Chasing a Grand Slam: It’s Rarer Than You Think
Most fans are familiar with the Grand Slam of tennis: winning the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in the same calendar year.
But for something so well-known, it’s an extremely rare feat.
On the men’s side, only Don Budge in 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969 succeeded. Few of them have come particularly close to matching them since. But this year, Novak Djokovic, with his victory this weekend at Wimbledon, is three quarters of the way.
Aside from Budge, Laver and Djokovic, only two other men, Jack Crawford in 1933 and Lew Hoad in 1956, won the first three Slam tournaments. (The two came close to winning their Slams at the US Open, losing in the final, Crawford to Fred Perry and Hoad to Ken Rosewall.)
Since Laver’s last Slam, only three men have won even the first two events before Djokovic this year, Mats Wilander in 1988, Jim Courier in 1992 and Djokovic himself in 2016.
On the women’s side too, the Grand Slam is rare, with only Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988 sweeping all four events.
Perhaps due to the difficulty of winning the Grand Slam, a less formal “Serena Slam” was invented after Serena Williams won all four events consecutively from 2002 to 2003, but not in the same calendar year. Williams reoffended in 2014-15. She was actually beaten to completion by Martina Navratilova, who did so in 1984-85.
Djokovic has the only Serena Slam for men, getting it in 2015-16. He could very well have finished another Sunday if he hadn’t missed the US Open last fall as a fourth-round seed after accidentally hitting a linesman with an anger-slapped ball.
There’s also the easier-to-reach career Grand Slam, in which a player wins every Slam event at some point in their career. On the men’s side, that adds Perry, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and the modern triumvirate of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Djokovic to the ledger.
The different surfaces on which tournaments take place increase the difficulty of completing any slam. Players as tall as Pete Sampras and John McEnroe have never won Roland Garros on clay, for example.
Besides the US Open, where Djokovic will go for the Slam from August 30, there is still the men’s singles competition at the Tokyo Olympics which begins on July 24. Djokovic said he was not determined to participate in the Olympics for Serbia. . If he won a gold medal and the US Open, the feat would be called the Golden Slam. Only Graf in 1988 did, but tennis was not part of the Grand Slam Games of Budge, Laver, Connolly and Court.
While Nadal and Federer have faded and young stars have been slow to emerge, Djokovic occupies a dominant position in men’s football at 34.
Djokovic has lost five sets in his seven Australian Open matches and six sets to the French. But at Wimbledon he lost just two, and despite losing the first set of the final in a tie-break against Matteo Berrettini, he was never in serious trouble. He is 34-3 on the year.
Djokovic is listed as the tied US Open favorite, indicating that punters and punters are giving him around a 50% chance of winning it. (There is even money for the Olympics too.)
Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and many other players will stand in the way. But the chance to see something this year that no man has done since 1969, and no woman since 1988, is very real.
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