British pensioner becomes world number one in tennis – at the age of 87

Gordon Oates from Willenhall, West Midlands waited a long time to reach the pinnacle of his sport. At the end of 2018, the 87-year-old became an International Tennis Federation world number one - for over-85s doubles.

A British pensioner has served up his biggest success to date after becoming a world number one ranked tennis player – AGED 87.

Gordon Oates has proved he is still an ace with a racket after being named the best octogenarian doubles player on the planet.

The sprightly OAP has spent a staggering 75 years reaching the pinnacle of his sport after first playing the game in the park with friends in 1944.

The granddad-of-one still plays at least three times a week at his local club in Streetly, West Mids., often sneaking in extra sessions to perfect his backhand.

And his determination has now paid off after he was crowned the world number one for over 85s doubles by the International Tennis Federation last month.

Gordon and his doubles partner of six years Tom Baron have beaten off competition from as far away as the USA, Germany and Sweden.

They have travelled the globe to compete in matches and have even seen off former Davis Cup winners during their march to the top.

The retired joiner, of Willenhall, West Mids., says a daily fitness routine involving leg exercises and bike work is behind his success and longevity.

Married dad-of-two Gordon said: “It’s great to have achieved being number one in the world after so many years of hard work.

“Tom and I received notification of it in February this year and sent us a certificate confirming it.

“I couldn’t believe it, I can’t get to terms with it at all really.

“Some of the players we faced along the way very good and had even played in the Davis Cup in the past.

“We played against team from all over the world including the US, Germany and Sweden. We know they have the capability of beating us.

“They are keeping us on our toes.

“Me and Tom have been partners for the past six years. – but this is the first time we’ve been number one.

“I’ve got no plans to retire anytime soon. I don’t have a reason to stop, so I’ll just carry on playing.”

Gordon first picked up a tennis racket as a 12-year-old boy and would go to his local courts where he hired pumps for one shilling an hour in order to play.

He added: “Me and some friends would go the park in our area and we would watch people play tennis.

“So we thought we’d have a go at that as it looked fun.

“I borrowed my aunties racket and some pumps for one shilling for an hour and the rest is history.

“Now I play tennis at least three times a week.

“I do pull ups, leg exercises and work on the bike every morning, but playing tennis is what keeps me fit.”

After seven decades playing the sport at amateur level, his career reached a pinnacle last year when he represented Great Britain at the World Championships in Croatia.

He added: “I think it’s a fantastic game to play and it is the best game you can play to keep fit, of any game.

“Age is definitely just a number and I’d urge anybody to pick up a racket and start to play.

“You don’t have to be brilliant – but it’s better if you are.”

Will Rogers, Director of Tennis at Streetly Lawn Tennis Club, said: “We are all very proud of Gordon here at the club. It’s an amazing story.

“Gordon is a great example not just for the older members but also the younger members here at the club.”


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