A career Grand Slam is perhaps the holy grail of modern day tennis. While Rod Laver, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal complete the elite list of winning all the four Slams at least once in their lifetime in the Open era, there are many a few names who faltered at the final hurdle, i.e, won all but one Majors.
Novak Djokovic at present is one such personality on the verge of a career Grand Slam at the French Open. He has reached three finals at Paris only to return with the plate. In fact, this time, he will get a major boost as he could end up being the first man since Laver to hold all four Majors at the same time.
As the Serb world no. 1 launches his campaign to sneak into the ultimate pages of tennis glory, let us sneak through a few names from the older sheets of tennis history who have failed to get going for the final glory at the Parisian clay.
#4 Boris Becker, the youngest Wimbledon champion at 17 years, is the current coach of Djokovic. Like his disciple, the teacher too found the French a tough nut to crack. In alternate years from 1987 to 1991, he featured in three semi-finals at Paris – failing each time. The closest he came to reaching the final was in 1989 when he drew level from 2 sets down to take the game into the decider against his arch-rival Stefan Edberg – but as is always the case, there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip. In his career, the German had won 49 titles, including 6 Majors. But none of these titles came on clay courts.
#3 Stefan Edberg, who beat Boris Becker in the epic 5-setter in the 1989 semi-final, went on to lose the final again in a back-to-back five setter against Michael Chang. Edberg once was leading 2-1 in the match in terms of sets but lost his way in the end possibly due to fatigue. Edberg too won 6 Slams in his playing days – four of them coming at the grass courts at the Australian Open and the Wimbledon. In all, only 3 of his 42 titles came at the dusty bowls. The Swede was 17-time Slam winner Roger Federer’s childhood hero and also coach for two years till the end of 2015.
#2 Jimmy Connors, the legendary American player, boasts of a record of 109 titles won in his stellar career that includes being the No. 1 in the world for 160 consecutive weeks. But in the midst of glory, there is a moment of blip – the consistent top-10 player for a span of 16 years could not get the French toast in his trophy cabinet. He never reached the final in Paris as he lost four times in the penultimate round. It included a five setter loss to Vitas Gerulaitis as well as other heart-breaking losses to multiple Grand Slam winners like John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl. However, he had 11 titles on clay to show for and comparatively had a better record at Paris than those feature in this list.
#1 Pete Sampras, the biggest name in the list, too never reached a Grand Slam final with his 1996 semi-final appearance being his best performance in the tournament. The man who never lost a Wimbledon final in all his seven appearances was his contrasting self on the other side of the English Channel – having returned 8 of 13 times winning atmost a match here. In all only 3 of his 64 career titles came in the red dirt which in fact was never his able friend.