Nadal: 'This will be my only shot at doing the Grand Slam'

Win in Melbourne and the World No 1 will be only the third man to hold all four majors at once. Paul Newman assesses the scale of his task

It was in 1933 that John Kieran, a columnist on the New York Times, used a phrase that was to become central to the lexicon of tennis. Jack Crawford, an Australian, had won the Australian, French and Wimbledon championships and was aiming to complete the set of the sport's most prestigious titles by claiming the US crown in New York. "If Crawford wins," Kieran wrote, "it would be something like scoring a grand slam on the courts."

The term "grand slam", which was first coined to describe the feat of winning all 13 tricks in bridge, had also been used to acclaim Bobby Jones' triumph in winning golf's four biggest tournaments in 1930. When Crawford failed in his quest, losing to Fred Perry in the final at Forest Hills, the phrase was all but forgotten within tennis, but another New York Times journalist, Allison Danzig, revived it five years later to describe the achievement of the American Don Budge, who succeeded where his Australian predecessor had fallen just short.

Over the next fortnight the term will again be on everyone's lips. Rafael Nadal, having won the French, Wimbledon and US crowns last year, will become only the third man in history to hold all four titles if he wins the Australian Open, which begins here on Monday. Like Budge, Rod Laver won all four major titles in the same year, performing the feat in 1962 and again in 1969, when he became the first and only man to do it in the Open era, competing against amateurs and professionals alike.

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 sport's governing body, spells out that "players who hold all four of these titles at the same time achieve the Grand Slam".

The only women to have won the "calendar Grand Slam" – all four majors in the same year – are Maureen Connolly (in 1953), Margaret Court (1970) and Steffi Graf (1988), whose achievement was labelled a "Golden Slam" after her victory in the Olympics in the same year. Martina Navratilova won six consecutive majors between 1983 and 1984 and Serena Williams held all four crowns after winning the Australian Open in 2003 – a "Serena Slam" – but neither won all four in a calendar year.

"What happens if Rafa wins the Australian Open?" Ivan Lendl, a winner of eight major titles, asked recently. "I'd call it a Grand Slam. To me you have the career Grand Slam, the Grand Slam that Rafa could win now, then you have the calendar Grand Slam. There's also the Golden Slam that Steffi had. I don't think we will ever see that again, but I would love to see that. I think there deserves to be a distinction. Those are fascinating discussions."

If Nadal were to take possession of the full set of major titles what nobody would dispute would be the enormity of the achievement. The 24-year-old Spaniard is already one of only seven men, alongside Perry, Budge, Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer, to have won a "career Grand Slam" – all four majors but not in the same year.

Only Agassi can match Nadal's feat in also winning the Davis Cup and the Olympic singles title, while Agassi and Federer are the only other players to have won majors on three different surfaces. Nadal may have been considered a clay-court specialist in his early years, but four of his last five major triumphs have been on grass or hard courts.

Does Nadal himself think it might be possible to win all four majors in a calendar year? "I don't know whether it would be possible for another player, but I think it would be almost impossible for me," the world No 1 said. "Firstly you have a lot of very good rivals and then you have to be playing really well before tournaments. It's impossible to win a Grand Slam without playing your best tennis. A lot of factors have to come together: you have to be lucky, you have to be playing well, everything. So I think that's almost impossible."

With nine major titles to his name already, Nadal is on schedule to overhaul Federer's current record tally of 16. At 24 years and seven months (Nadal's current age), Federer had won seven major titles. The Spaniard completed his career Grand Slam three and a half years earlier than his great rival. Federer, moreover, enjoyed his early triumphs at a time when his main challengers were not of the calibre of Nadal's.

"What he's achieved is amazing," Federer said. "Obviously to win the career Grand Slam at his age – and to win three [majors] in a row, which he has done now – is a great streak. He's a wonderful player. He's proved that he can play on any surface now. The ones who still call him a clay-court expert don't know much about tennis."

In any talk of comparisons between the two men Nadal, typically, insists that his predecessor as world No 1 should be regarded as the greater player. "Roger is the best player in history," he said. "I think talk about whether I am better or worse than Roger is stupid. The titles say he's much better than me. That's the truth at the moment and I think it will be the truth all my life."

Does he try not to think about the prospect of winning here and holding all four Grand Slam titles at the same time? "What's in my head is trying to be very competitive," he said. "That's what's in my head – and to try to play well in the first round. After that it's difficult to think more when you are playing a very difficult tournament like the Australian Open.

"For sure it's extra motivation, but the motivation is to play well in Australia, not to win the fourth in a row. I'm sure this will be the only one opportunity that I'll have in my life. I won't have more of these opportunities to win all four in a row."

Grand slammers

Male winners of the calendar Grand Slam:

Don Budge (1938)

Rod Laver (1962 and 1969)

Male winners of career Grand Slam:

Fred Perry (completed in 1935)

Don Budge (1938)

Rod Laver (1962)

Roy Emerson (1964)

Andre Agassi (1999)

Roger Federer (2009)

Rafael Nadal (2010)

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Sport
Peter Moores was criticised for failing to handle top players when he last led the England team
sportFive years after being sacked from the job, Peter Moores to be named a cricket coach
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
Environment
People are buying increasing numbers of plants such as lavender to aid the insects
environmentGardeners rally round the endangered bumblebee
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit