By Anna Brovko and Margaryta Chornokondratenko
KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) For 97-year-old Leonid Stanislavskyi, a Ukrainian who has played amateur tennis for more than half a century, it is nearly impossible to find a worthy opponent in his age group.
That doesn’t stop him from competing in the World and European Championships for seniors and beating younger competitors, though he doesn’t move around the field as quickly as he used to.
Stanislavskyi was 30 when his colleague, then a Soviet champion in gymnastics, introduced him to tennis. Since then, he has been training three times a week in his hometown of Kharkov in eastern Ukraine.
It’s an elegant sport. It is good physical exercise. It’s a beautiful game. And there is one more thing about tennis that you can play regardless of your age, he told Reuters.
Stanislavskyi, a Guinness World Record holder as the world’s oldest tennis player, has been training hard ahead of the 2021 Super-Seniors World Championship to be held in Mallorca, Spain in October.
For the first time, the International Tennis Federation has introduced an age group 90 and older in the 2021 tournament after Stanislavskyi sent a written request to the federation requesting that the new category be added.
When I was 95 years old, I felt much better than I do now, said Stanislavskyi, who moves at his own pace and tries to answer every shot. It is even difficult to walk when you are 97 years old.
People under 70 say, Thank God I lived another year. People between the ages of 70 and 90 say, Thank God 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 mix of good genes and regular exercise.
He starts each morning with gymnastics and a series of push-ups and pull-ups. In addition to tennis, Stanislavskyi is an avid lover of swimming and skiing and dreams of making a parachute jump.
He says his ultimate goal is to live to be 100 years old and beat Roger Federer.
(Edited by Mike Collett-White)
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