Why is Channel Slam a rare achievement?

Why is Channel Slam a rare achievement?

The shortest time span between two slams is between that of Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Within four weeks the players need to adapt to the fast paced grass courts after playing on the slow red clay for two months. The player who can best adapt to this transition of the turf usually has the best chance to win a Channel Slam. A channel slam is completed or achieved by a player when he/she manages to win the Roland Garros and Wimbledon Championships in the same calendar year.

The Roland Garros began in 1891 but it was only open to the members of the French Clubs initially. In 1925, the French Open became an International event for the first time. Wimbledon on the other hand was a grand slam event since 1877.

When the French Open was a national event, it was Jean Borotra who won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year for the first time in 1924. On the women’s side, Suzanne Lenglen, an 8-time grand slam champion with a stunning 98% win rate, won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year on 5 occasions. However, four of them (1920,1921,1922,1923) came when the French Open was a national event.

Here is a list of all players (male or female) who have won the Channel Slam.

1) Suzanne Lenglen

Suzanne Lenglen had already won five Wimbledon titles before heading into the first ever edition of the French Open as a major. Lenglen defeated Great Britain’s Kitty McKane 6-1 6-2 to win her sixth grand slam title. Lenglen won six bagel sets in the entire tournament, dropping only seven games en route her title. Lenglen also won the women’s doubles and mixed doubles in the same tournament.

At the 1925 Wimbledon, Lenglen received a walkover in the first round. She faced Kitty McKane yet again but this time in the semifinals. McKane was the defending champion but Lenglen defeated her to reach the finals. The Frenchwoman faced home favourite Joan Fry in the finals. Lenglen won the match after winning her ninth bagel set of the tournament. Just like the French Open, Lenglen won the ladies’ doubles and th mixed doubles as well.

2) Rene Lacoste

Seeded fifth, Lacoste had a thumping start to his 1925 French Open campaign, defeating Shashidri Suvarna 6-0 6-0 6-0 in the first round followed by a 6-2 6-0 6-0 win over C.Vuarin in the second round. He faced his first formidable opponent in the third round where he had to win 6-4 6-1 9-7 against Indian player, AA Fyzee. In the finals, Lacoste faced countryman and fellow member of The Four Musketeers of tennis, Jean Borotra. Lacoste won the match 7-5 6-1 6-4 to win the first of his seven majors.

Jean Borotra was the defending champion and successfully reached the finals at Wimbledon in 1925. He faced compatriot Rene Lacoste in the finals. After gaining a lead of two sets, Lacoste faced some resistance from Borotra who took the third set. In the fourth, Lacoste won the match and title after winning his third set of the tournament with a set score of 8-6. Lacoste and Borotra won the men’s doubles title that year.

3) Hellen Wills Moody

In 1927, Helen Wills Moody won her first Wimbledon title and fourth US Open title. The following year, she entered the French Open as the top seed and won her first title at Roland Garros. She defended her Wimbledon title successfully, defeating Lili de Alvarez 6-2 6-3 in the finals to complete the Channel Slam.

The next two years saw Moody successfully defend her titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon thereby making her the first tennis player, male or female to win the Channel Slam more than once. In 1932 she repeated the feat for the fourth time. At the French Open she played one of her longest career matches, winning 6-3 10-8 against Hilde Krahwinkel in the semifinals. She defeated local favourite Simmone Matthieu 7-5 6-1 to win her fourth French Open title. At Wimbledon, defending champion Cilly Aussem pulled out of the competition. Moody won the finals against Helen Jacobs 6-3 6-1 to win the fifth of her eight Wimbledon titles.

4) Cilly Aussem

Helen Moody did not enter the Roland Garros and Wimbledon tournaments to defend her tile. Germany’s Cilly Aussem completed the Channel Slam in 1931. At the clay slam she defeated Betty Nuthall 8-6 6-1 in the finals. At the SW19, she dropped two sets in the entire tournament before defeating compatriot Hilde Krahwinkel 6-2 7-5 in the finals. Aussem would never win a slam later in her career.

