First Grand Slam of Tennis Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Don Budge became the first singles player in the history of tennis to win the grand slam—that is, he won all of the world’s four major championship tournaments in the same calendar year. The grand-slam tournaments were the Australian, British, French, and U.S. amateur national championships.

Summary of Event

In 1938, Don Budge from the United States became the first player ever to win the tennis grand slam when he won all four of the world’s major tournaments in the same calendar year. The four grand-slam tournaments consisted of the national championships of Australia, France, England, and the United States. At that time, international competitive tennis was played only by amateurs, so Budge did not play against those who were playing on professional exhibition tours. [kw]First Grand Slam of Tennis (Sept. 17, 1938) [kw]Grand Slam of Tennis, First (Sept. 17, 1938) [kw]Tennis, First Grand Slam of (Sept. 17, 1938) Tennis Sports;tennis Grand slam of tennis [g]Australia;Sept. 17, 1938: First Grand Slam of Tennis[09820] [g]England;Sept. 17, 1938: First Grand Slam of Tennis[09820] [g]France;Sept. 17, 1938: First Grand Slam of Tennis[09820] [g]United States;Sept. 17, 1938: First Grand Slam of Tennis[09820] [c]Sports;Sept. 17, 1938: First Grand Slam of Tennis[09820] Budge, Don

Budge’s two finest years as an amateur player were 1937 and 1938. In both years, he was ranked as the world’s number one player. In 1937, he won Wimbledon (the English championship) and the U.S. national championship, and he led the American team to its first Davis Cup victory in eleven years. In the semifinal round victory over Germany, Budge won the most thrilling singles victory in Davis Cup history. The team score was tied at two matches, and he lost the first two sets to Baron Gottfried von Cramm. Budge then came back to tie the match at two sets all and then fell behind four games to one in the deciding fifth set before rallying to win. He was awarded the Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, and he was also named the Associated Press’s Athlete of the Year.

In 1938, he defeated John Bromwich Bromwich, John at the Australian finals, Roderich Menzel Menzel, Roderich in France, Bunny Austin Austin, Bunny at Wimbledon, and Gene Mako Mako, Gene in the United States. Budge helped the U.S. team win the Davis Cup again, and he repeated as the Associated Press Athelete of the Year. During 1938, Budge won six of the eight tournaments in which he played: He had a record of forty-three wins and two losses. In the period 1937-1938, he had a streak of wins in fourteen consecutive tournaments, winning ninety-two matches in a row. Budge also won the mixed doubles and the men’s doubles titles at Wimbledon and in the U.S. national championship in 1938. In total, he won eight titles at the four grand-slam tournaments in 1938.

Significance

Budge, who lived from June 13, 1915, to January 26, 2000, was more than six feet tall and was noted for his ability to use both power and finesse as his opponent and the court conditions dictated. He had a powerful serve and a smooth backhand that was considered one of the greatest ever. He played the game as a gentleman and almost never lost his temper.

The publicity that resulted from Budge’s win increased tennis’s recreational and competitive popularity, and tennis became a popular spectator sport throughout the world. Budge also had a positive effect on beliefs about exercise, fitness, and athletic competition. After 1938, Budge turned pro and played on the traveling tour against the world’s top professionals, including Ellsworth Vines, Fred Perry, Bill Tilden, Bobby Riggs, and Pancho Gonzales. He was elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1964. After the Don Budge slam in 1938, Rod Laver of Australia was the only player to duplicate the amateur slam (in 1962). Laver also won a professional slam in 1968; however, Budge remained the only American to have won the grand slam during the twentieth century. Women who have won a singles slam include Maureen Connolly in 1953, Margaret Smith Court in 1970, and Steffi Graf in 1988. Tennis Sports;tennis Grand slam of tennis

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Clerici, Gianni. The Ultimate Tennis Book: Five Hundred Years of the Sport. Chicago: Follett, 1975. Richly illustrated and thorough historical and cultural account of the evolution of tennis; also chronicles the economic growth of modern tennis as a participant and spectator sport.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Danzig, Allison. The Fireside Book of Tennis. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972. A complete book on tennis history with very descriptive stories of great matches, including the one between Budge and von Cramm in 1937.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gillmeister, Heiner. Tennis: A Cultural History. New York: New York University Press, 1998. Chronicles the evolution and development of tennis from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century.

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