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Saturday, September 18, 2021

What the Calendar Slam means as Novak Djokovic stands on the precipice of history

The Serb is on course to the US Open final against Daniil Medvedev, which would mean he is in touching distance of completing an elusive feat of winning 4 Grand Slam tournaments in a single calendar year

Written by Sayak Dutta |
Updated: September 13, 2021 1:35:28 am
Djokovic, US Open, Grand SlamNovak Djokovic will aim to win his 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne in January. (File)

Novak Djokovic is knocking on the door of destiny and it might soon give way. With his semifinal victory against Alexander Zverev, the Serb is on course to the US Open final against Daniil Medvedev, which would mean he is in touching distance of completing an elusive feat of winning 4 Grand Slam tournaments in a single calendar year. If he achieves this, he will be the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988, to win a Calendar Slam.

What is a Grand Slam or Calendar Slam?

The Grand Slam or the Calendar Slam is the achievement of winning all four major championships (The Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open) in one discipline in the same calendar year.

In popular terminology, people often refer to the big 4 tennis tournaments as Grand Slams but in reality, these are termed as Grand Slam tournaments, which are the components to achieve in order to complete a Grand Slam or a Calendar Slam. For example, if you think of these tournaments as Marvel’s Infinity Stones, then the Grand Slam is the Infinity Gauntlet, which can only be completed once all the 4 tournaments are won in a calendar year.

There are exceptions to this rule like winning all four major championships consecutively but not within the same calendar year is referred to as a non-calendar year Grand Slam, while winning the four majors at any point during the course of a career is known as a Career Grand Slam.

The Grand Slam tournaments

The Grand Slam tournaments, also referred to as majors, are the Australian Open in January, the French Open from late May to early June, Wimbledon in late June to early July and the US Open in August–September. The Australian and the United States tournaments are played on hard courts, the French on clay, and Wimbledon on grass.

The Wimbledon is the oldest tournament, founded in 1877, followed by the US in 1881, the French in 1891 and the Australian in 1905, but they were not all officially designated majors until 1923.

Past Winners

The last time a person won a Grand Slam was in 1988 when Steffi Graf defeated Argentine Gabriela Sabatini in a three-set final by 6–3, 3–6, 6–1 at the US Open. She also won the elusive Golden Slam when she received the Olympic Gold medal the same year.

In order to find a player in the men’s category, we have to go way back in 1969 when Australian Rod Laver won all the four majors in a single year.

The player who started it all was an American tennis player John Budge who won the honour of being the first Grand Slam winner in 1938. He was followed by fellow American Maureen Connolly, who became the first woman to win the Grand Slam, paving way for the likes of Margaret Court and Steffi Graf. She is also the only player in history to win a title without losing a set at all four major championships.

In 1970, Australian Margaret Court won all four Grand Slam singles titles becoming only the second woman in history to do so. She is also one of only three players to have achieved a career “boxed set” of Grand Slam titles, winning every possible Grand Slam title – singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles – at all four Grand Slam events.

Modern legacy

In 2015, Serena Williams attempted to complete a Calendar Grand Slam but was upset in the US Open semifinals by unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci. Vinci, best known for formerly being the world’s top-ranked doubles player, stunned Williams 2-6 6-4 6-4 in one of the greatest shocks in tennis history to end the American’s chances of completing the Calendar-Year Grand Slam.

After the match, Serena said, “I don’t want to talk about how disappointing it is for me. If you have any other questions, I’m open for that.”

Six years later, Djokovic is standing in the same place Serena stood in 2015. Just one victory will ensure the Serb’s place in the annals of tennis history but a defeat might start a downward spiral. After all, just last month Djokovic had lost his opportunity to complete the Golden Slam when he was defeated by familiar foe Alexander Zverev in the Olympics semifinal.

His frustration was palpable when in the Bronze medal match against Spaniard Carreno Busta, he threw his racquet into the stands, narrowly missing the few sitting inside a near-empty stadium. The video went viral and the World No.1 came under fire for his actions. Worse, he had to come back from Tokyo empty handed after losing to Busta 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3.

Even if players downplay the importance of an achievement like the Grand Slam, the thought of it is like a siren song, slowly calling out to them through the darkness, whose allure is very difficult to resist.

For Djokovic, it’s time to tread cautiously as history beckons.

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