The United States of America’s dominance in tennis might be on the wane, but the other nations still have a lot of catching up to do if they are to establish themselves as the new tennis superpower. We take a look at how each nation has fared in the four Grand Slams in the open era.
It was not surprising that the Australians dominated the Australian Open in the pre-open era, and even in the first decade of the open era. Very few foreign players took the trouble to travel all the way across the Indian or the Pacific Ocean to play in a tournament which offered very little as prize money. Back in the 1920s, a trip to Australia from Europe on a ship took 45 days. In the amateur era, 44 out of the 56 editions of the Australian Open, which was first known as the Australasian Championships and then the Australian Championships were won by the Australians.
However, that dominance came to an end in the 1980s as the tournament was shifted to the Melbourne Park, known as the Flinders Park back then, and there was a change in surface. Till 1987, the tournament was played on grass, but from 1988 it has been played on a hard court surface. Mark Edmondson (1976) was the last Australian to win the men’s singles title at the Australian Open, while Chris O’Neil was the last Australian woman to win the women’s singles title at Melbourne.
As in most of the Grand Slams, it is the Americans who have won the most number of titles in the Open era of this tournament, which started in 1969 unlike 1968 in the rest of the three Grand Slams. Andre Agassi was dominant at the Melbourne Park in his prime, and it is only now that his tally of four Australian Open singles titles has been surpassed by Novak Djokovic.
Margaret Court won three titles in a row at the start of the open era, but no one has matched the dominance shown by Serena Williams, who has won the title on six occasions.
This is the only Grand Slam where the USA’s ascendancy has been challenged, especially in the men’s half of the tournament. In fact, other than Chris Evert, very few Americans have made the clay court their own. On the other hand, Spanish players, from Rafael Nadal to Juan Carlos Ferrero to Albert Costa to Carlos Moya to Sergi Bruguera and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, have set the Stade Roland Garros on fire. Even the Swedish duo of Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander have had superb records in Paris.
Unlike in the Australian Open, France’s domination in this tournament came to an end well before we entered the open era. After Marcel Bernard’s victory in 1946, the French supporters had to wait till 1983 before they could see another one of their own lifting the title in the form of Yannick Noah. Since then, Henri Laconte is the only other Frenchman who came close to winning it, when he lost in
Wimbledon has been one of those tournaments which
Great Britain, on the other hand,
Martina Navratilova is still leading the pack with nine singles titles between 1978 and 1990 before Steffi Graf took over. The Williams sisters have 12 singles titles among themselves and have turned it into a family trophy since the turn of the new millennium.
Like in most of the Grand Slams, the Americans have a good record in their own backyard. However, since Andy Roddick’s victory in 2003, their dominance has waned in the men’s half of the draw – which in the hindsight is only a reflection of the shift in power to the European nations in the last decade. We have seen seven different winners in the last nine editions of the US Open with Stan Wawrinka shocking Novak Djokovic in the final last year.
In the women’s half, we have witnessed two surprise winners in Flavia Pennetta and Angelique Kerber in the last two editions, which had ended Serene Williams’s dominance in the tournament. Serena needs one more win to break the record set by Chris Evert of six US Open singles titles in the open era. It is difficult to bet against her from doing so, as the nation continues its search for the next Sampras or the next Serena who can reinstate USA’s hegemony in the sport.
Overall, the other nations still have a lot of catching up to do at the top, though. However, we are unlikely to see just one nation dominate the sport in the future as the Americans did in the past. Both the men’s and women’s circuit are entering a transitional phase where the next generations are coming through.
Federer and Nadal are at the fag end of their careers, while Djokovic is not looking all that invincible anymore. Andy Murray might have toppled Djokovic from the top, but he is unlikely to recreate the same aura of invincibility that the Serbian, or Federer and Nadal before him, have had. His stay at the top is unlikely to be long. It will be more like a passing blip. In the women’s circuit, Serena Williams is 35, and she is being challenged by the likes of Angelique Kerber, Agnieszka Radwanska, and Simona Halep – and none of the
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