5) Jack Crawford

Seeded second at both the French Open and Wimbledon in 1933, Jack Crawford defeated the top seed players to win his channel slam. At Paris, Crawford reached the finals and faced defending champion Henri Cochet in the finals. Crawford won the match 8-6 6-1 6-3 to win his first French Open and fourth grand slam title.
At Wimbledon, Crawford faced defending champion Ellsworth Vines in the finals. The Australian won the match 4-6 11-9 6-2 2-6 6-4 to win his lone Wimbledon title.

6) Fred Perry

Fred Perry and Gottfried Von Cramm were two of the best tennis players in the mid 1930s. Von Cramm was the defending champion and top seed at the 1935 French Open. The two met in the finals and it was the British top seed who defeated Von Cramm in 4-sets to win his fifth grand slam title at first Roland Garros title.

Perry had won three of the four slams in 1934. One of those slams was Wimbledon. He entered Wimbledon as the top seed with Von Cramm seeded second. Yet again, the two met in the finals. This time, the Briton was even more dominating than their French Open meeting and he won in straight sets to lift the sixth of his eight grand slam titles.

7) Don Budge

After Fred Perry, Don Budge took over the world of tennis. Budge won the Wimbledon and US Open titles in 1937 but what made him a legend of the game came in 1938. The American won all four slams in 1938, thereby being the first man to win a calendar grand slam. By Don Budge’s standards the lineup for the 1938 Roland Garros was a modest one. He dropped only three sets to win his first and only title at Roland Garros.

Weeks later, Budge made it to the finals of the Wimbledon where he was defending his title. In the finals he defeated Bunny Austin 6-1 6-0 6-3. Budge did not drop a set in the entire tournament and also won the men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles.

7) Budge Patty

Jaroslav Drobny was the top seed at the 1950 French Open. As a favourite he cruised into the finals to face seventh seed Budge Patty in the finals. Patty had caused a heavy upset in the semi-finals by defeating third seed William Talbert 13-11 in the fifth set. Patty made the most of his opportunity in the final and defeated the top seed in yet another five sets match to win his maiden grand slam title.

Frank Sedgman rose to prominence by capturing two consecutive Australian Open titles in 1949 and 1950. He entered the 1950 French Open as the top seed. At Wimbledon, Patty was seeded 5th and Sedgman was the top seed. Patty defeated second seeded Bill Talbert in the quarter-finals. In the finals he yet again defeated a top seed in his second slam final to complete the channel slam. Patty defeated Sedgman 6-1 8-10 6-2 6-3.

8) Maureen Connolly

The years 1952-54 belonged to America’s Maureen Connolly. Out of the 12 slams contested in these three years, Connolly won 8 of them. The most memorable year for the nine-time slam champion was in 1953 when she became the first woman to complete a calendar slam. Starting from the Wimbledon of 1952 up until the US Open of 1953, Connolly was a strong force in the ladies draws.

Second seeded Doris Hart was the defending champion at the 1953 Roland Garros. Hart successfully reached the finals without dropping a set. Connolly dropped two sets en route the final. In a battle of the top two seeds, Connolly defeated Hart in straight sets to win her first ever French Open title. At Wimbledon the two compatriots were the top two seeds yet again. Connolly defended her title successfully, winning 8-6 7-5 in the finals.

The following year, Connolly defended her French Open title successfully, defeating eleventh seeded Ginette Bucaille 6-4 6-1 in the finals. At Wimbledon, Connolly won her third consecutive Wimbledon title and defensed her channel slam by defeating Louise Brough in straight sets.

9) Tony Trabert

Tony Trabert had won the US Open title in 1953 and the French Open title in 1954. In 1955, he entered French Open as the defending champion and top seed. The American reached the finals after his opponent in the semi-finals retired mid match. In the finals, Trabert was up against eleventh seed Sven Davidson. Davidson had recorded three consecutive wins against higher seeded players before reaching the finals. However, the Swede lost to Trabert in the finals in four sets.

At Wimbledon, Tony Trabert entered the tournament as the top seed. He defeated the sixth seed and defending champion Jaroslav Drobny in the quarter-finals 8-6 6-1 6-4. In the semis, Trabert defeated compatriot Budge Patty 8-6 6-2 6-2. From the other half the draw, unseeded player Kurt Nielsen defeated Nicola Pietrangeli in the quarter-finals in five sets.

The Dane’s best win came in the semi-finals when he upset second seed Ken Rosewall 11-9 6-2 2-6 6-4. In the finals, Trabert won comfortably against Nielsen in straight sets to win his fourth grand slam title. Trabert would also go on to win the US Open title that year which would be his last slam title of his career.

