How Laver will welcome Novak to elite club

4 weeks ago 14
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If Novak Djokovic wins the US Open 2 weeks from present to implicit the archetypal calendar-year Grand Slam successful men's tennis since 1969, "Rocket" Rod Laver volition beryllium determination to invited him into a remarkably exclusive group.

"I'd beryllium precise blessed to shingle his manus if helium tin triumph the 4 Slams. I'd beryllium blessed for him to beryllium a portion of — whether it's a 'club' oregon not, I don't know," Laver said with a chuckle during a caller interrogation with The Associated Press.

No antheral has won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open successful the aforesaid play since the somewhat built, red-haired, left-handed Australian did it for the 2nd clip — yes, 2nd — 52 years ago. That was truthful agelong agone that the Beatles were conscionable astir to merchandise "Abbey Road," and America was inactive reveling successful Neil Armstrong's moonwalk.

The decades person rolled along, and Laver — who besides completed a existent Grand Slam arsenic an amateur successful 1962 — and Don Budge, who did it successful 1938, stay the lone men to execute the top feat successful tennis.

That surprises Laver, adjacent if, arsenic helium says, "It's pugnacious to enactment them each together."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - AUGUST 28: Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns the shot during a signifier league anterior to the commencement of the 2021 US Open astatine USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center connected August 28, 2021 successful the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Getty)

It requires accomplishment connected a assortment of surfaces nowadays: The US Open and Australian Open are played connected 2 types of hard courts, the French Open connected reddish clay, Wimbledon connected grass. It besides requires avoiding injury. And figuring retired each hostile for 28 matches dispersed retired implicit astir 8 months. And handling each day's peculiar weather. And truthful on.

"I ne'er said I was going for a Grand Slam; that's unit close there. And Djokovic, I deliberation helium wants to speech astir it, and truthful that could beryllium a detriment, if determination is one," Laver said. "He knows each the players, truthful determination shouldn't beryllium immoderate occupation with (that) ... I deliberation unit is the 1 happening Djokovic whitethorn find himself having problems (with). Maybe he's not feeling well. There's tons of things that tin spell wrong."

As it is, Djokovic is the archetypal antheral since Laver to assertion a season's archetypal 3 large trophies. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, for example, ne'er adjacent managed to get conscionable halfway determination by winning the Australian Open and French Open successful the aforesaid year.

The No.1-seeded Djokovic volition commencement his way astatine the US Open connected Wednesday (AEST) against Holger Rune, an 18-year-old from Denmark making his Grand Slam debut. Win that, past six much matches, and Djokovic would instrumentality vantage of what helium calls "a precise unsocial opportunity."

Three women person gone 4 for 4 for a existent Grand Slam, astir precocious Steffi Graf successful 1988. Serena Williams came adjacent successful 2015, winning that year's archetypal 3 majors earlier losing to Roberta Vinci successful the US Open semifinals successful 1 of the sport's top upsets.

The quiet, unassuming Laver, who has lived successful bluish San Diego County for years, said he's ne'er gotten immoderate peculiar restitution astir being the past antheral to triumph the Grand Slam.

He's ever been acceptable to beryllium joined by a newcomer.

Rod Laver (AAP)

"It truly doesn't interest me," Laver said, holding a cupful of brew successful that almighty near manus earlier a San Diego Padres crippled astatine Petco Park, wherever helium was a impermanent of proprietor Peter Seidler. "When Don Budge won it successful 1938, and I did it successful '62, helium says: 'We're successful a peculiar nine here. There's lone 2 of america successful it.'"

Laver, present 83, was 31 successful 1969.

Djokovic is simply a 34-year-old from Serbia. He shares the men's people of 20 vocation large titles with Federer and Nadal, who are injured and not playing successful the US Open.

Djokovic's top property is his consistency, Laver said.

"He doesn't person a large service oregon a large forehand oregon backhand, but each of them are good. That's 1 of the things helium tin trust on," Laver said. "If 1 isn't moving arsenic bully arsenic it should be, past he's got thing other to thin on."

Laver was invited by the US Tennis Association to spell to New York for the last fewer days of the U.S. Open.

"If past is made astatine the 2021 US Open," USTA spokesperson Chris Widmaier said, "what amended mode to observe it than with Rod Laver, the past antheral to execute specified an astonishing feat?"

Djokovic already did triumph 4 majors successful a row, dispersed retired implicit 2 seasons successful 2015-16, but helium wouldn't caput getting immoderate proposal astir the all-in-one-year accomplishment from Laver.

"Hopefully helium tin archer maine thing that could assistance me," Djokovic said. "He is 1 of the all-time greats, legends of our sport. Someone I admire, respect and look up to."

It wouldn't beryllium the archetypal clip the brace has spoken; they've often chatted astatine Melbourne Park, wherever Djokovic has won 9 Australian Open titles astatine what is present known arsenic Rod Laver Arena.

There's thing other with Laver's sanction connected it: his signature green-and-white Adidas tennis shoe.

As Laver spoke with friends connected a concourse conscionable earlier Thursday's shot game, a instrumentality walking by noticed the shoes and said helium wore them arsenic a kid.

Laver, helium added, was his idol.

Someone mentioned that the antheral wearing the Rod Laver shoes was, indeed, Rod Laver.

"Holy ... ! It is!" said the man, who circled backmost for a speedy representation with 1 subordinate of a nine that presently has lone 2 — and soon could person three.

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