We feel like we’re experiencing unprecedented times with this coronavirus outbreak wreaking havoc on the tennis season, as a lot of tournaments have been cancelled, while Grand Slams are still officially all planned to take place, with Roland Garros being weirdly rescheduled for one week after the US Open, so it’s hard to imagine how this will all work out.
Let’s dive into the history records and learn whether there were times when majors were canceled. You guessed it, of course there were such instances! Let’s see when and why we didn’t have all four Grand Slams in a single season. I was inspired to cover this topic by reading Todd Spiker’s WTA Backspin.
We first have to mention that the possibility of being the reigning champion of all the four Grand Slams did not exist until 1925, as the French Championships was not considered a major before that time. Moreover, we should put in perspective that skipping majors—especially the Australian Open because of the remoteness, the inconvenient dates (around Christmas and New Year’s Day) and the low prize money—was not unusual before 1982. (via Wikipedia)
The last year without all four majors was 1986. That was because the Australian Open dates fluctuated in the early years and after the 1982-1985 period when it was held in mid-December, the tournament was pushed to mid-January, so there was no event in 1986. Since 1987, the Australian Open date has not changed.
Prior to that, tennis was disrupted during war times, with the US Open, founded in 1881, being the only Grand Slam that has never been canceled.
The Australian Open was not held from 1916 to 1918 because of World War I and from 1941 to 1945 because of World War II. Wimbledon was not held from 1915 to 1918 because of World War I and again from 1940 to 1945 because of World War II. When it comes to Roland Garros, it was not held from 1915 to 1919 because of World War I and from 1940 to 1944 during World War II, although it was held unofficially under German occupation from 1941 to 1944 as Tournoi de France (a name given retroactively, not considered to be a Grand Slam event, not sanctioned or recognized by the French Tennis Federation).
Historia est Magistra Vitae. As we can see, this is not the first time that tennis is experiencing difficult times, actually, there were much worse periods in not so distant past. We’ll go through this crisis and figure out how to cover the damage.