July 16, 2021

By Anna Brovko and Margaryta Chornokondratenko

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – For 97-year-old Leonid Stanislavskyi, a Ukrainian who has been playing amateur tennis for over half a century, it is next to impossible to find a worthy adversary in his age group.

    That has not stopped him from participating in the world and European championships for seniors and outplaying younger competitors, although he is not moving around the court as fast as he used to.

    Stanislavskyi was 30 when his colleague, then a Soviet champion in gymnastics, introduced him to tennis. Since then, he has trained three times a week in his hometown of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

    “It is an elegant type of sport. It is good physical exercise. It is a beautiful game. And there is one more thing about tennis – you can play no matter what age you are,” he told Reuters.

    A Guinness World Record holder as the world’s oldest tennis player, Stanislavskyi has been training hard ahead of the 2021 Super-Seniors World Championship due to be held in October in Mallorca, Spain.

For the first time, the International Tennis Federation has introduced a 90-and-over age group in the 2021 tournament after Stanislavskyi sent a written request to the federation asking for the new category to be added.

    “When I was 95 years old, I felt much better than now,” said Stanislavskyi, who moves at his own pace trying to return every shot. “It is even hard to walk when you are 97 years old.

“People under 70 say: ‘Thank goodness I lived another year.’ People between 70 and 90 say: ‘Thank goodness I lived another month.’ I count every day and say: ‘Thank God I lived another day.’”

    Stanislavskyi said the secret to his longevity was a mixture of good genes and regular sport.

He starts each morning with gymnastics and a series of push-ups and pull-ups. Besides tennis, Stanislavskyi is a passionate fan of swimming and skiing and dreams of making a parachute jump.

    He says his ultimate goal is to live to 100 years old and take on Roger Federer.

(Editing by Mike Collett-White)