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50 for 50: Rod Laver, 1969 men's singles champion

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we look back at the 50 champions who have left an indelible mark on this inimitable event.

ROD LAVER

The Rocket saved his best for last.

Rod Laver made tennis history at the US Open in 1969, when his 11th and final major singles title completed an unprecedented second calendar-year Grand Slam.

Almost half a century has now passed since Laver defeated fellow Australian Tony Roche in the men's final, but he still remains the only man to win all four majors in the same year.

The top-seeded Laver cruised through the first three rounds without dropping a set, but he was forced to dig deep to beat 16th-seeded American Dennis Ralston, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, in the Round of 16.

With his wife Mary days away from giving birth to the couple’s son Rick, Laver came from a set down to topple countryman Roy Emerson in the quarterfinals, 4-6, 8-6, 13-11, 6-4, and he defeated reigning champion Arthur Ashe, 8-6, 6-3, 14-12, in the semifinals.

play video 50 for 50: Rod Laver, 1969 men's singles champion

The championship match was pushed back to Tuesday because of rain, and even then, a helicopter was called in to hover over the court to dry the grass after a 90-minute delay. The slippery conditions had earlier prompted Laver, who had not lost a match since Wimbledon and went on to finish the season with a 106-16 record, to switch from sneakers to spikes after he was broken while trying to serve out the first set.

Laver’s US Open triumph was his second in New York. As an amateur, he won the US Championships in 1962 to complete his first calendar-year Grand Slam. He would turn professional three months later.

50 Fact: Laver's final US Open match was a fourth-round loss to Bjorn Borg in 1975, two decades after he made his Forest Hills debut against American Ham Richardson in 1956.