The nearly man: Rod Laver thought Novak Djokovic ‘could be the guy to’ win calendar grand slam
The Serbian world number one lost 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) to Sam Querrey in the third round of Wimbledon having already won the Australian Open and French Open this year
Rod Laver figured Novak Djokovic might very well be the player, and this might very well be the year, that would finally end his distinction as the last man to win a calendar grand slam.
“It’s a tough road,” said Laver. “Certainly, I thought he could be the guy to do it.”
Laver tuned in on TV to see some of the match that ended Djokovic’s bid, a 7-6 (8-6), 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5) loss to Sam Querrey of the United States in the third round of Wimbledon.
Winning all four major tennis tournaments – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – in a single season has only been accomplished by two men.
Don Budge, an American, did it in 1938, and Laver, an Australian, pulled it off twice, in 1962 as an amateur and in 1969 as a professional.
Djokovic came to the All England Club after collecting four consecutive major titles, something no man had achieved since Laver all those years ago. But Djokovic did it over the past two seasons, not all in one.
“When he won the French Open, I thought: ‘Wimbledon, he’s won it twice in a row, why wouldn’t he come in confident and be able to win again?’ So I put him down as the favourite to win Wimbledon,” Laver said.
“And then it’s a matter of controlling nerves and being healthy when you get to the last one.”
As he watched the match against Querrey, Laver said, he was struck by Djokovic’s lower than usual level of play.
“I don’t know whether it was the pressure or whether he wasn’t feeling up to power. I don’t know what his situation was health wise, but it didn’t look like he was ready to play a big match. The rain didn’t help. But he wasn’t playing his best tennis, and Querrey kept the pressure on with that serve.”
Laver was particularly caught off-guard by the way Djokovic meekly fell into a two set deficit before play was halted on Friday night because of rain.
“He looked like he was hardly trying,” Laver said. “I was a little critical of his second set.”
Laver said he was impressed by Querrey’s play and wonders whether this could springboard the American to bigger things.
Querrey, 28, never has been to the quarter-finals at a grand slam tournament.
“He’s gone and taken himself to another level. When you start beating the number one player, you jump into another level and maybe his confidence will start to soar and drive him into a lot of new things.”