By Randy Walker
While most prognosticators are already crowning Rafael Nadal as the 2010 French Open champion and now only predicting how many sets he will lose en route to a fifth Roland Garros title, lost in the conversation is Roger Federer potentially getting a foothold in possibly achieving one of the most elusive achievements in the sport – the Grand Slam.
Rod Laver, the last man to win the Grand Slam sweep of all four major titles in a calendar year, told Larry Siddons of Bloomberg News this week that Federer, the reigning Australian Open champion and the defending French champion, “certainly has a chance” at a Grand Slam in 2010.
“The concept of the Grand Slam, he won the Australian Open and he certainly has the chance,” said Laver, whose newly re-released book THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.NewChapterMedia.com) details his 1969 Grand Slam “Roger Federer is quite capable on clay courts but unfortunately when it comes to his victory, he has Nadal to fight against. Nadal’s the only one that he can’t beat for sure. It’s going to be an interesting one to watch.”
Federer has posted an astonishing 27-1 record in Grand Slam tournaments over the last 12 months. He won the first leg of the Grand Slam earlier this year at the Australian Open, defeating Andy Murray in the final. He is the defending French Open champion, winning at Roland Garros last year for the first time, achieving a “career Grand Slam” sweep of all four major titles. He has won six of the last seven Wimbledon titles and five of the last six US Open titles, last year’s final-round U.S. Open loss to Juan Martin del Potro being the only Grand Slam tournament blemish in the last 12 months. By defending his French Open in 2010, not an impossible feat since he did win the title in 2009, and Federer would be a betting favorite to win again at Wimbledon and go into the US Open with an excellent chance at winning the Grand Slam.
Nadal recently finished the pre-French Open clay court season undefeated, winning titles in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, losing only two sets en route. He holds a 14-7 record against Federer, including a win in the final of Madrid last Sunday. He won the French Open in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, beating Federer en route each year.
In last year’s French final, Federer defeated Robin Soderling, the man who handed Nadal his first-ever loss at Roland Garros in a shock round-of-16 upset.
Laver is one of only two men to win the Grand Slam, joining Don Budge, who won all four majors in 1938. Laver is the only player in history to win the Grand Slam twice, also sweeping all four majors in 1962. Maureen Connolly (1953), Margaret Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf (1988) are the three women to achieve the feat.
“THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER” is Laver’s first-hand account of his famous 1969 Grand Slam season, capped off by his win over fellow Australian Tony Roche in the final of the U.S. Open. Laver also writes about his childhood and early days in tennis, his 1962 Grand Slam and offers tips on how players of all levels can improve their game. He also shares some of the strategies that helped him to unparalleled success on the tennis court.
Originally published in 1971, “THE EDUCATION OF A TENNIS PLAYER” ($19.95, www.NewChapterMedia.com) was updated by Laver and co-author Bud Collins with new content including his recovery from a near-fatal stroke in 1998 and helping Australia once again win the Davis Cup in 1973. The memoir features descriptions of Laver’s most suspenseful matches and memorable portraits of his biggest rivals Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, Tony Roche and Pancho Gonzalez.
“I am delighted that “The Education of a Tennis Player” is back in circulation and available for a new generation of tennis fans,” said Laver. “Winning the Grand Slam for a second time in 1969 seems just like yesterday and this book brings back a lot of memories of the great matches and exciting times. I hope people enjoy reading my story.”
Laver captured 11 major singles titles during his career, including Wimbledon in 1961, 1962, 1968 and 1969. After joining Don Budge as the only man to win a Grand Slam by sweeping all four majors in 1962, Laver turned professional where he, along with fellow pros Hoad, Rosewall and Gonzalez, were banned from playing the “amateur-only” major tournaments. When the “Open Era” of tennis began in 1968, Laver netted another five major singles titles, including his Grand Slam sweep of all four in 1969. Laver won nearly 200 singles titles during his career and was inducted into the International Tennis of Fame in 1981.