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Rediff.com  » Sports » Can Djokovic avoid joining Sampras and Co?

Can Djokovic avoid joining Sampras and Co?

Last updated on: May 28, 2013 09:18 IST

Djokovic has so far made eight attempts

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Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at a few legendary names who failed to complete their Grand Slam collection following repeated failures at the French Open.

It is labelled the toughest major of all.

No doubt, the French Open has lived up to its reputation over the years. Players, not raised on the red dirt, have struggled to win the lone clay Slam.

It took Andre Agassi 11 attempts and three final appearances to finally lay his hands on the trophy. Roger Federer took 11 years and four finals.

And the only Grand Slam missing from current world No.1 Novak Djokovic's collection is the French Open. Not even in 2011, the year the Serbian dominated, did he manage to win at Roland Garros.

Last year Djokovic did reach his maiden final at Roland Garros, only to fall short against a man who has made winning a habit (with seven titles) at the venue. Rafael Nadal.

It is not that Djokovic isn't good on clay. His credentials on the surface are underlined by the fact that he has won all other important tournaments – the three Masters Series events in Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome – on it.

Djokovic is also the lone player to have beaten Nadal in three clay-court finals. However, all these have come to naught when it comes to the French Open, where the Spaniard has lost just once in his career.

In eight attempts, the Serbian is yet to win in Paris. There are quite a few all-time greats who have the lone clay major missing from their resume. And, at the moment, Djokovic is one of them. The good thing is, at 26, he has time to make a few more attempts. The bad, Nadal also will be making similar attempts.

Even as Djokovic embarks on his latest attempt at the elusive title.


Image: Novak Djokovic of Serbia shelters from the rain during the men's singles final against Rafael Nadal of Spain at Roland Garros on June 11, 2012
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Sampras made the semis just once

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The biggest name who failed to win in Paris has to be Pete Sampras.

The American won a whopping 14 major titles, including seven at Wimbledon and five at the US Open.

However, his 13 attempts at the French Open title resulted in just one semi-final appearance, quite a belittling statistic for someone of his stature.

On the positive side, the year he did make it to the last four, 1996, the American ground out credible five set wins over former champions Jim Courier and Sergi Bruguera. Eventual champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov, though, wasted little time in thrashing Sampras in the semis.


Image: Pete Sampras walks on the tennis court during the 2001 French Open
Photographs: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

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Hingis finished second best twice

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Martina Hingis made the final of all the four majors in her breakthrough year (1997), winning three.

The 'Swiss Miss' albeit fell short at Roland Garros, losing in straight sets to Iva Majoli (remember her?).

Two years later, Hingis made it to the final again, and was in a dominant position against former champion Steffi Graf, then at the twilight of her career.

The German veteran, however, used all her experience to good effect to emerge triumphant (4-6, 7-5, 6-2).

Image: Martina Hingis of Switzerland recieves the second place award after the 1999 French Open Final match against Steffi Graf
Photographs: Al Bello /Allsport

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Connors made it to the semis four times

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When it comes to men's tennis no one has won as much as Jimmy Connors.

The American, in a career spanning almost two decades, won a whopping 109 titles, including eight majors.

Among his five US Open titles one happened to be on the clay courts of Forest Hills.

However, when it came to cracking the code in Paris, Connors fell short.

In his 13 attempts at Roland Garros, the American reached the semi-finals on four occasions.


Image: Jimmy Connors takes rest during a French Open match
Photographs: Bob Martin /Allsport

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Edberg reached the final in 1989

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Stefan Edberg had no business losing the French Open final in 1989.

Having said that, had he not lost none would have remembered a Michael Chang.

The Swede had beaten Argentine Alberto Mancini, the most successful player on clay that year and rival Boris Becker en route to the final. He even led by two sets to one and was a break up in the fourth.

However, Chang came back to win in five.

In 1996, in his final year on the tour, Edberg turned the clock back, playing some vintage tennis to beat Chang and avenge that painful defeat.

But to expect him to go all the way that year would have been stretching the imagination far.


Image: Stefan Edberg of Sweden waves goodbye to the crowd as his last appearance at the French Open
Photographs: Gary Prior /Allsport

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Becker never won on clay

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Boris Becker reigned supreme when it came to faster courts.

However, the German struggled on the red dirt at Roland Garros.

In fact, Becker's clay record in general was forgettable, the six-time major champion making it to only six clay finals in his otherwise impressive career, and losing all.

Yes, Becker never won a title on clay.

Considering that, his three semi-final appearances at the French Open can be considered a success story.


Image: Boris Becker
Photographs: Gary Prior /Allsport

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Arthur Ashe missed out in Paris as well

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Wimbledon and US Open titles came fairly easy to Arthur Ashe.

The American albeit struggled at the other two majors.

To his credit, he eventually won the Australian Open on his third attempt, in 1970.

But the French Open remained elusive, Ashe only making the quarter-finals twice (1970-71).


Image: Arthur Ashe during a match
Photographs: Allsport /Allsport

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Newcombe wasn't quite comfortable on clay

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John Newcombe was more of a grass-court exponent, considering all his seven major titles came on that one surface.

Taking that into account, his failure to win at Roland Garros doesn't come in as a surprise.

The Australian made it to the last eight just once, in 1969.


Image: John Newcombe of Australia
Photographs: Andy Lyons /Allsport

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Davenport made the semis in 1998

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One of the most consistent players of her times, the surface notwithstanding, Lindsay Davenport won 55 titles in an illustrious career.

However, her peak years as a professional coincided with many other great players, from Steffi Graf to Martina Hingis to the Williams sisters.

It is this intense competition that limited Davenport's major count to just three.

To her credit, the American's three slams came at different events.

It was only in Paris that she missed out, with just one semi-final appearance (1998) in 11 attempts.


Image: A dejected Lindsay Davenport of USA as she loses to Mary Pierce of France at the French Open
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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