10) Lew Hoad

Tony Trabert turning professional meant he would not be able to compete at the slams in 1956. Australia’s Lew Hoad became a force to reckon with in his brisk but effective run at the slams in 1956. After winning the Australian Open, Hoad was seeded No.1 at the French Open. He defeated third seeded Sven Davidson 6-4 8-6 6-3 in the finals to win his second consecutive slam.

At Wimbledon, Hoad faced countryman Ken Rosewall in the finals. Hoad defeated Rosewall in four sets to win three consecutive slams and the channel slam. At the US Open that year, Hoad was one win away from completing a calendar slam but Rosewall exerted his Wimbledon revenge and won the US Open finals.

11) Rod Laver

Rod Laver was a sensation in the sixties. The Australian’s had won the Australian Open in 1960 and Wimbledon in 1961. He kick started his 1962 season impressively, winning the slam at Sydney yet again. At Roland Garros, he was the top seed and his arch rival, Roy Emerson, was seeded second. The two met in the finals and Laver won his third consecutive five setter match. The top seed trailed 0-2 before notching up a remarkable comeback win. At SW19, Laver defeated six players of different nationalities across seven matches. In the finals he yet got the better of his countryman Martin Mulligan, thrashing him 6-2 6-2 6-1.

Laver went on to complete a calendar slam by winning the US Open title that year. For the next five years Laver never won a slam. When the Open Era began in 1968, Laver ended his slam drought by being the first Wimbledon champion of the Open Era. The following year, Laver repeated his successful run of 1962 at the majors. He won all the four slams yet again and became the first player to win two calendar slams.

In his second channel slam victory, Laver defeated defending champion Ken Rosewall in straight sets in the final. At Wimbledon, he defeated former World No.1 and John Newcombe in four sets. Laver’s 1969 version of the channel slam was the first one to be broadcasted in color television. Rocket’s US Open title that year would be his eleventh and last grand slam singles title of her career.

12) Margaret Court

Margaret Court, winner of a record 24 grand slam singles titles. She had already won 13 grand slam titles before the Open Era started. Court’s career grand slam was completed in 1963 but her biggest achievement came in 1970. During the 1969 season, Court won all the grand slam titles except Wimbledon.

In 1970, she successfully defended her Australian Open title. At Paris, the Australian defended her title successfully, defeating Helga Niessen in the finals to win her fifth French Open title. Wimbledon saw Court claiming her third Wimbledon title, first in the Open Era and the first lady to complete the career grand slam in the Open Era. She defeated Billie Jean King in one of the most tightly contested ladies’ finals at Wimbledon. Court won 14-12 11-9. Court would also go on to defend her US Open title successfully and become the first lady to complete the calendar slam in the Open Era.

13) Evonne Goolagong

Ladies tennis was on the rise in the seventies. Female players increased in number globally and also fought for equalizing the prize money as that of the male players. One of the most inspiring tennis players of that generation was Australia’s Evonne Goolagong. She won seven grand slam singles title and was one of the most dominating players in the early 70s along with Margaret Court and Billie Jean King. Goolagong’s channel slam success came an year after Court’s calendar slam.

The Roland Garros of 1971 saw Goolagong capture her first major where she defeated fellow Australian player Helen Gourlay 6-3 7-5 in the finals. Goolagong’s victory at Wimbledon was one of her finest wins as she defeated Billie Jean King and Margaret Court in back to back matches. In the finals the lady from New South Wales won 6-1 6-1 against the defending champion, Margaret Court. Nine years later, Goolagong would go on to become the second mother to win the Wimbledon title since 1914.

14) Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King won 12 grand slam singles titles in her career. King won her first major in 1966 and won at least one slam each year until 1975 except in 1969 and 1970. The American recorded her most successful year in 1972, winning three of the four slams.
In both the Wimbledon and Roland Garros finals, King faced defending champion, Evonne Goolagong. King won with a similar scoreline in both the finals: 6-3 6-3.

