Rafael Nadal has won the past three majors -- the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. If he wins the Australian Open on Jan. 30, Rafa would be the reigning champion at each of the four majors, a non-calendar Grand Slam last achieved in the sport by Serena Williams in 2002-2003. Should that feat be considered an achievement equal with winning the real, calendar Slam?
No, and it won't be by anyone except the most fervent Nadal fans.
The Grand Slam is winning all four majors in a calendar year. This is a fact that's not open to interpretation. To tweak the definition is to change its entire meaning. Nobody talks about winning the Grand Slam by winning the majors over two years. We all know what it means. It would begin in Melbourne and end in New York.
If Rafa were to win the Aussie, it would be a grand tennis achievement, one of the best in modern times. Nobody has held all four trophies since Rod Laver did in 1969 (when he accomplished the true Grand Slam). My fear is that if Nadal does win, this question about whether it's a real Grand Slam will overshadow the magnitude of his real accomplishment, winning four in-a-row. The question will be "is this good enough" not "how great is this?"
An album can be excellent without being "Abbey Road" and not every Best Picture winner has to be as good as "The Godfather." To make comparisons between disparate feats only serves to diminish the importance of the lesser one. Winning four straight Slams would be a towering tennis achievement. Let's leave it at that.
I doubt Rafa would argue. He'll be content to get his "Rafa Slam," which will be taken from the "Serena Slam," which, in turn, was taken from the "Tiger Slam" (accomplished by the golfer in 2000-2001), and then set his sights on winning the real one by defending his titles at the remaining three Grand Slams.
Only then will he get his chance to join Laver in the record books.