The slam that eludes Borg -- still worth it? Female Olympics in Utah

Bjorn Borg's bid to win the tennis Grand Slam evaporated again at the US Open , but his efforts to capture the French, Wimbledon, US, and Australian titles have drawn new attention to the sport's most coveted achievement. There are some observers, however, who wonder if these tournaments still carry the collective prestige they once did.

If the importance of the slam has eroded in the public eye, it's probably because the Australian Open has lost much of its stature. Now that Australia has declined as a tennis power, fewer top players are as interested in journeying down under to face the Aussies on their turf. Other factors in the tournament's demise have been the emergence of major professional events (making it less of a beacon light), the general shift away from grass playing surfaces, and its poor timing near the end of the year, when most players want to spend the holidays at home.

Though standing tall again, the French Open went through a period several years ago when the field was minus many of the top women and some of the men, who were fulfilling World Team Tennis commitments. In fact, Jimmy Connors lost a chance at the slam in 1974 when the International Tennis Federation barred him from entering the French because he had played team tennis.

The underlying logic for the slam, a term borrowed from golf, is that it links the national championships of the original Davis Cup powers. The person who made people aware of this thread, and thereby "invented" the slam, was Don Budge, who first swept "the big four" in 1938. The only male player to accomplish the feat since then has been Rod Laver, who did it twice, in 1962 and 1969. The women winners are Maureen Connolly (1953) and Margaret Court (1970).

Because prize money has lent instant prestige to certain of today's pro tournaments, some observers wonder if the results of the Grand Prix Masters and women's indoor championship might someday replace the Australian or French Opens as slam fixtures. Most of today's pro tourneys lack tradition, though, and depend upon continued strong commercial sponsorship to maintain their present postures. So the chances of the slam ever being restructured appear slim.

If Borg ever wants to win it, maybe he should readjust his strategy and try to win the Australian Open first, then tack on the other titles. As it is, he repeatedly passes up the Australian, which "doubles" as either the first or last leg of the slam.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.