Jack Nicklaus tweeted his congratulations to Roger Federer after the Swiss tennis legend won the Australian Open over the weekend, but the Golden Bear also used the occasion to share insight into the road that led him to 18 majors - 31 years before Federer joined him.
Federer, 35, earned his 18th major title in a five-set thriller over Rafael Nadal in Sydney, becoming the oldest man to win a tennis major since 1974. Nicklaus famously won the 1986 Masters at age 46, nearly six years after his last major title and after many believed his competitive career was effectively over.
"Most of the first 17 I won I expected to win if I worked hard and put myself in that position. I felt like I was the best player on the golf course, and that's what I was there for," Nicklaus told ATPWorldTour.com. "Then you get to a point in your career where you know that you may be beyond your peak, but you get yourself to a position where you get a chance to do it again, and your body and your mind remember how to do it. That's what happened to me in '86."
Like Nicklaus, Federer had already won more majors than any other man in his sport before adding No. 18, but he'll have three more chances to push beyond that number in the remaining majors this year. Just as Nicklaus remains bullish that Tiger Woods might still challenge his record in golf, the ardent tennis fan believes more titles could still be in store for Federer.
"There's a difference between 35 and 46. When you're 35, you have a darn good chance of winning again," Nicklaus said. "I'll be watching and hoping he does win again. But if he doesn't, he certainly has this one. Just like I competed again (without winning a major) but I had my '86 Masters."