The calendar-year Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same season, is not just the toughest test in tennis. It is one of the most difficult feats in all of sport. No man has done it in over 50 years, the last being Rod Laver in 1969.
In the interim, some men have come close, but no one closer than Novak Djokovic in 2021. He was the first player since Laver to win the Australian Open, Roland-Garros and Wimbledon in a row but fell one match short of the Slam, losing in the US Open final to Daniil Medvedev.
What will it take for Djokovic to finish the job in 2023?
Apart from just winning Wimbledon, a title in Toronto might be beneficial.
Since 1990, the winner of the National Bank Open has gone on to win the US Open 10 times on the men’s side, a success rate of 31 per cent which is higher than the Cincinnati Masters (18 per cent) or even Wimbledon (28 per cent).
So winning in Canada is the best springboard to winning the US Open.
In 2011, Djokovic used both Wimbledon AND Canada as a build up to success in New York. He is the most recent man to win all three in the same season.
Let’s look back on that remarkable summer.
Given his dominance over the last decade at the All-England Club, seven titles since 2011 including four in a row, it is hard to remember a time when Djokovic did not clean up on grass.
For the previous eight years, it had been the domain of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. But Djokovic was the hottest player on tour in 2011, arriving in London with just one loss on his record, that coming against Federer on clay at Roland-Garros.
He quickly put the loss in Paris behind him and raced into his first Wimbledon final, dropping just two sets, beating opposition such as future Wimbledon final opponent Kevin Anderson and a pair of former Australian Open finalists, Marcos Baghdatis and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
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By defeating Tsonga in the semifinals, the Serb secured the No. 1 ranking but wanted more in the final against Nadal, the defending champion who had won 20 consecutive matches at the All-England Club. Djokovic was up to the challenge, putting his Spanish rival away in four sets for a first golden cup.
Djokovic’s debut as the world No. 1 came a month later in Montreal, where he had really made a name for himself with his title run in 2007.
The draw was by no means kind to the Serb. His path took him through Nikolay Davydenko, Marin Cilic, Gael Monfils and Tsonga, but he did not drop a set despite the tough opposition.
On the other side of the net in the title match was Mardy Fish. It was Djokovic’s fifth Masters 1000 final of the season, but first where he was not playing Nadal.
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It was the seventh meeting between the two and one of the closest. Fish managed to push the Serb to a deciding set but could not get the job done. Djokovic prevailed in three sets to claim his fifth Masters 1000 title of the year.
The bid for the Summer Slam, winning Canada, Cincinnati, and the US Open, died in the Cincinnati final.
But in New York, everything seemed to be going Djokovic’s way in the early rounds as he only dropped one set on his way to the semifinals, while benefitting from two opponent retirements.
However, he seemed to have met his match once again in the form of Federer in the semis, as the Swiss maestro took the first two sets. Djokovic clawed back to claim sets three and four, but found himself down a break, staring down two match points on the Federer serve at 5-3, 40-15. But as he had in the 2010 semis, the Serb saved both, including one with a ferocious return winner, and went on to win the match.
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Just like at Wimbledon, Nadal was waiting in the final. And the result was the same, a four-set win for Djokovic.
A repeat of that 2011 summer would be historic. While Djokovic only needs to win Wimbledon and the US Open to complete the Slam, a fifth victory in Canada could provide the necessary spark to get him over the finish line.
The ATP's best return to Toronto this summer for the National Bank Open August 5 to 13 at Sobeys Stadium. Tickets are on sale. Get your tickets today!