If Novak Djokovic wins the U.S. Open two weeks from now to complete the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men’s tennis since 1969, “Rocket” Rod Laver will be there to welcome him into a remarkably exclusive group.
If he wins the four Slams, I’d be happy to shake his hands. “I’d be happy to have him as a member of — whether it is a ‘club” or not, that’s what Laver said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
Since the left-handed, slightly-built, red-haired Australian won it the second time, 52 years ago, no man has won the Australian Open French Open Wimbledon or U.S. Open simultaneously. It was so long ago, that the Beatles were about to release “Abbey Road”, while America was still enjoying Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk.
As the years have passed, Laver, who also achieved a Grand Slam as an amateur in 1962, and Don Budge (who did it in 1938) remain the only men who have accomplished the greatest feat of tennis.
Laver is surprised by this, even though it’s difficult to combine them all.
You need to be skilled on many surfaces today. The U.S. Open is played on red clay and the Australian Open is on grass. You must avoid injury. Each opponent for 28 matches spread over eight months. Handling each day’s weather. And so on.
“I never said that I was going to Grand Slam. That’s too much pressure. Djokovic, I believe he wants talk about it. So that could be a problem, if there’s one,” Laver stated. “He is very familiar with all the players so it shouldn’t pose any problems. … Pressure is what Djokovic might have problems with. Perhaps he isn’t feeling well. There are many things that could go wrong.
As it is, Djokovic is the first man since Laver to claim a season’s first three major trophies. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were not able to reach the halfway mark, winning the Australian Open as well as the French Open the same year.
The No. The No. 1 seed Djokovic will begin his journey at the U.S. Open against Holger Rune (18-year-old Dane from Denmark) on Tuesday night. Djokovic believes that this is a “very unique opportunity.”
For a true Grand Slam, three women have gone 4-for-4, including Steffi Graf in 1988. Serena Williams was close to winning the 2015 majors, before being defeated by Roberta Vinci in semifinals of the U.S. Open. This was one of the greatest upsets in tennis.
Laver, a quiet and unassuming man who has lived in San Diego County for many years, stated that he never felt any special satisfaction at being the Grand Slam’s last winner.
He is always open to being joined by a newcomer.
Laver, who was holding a cup in his powerful left hand, said that “it really doesn’t bother me” before the San Diego Padres game at Petco Park. He was also a guest of Peter Seidler. He said that Don Budge won the trophy in 1938 and I did it again in 1962. It’s just two of us.
Laver, who is now 83, was just 31 when he died in 1969.
Djokovic, a 34-year old from Serbia, is the host. He shares the men’s mark of 20 career major titles with Federer and Nadal, who are injured and not playing in the U.S. Open.
Laver stated that Djokovic’s best attribute is his consistency.
He doesn’t have a great serve, forehand or backhand but all his serves are excellent. Laver stated that this is one of the things he can count on. “If one doesn’t work as well as it should, he has something to fall back on.”
The U.S. Tennis Association invited Laver to New York to play in the U.S. Open’s final days.
Chris Widmaier, spokesperson for the USTA, stated that “if history is made at 2021 U.S. Open,” and suggested that Rod Laver, Rod Laver, would be the perfect way to celebrate it.
Djokovic has already won four majors consecutively, spread over two seasons in 2015-16. However, he would be happy to get some advice from Laver about his all-in-one year achievement.
Djokovic stated, “Hopefully he will tell me something that can help me.” He is one of the greatest and most revered athletes in our sport. A person I admire, respect, and look up too.”
The pair would not be speaking for the first time; they have spoken many times at Melbourne Park, where Djokovic won nine Australian Open titles at the Rod Laver Arena.
Laver’s signature green-and white Adidas tennis shoe is another thing with his name on it.
Laver was speaking with friends at a concourse before Thursday’s game. A fan passing by noticed the shoes, and said that he used them as a child.
He said that Laver was his idol.
Someone said that Rod Laver was the man who wore the shoes.
“Holy… “It is!” replied the man. He circled back to take a quick photo with one of the members of a club that currently has two members, but could soon have three.