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When One Tennis Major Title Is All There Is

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Thomas Johansson isn’t exactly sure where his Australian Open award is. He knows that the miniature replica of the trophy that he received for winning the title in 2002 is in his mother’s apartment near Stockholm, likely in a corner somewhere. Johansson and his family live in Monaco.

That doesn’t mean that the title, and the trophy, aren’t necessary. For Johansson, now 47, winning the Australian championship was the crowning achievement in a 15-year pro profession that saw him reach No. 7 on the planet before retiring in 2009. He had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals at a significant when he beat Marat Safin, the previous world No. 1 and the 2000 United States Open champion.

“I’m quite humble, but in addition super proud that I won this title,” said Johansson by phone earlier this month. “To win a Slam you could have to be strong, play extremely well for 2 weeks and even get a bit of lucky. Possibly I never won one other one, but that’s OK, I’ll at all times have this one.”

For each Serena Williams, who holds 23 majors, and Rafael Nadal, who has won 22, there are dozens of players who captured their maiden Grand Slam title and no more.

When Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev step on court for his or her opening-round matches at this 12 months’s U.S. Open, they may each be defending their first major wins. Last 12 months Raducanu, ranked No. 150 on the time, stunned the game by becoming the primary qualifier to win the Open.

Medvedev prevented Novak Djokovic from claiming the game’s ultimate achievement, the Grand Slam — victories on the Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. championships in the identical calendar 12 months — by upsetting him in the ultimate. Raducanu and Medvedev will each be attempting to win their second major this 12 months.

Some players, like Marcelo Rios, Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and Karolina Pliskova, attained the No. 1 rating without ever having won a significant. Caroline Wozniacki was No. 1 for months starting in October 2010, although she won only one major, the Australian Open in 2018.

“People don’t realize how hard it’s to win a Slam,” said Martina Hingis, 41, who captured three Australian championships, one Wimbledon and one U.S. Open, all before she turned 19 years old. “But it surely was a unique time. Whoever was on a roll, having a great 12 months, was more confident and won the Slams. I don’t think it will be possible back within the day for a player from the qualifying to win the U.S. Open.”

There may be probably no more dreaded moniker in tennis than One-Slam Wonder. Almost immediately after players win a vital title, they’re asked, “What’s next?” It happened to the previous No. 1 Andy Roddick after he won the 2003 U.S. Open, despite the fact that Roddick reached 4 other finals, including the 2006 U.S. Open and three Wimbledons, losing all 4 to Roger Federer.

It also happened to Dominic Thiem when he beat Alexander Zverev to win the 2020 U.S. Open and to Gabriela Sabatini when she beat Steffi Graf on the 1990 U.S. Open. Sabatini, a star on tour for many of the Eighties, won two WTA Finals, but never one other major. Neither did Pat Money, who won Wimbledon in 1987 and commenced the tradition of players climbing into the stands after winning the tournament. Yannick Noah once threatened to leap into the Seine due to the pressure he felt after becoming the primary Frenchman in 37 years to win the French Open in 1983.

“You usually wish to back up any big win,” said Mike Bryan who, together together with his twin brother, Bob, won 16 major doubles titles. “After we won our first French Open [in 2003], we didn’t win one other Slam for greater than two years. At every press conference it was, ‘When are you going to do it again?’ There’s just this voice in your head that you just at all times have, until you win the subsequent one.”

Some players win their first Grand Slam title at a young age and never repeat. Michael Chang was 17 years old when he stunned Ivan Lendl and Stefan Edberg to win the French Open in 1989. He never won one other major. The identical is true for Jelena Ostapenko, who won the 2017 French Open just after her twentieth birthday. Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open at age 21 in 2020, and reached the ultimate of the French Open later that 12 months, but is now ranked outside the world’s top 200, partly due to an injury-laden 12 months.

Jana Novotna, alternatively, was nearly 30 when she finally won Wimbledon in 1998, five years after her final-round collapse against Graf. Francesca Schiavone was also almost 30 when she beat Samantha Stosur (herself a lone major winner on the 2011 U.S. Open) to capture the 2010 French Open. And Flavia Pennetta was 33 when she won her only major on the 2015 U.S. Open. As she collected her trophy, Pennetta announced her retirement from the game.

“The moment you win, all the pieces you could have worked on for years and years has come true,” said Schiavone, 42, as she prepared to play the legends event at Wimbledon last month. “Your heart is full because your dream got here true. You aren’t anymore an outsider. Now you’re a significant champ. But then you could have to empty your heart and put a latest dream in there. It’s tough, but you could have to fly again with constant work.”

Mary Pierce remembers feeling overwhelmed when she won the Australian Open in 1995, the 12 months after she lost within the French Open final to Arantxa Sánchez Vicario.

“You’re on such a high, and it gives you the arrogance to feel such as you’re among the finest in the sport,” said Pierce, who backed up her victory by winning the French Open five years later. “It’s your goal, so you would like to do it again.”

Pierce understands what it would be like for Raducanu and Medvedev once they return to this 12 months’s U.S. Open.

“Winning your first Grand Slam completely changes your life,” Pierce said. “It’s now commercials and photo shoots and TV shows and events that you just weren’t doing before and at the moment are taking your time and energy away from training and resting. It could even be emotionally draining, and you wish that energy and that focus and concentration to compete.

“Plus, now everybody’s recognizing you wherever you go, watching all the pieces you do, and also you’re not used to that, so you could have to adapt. Just feeling the expectations and pressure with everyone expecting you to play well and to win each time, which is just not humanly possible. We’re not machines, we’re not robots.”

Backing up a significant championship by winning one other could also be paramount to a player’s psyche. Some players need that profession validation. Others don’t.

“I believe One-Slam Wonder is one in every of the stupidest words in tennis,” said Johansson, who also won a silver medal in men’s doubles from the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “Winning one Grand Slam title is incredibly hard to do, unless in fact you’re a Roger, Rafa or Novak because they’re so good. I’d prefer to have won one Slam than to have been within the finals 3 times.”

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