15) Chris Evert

After Billie Jean King, Gladys Heldman and the Original Nine’s efforts, a new circuit was formed in 1973 for the female players known as the Virginia Slims Circuit. Today, we know it more popularly as the Women’s Tennis Association. King, along with Goolagong and Court was still raking up the slam titles. But in the 1974 clay court season, a new face emerged at the Roland Garros. Margaret Court did not enter the tournament and hence did not defend her title. The tournament was dominated by a young woman from Florida who went by the name Chris Evert.

Evert won the singles titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, defeating Soviet Union’s Olga Morozova in both the finals in straight sets. These were the first two of Evert’s 18 grand slam titles. Notably, at the French Open, Evert also won the women’s doubles title partnering Olga Morozova.

16) Bjorn Borg

No man has been as successful as Bjorn Borg when it comes to channel slams. The rockstar tennis player of the 70s had won 11 majors in his career. Borg won his first title in 1974 but made his mark globally in late seventies. In 1978, the Swede did not drop a set en route his Roland Garros victory. He defeated defending champion Guillermo Vilas to win his fifth grand slam title. At Wimbledon, Borg successfully defended his title after defeating Jimmy Connors in the finals for the second consecutive year.

Unseeded player Victor Pecci Sr. was Borg’s challenger at Roland Garros in 1979. Borg hustled past the man from Paraguay in four sets to defend his title. Fifth seeded Roscoe Tanner took a lead of 2-1 in the Wimbledon finals against Borg in 1979. The top seed won two sets from behind to lift his eighth grand slam title.
Of all the Swedish tennis players, nobody has been as successful as Borg.

For the third consecutive year Borg won the channel slam, making him the first man in the history of tennis to win the channel slam thrice. He achieved this feat in 1980. At Roland Garros, he defeated Vitas Gerulaitis in straight sets to win his fifth Roland Garros title. However, the highlight match of Borg came in the finals of Wimbledon. In a rivalry defining match, Borg defeated John McEnroe 1-6 7-5 6-3 6-7(16) 8-6 to win his fifth consecutive title at Wimbledon. The match has often been tagged as one of the greatest matches of all time.

17) Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova’s era of dominance began in 1982. Though, before 1982, the Czech had two Wimbledon titles and one Australian Open title in her cabinet. In the first slam of the 1982 season, Navratilova was the defending champion but lost to Chris Evert in three sets. A the Roland Garros, Navratilova defeated defending champion Hana Mandlikova in the semi-finals to set up a clash with Andrea Jaeger in the finals who defeated Chris Evert in the semis Navratilova won her maiden French Open title 7-6 6-1. Navratilova entered Wimbledon as the top seed and defending champion Chris Evert was seeded second. The two pitted against each other in the finals. Navratilova dethroned Evert to complete her channel slam and won her fifth slam.

In 1983, Evert reclaimed her French Open title. However, the following year, Navratilova continued the seesaw of the holder of the Coupe de Suzanne Lenglen by winning the title and being the holder of all four slams in that time frame. Yet another victory over Evert at the 1984 Wimbledon meant that Navratilova had now won three Wimbledon titles in a row. She would continue winning the Wimbledon titles in 1985,1986 and 1987. Navratilova’s record ninth title and final slam victory came in 1990.

18) Steffi Graf

In 1987 Steffi Graf won her first grand slam title by defeating Martina Navratilova in the finals. It appeared that the ladies draw was seeing a change of guard. The German indeed was the next big thing in ladies tennis as she did what few are capable of achieving. In 1988, Graf won all the four slams, completing the calendar slam.

After defeating Chris Evert at the Australian Open finals, Graf entered Roland Garros as the top seed and defeated Natasha Zvereva 6-0 6-0 in 32 minutes which is the only double bagel recorded in a slam final in the Open Era. At Wimbledon, Graf defeated the six-time defending champion Martina Navratilova 5-7 6-2 6-1 to win her maiden Wimbledon title and Channel slam. Graf would win the US Open title and a gold medal at the Olympics that year making her the only player to achieve the Golden Slam.

In the early 90s, Steffi Graf would had a new competitor. Monica Seles was on the rise claiming seven grand slam titles between 1991 Australian Open till the 1993 Australian Open. Seles was stabbed a month before the 1993 Roland Garros and hence could not compete to defend her title at the clay slam. Graff would win the the title defending Mary Joe Fernandez in the finals. At Wimbledon, the Fraulein Forehand defeated Jana Novotna in her third consecutive final appearance at Wimbledon. At this stage Graf tied Navratilova as only the second woman to complete the channel slam in the Open Era.

