A lot of people like to call each of the 4 tennis majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) grand slams. In fact, a grand slam (in tennis terms anyway) is winning all four of these titles in one calendar year. The only woman to have done it in the open era (starting in 1968) is Steffi Graf. The only man to have done it in the open era is Rod Laver. Whenever one of the majors comes around, you hear people calling it a grand slam, which is incorrect. Or whenever a player wins one of these tournaments, people say they have won a grand slam, which is also incorrect.
Out of all the majors, Wimbledon is not only the oldest, but it is the most prestigious. It’s quite a different atmosphere – especially around the grounds and in the courts. There is absolutely no advertising anywhere by any major company. It’s quite refreshing. All you see are the signature green and purple colours of Wimbledon and no ugly sponsorship. The club has cultivated a very prestigious feel and if you were to ask any player, they would want to win Wimbledon the most over all the other majors just for the prestige. I’d have to say that Wimbledon is my second favourite major.
My favourite major is the French Open. I just have a very special fondness for the red clay. It is such a unique surface. The players who conquer this surface are, in my opinion, the ultimate athlete. Sometimes this may translate into the ultimate tennis player (Chris Evert, Steffi Graf, Bjorn Borg come to mind). Clay challenges players and it is the player that overcomes these challenges that will ultimately win the title. You have to be patient. You have to be fit. You have to be tenacious. You have to have a cool, calculating temperament. Clay rewards all of these things. For those players who won the French Open and then went on to win Wimbledon a month later, they are truly remarkable because the change in surface is so drastic.
The French Open is also where my favourite players and fellow Canadians have enjoyed so much success. I still remember Chris Evert’s win in 1985 over Martina Navratilova. It was the touchstone for Chris to continue with her career for another 4 years. I remember Carling Bassett’s run to the quarterfinals that same year, only weeks after her father died. It was where Helen Kelesi made the quarters 2 years in a row (1988, 1989) and was the only player to push Monica Seles to 3 sets in 1990. It was where Steffi Graf won her first (1987) and last (1999) major. 1999 was also the scene of Graf’s come from behind, surreal win over a petulant, ignorant, spoiled brat.
The atmosphere at the French Open is also so much more intimate and less stuffy than Wimbledon. The fans at the French crave the underdog but they also are in no mood to put up with antics, whining, complaining and general misbehaving. The champions at the French have all dealt with opponents who in one way or another have gotten on the bad side of the crowd – and rightfully so. The French Open is no place for players who refuse to adapt to the conditions and place the blame for their poor play on circumstances beyond their control. It has been the steady, the athletic, the mentally focused that have won this major.
As for the other two majors, the Australian Open really needs to be moved 2 months ahead to March. Who in North America is watching tennis in the dead of winter? And the U.S. Open – too loud, too noisy, too big, too much “America is the greatest rah rah rah” baloney. Is this a tennis tournament or a promotional tool for the U.S. military? I mean really, what other tennis tournament plays (and I use that term lightly – overblown is more like it) their own national anthem multiple times during the tournament. None. I feel like I’m watching a modern day Third Reich propaganda sports event. Enough already!
As a side note, it is interesting that while Wimbledon is the oldest tennis tournament, the U.S. Open is the second oldest – a tournament that is not a major is the third oldest. It’s the Canadian Open.
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