This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we’re counting down the 50 most memorable moments in the history of America’s Grand Slam. Today, we take a look back at No. 26.
Only one woman had ever secured four majors in a single year to win the Grand Slam. Maureen “Little Mo” Connolly of California was the first female to achieve that staggering feat, pulling it off in 1953. Seventeen years later, the stately Australian Margaret Smith Court made it her mission to reach that exalted status.
Court had opened her 1970 campaign convincingly at the Australian Open but was precariously close to losing an early-round match against the Russian Olga Morozova at the French Open before coming through in three sets. At Wimbledon, she was the victor in an epic meeting with Billie Jean King, prevailing, 14-12, 11-9, as both players overcame severe physical maladies.
With three consecutive majors in her collection, Court came to New York for the US Open in full pursuit of the last piece in the puzzle. The grass courts at the Westside Tennis Club in Forest Hills suited Court’s attacking style of play to the hilt. She was powerful, purposeful and precise in reaching the final, granting five opponents, including the formidable Nancy Richey, a total of 13 games.
Her opponent in the final was the diminutive, yet fast-charging and steadfast Rosie Casals, one of the game’s most appealing competitors, an aggressive net rusher. Court, 28, won the first set very easily but, with her ankle ailing, dropped the second. Early in the third, she regained the momentum, and with calm assurance and solid play, she came through, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
As Court would say recently in recollecting her Grand Slam, “I had only a few big goals in my career. One was to become the first Australian woman to win the singles at Wimbledon, which I did in 1963. The second was that I had come so close to a Grand Slam before, so why not try to do that? That idea just dropped into my heart. When you win the Grand Slam as I did in 1970, you sort of thank God it is over, and you wonder if you can play with that motivation anymore.”
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