NEW YORK – Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame tennis journalist and personality and author of the new book “The Bud Collins History of Tennis,” wants to set the record straight. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Ana Ivanovic and the Williams sisters will not be vying for a “Grand Slam” title in New York at the 2008 U.S. Open. They will be seeking a “major” championship.
“I really wish everyone in tennis would get the word usage correct – a ‘Grand Slam’ is when you sweep in one year all four major tournaments – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open,” says Collins. “If you win the U.S. Open – you will have one a ‘major tournament’ not a ‘Grand Slam.’ You cannot say Pete Sampras has won 14 Grand Slams. He has won 14 majors. Roger Federer has won 12 major titles – not 12 Grand Slams. Ana Ivanovic did not win her first Grand Slam title at the French Open. She won her first major title.”
Only five players have won a Grand Slam in singles – Don Budge in 1938, Maureen Connolly in 1953, Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969, Margaret Smith Court in 1970 and Steffi Graf in 1988. “Rod Laver won two Grand Slams – one in 1962 and another in 1969 – and overall he won 11 major singles titles,” says Collins.
In “The Bud Collins History of Tennis,” Collins writes of how the Grand Slam came into being. Writes Collins, “Jack Crawford, the stylish Australian of the 1930s, had no idea when he departed his homeland by steamship in the spring of 1933 that he would, unknowingly, be the instigator of a concept eventually known as the Grand Slam. He had won the Australian title for the third successive year, defeating Californian Keith Gledhill, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-2, and was headed for Europe.
“In Paris, Jack became the first non-Frenchman to seize the championship of France, dethroning Henri Cochet of France, 8-6, 6-1, 6-3. Then, crossing the Channel to London, he lifted the Wimbledon title from another Californian, Ellsworth Vines, in a splendid final, 4-6, 11-9, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4.
“Nobody had won those three majors in a row, but Jack had enough. He’d been through a grueling campaign, was bothered by asthma and insomnia, and wanted to go home. However, as an amateur he was controlled by his country’s tennis administration, the LTAA (Lawn Tennis Association of Australia), insisting that he play the U.S. Championships at Forest Hills because a fee due the Association for his appearance was involved.
“The prospect of his winning that one, too, intrigued a New York Times columnist, John Kieran. If he did, wrote Kieran, it would be something like a “grand slam” in bridge. But Crawford didn’t, although he battled gamely to the final. Drained physically and emotionally, he led Brit Fred Perry two-sets-to-one but could win only one more game, falling, 6-3, 11-13, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.
No Grand Slam, which Jack hadn’t set out to accomplish, anyway. But the idea had sprouted, and it made an impression on a kid in California, 18-year-old Don Budge. Having become No. 1 and retrieved the Davis Cup for the U.S. in 1937, Budge determined that 1938 would be his last as an amateur. He wanted a goal, something extra, and quietly set out (telling no one but his buddy, doubles partner Gene Mako) to conquer the Big Four, as they were known-the only countries to win the Davis Cup.
With little difficulty, losing three sets in 24 matches (one to Mako in the U.S. final), Budge posted the initial Grand Slam. It was duly noted by Allison Danzig, tennis correspondent for the New York Times. But it took a long time catching on. However, nurtured as a pro by Mr. Grand Slam, Budge, who dined out on it, the Slam became a popular term in tennis. Also a misused one, as proprietors of the four majors carelessly called their events Grand Slams, confusing the public. Although there is no written rule, a Grand Slam has come to be accepted as winning all four within a calendar year. Each tournament is a major, not a Slam.”
The Bud Collins History of Tennis ($35.95, 784 pages, New Chapter Press, www.newchapterpressmedia.com) is the ultimate compilation of historical tennis information, including year-by-year recaps of every tennis season, biographical sketches of every major tennis personality, as well as stats, records, and championship rolls for all the major events. The author’s personal relationships with major tennis stars offer insights into the world of professional tennis found nowhere else.
Among those endorsing the book include the two women who hold the Wimbledon record for most total titles (noted by Collins in the book) – Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King – who both won 20 Wimbledon titles each in their careers. Said Navratilova, “If you know nothing about tennis, this book is for you. And if you know everything about tennis-Hah!-Bud knows more, so this book is for you too!” Said King, “We can’t move forward if we don’t understand and appreciate our past. This book not only provides us with accurate reporting of the rich tennis history, it keeps us current on the progress of the sport today.”
New Chapter Press is also the publisher of “The Roger Federer Story, Quest for Perfection” by Rene Stauffer and “Boycott: Stolen Dreams of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games” by Tom Caraccioli and Jerry Caraccioli. More information on New Chapter Press can be found at www.newchapterpressmedia.com.