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Sun, Nov. 17

Not one, but two chances at history

This year there is the slim possibility of two players breaking into the elite group of players that have won all four majors in a calendar year, Jennifer Capriati and Andre Agassi. Those two only because they won the first major, the Australian Open held in late January-early February.

It's a pretty tough nut to crack in many ways. First, the draws include 128 players, thus you have to win seven rounds to win each major. Even if your first couple opponents are easy, you can count on playing the likes of the top seeds from the quarters through the finals. Secondly, you have to stay healthy, physically and mentally. It doesn't really take much of a distraction to throw off someone's game. Three of the four majors that make up what's called the Grand Slam are played on different surfaces. The Australian and US Open are on hard courts, Wimbledon is on grass, and the French is played on clay.

Agassi has won each of these majors at one time or another throughout his career, and that is considered a great feat in itself, while Capriati has only won the Australian, so she has much to prove yet.

Who has accomplished the impossible, compiling all four majors in a year? Let's work our way backward.

The last person to win all four major titles was Steffi Graf in 1988 and it was more than impressive. In 28 matches, she was only pushed to three sets once. Add to that she also won the Olympic Gold medal the same year and you can almost say that will never happen again.

There was an 18-year gap from Steffi to when the Australian, Margaret Smith Court, did it in 1970. Court is also noted for winning more singles titles than any other woman in the game of tennis.

Rod Laver, also from Australia, accomplished a record never to be broken again by being the first person to win two Grand Slam titles, once as an amateur in 1962 and then again after the advent of open tennis in 1969 as a professional.

The first woman to win a Grand Slam title was Little Mo (Maureen) Connolly in 1953. As we know, prior to 1968 if you had turned professional you could no longer compete in the amateur events of which the majors were a part.

The very first person to come up with this term, Grand Slam, was Don Budge in 1938. During the formative years of tennis, there weren't that many people who went and played in all four majors. If you think getting to Australia is a long trip today, just think what it was like when you had to go by ship.

Only five people can claim to have won a Grand Slam in the history of tennis.

The French Open is the next test, held at Roland Garros May 28 through June 27. It is followed by Wimbledon just two short weeks later, June 25-July 8 and is considered the granddaddy of the four in prestige. The final of the year comes in late summer, the US Open, held in New York City Aug. 27-Sept. 9.

Winning a Grand Slam could happen again, but will it? If anyone call pull it off, Andre Agassi would have to be put at the top of the list. One thing we do know for sure is that he and Capriate are the only ones who have a chance, for this year anyway.

(Chris Howard is a local USTPA tennis professional with over 25 years in the fitness industry. Contact him at ckhoward@futureone.com.)

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