The Nole Slam Miscellany
What it would be called: Thank, or blame, Serena Williams for the cutesy name. When Serena Williams simultaneously held all four majors in the women’s game, which she achieved across the 2002 and 2003 seasons, she urged everyone to call it the Serena Slam. If Novak Djokovic is successful in Paris, if he manages to ‘close the circle’, his achievement would probably become known as the Nole Slam. Perhaps the Novak Slam, more likely the Nole Slam.
The first for 43 years? Political wonks remember 1969 for the inauguration of President Nixon; ageing hippies recall Woodstock (or perhaps they don’t, if they were really there); conspiracy theorists still believe that the Moon Landings were faked in a Hollywood studio. Tennis fans remember that year for Rod Laver’s near-mthyical feat of winning all four majors in one year. Djokovic is seven matches away from emulating the Rockhampton Rocket (though the Serbian’s four would not come in a calendar year).
The possibility that Rafael Nadal could achieve the anti-slam. At the last three majors, Nadal has finished as the runner-up to Djokovic; if the Spaniard also comes second in Paris, he would have the misfortune of having been the first man to hold all four runner-up prizes at the same time. Some have suggested that this should be the Nada Slam, with ‘nada’ meaning nothing in Spanish.
How Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal each came close to holding all four. Twice Federer was on a 27-match winning streak at the majors, which mean that he was just one match away from the full set. Federer’s misfortune was that, on both occasions, in 2006 and 2007, he was playing Rafael Nadal in the final of the French Open.
Nadal’s attempt to complete the Rafa Slam – he had arrived in Melbourne as the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open champion – ended with the injured, emotional and pink-eyed Spaniard staring at the floor during the changeovers. Soon after the start of the all-Spanish quarter-final with David Ferrer at last year’s Australian Open, Nadal damaged his hamstring. Nadal was not his proper self and he lost in straight sets on “a very difficult day for me”.
Does it matter that it would not be achieved in a calendar year? Rod Laver, who won all four in 1962, and all four in 1969, thinks that it matters: “It would be a mini-slam, or whatever you want to call it, but it wouldn’t be the grand slam. It is 40-odd years since I did the grand slam, and before that you had to go way back to the 1930s for the last time that anyone did it, so it’s not easy. Winning one grand slam tournament is difficult enough. I’m not knocking what would be a great achievement, but I don’t think winning four in a row across two seasons would be the same as a calendar-year grand slam,” said Laver. “I think Martina Navratilova once won four in a row across two years, and she said herself that it did not have the same meaning as having won all four over the same calendar year.”
The ‘what if’ with Jimmy Connors. What if Connors had not been banned from competing at the 1974 French Open, as a punishment for playing in World Team Tennis with their competitions clashing with some of the big European events? Connors won the other three slams that year, so went unbeaten at the majors. Had he played in Paris, would he have won the title?
The only men to have won four slams in a row – Don Budge and Rod Laver – did so in a calendar year. Budge cleaned up in 1938.
Career grand slammers. If Djokovic were to win the French Open, he would become the eighth man to complete the career grand slam. That would mean that all of the top three players are career grand-slammers, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal having already completed their collections. The other seven to have won all four slams at least once are: Fred Perry (completed in1935), Don Budge (1938), Rod Laver (1962), Roy Emerson (1964), Andre Agassi (1999), Roger Federer (2009), Rafael Nadal (2010).
Differences between Rod Laver’s grand slam and the possible Nole Slam. In Laver’s time, three of the four slams were played on grass, the exception being the clay-court French Open. These days, the slams are all played on different surfaces – the hard courts of the Australian and US Opens are sufficiently different to be able to say that they’re not the same surfaces.