The Grand Slam in tennis is the achievement of winning all four major championships in one discipline in the same calendar year, also referred to as the "Calendar-year Grand Slam" or "Calendar Grand Slam". In doubles, a team may accomplish the Grand Slam playing together or a player may achieve it with different partners. Winning all four major championships consecutively but not within the same calendar year is referred to as a non-calendar year Grand Slam, while winning the four majors at any point during the course of a career is known as a Career Grand Slam.
The Grand Slam tournaments, also referred to as majors, are the world's four most important annual professional tennis events. The tournaments offer the most ranking points, prize money, public and media attention, the greatest strength and size of field, and longest matches for men (best of 5 sets). They are overseen by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), rather than the separate men and women's tour organizing bodies, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women's Tennis Association (WTA), but both the ATP and WTA award ranking points based on players' performances in the tournaments.
The four Grand Slam tournaments are the Australian Open in January, the French Open from late May to early June, Wimbledon in late June to early July, and the US Open in August–September, with each played over a two-week period. The Australian and the United States tournaments are played on hard courts, the French on clay, and Wimbledon on grass. Wimbledon is the oldest tournament, founded in 1877, followed by the US in 1881, the French in 1891, and the Australian in 1905, but they were not all officially designated majors until 1923.
The locations of the four Grand Slam championships.
With the growing popularity of tennis, and with the hopes of unifying the sport's rules internationally, the British and French associations started discussions at their Davis Cup tie, and in October of 1912 organized a meeting in Paris, joined by the Australasian, Austrian, Belgian, Spanish, and Swiss associations. They subsequently formed the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF), holding their first meeting in 1913, joined by the Danish, German, Dutch, Russian, South African, and Swedish organizations. Voting rights were divided based on the perceived importance of the individual countries, with Great Britain's Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) receiving the maximum six votes. Three tournaments were established, being designated as "World Championships":
The LTA was given the perpetual right to organize the World Grass Court Championships, to be held in Wimbledon, and France received permission to stage the World Hard Court Championships until 1916.Anthony Wilding of New Zealand won all three of those World Championships in 1913.
The United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNTLA) expressed disagreement with the power distribution within the ILTF and the designation of "World Championships" status to the British and French tournaments, thus they initially refused to join the ILTF, choosing to be bystanders to their meetings. By the 1920s, with the World Covered Court Championships failing to attract top players and the growing success of American and Australian tennis, the ILTF worked to convince the USNTLA to join them, meeting their demand to drop the designation of "World Championships" from all three tournaments, which led to the demise of both the World Covered Court Championships and the World Hard Court Championships. By 1923 the power distribution was heavily in favor of Britain, France, Australia, and the US, but no actual definition of "major" was attributed. While many countries had their own national tennis championships, it was obvious by the 1930s that the tournaments in Britain, France, Australia, and the United States were the most prestigious events in the sport, and thus they were subsequently designated as the "Official Championships".
In 1933, Jack Crawford won the Australian, French, and Wimbledon Championships, leaving him just needing to win the last major event of the year, the U.S. Championships, to become the reigning champion of all four major tournaments, a feat described as a "Grand Slam" by both sports columnist Alan Gould of The Reading Eagle, and John Kieran of The New York Times. The term 'Grand Slam' originates from the card game contract bridge, where it is used for winning all the possible tricks, and entered tennis via golf where it had been first used in sports to describe Bobby Jones' achievement of winning the four major golf tournaments three years earlier in 1930. "Grand Slam" or "Slam" has since also become used to refer to the tournaments individually.
Although it has been possible to complete a Grand Slam in most years and most disciplines since 1925, it was not possible from 1940 to 1945 because of interruptions at Wimbledon, the Australian and French Championships due to World War II, the years from 1970 to 1985 when there was no Australian tournament in mixed doubles, 1986 when there was no Australian Open, and 2020 when Wimbledon was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players including John McEnroe and Chris Evert have pointed out that skipping majors was not unusual before counting major titles became the norm, especially the Australian Open because of the traveling distance involved and the inconvenient dates close to Christmas and New Year. There were also the professional players who had to skip some major events like the French Open in the 1970s because they were committed to the more lucrative pro circuits. In one case, Australian players including Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and Roy Emerson who had contracts with George MacCall's National Tennis League were prevented from participating in the 1970 Australian Open because the financial guarantees were deemed insufficient.
These are the four major tennis tournaments that comprise a Grand Slam:
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, played annually in late January and early February.[k] The inaugural edition took place in November 1905 on the grass courts of the Warehouseman's Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia. It was held as the Australasian Championships until 1927 and thereafter as the Australian Championships until the onset of the Open Era in 1969, passing through various venues in Australia and New Zealand before settling at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in Melbourne between 1972 and 1987. Since 1988, it has been played on the hard courts of the Melbourne Park sports complex, which currently uses GreenSet as its court manufacturer.
