At almost a century old, Leonid Stanislavskyi moves a bit slower on the tennis court than he did when he was younger, but that doesn’t lessen his enjoyment of the sport one bit.
Leonid started playing tennis when he was 30. He’s now 97 and has been playing three times a week in Kharkiv, Ukraine, where he lives. His only problem? Finding opponents in his age group!
He fell in love with the sport and credits tennis for keeping him healthy far into his 90s. “It is an elegant type of sport,” he said. “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.”
In 2020, Leonid was recognized as the oldest living competitive tennis player by Guinness World Records. Last year, he sent a written request to the International Tennis Federation asking them to include a 90-and-over age group in the 2021 tournament, and they agreed! Leonid hit the courts extra hard to prepare for the 2021 Super-Seniors World Individual Championship in Mallorca, Spain.
While he was training in Spain, he did some work at Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar, the training gym owned by tennis legend Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal is a 20-time Grand Slam champion, who has won the French Open 13 times and has two Olympic medals. When he heard that it was Leonid’s dream to play him, he showed up at the academy.
“Could I play a point with you?” Leonid asked the superstar.
He said yes!
The two sparred for several minutes before posing for pictures and handshakes. It seems to have been a pleasure for both of these tennis greats!
Now that this goal has been satisfied, Leonid has set a new one: He wants to live to 100 and play against another 20-time Grand Slam winner, Roger Federer!
Talk about a dream come true! Leonid hopes to promote tennis as a way to stay fit into your golden years, and he’s living proof that it works. His youthful, fun-loving spirit doesn’t hurt, either!
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