July 12, 2024

Open Court


They say tennis is the sport for a lifetime.

In Claude Fung-A-Ling’s case, that means … a century.

The Montrealer, who came from British Guyana more than 80 years ago and never left, turns 100 Sunday.

And there’s every possibility he spent part of the day on the tennis court.

As sharp and introspective as a man decades younger, Fung-A-Ling still gets out on the court at the Dorval Tennis Club a couple of times a week.

He has played the game for nearly 90 years. And he has studied the finer details of racket science, movement and concentration like the engineer he is.

From British Guyana … to Montreal

Nine and 99: A couple of aspiring centenarians meet Claude Fung-A-Ling who, at the time this was taken, was a mere kid of … 99. (Stephanie Myles/OpenCourt.ca)

Fung-A-Ling picked up the game as a child in British Guyana, with a wooden racket that had to be imported from England. It started because he saw people playing it, as often happens. Later, he learned to love it because he appreciated the odd coupling of movement and concentration.

He came to Canada by boat during World War II to study at McGill University. It’s a boat, he notes, that was torpedoed by the Germans on its return journey.

The moral of that story is this: if you want to live to be 100, you have to have a little luck and timing along the way.

Through his career as a structural engineer, marriage and three children with wife Hilda (they’ve been married 67 years, and he was on the tennis court when they met) and now, 35 years in retirement, Fung-A-Ling and the game have been as one.

Here he is on court at the Dorval club a few weeks ago.

We talked to him about tennis, life, and the secret to longevity.

Here’s Fung-A-Ling on the current generation of tennis stars.

Note that he picked Novak Djokovic to win the US Open when, as this was filmed, Djokovic hadn’t even won Cincinnati yet. (Note to Nadal fans: he’s not a big fan of your guy).

And here are some of his insights about aging. As he hit 80, and then 90, and realized that he might well hit triple digits, he began to study the project that is his long, lively life with all of his considerable analytical capabilities.

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