back to win a match that ended up being the fifth-longest in history at the time. He didn’t quit the senior circuit until 1988, when he was 65.

“It helps to keep yourself in shape,” Seixas says, showing off that famous flair for understatement.

Vic Seixas in his teens, at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, and at the University of North Carolina.

Vic Seixas in his teens, at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, and at the University of North Carolina.


Born Elias Victor Seixas, Jr., in 1923, his father owned a plumbing-supply company and loved tennis. There was a club across the street, and Vic, Jr., was on its courts with his dad by the time he was 5. But he was a natural at just about any athletic activity he tried. Seixas was a high-level squash player, made the freshmen basketball team at the University of North Carolina, and loved baseball. His great-grandfather had been a pitcher for the Phillies. Seixas had similar dreams, but it turned out to be one sport too many.

“Baseball and tennis happened at the same time of year,” Seixas says. “And I was better at tennis.”

As a teenager, he played his sports at the William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia, where Ed Faulkner, a captain of three winning U.S. Davis Cup teams, coached tennis. By 17, Seixas had made his first trip to Forest Hills for the Nationals. But that was 1940, and war, rather than tennis, was on the minds of young people around the country.

At 18, he joined the Army Air Corps and spent three years as a test pilot in New Guinea. The propeller planes of the day were shipped across the ocean and assembled there. It was Seixas’ job to take them up in the air and make sure they could fly. To most of us, that might not sound like an enviable way to spend your time, but Seixas is matter-of-fact about it.

Asked if he ever had a close call in any of the planes he flew, he laughs again and says, “An occasional thing would go wrong, or [the assemblers] would forget to do something, but there was nothing too unusual.”

“I can’t say I enjoyed it because it was wartime, but it was a good job.”

Humble is the pillar of his psychological build. Allen Hornblum on Vic Seixas


One thing the job description didn’t include was tennis. Seixas hardly played for three years, at an age when most great players make quantum leaps with their games. He began making up for it at the University of North Carolina, where he went 63-3 in singles and earned All-America honors in 1949.

The following year, in his first trip to Wimbledon, he made the semifinals as the No. 12 seed. Not bad for an inaugural run, but Seixas left wanting more.

“I felt like I should have done better,” he says. “I made all the efforts I could to win Wimbledon.”

Seixas had a style and approach that were tailor-made for the slick and bumpy grass courts there and at Forest Hills.

“It was my theory to try to never let the ball bounce,” he says. “I had to learn to volley because I was up at the net all the time.”

Seixas’s Wimbledon dream came true in 1953 when, as the No. 2 seed, he survived a 9-7 fifth set against Lew Hoad in the quarterfinals, won another five-setter over another Aussie, Mervyn Rose, in the semis, and defeated surprise finalist Kurt Nielsen in the final in straight sets.


Winning on Centre Court was his “high point as an individual player,” but in those days, Davis Cup meant just as much as the Grand Slams. In 1954, he had a singular success in that competition as well, teaming with good friend Tony Trabert to sweep the four-time defending champion Australian team in the Challenge Round in Sydney. Trabert beat Hoad in the first rubber, Seixas beat Ken Rosewall in the second, and the next day the two Americans beat them again in doubles to clinch the Cup.

Seixas’s win over Rosewall, his first in eight tries, was particularly satisfying.

“He had unusually good ground strokes, lob, backhand,” Seixas says of Rosewall. “I lost to him shortly before the Davis Cup, and I joked with him, ‘Nobody has ever beaten me eight times in a row.’”

Unlike Trabert, Hoad and Rosewall, who had all turned pro by 1957, Seixas remained an amateur and never joined the barn-storming circuits of the early professional days.

“I enjoyed playing the game and going to the tournaments,” says Seixas, who played singles at Forest Hills until 1964. “You lived very well. I could travel with my wife, and got expenses [paid].”


When his amateur tennis days were over, Seixas became a stock broker and worked as a pro at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, before migrating west to Mill Valley in Northern California, where he lives today, in the same city as his daughter.

Seixas doesn’t begrudge the lifestyle of today’s pros.

“Money attracts better athletes,” he says. “I’m happy to see guys make more of it.”

Just don’t ask him to watch.

“I don’t enjoy that kind of tennis,” he says of the baseline rallies that fill up most professional matches today. “Maybe I’ll watch when someone comes along who plays the way we did.”

Seixas at the 2014 US Open, and more recently, with his friend Allen Hornblum. “Despite his physical infirmities, he’s always upbeat and positive,” says Hornblum. “The guy was built to look forward and push on, no matter the obstacles.”

Seixas at the 2014 US Open, and more recently, with his friend Allen Hornblum. “Despite his physical infirmities, he’s always upbeat and positive,” says Hornblum. “The guy was built to look forward and push on, no matter the obstacles.”


Seixas spends much of his time in a wheelchair now. “I’m alive,” he laughs, when he describes his physical condition today. He feels fortunate not to have any “major problems.”

His friend from Philadelphia, author Allen Hornblum, says that “humble is the pillar of his psychological build.”

“When I told him I was going to Barcelona earlier this year to take in the tennis tournament, he said what a beautiful city it was,” Hornblum recalls. “I asked him if he ever played in it? Only then did he mention he won the inaugural event in 1953. He would have never mentioned, much less boasted about it, if I hadn’t inquired.”

“Despite his physical infirmities, he’s always upbeat and positive. The guy was built to look forward and push on, no matter the obstacles.”

Asked to compare the world today to that of his youth in the 1940s, Seixas strikes an optimistic note. There aren’t many people alive with a perspective as broad as his.

“That was wartime,” he says. “I’m happy to see us at peace today. We have all kinds of problems, but we’ll always have problems. I think we’re doing pretty well in this country.”

Take it from a still-modest and still-upbeat man who has seen more our history than just about any of us. Happy Centennial, Vic.