The Career Grand Slam: How Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic claimed their crowns
Relive the crowning moment for Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic as each of the ‘Big Three’ claimed their Career Grand Slam.
Federer, Nadal and Djokovic are three of just five men in the Open Era to have won all four Majors in singles at least once.
Let’s take a look at how each man did so, with which Slam title, and against which opponents.
Roger Federer – Roland Garros 2009
Come 2009, Federer had already enjoyed his most dominant spell at the pinnacle of the men’s game. From February 2004 to August 2008, the Swiss sat at world number one for 237 consecutive weeks, a streak that is yet to be broken.
In that time, he won 11 of 19 available Slam titles, on top of a first Wimbledon and first Australian Open title secured before reaching the top of the rankings.
Federer had further won three of the four Slams available in 2004, 2006 and 2007, only failing to claim Roland Garros on each occasion.
Entering 2009, the then 13-time Slam champion had won each of the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open at least three times, but Roland Garros still eluded him.
From 2006 to 2008, Federer had reached the Roland Garros final three times consecutively, only to be thwarted each time by Nadal.
As the top two seeds for the 2009 edition, Federer and Nadal were set for another final showdown, but the tennis gods had other plans.
Four-time defending champion Nadal cruised through to the fourth round without dropping a set or even being pushed to a tiebreak, as a fifth title in a row looked on the cards.
Meanwhile, Federer sailed through to the fourth round also, though not as easily, surrendering two sets along the way.
But for Nadal, his reign was soon to be over. He came up against 23rd seed Robin Soderling, who proceeded oust the Spaniard in four sets, ending the Roland Garros Nadal streak at 31 match wins.
The door was open for Federer, the best chance he had yet of securing a Roland Garros title. But the Swiss did not proceed the easy way.
The day after Nadal was dumped out of his favourite Slam, Federer, faced world number 63 Tommy Haas of Germany.
After an hour and a half on-court, the world number two found himself two sets to love down to Haas, sitting on the brink of exiting in Paris.
But Federer knew he could not let this opportunity pass him by. At 4-4 in the third, the Swiss clinched a crucial break before serving out the set to remain in contention.
A triple break in the fourth saw Federer bagel Haas 6-0, bringing up a deciding set. Haas held firm to start, but soon after Federer broke to lead 3-2 on his serve.
He added insurance to the break by claiming another for 5-2, setting up a chance to serve out the match. Federer did, winning out in a little over three hours to keep his dreams of a first Roland Garros title alive.
In the quarter-finals, Federer overcame 11th seed Gael Monfils in straight sets, before taking on 20-year-old fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro.
Again Federer fell behind, surrendering the first set 6-3, before rallying to even the match in a second set tiebreak.
Once more del Potro pulled ahead by securing the third 6-2, but Federer held firm to take the final two sets 6-1 6-4 and book his place in a fourth consecutive Roland Garros final.
It was second seed Federer against Nadal conqueror Soderling in the final. Would it be a Career Slam sealing 14th Major title for Federer, equalling the tally of Pete Sampras in the process?
Federer raced out of the blocks on Court Philippe Chatrier, claiming a double break at the start of the match to lead 4-0 over the Swede.
With Soderling serving at 1-5, Federer broke once more to close out the first set in just 23 minutes. Two sets from glory.
The second set was a far tighter affair, as Soderling hung tough to force a tiebreak. But again Federer was too strong, sealing it 7-1 with an ace out wide. One set from glory.
Federer started perfectly once more in the third, breaking Soderling at the first opportunity. Come 5-4 in the third, the 27-year-old was serving for the championship.
Ad-40 brought a championship point for the Swiss, the only one he required, as Soderling’s return sailed into the net. Federer immediately fell to his knees and began weeping with the joy.
He had done it, the Career Grand Slam, the first man to achieve the feat since Andre Agassi a decade earlier at the same tournament.
Rafael Nadal – US Open 2010
The tennis world did not have to wait long to see another man to capture such an elite collection of titles. Entering 2010, Nadal had six Slam titles under his belt: four Roland Garros titles, a Wimbledon title and an Australian Open title.
Following a quarter-final loss to Andy Murray at the Australian Open, Nadal conquered Roland Garros for a fifth time and Wimbledon a second, taking his overall tally to eight Slams.
Heading to the US, the Spaniard had retaken the number one spot from Federer and was ready to challenge for the title in New York.
Not only had Nadal not won the US Open, but he had never reached the final before 2010, bowing out in the semi-finals in 2008 and 2009, to Murray and Juan Martin del Potro respectively.
This time around, Nadal meant business. He crushed each of his first six opponents, cruising into the final without dropping a single set, only facing three tiebreaks along the way.
Federer similarly did not drop a set before the semi-finals as he looked to secure a sixth US Open title from seven consecutive finals. But it was not to be for Federer, as third seed Novak Djokovic ended his run with a five-set semi-final victory.
Djokovic was aiming for a second career Slam title, while Nadal was eyeing a ninth and the final piece in the Career Slam puzzle.
Nadal gained the upper hand early to secure the first set 6-4, one step closer to the title. But Djokovic was ready to fight, claiming an early break in the second to lead 3-1. Nadal broke back at 4-2 before levelling to 4-4.
Another break was not seen until 5-6 on the Nadal serve, when Djokovic levelled the match to a set apiece. Game on.
Nadal broke early in the third to lead 2-1 on his serve, maintaining that advantage to 5-4 before serving out the third set. Just one set away from the trophy.
As in the third, Nadal claimed the break at 1-1 in the fourth, breaking once more for 4-1 and a stranglehold on the match.
The Spaniard served out the match for 6-2 in the fourth, triumphing in three and three-quarter hours on-court. The dream was completed for Nadal, the Career Grand Slam was his.
Novak Djokovic – Roland Garros 2016
Like Federer and Nadal, Djokovic had already cemented his status in the history of the sport come his clinching opportunity to complete the Career Grand Slam.
At the start of 2016, the Serb had already spent a combined 159 weeks atop the ATP rankings. In addition, Djokovic had 10 Slam titles to his name: five Australian Opens, three Wimbledons, and two US Open titles.
Like Federer before him, the final piece missing from the Slam collection of Novak Djokovic lay in the clay Major, Roland Garros.
Djokovic had reached at least the semi-final seven times in Paris, and had been runner-up three of those times already in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
In 2012 and 2014, his conqueror was none other than the ‘King of Clay’ Nadal. But in 2015, Djokovic finally defeated Nadal on his favourite court in the quarter-finals, only to lose to Stan Wawrinka in the final.
Djokovic started 2016 his favourite way, by winning the Australian Open, his sixth crown down under.
Coming into Roland Garros, another Djokovic-Nadal showdown was a real possibility, with the two set to meet in the semi-finals as the first and fourth seeds respectively.
But luck favoured Djokovic on this occasion, as Nadal was forced out of the tournament due to injury in just the third round.
The Serb made short work of his first four opponents, surrendering just one set across those matches.
Djokovic then dispatched seventh seed Tomas Berdych and 13th seed Dominic Thiem in straight sets to meet world number two Andy Murray in the final.
Murray claimed the first set 6-3. Could it be another case of so close yet so far for Djokovic in Paris.
But from there the world number one steeled himself to rattle off the next three sets, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4, to record a famous win in the annals of the sport’s history.
Bonus – Novak Djokovic…again! – Roland Garros 2021
Following each of the ‘Big Three achieving the ‘Career Grand Slam’, Djokovic has also become the first man since Rod Laver to secure the ‘Double Career Grand Slam’, winning every Major at least twice.
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