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Sat, Oct. 19

Column: Rafa Slam denied

Many of us have been watching the Australian Open closely, hoping Rafael Nadal would make it to the finals against arch-rival Roger Federer.

Unfortunatley David Ferrer had other plans in his defeat of Nadal, the No. 1 seeded player 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.

Ferrer's game and a muscle strain kept Nadal from the possibility of holding all four major titles in a 12-month period of time, which has not occurred for any male player since Rod Laver last did it in 1969.

Laver achieved Grand Slams twice, 1962 and 1969, which is winning all four majors in a calendar year. The media had dubbed this potential feat the "Rafa Slam."

The first "Grand Slam" took place in 1938 when U.S. player Don Budge won the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. Maureen Connolly followed in 1953, Rod Laver in 1962 and again in 1969, Margaret Smith Court in 1970 and lastly, Steffi Graf in 1988...a very elite crowd.

There have been two other players to hold all four majors in a 12-month period, but not in a calendar year - Martina Navratilova in 1984-85 and Serena Williams 2002-03, which is what Rafa was nearing before defeat.

It's certainly harder to attain a calendar slam - having to win the first major of the year and continue from that point. Just starting with the win of any major and venturing from there is still difficult and that even remains a feat that's almost impossible to obtain.

Each major consists of seven rounds times 4 majors equals 28 matches without a loss.

Men have to play the best 3 out of 5 sets to win each match, women 2 of 3. You need to stay pretty doggone healthy. Muscle pulls, sickness or outside problems (mental, family situations, travel, money, job) can take the wind out of you, just like it did to Rafa.

Since the advent of Open Tennis began in 1968, the number of people who are ranked on the ATP and WTA Tours total in the thousands of players.

A term tennis players have coined "Triplers" winning three of the four majors in a calendar year is another great feat and here is a list of those players:

Men

Jack Crawford 1933; Fred Perry 1934; Tony Trabert 1955; Lew Hoad 1956; Ashley Cooper 1958; Roy Emerson 1964; Jimmy Connors 1974; Mats Wilander 1988; Roger Federer 2004-06-07; Rafael Nadal 2010.

Women

Helen Wills Moody 1928-29; Margaret Smith Court 1962-65-69-73; Billie Jean King 1972; Martina Navratilova 1983-84; Steffi Graf 1989-93-95-96; Monica Seles 1991-92; Martina Hintis 1997 and Serena Williams in 2002.

Prior to 1968 there were many players who just couldn't or didn't take the time and expense to go to the Australian Open, which shot their chances for winning all four majors. Other players had a tough time playing on clay, thus the French Open eluded them

Kim Clijsters will play Na Li in the women's final. I like both players and certainly Kim has an advantage, but wouldn't it be nice to see Na Li from China win her first major title?

As for the men, Novak Djokovic will play the winner of semifinalists Andy Murray and Ferrer.

For all of you local tennis players - watching the greats play is fun but it's also time to get signed up for the Yavapai College tennis classes that start the third week of February and get back in the saddle yourself. This Saturday there's a singles Grand Prix at the Prescott Racquet Club for men and women - 3.0 to 4.5 levels. And don't forget to come by the Roughrider courts on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:20 a.m. for Drop-In-Tennis for three sets of doubles.

It a new year, so off to the races!

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 35 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at choward4541@q.com or 928-642-6775.

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