Best players who never completed the career Grand Slam

Completing the career Grand Slam and winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open is no mean feat with the varying surfaces of hard court, clay and grass. 

Only the very best achieve this with some surprising names not managing it so Last Word on Tennis has decided to look at the best players who came so close but so far and finished just one Slam away. 

Jimmy Connors

The American was earmarked for a great career when he won the prestigious Orange Bowl junior tournament twice, one of nine players to do so. 

In 1974, only a couple of years after turning professional, Connors won his first major at the Australian Open in four sets which was followed later in the year with his second, a straight sets win over Ken Rosewall at the All England Club. 

He ended a successful year with a US Open final victory over Rosewall thrashing the Australian 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 in just 78 minutes, a record for the shortest ever men’s singles Grand Slam final.

The only thing preventing him from completing a calendar Grand Slam as well as a career Grand Slam was his absence from the French Open due to his association with World Team Tennis, a mixed-gender team competition played in the USA.

This would become a regular occurrence for Connors with the American not participating at Roland Garros for a further five years at arguably the peak of his career. 

After returning to Paris for the first time since 1973, for the first two years he suffered semi-final defeats, to Victor Pecci Sr in 1979 and the following year, blowing a two sets to one lead against Vitas Gerulaitis. 

He did not reach that stage again until 1984 where he was brushed aside by compariot John McEnroe and it was to be a straight sets loss in the last-four the next year, this time to Ivan Lendl. 

Monica Seles

Seles was a teenage prodigy, turning professional at just 15 and won her first senior title just months later beating the soon-to-retire Chris Evert.

Her first Grand Slam title came in Paris in 1990, beating world No. 1 Steffi Graf in straight sets to become the youngest-ever French Open singles Champion at the age of 16 years, 6 months. 

A second major title followed at the start of the following year as she claimed the Australian Open, becoming world No. 1 for the first time in the process.

After defending her title at the French Open, she finished the year as she started, winning the US Open to already stand one major away from the career Grand Slam.

In 1992, her best chance to complete the full set at Wimbledon came and went as she fell to a disappointing 6-2, 6-1 defeat to defending champion Graf.

Having already claimed a third successive titles in Melbourne and Paris, later successfully defending her title at Flushing Meadows, that match at Wimbledon would be the only loss of Seles’ year. 

It would be the only time she would go beyond the quarter-finals at the All England Club and despite being only 18, she would only go onto win two more major titles, both at the Australian Open. 

Ivan Lendl 

The stony-faced Czech joined the professional tour in 1978 but had to wait six years for his first Grand Slam title, losing a record four finals. 

His first title could not have come in more dramatic circumstances, beating John McEnroe, who was on a 44-match winning streak, from two sets down at the French Open. 

He claimed his maiden US Open title the following year, beating McEnroe in a more comfortable three sets before reaching his first Wimbledon final in 1986.

By that time, Lendl had won another French Open and was world No.1 and reached the final when he would face Boris Becker, the German sensation who had become the youngest-ever Grand Slam and Wimbledon a year earlier at just 16.

Becker successfully defended his title, triumphing in three sets with Lendl at least having the consolation of retaining his US Open title later in the year.

The Czech was back in the Wimbledon final following year to face Pat Cash but again failed to win a set as the Wimbledon trophy eluded him. 

Despite adding a third consecutive title at Flushing Meadows and back-to-back titles at the Australian Open in 1989 and 1990 Lendl would not complete the career Grand Slam, failing to even reach another Wimbledon final as he ended with eight majors.

Martina Hingis

Like Seles, Hingis was another teenage prodigy, as she became the youngest player to win a Grand Slam junior title when triumphed at the French Open aged just 12. 

The following year was eventful for the Czech as she defended her title in Paris, claimed the girls title at Wimbledon and turned professional. 

In 1996, she became the youngest Grand Slam champion of all time, when she won the women’s doubles title at 15 years and 9 months but it was in singles where she would really make her mark.

It was clear she was a remarkable talent and she became world No.1 soon after, also claiming her first women’s singles Grand Slam at just 16 when she beat Mary Pierce at the Australian Open.

She was the favourite for the French Open but fell to a surprise straight sets defeat to ninth seed Iva Majoli.

However she bounced back in style, beating Jana Novotna to seal her only Wimbledon singles crown and claimed her sole US Open title with a win over Venus Williams. 

She would make it three successive Australian Open titles with wins in 1998 and 1999 but these would surprisingly be her final Grand Slam triumphs.

The next major of the year saw her reach a second final at Roland Garros in three years where she contrived to lose to Steffi Graf, who would win her 22nd and final slam and retire within months, despite leading by a set and a break.

Never again would Hingis reach another final in Paris, losing in the semi-finals in the next couple of years, to eventual champion Mary Pierce in 2000 and then to Jennifer Capriati. 

She would go onto the lose that year’s US Open final and started 2000 by losing in the Australian Open final, a run of three straight runners-up finishes in Melbourne despite having four match points in the latter. 

This would be her last Grand Slam final as she initially retired in 2003 due to ankle ligaments injuries, returning in 2006 before calling it a day for good the following year through a combination of injuries and a two-year suspension from tennis after a positive drugs test. 

 

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