Leading Off

Tennis Grand Slam is truly grand

Serena Williams reacts after winning a tiebreaker to take the first set against Kiki Bertens, of the Netherlands, during the second round of the U.S. Open on Sept. 2 in New York.
Serena Williams reacts after winning a tiebreaker to take the first set against Kiki Bertens, of the Netherlands, during the second round of the U.S. Open on Sept. 2 in New York. The Associated Press

Serena Williams is about to accomplish one of the rarest feats in sports – a tennis Grand Slam.

Only three women and two men have won all four major tournaments – Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open – in the same year.

It’s been 27 years since the last Grand Slam, by Steffi Graf in 1988. The other women who made history were Margaret Court in 1970 and Maureen Connolly Brinker in 1953. On the men’s side, Don Budge won all four majors in 1938, and Rod Laver did it in 1962 and 1969.

Some of the greatest players – including Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Monica Seles, Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Bjorn Borg – haven’t won a Grand Slam, despite winning numerous majors.

Golf’s Grand Slam might be the only tougher feat. No golfer has won all four men’s majors – Masters, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship – in the same year since the Masters started in 1934. Five players have won all four – a so-called career Grand Slam – and Jack Nicklaus won 18 majors but not a Grand Slam. Tiger Woods has won 14 majors, including four straight over two years. No women has won a Grand Slam, and the LPGA added a fifth major in 2013, making it nearly impossible.

In baseball, 17 players have won the Triple Crown, leading their league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. In horse racing, 12 thoroughbreds have won a Triple Crown (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes), including American Pharoah this year.

In the NBA, one of the rarest feats is leading the league in scoring and rebounding or assists in the same season. Only three players – Neil Johnston (1954-55), Bob Pettit (1955-56) and Wilt Chamberlain (1959-60 through 1962-63 and 1965-66) – have done it in scoring and rebounding. Only Tiny Archibald led the league in scoring and assists in the same season, for the 1972-73 Kansas City-Omaha Kings.

When Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open on Saturday, please don’t call it a “calendar-year” Grand Slam. It’s only a Grand Slam if a player wins all four majors in the same year.

Tom Couzens: 916-321-1097, @tomcouzens, tcouzens@sacbee.com

Playbook

  • What to watch: San Diego at Giants, 7:15 p.m., CSNBA: The Giants open a three-game series against another team expected to contend in the N.L. West.
  • Worth repeating: “It’s Serena’s to lose or win. She is really in control.” – Billie Jean King, to Katie Couric on Yahoo News Live
  • On this date: On Sept. 11, 2001, sports came to a standstill following terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington. Major League Baseball postponed a full schedule of games for the first time since D-Day in 1944.
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