Managed by Tennis Australia, formerly the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia (LTAA), the tournament struggled until the mid-1980s to attract the top international players due to its distance from Europe and America and proximity to the Christmas and holiday season, but it has since grown to become one of the biggest sporting events in the Southern Hemisphere and the highest attended Grand Slam tournament, with more than 812,000 people attending the 2020 edition.
Nicknamed the "Happy Slam" and billed as "the Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific", it has become known for its modernity and innovation, being the first Grand Slam tournament to feature indoor play and install retractable roofs on its main courts, the first to schedule night-time men's singles finals, and the first to substitute electronic line calling for line judges, using an expanded version of the Hawk-Eye technology known as "Hawk-Eye Live".
The tournament was designated a major championship by the International Lawn Tennis Federation in 1923. Nowadays, its draws host 256 singles players, 128 doubles teams and 32 mixed doubles teams, with the total prize money for the 2021 tournament being A$71,500,000.
The French Open, also known as Roland Garros, is the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, played annually in late May and early June. It was first held in 1891, on the sand courts of the Societé de Sport de Île de Puteaux, in Puteaux, Île-de-France,[l] and repeatedly changed venues over the years before settling on the clay courts at the Stade Roland-Garros in Paris, France, where it has been contested since 1928. Both the venue and the tournament are named "Roland Garros" after the pioneering French aviator.
Organized by the Fédération française de tennis (FFT), formerly known as the Fédération Française de Lawn Tennis until 1976, the French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament played on a red clay surface. It's generally considered the most physically demanding tennis tournament in the world.
Until 1925, it was known as Championnats de France (French Championships) and only French clubs members were eligible to compete in the tournament, thus another tournament called the World Hard Court Championships was the premier clay championship in France at the time as it admitted international competitors, and it's often seen as a true precursor to the modern French Open. From 1925 onward, the French Championships became open to all international amateurs, being rebranded as Internationaux de France (French Internationals), and it was designated a major championship by the International Lawn Tennis Federation in the same year.
Today, the event has draws that host 256 singles players, 128 doubles teams and 32 mixed doubles teams, with the total prize money for the 2021 tournament being €34,367,215. The 2018 edition saw a record attendance of 480,575 spectators.
The Championships, Wimbledon, commonly known as Wimbledon, is the third Grand Slam tournament of the year, played annually in late June and early July. It was first held on 1877 at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, at the time located off Nursery Road in Wimbledon, London, England. The tournament has always been contested at this club, which moved to its present site off Church Road in 1922 in order to increase its attendance capacity.
Wimbledon is organized by a committee of management consisting of nineteen members, with twelve being club members and the remaining seven nominated by the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). As the world's oldest tennis event, it is widely regarded as the most prestigious tennis tournament, and it is known for its commitment to longstanding traditions and guidelines. It is one of few tournaments and the only Grand Slam event that is still played on grass courts, tennis's original surface, and where "lawn tennis" originated in the 1800s. Players are required to wear all-white attire during matches, and they are referred to as "Gentlemen" and "Ladies". There is also a tradition where the players are asked to bow or curtsy towards the Royal Box upon entering or leaving Centre Court when either the Prince of Wales or the Queen are present.
The tournament was given the title "World Grass Court Championships" by the International Lawn Tennis Federation between 1912 and 1923, and was designated a major championship following the abolition of the three ILTF World Championships. Since 1937, the BBC has broadcast the tournament on television in the United Kingdom, with the finals shown live and in full on television in the country each year. The BBC's broadcast of the 1967 edition was among the first colour television broadcasts in the UK.
Today, the event has draws that host 256 singles players, 128 doubles teams and 32 mixed doubles teams, with the total prize money for the 2021 tournament being £35,016,000, with 500,397 people attending the 2019 edition. The tournament has some of the longest running sponsorships in sports history, having been associated with Slazenger since 1902, and with the Robinsons fruit drink brand since 1935.
Over the years, the tournament has pioneered changes and promoted ideas that other tournaments later implemented for themselves, including the introduction of a tiebreak system to decide the outcome of sets tied at 6–6 in 1970, being first Grand Slam tournament to award equal prize money to the men's and women's events in 1975, the installation of floodlights in 1975 in order to allow matches to be played at night, and the introduction of instant replay reviews of line calls using the Hawk-Eye computer system in 2006, the first Grand Slam tournament to do so.
The ILTF officially designated it as a major tournament in 1923. Today, the event has draws that host 256 singles players, 128 doubles teams and 32 mixed doubles teams, with the total prize money for the 2020 tournament being US$53,400,000, and a US television viewership of 700,000. Since 2004, the tournament has been preceded by the US Open Series, composed of North American hardcourt professional tournaments that lead up to and culminate with the US Open itself, The season is organized by the USTA as a way to focus more attention on American tennis tournaments by getting more of them on domestic television.
