Men's Tennis: Rafael Nadal's Monte Carlo and 5 Lesser-Known Open Era Streaks
It's Monte Carlo time again, and we all now what that's supposed to mean.
It's that week in the year when we witness, for an unerring time yet again, an occasion of rare, almost seamless stability.
In a sport so hectic and jagged at the top, we have one man—Rafael Nadal—who has been undefeated in the last six years.
For the record, the last time Nadal didn't win Monte Carlo, Roger Federer was just a baby world No. 1, having in 2004 only just established himself as the world No. 1.
Since 2005, it has been Rafael Nadal all the way, and we have had to accustom outselves to seeing engraved on the Monte Carlo Masters shield the name of this fabulous Mallorcan bull, for longer than anyone else in the Open Era.
No one has won a tournament six straight times. Its not the only testimony to greatness which has rarely been acknowledged.
We all know about Roger Federer's slam semifinals streak, or Pete Sampras' six straight year-end No. 1's.
How about the lesser known achievements in tennis? Here are five.
Jimmy Connors' 16 Straight Wins over Vitas Gerulaitis
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First up, a bit of slight humour.
Ever wondered what the longest head-to-head losing streak was? Well it may not be this one, but it comes awfully close.
Vitas Gerulaitis, a long standing former Argentine, on finally defeating Jimmy Connors, having lost to him 16 straight times, famously quipped: 'Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row."
It was a fitting end to what had shaped up as one of history's most lopsided matchups.
Counting from their first match, before the Open Era, Connors defeated Gerulaitis in all of their first 16 meetings, in a strangely dominant run that probably belied the caliber of the Argentine.
It has parallels in the modern rivalry between Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt, who lost to the former 15 straight times before evening things up last year.
It may well be the longest winning streak any player has ever had against another—especially with such a distinguished pair as Connors and Gerulaitis.
However, it would probably go down famously, and not just for the quip.
Roger Federer's 24 Consecutive Tournament Final Victories
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On to more serious streaks, Roger Federer, as usual, offers us something special.
It's not his famed grand slam semifinals streak, or consecutive weeks at No. 1, however, this one comes from an older, more special era.
It was in the years 2003-05 that he compiled one of tennis' more remarkable runs—24 straight tournament finals victories.
This isn't an achievement that would immediately strike you, not quite as clearly perhaps as his five straight Wimbledons, but one which is poignant nonetheless.
It speaks volumes about his consistency and reliability, as well as determination, in his younger years.
To return tournament after tournament to find that extra gear in a final, and win it, takes a person of a certain character.
Few will probably ever match it.
It ended one fine evening at the ATP Masters Cup final in 2005, ironically, against David Nalbandian, when he had had a chance to serve out the match.
All good things, after all, do have to end someday.
Jimmy Connors' 27 Slam Quarterfinals Streak
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We have in the history books another obscure addition by Jimmy Connors, that long-standing American.
This one: his streak of 27 grand slam quarterfinals, in 27 straight slam appearances (not, however, consecutive appearances), has perhaps achieved less renown that it deserves.
Dating over 10 years from 1973-83, it is a testimony to good old-fashioned tennis workmanship.
Connors would play into his forties, and two other streaks—13 straight US Open quarterfinals being one of them—attest to this longevity.
While this quarterfinals streak has in some ways been surpassed by Federer's own grand slam achievements—which include coincidentally an ongoing 27 consecutive quarterfinals run that may be broken this year—Connors should not be forgotten for the man he was.
Bjorn Borg's 3 Straight Roland Garros-Wimbledon Doubles
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Of the greatest records, however, perhaps this one will remain the most inimitable, and until recently, was perhaps one of the lesser-known.
Borg's three consecutive Roland Garros-Wimbledon doubles, from the years 1978-80, are probably the Open Era's most notable field of Ws.
To have transitioned from the slow clay to fast grass of the All-England Club, for such a baseliner as Borg, and to have done so with the maximum success, is quite astounding.
His last, in 1980, was perhaps the most difficult, crowned by possibly the greatest match in tennis, in a five set victory over John McEnroe at Wimbledon.
To put things into perspective for modern fans—our two greatest players, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, have only so far achieved this double three times, between themselves.
Ivan Lendl's 8 Consecutive US Open Finals
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Maybe, in a litany of tennis' least well-known greatest-of-all-time records, this would be a No. 1 hit.
Ivan Lendl's feat of eight consecutive US Open finals will perhaps never ever be emulated ever again.
It would take eight good years, of course, in a world where having eight good years, and reaching a grand slam final in the first place, are tough things in themselves.
Then, of course, one would need the iron will of Lendl, that indomitable Czech.
While he would only win three of these finals, that we can't call this domination would be an irreverence to the grandeur of this last streak. It is quintessentially grand to proclaim an eight-time US Open finalist.
Federer, even, our king of Wimbledon for many years, has only managed seven straight finals there, while he was a point away from only making it seven straight last year.
Alas, even the greatest player of all time is up against time, and the wear of age.
Lendl, however, for eight remarkable years, defied them both.