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Trails you leave behind....(aka Celebration of Champions)

Statistics - I have long abhorred in tennis. For it simplifies the great intricacies of the game and masks the glory. Those numbers with absolute accuracy and so less precision. Numbers that betray the magic. Numbers that give away so little and hold back the spontaneity. Numbers that say so little and yet make one cling to them more tenaciously.. Numbers don't tell history and very few, if any, can be viewed with any high esteem in tennis.

In an eagerness to rewrite history and put things in orderly boxes, history has been untold and retold with much ambiguity and propriety. All has been said and mulled over about Open era, French open not open to foreigners in early years, distinction between amateur and professional tennis, scope and impact of Australian open till 1990s, impact of non-wooden rackets and 14 as the magic number of slams and so on... Numerous tricks have been pulled. History rewritten, forgotten and the glorious past, all but nothing more than shoved away.

However, one can still use a such number to highlight events that can take us away, back to the time, when things were not so simple. Tennis, as everything else on this world, evolves. These grand slams did not spur out of no where. They evolved, changed, and over a long run moved forward.. Let us explore the three such slams with distinguished history, those of the kind that weather two world wars, great depression, tyranny, birth of world leaders and so on..

Wimbledon - The birth place of modern tennis. Undeterred by changing times, where tradition takes front seat to change. Whites all around and the great grass courts. And held in the same place since 1877, the years gone by.

US Open - In the New world of 1900s, USA with its frontiers being tested, US Open stood the test of time with vociferous crowds and leading the way on change with professional tennis. This slam and its conquest marks uniquely.

French Open - As an antidote to the Anglophone world order, this terre bautte has been rightfully a jewel in tennis history. Though admonished for not opening up to the world for a while, this slam with its gruelling stakes is highly worthy.

And who can forget the tribulations and ecstasy of nations competing on tennis grounds. The unique Davis cup that brings patriotic spirit to this individualistic sport. The passion and all those that this event seeks out from the fan.

There were four or so watershed events in the history of tennis, which in it's modern form is about 130 years old. Those that can help define an era. Those moments that looking back gives a clear picture on the events that unfold.. With it origin in 1870s as an elite sport, tennis has spread its wings to millions and millions of fans across nations that vast horizons.

The early one was the World War I that united tennis across the pond. Millions with new found hope started playing tennis as it moved away from amateur regionalistic slams. Till then, mostly the slams were competed by national players and foreign-born who settled in those countries. Much were lost about those in this Era, say Amateur Era, between 1877-WW1. With prominent clubs nationally taking the scene, it is hard to pinpoint on players who dominated across the slams.

In the aftermath of world war, tennis became more of an international sport with the slams gaining in recognition and prestige. It was also a time of expansion with local clubs spurting everywhere. Still, tennis was fairly un-commercialized and elite privileged few competed. Great Britain, France and US shared the spoils of Davis Cup. Bill Tilden, Four Musketeers and Fred Perry were the most distinguished among those in this Expansion Era that overlapped two world wars.

With the memory of brutal World War 2 behind, the Professional Era reigned in nations that survived to exhibit a sense of optimism, peace and progress. With the advent of professional tennis along with prizes, tennis had taken growth from Down Under. The amateur and pro split is now firmly seated with grand slam equivalents for professionals - Wembley
, US Pro and French Pro. In an era predominately contested between Australia and US, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall from Down-under and Pancho Gonzalez were most distinguished among these elite champions. It was during this era from WW2 till 1968, that professional tennis has taken over from its amateurish roots and firmly seated itself as a professional sport.

With the clash of old and new, comes the fondly called Open Era, where everyone can compete in slams. With strongholds of slams allowing professionals, it was time of change, conflict and confusion. Professional tours and their competing players meant that there were only a few times when the world's best were all present for the three big slams. Tennis had its champions come from many different nations with Sweden a force to reckon with. The most distinguished among those were Bjorn Borg and American duo - Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. With a lot of feudal fighting among tours, organizations and everything, it truly was a time that put Tennis firmly in its seat as professional sport and was heavily commercialized with the advent of mass TV.

And from those turmoil gives birth to today's Modern Era of stability with the advent of Australian Open as the fourth slam and finally getting its
recognition and prestige in late 1980s. Tours were unified, tournaments expanded and commercialization to its tilt, tennis exploded world wide. Champions from vast different countries and Davis cup winners all around the world. Put to the test, tennis is now shown around the world with supreme athletic and coordination skills. With competition intensified, the most distinguished of this Modern Era includes Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

As we see, the history of tennis is long and storied with changes being thought of and inspired as times rolls by. It is truly a trivial pursuit to crown someone the greatest of them all, as you see, great men respond to changing times and champions do it both on and off-the-court.

Hope you have enjoyed this journey. I have put together a detailed spreadsheet of past champions in tennis history. It is freely available and editable by you.

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