September 8, 1969: Rod Laver completes second Calendar Grand Slam


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September 8, 1969: Rod Laver completes second Calendar Grand Slam

On a rain-delayed US Open final, Rod Laver took down his compatriot Tony Roche by 7-9 6-1 6-2 6-2 on September 8, 1969, to grab his 11th and also the final Grand Slam title. In addition, this was the 4th Major title of the season for great Laver, who completed his second Calendar Grand Slam as the first player in history who did that twice (Don Budge won Calendar Grand Slam in 1938)! 1969 was the first full season of the Open era (starting in April 1968, it failed to include Australian Open that season), and Rod was there to steal all the glory, achieving something that will hardly be repeated in the future.

In the 4th round, Laver had to come from behind against Dennis Ralston and he lost the opening set against Roche as well, only to dominate the rest of the match. This was one of the most important matches in the history of tennis, and it was played in almost irregular conditions, with rain soaking the court and with a helicopter that flew over it, trying to keep the water away.

The encounter started an hour and 30 minutes later than it should and they had to abandon it for a half an hour after the opening game of the second set. Also, Laver opted to switch from the regular sneakers to the ones with spikes (imagine that today!) to move easier on the slippery grass, and it gave the results.

Laver had to work hard from the very first game, saving 3 break points to get his name on the scoreboard, firing 2 service winners and a volley winner to fend off the danger. Tony wasted a 40-15 lead in game 4 to get broken and Rod opened a 4-1 lead, saving another break point in game 5.

Nonetheless, Roche got the break back in game 7 after some good returning, only to lose his serve again in game 8, leaving Laver to serve for the set. Rod couldn't deliver a hold and we saw the third break in a row, with Roche coming back to 5-5 with a hold at love in game 10.

He was the better player on the court in those moments, breaking Laver in game 11 for the third straight time, having a chance to close the set on own serve in the following game. Instead of that, Rod broke back with 3 winners to make the result even at 6-6 again, but in the end, it was Roche who clinched the opener, breaking his rival in game 15 and wrapping up the set with a smash winner in the next game for a 9-7.

Things could get even worse for Laver, who faced a break point at the start of the second set, but he repelled it with a service winner and never looked back, winning 15 consecutive points on serve in the rest of the set.

His return worked like a charm as well, breaking Tony in games 2 and 4 to race into a 5-0 lead, and he notched the set in less than 20 minutes, firing 4 winners in game 7 for a 6-1. Tony recovered a little bit at the start of the third set, with a hold at love, but that didn't last for long, as Laver broke in the 3rd game to take the lead.

Besides his first game, Rod was again untouchable on serve throughout the set, and he sealed the deal with his second break in game 7, bringing it home by 6-2 in just over 20 minutes, stealing all the momentum and looking good to write history very soon.

Tony lost his serve at the start of the 4th set when Laver placed a beautiful forehand return winner, and Rod went 2-0 up, with 3 winners in game 2. Roche saved a break point in game 3 with a service winner but he got broken in game 5 to trail 4-1 when Rod landed a forehand down the line winner, moving 2 games away from the win.

Both players held easily in the remaining 3 games and Laver brought the match home with a commanding 8th game, conquering all 4 Slams for the second time in his career and making this one of the most brilliant moments in the history of our game.

Overall, it was a very fast and fluid match, with attacking tennis and net rushings and there only 16 points longer than 5 shots. ALSO READ: US Open: Rafael Nadal beats del Potro for his 4th US Open final