The first player to win all four of the current majors in a calendar year was Don Budge, who did so in 1938. To date, five singles players (two men, three women), nine doubles players (four men, five women) and one junior (boy) completed the Grand Slam. In wheelchair disciplines, two men and eight women did so. Margaret Court is the only player to complete the Grand Slam in two different disciplines—once in women's singles and twice in mixed doubles.
In 1982, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) began offering a $1 million bonus to any singles player to win four consecutive major titles, even if they were won across two seasons. Although groups variously identified as the Men's International Professional Tennis Council, "abetted primarily by some British tennis writers", and "European tennis journalists" had advocated for the ITF to change the definition of "Grand Slam", ITF General Secretary David Gray made it clear that this was not going to happen. In a 1983 letter to tennis journalist Paul Fein, Gray clarified:
There seems to be some confusion. The ITF's only initiative in this matter has been the organisation of the offer of a bonus of $1m. to any player who holds all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously [...] In spite of all that we have read on this matter, it has never been my Committee of Management's intention to alter the basis of the classic Grand Slam i.e., the capture of all four titles in a year.
The ITF's plan was to offer the cash bonus for three years, apparently to encourage players to compete in all four major tournaments as much as to reward success at them.
Writing in 1982, before the ITF had announced their bonus, Neil Amdur said, "Now the sport spins nervously under the influence of big dollars and even bigger egos, and tradition has almost gone the way of white balls and long flannels [...] If the four major tournaments want to offer a $1 million incentive for any player in the future who can sweep their titles—and such talks have been rumored—that bonus would be a welcome addition. But changing what the Grand Slam is all about is like a baseball player believing that he 'hit for the cycle' after slugging a single, double and triple in the first game of a doubleheader and a home run in his first time at bat in the second game."
When Martina Navratilova won the 1984 French Open and became the reigning champion of all four women's singles discipline, she was the first player to receive the bonus prize in recognition of her achievement. Some media outlets did, indeed, say that she had won a Grand Slam. Curry Kirkpatrick of Sports Illustrated wrote "Whether the Slam was Grand or Bland or a commercial sham tainted with an asterisk the size of a tennis ball, Martina Navratilova finally did it."
When Steffi Graf completed the Grand Slam in 1988, George Vecsey wrote, "Even the International Tennis Federation, which should have more respect for history, ruled in 1982 that winning any four straight majors constituted a Grand Slam—and offered a $1 million bonus for it [...] But many tennis people, and most writers, and probably most fans, too, did not accept the new rules, and the ITF has dropped the gimmick."
When Rafael Nadal was on the verge of completing a non-calendar year Grand Slam at the 2011 Australian Open, one writer observed, "Most traditionalists insist that the 'Grand Slam' should refer only to winning all four titles in a calendar year, although the constitution of the International Tennis Federation, the sports governing body, spells out that 'players who hold all four of these titles at the same time achieve the Grand Slam'." As of 2021 however, the ambiguity has been resolved, with the ITF's current constitution stating "The Grand Slam titles are the championships of Australia, France, the United States of America and Wimbledon. Players who hold all four of these titles in one calendar year achieve the 'Grand Slam'."
The following list is for those players who achieved a non-calendar Grand Slam by holding the four major titles at the same time but not in calendar year. The players who won the titles in a calendar year are not included here.
Only six players have completed a Career Grand Slam in both singles and doubles: one male (Roy Emerson) and five female (Margaret Court, Doris Hart, Shirley Fry Irvin, Martina Navratilova, and Serena Williams). Court, Hart and Navratilova are the only ones to have completed a "Career Boxed Set", that is, winning all four major titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles; this has never been done by a male player.
Number of players to complete the Career Grand Slam
A "career Boxed Set" refers to winning one of every possible major title in the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles disciplines throughout a player's career. Only three players have completed the Boxed Set; Margaret Court, Doris Hart and Martina Navratilova. Court's second Box Set, completed in 1969, spans the pre-Open and Open Eras, but she later completed a set entirely within the Open Era in 1973.
The event at which the Boxed Set was completed indicated in bold
Soon after the Open Era began in 1968, the new professional tours each held a year-end championship (YEC), which are elite tournaments involving only the top performers of the season. The return of tennis to the Olympics in 1988 gave rise to the notion of a "Super Slam" as a combination of Golden Slam and YEC title. The YECs are currently the ATP Finals for the men's tour, WTA Finals for the women's tour, and the Wheelchair Tennis Masters for the wheelchair tennis tour.
Although no player has ever completed the Super Slam in a single season, Steffi Graf achieved a "non-calendar year Super Slam" by winning all the aforementioned titles consecutively, with her Golden Slam in 1988 following her victory at the 1987 Virginia Slims Championships, the year-end championship for women's tennis at that time.
