By BERNIE WILSON, AP Sports activities Author
SAN DIEGO (AP) — If Novak Djokovic wins the U.S. Open two weeks from now to finish the primary calendar-year Grand Slam in males’s tennis since 1969, “Rocket” Rod Laver shall be there to welcome him right into a remarkably unique group.
“I’d be very completely satisfied to shake his hand if he can win the 4 Slams. I’d be completely satisfied for him to be part of — whether or not it’s a ‘membership’ or not, I don’t know,” Laver mentioned with a chuckle throughout a current interview with The Related Press.
No man has gained the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open in the identical season for the reason that barely constructed, red-haired, left-handed Australian did it for the second time — sure, second — 52 years in the past. That was so way back that the Beatles had been nearly to launch “Abbey Street,” and America was nonetheless reveling in Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk.
The a long time have rolled alongside, and Laver — who additionally accomplished a real Grand Slam as an beginner in 1962 — and Don Budge, who did it in 1938, stay the one males to perform the best feat in tennis.
That surprises Laver, even when, as he says, “It’s robust to place all of them collectively.”
It requires talent on quite a lot of surfaces these days: The U.S. Open and Australian Open are performed on two kinds of exhausting courts, the French Open on pink clay, Wimbledon on grass. It additionally requires avoiding damage. And determining every opponent for 28 matches unfold out over about eight months. And dealing with every day’s specific climate. And so forth.
“I by no means mentioned I used to be going for a Grand Slam; that’s strain proper there. And Djokovic, I believe he desires to speak about it, and in order that might be a detriment, if there may be one,” Laver mentioned. “He is aware of all of the gamers, so there shouldn’t be any drawback with (that). … I believe strain is the one factor Djokovic could discover himself having issues (with). Possibly he’s not feeling effectively. There’s numerous issues that may go improper.”
As it’s, Djokovic is the primary man since Laver to say a season’s first three main trophies. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, for instance, by no means even managed to get simply midway there by profitable the Australian Open and French Open in the identical 12 months.
The No. 1-seeded Djokovic will begin his path on the U.S. Open on Tuesday night time in opposition to Holger Rune, an 18-year-old from Denmark making his Grand Slam debut. Win that, then six extra matches, and Djokovic would benefit from what he calls “a really distinctive alternative.”
Three ladies have gone 4 for 4 for a real Grand Slam, most lately Steffi Graf in 1988. Serena Williams got here shut in 2015, profitable that 12 months’s first three majors earlier than dropping to Roberta Vinci within the U.S. Open semifinals in one of many sport’s best upsets.
The quiet, unassuming Laver, who has lived in northern San Diego County for years, mentioned he’s by no means gotten any particular satisfaction about being the final man to win the Grand Slam.
He’s all the time been able to be joined by a newcomer.
“It actually doesn’t fear me,” Laver mentioned Thursday night, holding a cup of beer in that highly effective left hand earlier than a San Diego Padres recreation at Petco Park, the place he was a visitor of proprietor Peter Seidler. “When Don Budge gained it in 1938, and I did it in ’62, he says: ‘We’re in a particular membership right here. There’s solely two of us in it.’”
Laver, now 83, was 31 in 1969.
Djokovic is a 34-year-old from Serbia. He shares the lads’s mark of 20 profession main titles with Federer and Nadal, who’re injured and never taking part in within the U.S. Open.
Djokovic’s best attribute is his consistency, Laver mentioned.
“He doesn’t have a giant serve or a giant forehand or backhand, however all of them are good. That’s one of many issues he can depend on,” Laver mentioned. “If one isn’t working pretty much as good correctly, then he’s obtained one thing else to lean on.”
Laver was invited by the U.S. Tennis Affiliation to go to New York for the ultimate few days of the U.S. Open.
“If historical past is made on the 2021 U.S. Open,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier mentioned, “what higher solution to have a good time it than with Rod Laver, the final man to perform such an incredible feat?”
Djokovic already did win 4 majors in a row, unfold out over two seasons in 2015-16, however he wouldn’t thoughts getting some recommendation in regards to the all-in-one-year achievement from Laver.
“Hopefully he can inform me one thing that might assist me,” Djokovic mentioned. “He is likely one of the all-time greats, legends of our sport. Somebody I like, respect and look as much as.”
It wouldn’t be the primary time the pair has spoken; they’ve typically chatted at Melbourne Park, the place Djokovic has gained 9 Australian Open titles at what’s now generally known as Rod Laver Enviornment.
There’s one thing else with Laver’s title on it: his signature green-and-white Adidas tennis shoe.
As Laver spoke with mates on a concourse simply earlier than Thursday’s baseball recreation, a fan strolling by observed the sneakers and mentioned he wore them as a child.
Laver, he added, was his idol.
Somebody talked about that the person carrying the Rod Laver sneakers was, certainly, Rod Laver.
“Holy … ! It’s!” mentioned the person, who circled again for a fast image with one member of a membership that at the moment has solely two — and shortly may have three.
AP Tennis Author Howard Fendrich in New York contributed to this report.
Observe Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson
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