Parsing the Rocket

I always thought it would be you, Rog.

Like many tennis fans, Rod Laver is in awe of Rafael Nadal’s accomplishments. Just not quite as much as his own. Rafa is vying to become the first man since the Rocket to win four Slams in a row. When asked about the possibility of Nadal matching his feat, Laver was quick to dismiss the comparison. Here’s a little taste:

“He’s got three under his belt and he’s playing well. There’s a good chance he could pull it off. But it’s not a Grand Slam, certainly. People will say, ‘He’s going for a Grand Slam.’ And I say, ‘No, he’s not doing that.’ That wasn’t the way this whole thing was set up. It starts in January and ends in September; starts with the Australian Open and ends with the U.S. Open.”

Translation: I’m the last fella to complete a calendar Slam, although I’m not so sure about that Margaret Court. Until some bloke has won three in a row heading into Flushing, I’m still the big swinging donger.

No matter the generation, professional athletes are proud people. They’re especially proud of their records. They’re not just going to concede somebody has matched them if they can otherwise avoid it. And technically Laver is right: if Nadal wins Australia it’s not a Grand Slam. He correctly points out that there’s no mounting pressure on Nadal to win Melbourne as there would be if this were the end of the year in New York. We’ve been down this road before, too, with Serena Williams. She won the last three Slams of 2002 and the 2003 Australian to own all four at one time. It got dubbed the “Serena Slam” but unfortunately there’s nothing as alliteratively simple that can be done if Nadal wins.

Laver went on to do some more backhanded polishing of his resume.

“It’s uncanny that no one has put it all together. I thought that possibly someone like Boris Becker would have been able to do it. Or maybe Bjorn Borg. Or Pete Sampras. There were quite a few players that dominated their era but never were able to put it together and make a total Grand Slam of it.”

Translation: Every time some new joey comes hoppin’ around you wanna call him a boomer. Some have come close, but nobody has matched me. And if somebody does, he’d better do it twice, because that’s what the Rocket did. Until then, I celebrate every year my record stands. I’m like the ’72 Dolphins; only when I know my record is safe I sink some piss. Champagne is for sheilas…and Federer.

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