Ashleigh Barty continues to lead the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) world rankings, despite her Australian Open semi-final defeat to Sofia Kenin last month.
Before a single ball is struck in anger at this year’s Australian Open, consider this: it is the only time of the year that 256 men and women can lay claim to a wild and fanciful notion.
They are all potential winners of the holy grail of tennis – the Grand Slam. Win the four majors; the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US titles, within a calendar year and tennis immortality is yours.
Mind you, it’s only been done six times and only by five players – Don Budge (1938), Maureen Connolly (1953), Rod Laver (1962 and 1969), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graff (1988).
Australia has always punched way above its weight when it comes to competing in sport on the world stage. Tennis is no exception. And when it comes to achieving one of the rarest feats in world sport and the pinnacle of tennis, Australia has its sun-bronzed fingerprints all over the prize.
Yes, the great American player, Don Budge, was the first to achieve the feat, and even claims to have created it (there’s a chapter in his autobiography called ‘The Grand Slam – My Favourite Invention’). But no other country more so than Australia has been as deeply connected to the Grand Slam.
Out of the five players to have won the Grand Slam, two are Australians. Out of the six times it’s been won, three times it’s been claimed by an Australian.
The American Maureen Connolly was the first woman to win the Grand Slam in 1953. She was coached during that year by Harry Hopman, Australia’s Davis Cup Captain.
Only four players in history have won the first three majors and fallen at the final hurdle at the US Open – Jack Crawford (1933), Lew Hoad (1956), Serena Williams (2015) and Dylan Alcott (2019). Three of the four are Australians.
As the first major of the year, the Australian Open is where the dream starts. With the looming controversy surrounding Margaret Court’s 50-year commemoration of her 1970 Grand Slam at this year’s Australian Open threatening to steal the limelight, perhaps it’s worth taking a quiet moment to celebrate and acknowledge the dominant role Australia has played in tennis’ jewel in the crown.
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