Failure at Wimbledon cost them a ‘Career Slam’
As The Championships get underway in a few days time, let’s have a look at the players who won the other three major titles but couldn’t complete a ‘Career Slam’ because of their failure to win the biggest of them all
It is synonymous with tradition.
It is now the only Grand Slam tournament that’s played on grass court.
It is considered the biggest of them all.
It is a trophy every player wants to have in their resume.
It is The Championships.
It is Wimbledon!
While a notable few — Martina Navratilova, Bjorn Bjorg, Steffi Graf, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer — made winning a habit at the All-England Club, a handful — Pat Cash, Michael Stich, Richard Krajicek, Conchita Martinez — seized the lone opportunity that came their way.
Then, there are those who have a handful of major titles to their credit, but fell short in the lawns at Wimbledon.
Even as The Championships get underway in a few days time, let’s have a look at the players who won the other three major titles but couldn’t complete a ‘Career Slam’ because of their failure to win the biggest of them all.
Ken Rosewall (Australia)
Best result: Finalist (1954, 1956, 1970, 1974)
In 1954, Ken Rosewall, then 20, lost the final to a player who finished second best twice before (Jaroslav Drobny).
The loss would mark the start of the two decades, spanning the amateur and open eras, which would see the Australian win eight major titles but none at the All-England Club.
Rosewall made it to the final on four occasions, the last as a 40-year-old, only to finish second best.
In his two final appearances in the professional era, he took compatriot John Newcombe to the distance in 1970 but was no match for American Jimmy Connors four years later.
Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia/US)
Best result: Finalist (1986–87)
“Grass is for the cows,” said Ivan Lendl, while deciding to give Wimbledon a miss in 1982 and go on a holiday instead.
However, the reality is perhaps no player wanted to win the All England title as badly as the Czech-born American.
Lendl reached successive Wimbledon finals in 1986–87, losing to Boris Becker and (hold your breathe) Pat Cash.
Besides, he made it to the last four on five other occasions, ending with a 48–14 career record at the All-England Club (better than many who actually managed to win the title)
Having won the other three majors on multiple occasions, it was his failure to win a Wimbledon title that left a void in an otherwise illustrious career.
Mats Wilander (Sweden)
Best result: Quarter-finalist (1987–89)
To be honest, it would have been a surprise had Mats Wilander succeeded at the All-England Club.
It wasn’t that the Swede was averse to playing on grass. Two Australian Open titles (1983–84) on the grasscourts of Kooyong and a doubles title at Wimbledon — with compatriot Joakim Nystrom — in 1986 provide ample testimony of his prowess on the green lawns.
It was just that he wasn’t as consistent at Wimbledon as he was in other major tournaments. Three quarter-final appearances (1987–89) and a 25–10 record hardly justify his credentials in the tournament.
Having said that, Wilander’s best chance was probably in 1988, the year in which he won the other three majors. He did reach the quarters at Wimbledon then, but a certain Miloslav Mecir ensured he didn’t get further.
Hana Mandlikova (Czechoslovakia)
Best result: Finalist (1981, 1986)
Hana Mandlikova had a relatively successful professional career. A haul of four major titles, from eight finals, included two Australian Opens (1980, 1987), a French Open (1981) and an US Open (1985).
The lone major that the Czech missed out on was the ‘Big W’.
To her credit, Hana made 11 attempts at the All England Club, reaching the final on two occasions (1981 and 1986).
However, while Chris Evert proved too good for her in 1981, she did put up a better show against the legendary Martina Navratilova in 1986 only to finish second best yet again.
Monica Seles (Yugoslavia/US)
Best result: Finalist (1992)
Monica Seles won nine major titles, four at the Australian Open, three at the French Open and two at the US Open.
The lone tournament she missed out on was the Wimbledon.
With her baseline game, Seles was always going to have it tough at the All England Club. However, during her peak years, between 1990 and ’93, she did manage to reach the final in 1992. Only that Steffi Graf was too good for her on the day.
An attack from a deranged fan cut short her career in 1993. She did make a comeback two years later but never really made an impact at Wimbledon.
Justine Henin (Belgium)
Best result: Finalist (2001, 2006)
Justine Henin’s successful tennis career earned her seven major titles, including four at the French Open.
It was only at Wimbledon that the Belgian missed out.
It was sheer coincidence that Henin’s first major final appearance came at the All-England Club. She faced Venus Williams and despite taking the second set, came up short in the decider.
She probably had a better chance in the 2006 final against Amelie Mauresmo. She did win the first set only for the French woman to win the match in three.
Henin reached the last four stage on three other occasions, but the title remained elusive.