Impressive numbers have become the hallmark of these tennis times, and the French Open, which ended in the rain on Sunday, generated more math to remember.
Rafael Nadal won his eighth French Open singles title, which is more than any man has won at the same Grand Slam tournament.
Serena Williams won her second French Open and 16th major singles title. That created further separation with those who have had the misfortune to play in what is ever more Williams’s era, and it narrowed the gap with illustrious predecessors like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, who each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and are tied for fourth on the career list.
Nadal, Williams and Roger Federer are already on the short list of the game’s all-time great players, with Novak Djokovic possessing the skills and ambition to eventually make that cut as well.
All of which makes it more striking every June that none of these rare talents have mounted a serious assault on the game’s signature achievement: a calendar-year Grand Slam.
No woman has won even the first two of the four major titles in the same year since Jennifer Capriati won the Australian Open and French Open in 2001. No man has won the first two since Jim Courier in 1992.
Twenty-one (years, in this case) just may be the biggest, strangest number of all.
A calendar-year Grand Slam is certainly worth wanting. There has not been once since Graf’s in 1988, and although Williams did win four in a row between the French Open in 2002 and the Australian Open in 2003, she has not completed the true Grand Slam.
Williams, however, is on one of the biggest rolls of her career. She has been playing consistently convincing tennis since August 2011, when she first regained her form in earnest after her 11-month layoff resulting from complications of foot surgery.
She will not do so this year, either, having missed out at the Australian open already. New York Times