Every year we watch the slams and find one name will always emerge from the shadows and cause a surprise with a deep run.
Some of them sustain that run and forge successful careers late in their journey, and others fade away as quickly as they arrived.
This year’s story was America’s Christopher Eubanks whose bold run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon surprised everyone.
The 27-year-old had never been ranked under 100 in the world prior to the grass court season, and began the year with just his second main draw match victory at a major when he downed Soon Woo Kwon at the Australian Open.
A maiden ATP title kicked off his grass court campaign in Mallorca before he rattled off four straight wins to reach the quarters, eventually losing to Daniil Medvedev at Wimbledon.
Eubanks is now ranked 32 in the world and is a decent chance to be seeded at the Australian Open.
The American first appeared at a major in 2017, but had only one match victory at a slam prior to this year where he rattled off another six.
His rise was a throwback to Aslan Karatsev’s magical Australian summer of 2021.
Karastev had been plying away on the ATP tour for eight years, and had lost in qualifying for a slam main draw on nine occasions without breaking through.
He finally qualified at 27-years of age before launching his way into the semi-finals. He was the first qualifier in 21-years to reach a grand slam semi-final.
Along the way he downed three top 20 players in Schwartzman, Auger-Aliassime and Dimitrov.
Karatsev hasn’t progressed to the same level of a major since, but he has remained a consistently good player, winning three ATP titles, hovering around the top 50 and defeating players like Djokovic, Rublev and De Minaur in recent times.
These types of runs are unusual in an historical context, where less than 10% of slam titles have been won by players older than 30.
In an era where Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Swiatek, Barty, Gauff and Sharapova all burst onto the scene young, who have been the others? Players that have kicked on late in their career.
Notable examples include:
In an era where Djokovic, Federer and Nadal all won majors before their 22nd birthday, and Andy Murray reached a final at 20, Wawrinka was the late disrupter.
The Swiss champion didn’t reach a quarter-final at a slam until he was 26 and won his first title at 29 during the 2014 Australian Open.
Between the age of 29 and 32, Wawrinka reached eight slam semi-finals and won three majors. He picked up 12 ATP Titles in this time and peaked at number three in the world.
Pegula first attempted to qualify for a grand slam main draw as a 16-year-old at the 2011 US Open. She only picked up one match victory at a major before the age of 26 and only broke into the top 100 at the age of 25.
In the past three years however she has reached six major quarter-finals, jumped into the top three in the world and won three ATP titles.
Pegula addressed her late rise this year during Wimbledon.
“I would say I’m kind of a little bit of a late bloomer, but I think nowadays we are seeing players play much later into their careers, so hopefully that will change,” she said.
Maybe it won’t be so much ‘late bloomer,’ maybe it’s just the game where everyone is kind of growing at a different pace.”
The Italian veteran won 36 slam level matches after the age of 29, having won just 18 prior to that.
She reached her first quarter-final just shy of 30 and made the US Open final at 32-years of age after famously upsetting Serena Williams along the way.
Her opponent in that US Open final was Flavia Penetta who reached a first career semi-final at 29 and her first final at 33, which was ultimately the last match of her career.
The ageless Spaniard reached a career high ranking of 12 at 33-years of age. He also had the three best slam runs of his career in his mid-30s and won more than half his main draw slam victories between 32 and 37 years of age.
Lopez was still ranked in the 70s on his 40th birthday.
Schiavone burst onto the scene with a quarter-final appearance as a 20-year old at the French Open but her career well and truly peaked a decade later.
Between the age of 29 and 31 she reached five major quarter finals and won the French Open in 2011. Her career high ranking also came north of 30.