Don Budge and the First Grand Slam

In 1938, John Donald “Don” Budge became the first player in history to accomplish what had previously been considered unattainable: he won the singles championships at Australia, Roland-Garros, Wimbledon, and the United States, completing the first ever Grand Slam.

American Don Budge started on the amateur circuit in 1932, but began to experience significant success in 1937, winning the rare “triple crown” at Wimbledon in 1937: winning the singles, doubles, and mixed doubles championships. He nearly repeated the triple crown at the U.S. National Championships in 1937, winning the singles and mixed doubles titles, but lost in the doubles final.

Then began his Grand Slam Year in 1938. He started with defeating Australian and fellow Hall of Famer John Bromwich at the Australian Championships, and a straight-set victory at the Roland-Garros Championships over Roderich Menzel. With this win, he achieved a non-calendar year Grand Slam, and was reigning champion at all four of the majors. However, Budge was not done, and his next two majors were two of the greatest tennis of his career. At Wimbledon, Budge yet again achieved a “triple crown” winning all three titles, without dropping a set in the entire singles tournament. Budge rounded out his year with yet another triple crown at the U.S. National Championships, winning the mixed doubles with Alice Marble, who also completed the triple crown at the same tournament. With this win, he officially became the first player to complete the true Grand Slam.

1938 Renshaw Cup for Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles Championship presented to Don Budge

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1938 United States Lawn Tennis Association U.S. National Men’s Singles Championship Trophy presented to Don Budge

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(photos left to right) Don Budge signing autographs for U.S. Army Air Corps members; Bill Talbert (l) with Don Budge (r) in 1989; Don Budge in action again Bobby Riggs in 1946

In 1939, Budge turned professional, ending his ability to compete in the majors. He experienced significant success on the professional tournament, winning the 1942 United States Pro title. During this time, he also played top American Tennis Association (ATA) player Jimmie McDaniel in an exhibition match before 2,000 fans at the Cosmopolitan Club in Harlem, New York City. This match, which took place on July 29, 1940, is believed to be the first interracial tennis match in the United States.

With the termination of the pro tour in the U.S. in 1942 due to World War II, Budge shifted gears and joined the U.S. Army Air Force for the remainder of the war. He returned to tennis after the war, once again competing on the pro tour, and experienced some success, reaching the finals of the US Pro tour in both 1949 and 1953.