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What are the Major Tournaments in Tennis?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Hundreds of tennis tournaments are held all over the world each year, but there are four major tournaments in tennis, collectively known as the Grand Slam. The Grand Slam tournaments attract the most talented tennis players from around the world, and they feature fast-paced, often thrilling competition. Being able to participate in a Grand Slam tournament is a huge honor, and winning one can be a major career boost. An athlete who manages to take all four Grand Slam titles is said to have a “Grand Slam.”

The term “Grand Slam” in reference to these four major tournaments has been used since 1933, when sports columnist John Kieran first referred to a “grand slam” on the tennis courts. The four Grand Slam tournaments are: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. The tournaments are spread out across the year, allowing plenty of time to recover and train for the events.

The Australian Open was first held in 1905, in Melbourne, Australia. It is traditionally held in January, during the peak of summer in the southern hemisphere, and it is notorious for its brutal heat. The French Open was established as a national tournament in 1891, becoming international in 1925. It is held in May/June in Paris. In June/July, the major tournaments hop across the English Channel to England for The Championships, Wimbledon, which has been held since 1877. The US Open, established in 1881, happens in New York City in September.

If an athlete wins all four Grand Slam titles in a year, it is known as a Calendar Year Grand Slam, and it is quite a feat. More commonly, athletes win a Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam, in which they pick up the four titles of the course of several consecutive years. If an athlete takes the titles in non-consecutive years, it is a Career Grand Slam.

Each of the major tournaments in tennis has its own distinct traditions and feel. People often dress up to see the Grand Slam tournaments, and the tournaments are typically accompanied with parties after the day's tennis is over. Tickets can be quite difficult to obtain, especially if people want to sit in an especially ideal spot on the courts, and the grueling schedule often forces spectators to pick and choose which athletes they want to see, and when.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports n' Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By kentuckycat — On May 22, 2012

@JimmyT - That is an excellent question that I quite frankly do not have an answer for, but wish I did.

I really think that these players that win these tournaments are beyond the playing level of their fellow professional players and winning the tournaments that make up the grad slam are what separates them from the rest.

The same could be said for other sports as the best athletes tend to take everything available and leave nothing for the average professionals.

It does seem though that in tennis this tends to happen more frequently and I am wondering if there has been studies done to determine why this is so and what makes a tennis player play at these high of levels again and again?

By JimmyT — On May 21, 2012

@stl156 - That is true, but one must keep in mind that that should not take away from what those people of the past accomplished as well as the players today.

The game today is a lot more competitive at that level simply due to the growth of the world wide population, as well as the growth in people that have access to tennis courts across the world.

Another factor to consider is that the money pays so well in tennis and that just heightens the amount of serious competition as compared to back in the early days, when only a few dozen or so competitors may enter a tournament.

Despite this rise in competition I still find it really strange that modern day players like Rafael Nadel, Roger Federer, and Pete Sampras win so much despite the high level of competition and not a whole lot of random, but talented players win more of these majors.

Something like this really makes me wonder why this is so and it seems like not as many underdogs win in tennis as compared with a sport like golf.

By stl156 — On May 20, 2012

@TreeMan - I could not agree more and Rod Laver may very well be the most underrated tennis player ever.

One thing that does have to be said though is that the Australian Open was around for professional tournament play, from the main world tennis organizations, until the middle part of the 20th century, which means some of the great tennis players of all time did not play in this event as it was not considered a major at the time.

As a matter of fact, I think that Rod Laver played in one of the first Australian Opens when it was considered a major and that was in the 1960's. That means that so many players did not get to play in this tournament when it was considered a major and there were only the three other major tournaments in tennis for a very long time.

By TreeMan — On May 19, 2012

Although most players do accomplish the non-calendar slam, or the career grand slam as I like to call it, it rarely happens and I believe there are only five men that can ever claim they have done this and not very many women either.

I know that there is only one person male or female to ever win the grand slam in a calendar year is Rod Laver, who won it twice, in a possible even more incredible span of eight years apart!

The grand slam is very hard to win because of the different types of courts that the players have to play on in all the grand slam tournaments, as the French Open has clay, which players hardly ever play, Wimbledon, played on grass, the US Open and Aussie Open are both played on regular courts, with the Aussie Open having a slight variation.

In order to win all these the player has to have top skill levels across the board the fact one man managed to do this in a calendar year twice, let alone eight years apart, is one of the greatest, most underrated achievements in the history of sports.

By ldgainey — On Jun 02, 2009

Again I ask. What and who now determines which tournaments can be classified as a major? Given the fact that history suggests such tournaments became majors, not by tennis community, but by news casters. Is there to be no more majors?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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