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What Is a Grand Slam in Tennis?
In tennis, a Grand Slam refers to when a competitive tennis player wins all four major tennis tournaments within the same calendar year. These major tournaments include Wimbledon, the US Open, the French Open, and the Australian Open. A Grand Slam, also known as a calendar-year Grand Slam, can be achieved through men or women’s singles tennis, men or women’s doubles tennis, or mixed doubles tennis.
Types of Grand Slam Titles
Here are the Grand Slam titles that a tennis player can achieve in their career.
- Calendar-year Grand Slam: If a player wins consecutive titles in the same calendar year, the achievement is called a calendar-year Grand Slam, or Grand Slam for short.
- Non-calendar year Grand Slam: If a player wins consecutive titles across two calendar years, the achievement is called a non-calendar year Grand Slam.
- Career Grand Slam: A player can achieve a career Grand Slam by winning all four tournaments at any point during their career.
- Golden Slam: In 1988, Steffi Graf made history when she achieved the first-ever “Golden Slam” by winning all four major titles in addition to an Olympic gold medal within the same year.
What Is the History of the Grand Slam?
Initially, the three major professional tennis tournaments included Wimbledon Championships, the World Hard Court Championships, and the World Covered Court Championships. Around 1925, the ITF—originally called the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF)—underwent some changes and members decided to make the championship tournaments in Australia, France, Great Britain, and the United States the four major competitions for the sport.
In 1938, American tennis player Don Budge became the first player to win all four major events.
In 1968, the Open Era of tennis began, allowing amateur players to compete against professional players in Grand Slam tournaments. In 2010, Rafael Nadal became one of the youngest men’s singles players to win a career Grand Slam at 24. In recent years, Novak Djokovic has become the only player in tennis history to hold a (non-calendar year) Grand Slam title on three different court surfaces. For women’s tennis, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, and Maria Sharapova hold career Grand Slam singles titles.
Inside the 4 Grand Slam Tournaments
Grand Slam tournaments are publicly covered tennis tournaments that offer ranking points and prize money for players. To achieve a Grand Slam, a player must win each of the following tournaments:
- Australian Open: The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam event of the year. The tournament is held in Melbourne over two-weeks in mid-January. The tournament features men and women’s singles players, doubles teams, mixed doubles, and wheelchair tennis. In 1988, the venue switched its surface from grass courts to hard courts. In the Australian Open, singles players use the first to 10 tiebreaker when the game score in the final set of a singles match reaches 6-6. For mixed doubles, players will play a tiebreak instead of a final set. Retired professional player Margaret Court holds 11 women’s singles titles at the Australian Open.
- French Open: The French Open, also known as Roland Garros, is a two-week event that takes place towards the end of May in Paris, France. This tournament is the only major championship to utilize the advantage set to determine the winner of the match, and the only one played exclusively on outdoor clay court surfaces. Initially, this tournament was only open to members of French tennis clubs, but its competitor eligibility expanded in 1925 after being designated one of the Big Four tournaments.
- Wimbledon: Commonly referred to as “The Championships,” Wimbledon is the oldest tennis championship in the world, taking place in Wimbledon, London since 1877. Wimbledon takes place in late June/early July and is the only major tournament since 1988 to take place on a grass court. Wimbledon is a prestigious event with a strict dress code policy requiring players to wear all-white attire to compete. In 2019, Wimbledon instituted a new rule to end marathon matches. Now, if players tie at 12 games, they must play a tiebreaker round. In 2000, Venus Williams became the second Black American female winner in Wimbledon history.
- US Open: The last of the four majors, the US Open takes place on the last Monday of August, stretching over two weeks. This tournament is played on hard courts, and in addition to the standard events, features competitions in the junior, wheelchair, and senior divisions. The US Open is the only major tournament to use the 12-point tiebreak scoring system for every set that enters a 6-6 tie, including the final one. In the Open Era, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer have won the most US Open titles for men’s singles. For women’s singles, Serena Williams and Chris Evert hold the most titles.
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