His dearest memory of that time is of the night he was invited to the Paris apartment of Pablo Casals. Budge had met the cellist during the French championships. After dinner Budge and the other guests assembled in the living room, sitting on great cushions as Casals took up his cello. "This concert is for my good friend Don Budge." was all that Casals said, and then he began to play.
The horror of the late '30s stood in stark contrast to the quaintness of the sportsmen athletes of the time. When the hurricane postponed the Forest Hills finals, Budge and Mako made a gentlemen's agreement to stay out with their respective girlfriends to a mutually acceptable hour—midnight, one, two, whatever—assured that the other wouldn't cheat and take an early night's rest. Only a few days after Budge won the Grand Slam. Chamberlain went to Munich and cut the ill-advised deal that provided Hitler with a major stepping-stone, Czechoslovakia, in his quest to conquer Europe.
Nineteen thirty-eight was also the year Laver was born, so that he turns half a century as the Slam does. In 1962, Budge, ever the gentleman, cheered enthusiastically for Laver to become the first male to match his feat. He even took Laver out to the country just before Forest Hills began so that the Rocket could escape all the fuss, and the two redheads played a couple of easy sets. Budge then greeted Laver at Forest Hills when he won the Slam. The torch was passed. It's a pity there isn't a Budge Cup or some such thing he could present to Graf should she become the fifth singles Slammer.
Budge's lasting regret is that his path was eased because the Nazis had locked up the great German player Baron Gottfried von Cramm, a critic of the Fatherland, in the spring of '38. Without von Cramm to contend with, Budge so outclassed the rest of the field that when Mako won one set from him in the U.S. finals, it was widely assumed that Budge had tossed a bone to his buddy. Budge vigorously denies the allegation.
Connolly, the youngest Slammer—when she won in '53, she was three months younger than Graf will be in September—was even more dominant than Budge, losing only one set in the four tournaments. Court dropped three sets. Curiously, although Laver is the only player to have won a singles Slam twice—first as a 24-year-old amateur and then as a doddering 31-year-old pro in the second year of open tennis—he is the only Slammer to have struggled.
Indeed, in '62 on the French clay, the surface most inhospitable to Laver, he faced the only match point any Slammer has been obliged to endure. In the quarterfinals, Laver trailed Marty Mulligan two sets to one and 5-4, 40-30. He came to the net behind a second serve—on clay, remember—guessed that Mulligan would return down the line and volleyed a backhand winner. In the semis, Laver won after Neale Fraser had served for the match in the fifth set. In the finals, Emerson led the Rocket two sets to none and then 3-0 in the fourth set.
In '69, Laver won despite 16 losses on the year, five alone to Tony Roche, whom he whipped 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the finals at Forest Hills. Generally, Grand Slams start in pitiless Australian heat and end in New York rain. That year Laver was down two sets to love twice—to Dick Crealy and Premjit Lall; titans walked the earth then—won sets at 22-20,18-16,14-12,13-11 and had to play brilliantly to come from behind to defeat John Newcombe in the Wimbledon finals. Moreover, Laver's only child, conceived shortly before the Australian Open, was born shortly after he won Forest Hills.
Nonetheless, the single most memorable Grand Slam winner's match was Court's 14-12, 11-9 victory over King in the '70 Wimbledon finals. The 46 games lasted nearly 2½ hours, and for Court, who was often criticized for wilting under pressure, it was her grandest triumph. She had torn ligaments in her left ankle in the quarterfinals and was shot full of painkiller. King had a Swiss-cheese knee that would go under the surgeon's knife right after Wimbledon—and keep her from challenging Court at Forest Hills.
Court's doctor warned her husband, Barry, that she risked permanent damage if she tested the ligaments at Forest Hills, but Barry kept this counsel to himself, and his wife won the Slam. Court thus finally brought a Grand Slam to Albury. She had come from the same town as Crawford.
Connolly is perhaps the least well known of this select group. But had her career not ended less than a year after she won the Slam, she might well be the standard against which all female players are measured. Graf so reminds many of Connolly—in her style and dispatch as well as her precocity—that whatever Graf accomplishes will reflect glory upon Connolly.