The tennis season is one of the longest in professional sports, and while tennis players may compete in dozens of events throughout the year, there are four that stand above the rest: The Grand Slam Majors. The majors comprise the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open, and capturing any one of the four grand slam titles is a career goal for any player who has taken to the tennis court. Each of these four events has its own unique history.
The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam event of the year and is held during two weeks in January. It was held for the first time in 1905. Since then it has undergone some substantial changes, including moving from grass courts to hard courts in 1988. The Australian Open has also given tennis fans some of the most memorable matches in tennis history.
The 2012 Men's Singles final, which pitted Novak Djokovic against Rafael Nadal, is one of the most famous finals in recent memory. The match lasted five sets, with nearly every one going down to the wire. It took nearly six hours to complete. In the end Djokovic was able to defend his 2011 title. (He also captured the 2013 Australian Open title to make it three in a row.)
Held between late May and early June at legendary Roland Garros, the French Open is among the most unique major sporting events in the world. Unlike the other three Grand Slam tournaments, the French Open is held on clay courts, which not only adds an unusual element to the game, but also sets it apart from most other competitions. The Open dates back to the 1890s, but it was more than 30 years until players outside of France were allowed to enter.
During the tournament's lengthy history, few players have been more dominant on its clay surface than Nadal on the men's side and Justine Henin on the women's. Between 2005 and 2012, Nadal won seven times (only losing in 2009), while Henin has captured four titles.
Arguably the most famous of the four Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon is also the oldest. The event has been held since 1877 at the legendary All England Club, and it is the only one of the majors to be played on grass courts. Much like the other tournaments, Wimbledon has helped turn big name players into legends. Roger Federer (who holds 17 Grand Slam titles as of 2013) has won Wimbledon seven times, and it's where he has had his greatest successes.
Since it was first hosted in 1881, winning the US Open has been the goal for all American tennis players. The event is held each year in New York City, with the finals being played in legendary Arthur Ashe Stadium. In the same way Federer is synonymous with Wimbledon, Pete Sampras was known to play his best tennis at the US Open - he captured five singles titles during his career. The same can be said for Steffi Graf, who has five titles of her own.