“A lot of the players couldn’t play very well on the grass, so I had an advantage in that area, and maybe being left-handed on the grass was also a little advantage,” Laver said. , referring to its excellent service sliced wide in the short ad.
Djokovic is the first man since Laver to win even the first three rounds of the Grand Slam: an indicator of the depth of the challenge. If the 34-year-old Djokovic finishes the job in New York, he will be the oldest player to win the Grand Slam in singles. Laver was 31 when he won the US Open in 1969.
“This is an important milestone, and there is a reason why no other Open-era male tennis player has managed to win all four Slams in the same season,” said Djokovic. “The game gets better every decade and it obviously can’t be compared to the tennis of 40 or 50 years ago, because of the racket technology. They were playing with wooden rackets. We have so much more benefit and help from the rackets and just the rhythm and in general the game itself has changed a lot. But that probably makes it harder and harder to win it. “
Yet Laver found it difficult in 1969. He had to win a five-set marathon semi-final against Roche at the Australian Open. He had to rally in two sets in the second round at Roland Garros, where he beat Dick Crealy, and at Wimbledon, where he beat Premjit Lall before fending off Stan Smith in five sets and Ashe and Newcombe in four sets. At the US Open, Dennis Ralston pushed Laver to five sets in the round of 16.
“All it takes is a bad day and let’s go,” Laver said.
He was once convinced Roger Federer would be the one to join the Grand Slam club, but Rafael Nadal’s clay court prowess wiped out most of Federer’s best chances and many of Djokovic’s. Nadal has won the French Open a record 13 times.
“So unless Nadal does, it’s been 13 years since no one has done the Grand Slam,” Laver said with a laugh.
Surprisingly, given their stature, neither Nadal nor Federer won even the first two stages of a Grand Slam.