In the mid 90s, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario was another rising variable in the women’s draw. However, Graf remained the constant. In 1995, she defeated Vicario who was defending her French Open title in the final. Vicario fell prey to Graf yet again at Wimbledon in the finals. This was Graf’s 17th grand slam singles title. The following year, Graf defended her channel slam, defeating Vicario yet again at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Graf’s 1996 Wimbledon victory made her the most successful woman in grand slams as she surpassed the records set by Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Graf ended her career with 22 Grand slam titles. She won four channel slams in her tenure, making her the most successful player in the Open Era to win the Wimbledon-French Open doubles on four occasions.

19) Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal was a three-time defending champion at the Roland Garros when he entered its 2008 edition. For the third year in a row he faced Roger Federer in the final and for the third consecutive year he defeated Federer at the French Open finals. This was Federer’s worst defeat at a grand slam final as Nadal won 6-1 6-3 6-0. Nadal won the tournament without dropping a set.

At Wimbledon, it was yet again a showdown between Federer and Nadal. The match was the longest final in Wimbledon history and Nadal won it 6-4 6-4 6-7 6-7 9-7. Many consider it as the greatest tennis match of all time.

Two years hence, Nadal would win the Roland Garros title again for the fifth time, defeating Robin Soderling in the finals in straight sets. In the 2010 Wimbledon Championships, Federer, who was the defending champion suffered a shock defeat to Tomas Berdych in the quarter-finals. Berdych made it to the finals but Nadal defeated him in straight sets to win his second channel slam.

20) Roger Federer

Before 2009, Federer had won 13 grand slam titles but none of them came at Roland Garros. He reached the finals in 2006, 2007 and 2008 but lost to Rafa Nadal on each occasion. In 2009, Robin Soderling produced an upset, defeating the four-time defending champion, Rafa Nadal in the fourth round. Federer would meet Soderling in the finals and defeat him 6-1 7-6 6-4. Federer completed his career grand slam with this title.

At Wimbledon, Nadal was the defending champion but withdrew from the tournament due to a knee injury. Federer met Andy Roddick in the finals and in one of the most exciting Wimbledon finals, the Swiss won 5-7 7-6 7-6 3-6 16-14 to win his fifteenth grand slam, thereby surpassing Pete Sampras as the all time leader in men’s grand slams titles. The match was the longest Wimbledon final in terms of games played and Roddick lost to Federer for the third time in a Wimbledon final.

21) Serena Williams

In 2002, Serena Williams faced her elder sister Venus Williams in the finals. The younger of the Williams sisters had won the 1999 US Open which was her only major title up until 2002. Serena had defeated the defending champion, Jennifer Capriati in the semifinals.  She defeated Venus in the finals 7-5 6-3.

At Wimbledon, Serena yet again faced Venus in the finals. The result was the same as Serena won the match 7-6 6-3. This was the first slam which Serena won without dropping a set. She would climb to the No.1 ranking for the first time in her career after completing the channel slam.

The 2015 French Open saw Lucie Safarova defeating defending champion Maria Sharapova in the fourth round. Safarova would go on to reach the finals to face Serena Williams. Williams won the match in three sets and won her her third French Open title and third career grand slam.
Wimbledon saw Serena make it to the finals of a major yet again. She faced Garbine Muguruza in the finals. The Spaniard was defeated in straight sets and Serena became the oldest woman to win a major. She also holds the record for the longest gap between the French Open-Wimbledon double.

22) Novak Djokovic

The 2021 French Open is historic for the fact that Novak Djokovic won his second title at the clay Slam and also became the first man to complete a double Career Grand Slam in the Open Era. The Serb defeated four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal in the semis, marking it only the third defeat of the Spaniard in 108 matches. In the final, Djokovic defeated Tsitsipas despite losing the first two sets.

At the 2021 Wimbledon Championships, Djokovic was the two-time defending champion. As the top seed, he dropped only two sets in the entire tournament to win his sixth Wimbledon and 20th Major title. In the finals, he defeated Matteo Berrettini in four sets. This also made him the fifth man to win the Channel Slam in the Open Era and the second man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Surface Slam (winning a Major on every surface in the same calendar year).

Author: Nicholas Griffin