Written by By Staff Writer
Switzerland’s Diede de Groot became the first player in wheelchair tennis history to reach a “golden slam” when she won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in the same year, breaking her compatriot Sascha Bajin’s record set in 2005.
De Groot beat Spain’s Fernando Verdasco 6-4, 6-3 to win the Australian Open on January 23. Then on Saturday she became the first player since Sally Peers in 2005 to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.
The Swiss star will now have one remaining opportunity to seal the “golden slam” when she plays Germany’s Tatjana Maria in the US Open beginning in New York on August 28.
The 34-year-old, who won the Wimbledon singles title in 2014, is the first Swiss to win three Grand Slam singles events in a calendar year since Martina Hingis in 1997. She is the fourth in wheelchair tennis and the first since Boris Becker in 1988.
De Groot came back from a serious ankle injury at the Australian Open to win that title and became the first player to book her place in the final of the French Open since her boyfriend, 2002 Wimbledon champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, did it in 2008.
The 10th seed would have been “super excited” to retain the French Open title, but she won’t be emotionally preparing for the finals now “because of what’s happened,” she told CNN at Wimbledon.
“For me, today it’s about the win here, it’s about making it to the final of the Wimbledon, and also hopefully we get to do this amazing triple slam but I think it’s not really the time to be thinking about that.”
With no wheelchair singles players on the main women’s tour at the moment, De Groot’s achievements mean she could become the leading female wheelchair athlete in the world.
“I’m happy to be joining such illustrious athletes as Margaret Court and the Becker brothers when it comes to an exclusive club, and I know I have to improve my game to take a big step up.
“That is the goal for me now, to become the best in the world.”
After De Groot beat Bajin in the final of the 2005 US Open, her fellow Swiss player Serge Gajic said she was “jealous,” in French, of Bajin’s achievement.
“You have to face something special when you have won everything,” she said. “My role is to soak it all in.”
“For me, tennis has always been a dream but I always thought it was just for me. Then I met Svetlana (Kuznetsova) in the US Open final (in 2008) and that was the last time I played in a major semi-final.
“A few years passed, and in 2015 I could already see from behind the curtain: that’s not the end. I am a professional athlete and I have to accept the game. I started to feel good, and slowly I got more confidence in my game.”