Career Super Slam
A player who wins all four Grand Slam tournaments, the Olympic gold medal and the year-end championship throughout his or her career is said to have achieved a "Career Super Slam".
Number of players to complete the Career Super Slam
Several players have won three of the four Grand Slam tournaments in the same year, missing out on the Grand Slam by only one title, an achievement sometimes referred to as a "Three-Quarter Slam". In five notable instances, singles players won the first three events of the year and went to the final major tournament with the opportunity to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam but lost. These were Jack Crawford in 1933,Lew Hoad in 1956, and Novak Djokovic in 2021 in men's tennis, and Martina Navratilova in 1984 and Serena Williams in 2015 in women's tennis.
Number of players to complete the Three-Quarter Slam
Since 1978, when the US Open changed its playing surface from clay to hard courts, the four Grand Slam tournaments have been contested on three surfaces: clay, hard and grass. A player who wins a Grand Slam title on each of those three current surfaces in a calendar year is said to have achieved a "Surface Slam". From 1978 to 1987, the Australian Open and Wimbledon were played on grass, the French Open on clay and the US Open on hard, but since 1988 the Australian Open has also been played on hard courts. In singles, the feat has been accomplished by two men: Rafael Nadal in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in 2021; and three women: Martina Navratilova in 1984, Steffi Graf in 1988, 1993, 1995, 1996, and Serena Williams in 2002 and 2015.
Before the Open Era began in 1968, only amateur players were allowed to compete in the four majors. Many male top players "went pro" in order to win prize money legally, competing on a professional world tour comprising completely separate events. From 1927 to 1967, the three pro events considered to be the "majors" of the pro tour were:
^Gould, Alan (18 July 1933). "Sports Slants: Tennis "Grand Slam"". The Reading Eagle. p. 10. Retrieved 2 September 2021. Tennis “Grand Slam”: Crawford, now holder of the Australian, French and British singles title, has the chance for a “grand slam” by coming over for the United States championships at Forest Hills in September.
^Kieran, John (2 September 1933). "Coming Up to the Net". The New York Times. p. 9. Retrieved 2 September 2021. Jack Crawford, the Australian, has the most impressive record so far this year. He defeated Cochet in France for the French hard-court championship. He won at Wimbledon. He holds the Australian title. If he wins at Forest Hills, he will have captured about everything in sight for the year. That would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts, doubled and vulnerable.
^"John McEnroe". Charlie Rose. 2 April 1999. 11:49 minutes in. PBS. Retrieved 30 August 2021. I don't think people realize and put in perspective [that] [t]he Australian Open has come a long way. [U]ntil 1985, for example, they were offering me guarantees to play the tournament. You had to beg the top players to play. What changed it was the fact that they did a better promotional job. They put money into a new stadium and things of that nature. [...] When people don't realize that Borg played once his entire career. I didn't play the first seven years of my career. Connors only played once. Gerulaitis, God rest his soul, only played a couple times. There's not a history of the people supporting the event until the late '80s. Now, I give them a lot of credit for bringing the level up as well as the French Open. But I think that people have to put this in perspective.
^"Melbourne Park ready for 2019 Australian Open". Australasian Leisure Management. 17 January 2019. The Australian Open 2019 is the largest annual sporting event in the Southern Hemisphere and the biggest sporting event in the world in January.
^Will Kaufman & Heidi Slettedahl Macpherson, ed. (2005). "Tennis". Britain and the Americas. 1 : Culture, Politics, and History. ABC-CLIO. p. 958. ISBN1-85109-431-8. this first tennis championship, which later evolved into the Wimbledon Tournament [...] continues as the world's most prestigious event.
^Williams, Daniel (11 January 2007). "Australian Open Preview". TIME. Time Warner. Retrieved 1 March 2021. As seen at last year's U.S. Open and numerous events since, this is the best innovation in tennis since yellow balls.
^ ab"Margaret Court: "Women's tennis is a little bit boring"". BBC. Retrieved 11 July 2021. Margaret Court is one of only three players to have achieved a career "boxed set" of Grand Slam titles, winning every possible Grand Slam title – singles, women's doubles, and mixed doubles – at all four Grand Slam events. The others are Doris Hart and Martina Navratilova – but Court believes she missed opportunities".
^Nelson, Murry R., ed. (2013). American Sports: A History of Icons, Idols, and Ideas. Greenwood Press. p. 26. ISBN9780313397523.
^Martin, Lorena (2016). Sports Performance Measurement and Analytics: The Science of Assessing Performance, Predicting Future Outcomes, Interpreting Statistical Models, and Evaluating the Market Value of Athletes. FT Press. Pearson Education. ISBN0-13-419330-X.