The French Open, which was to have started this week, has been postponed and Wimbledon was canceled. The US Open also might not happen because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a painful reminder that Grand Slam events are rare and precious opportunities for the players.
Nobody understands that better than the perennial Grand Slam contenders who never managed to punch through to win a major title. They constitute an elite club that most of them would just as soon not be in. Yet few of them would trade careers with “one-Slam wonders” such as Gaston Gaudio or Iva Majoli, both Grand Slam singles champions, both remembered best these days by trivia buffs.
Thanks to the Big Three — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic — this era has been a great recruiting period for that “best player never to win a major” club. Candidates include the likes of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic, all of whom are still active and thus still subject to salvation.
“Time and time again, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have beaten the ‘best to never to win a major,'” ESPN commentator Chris McKendry said. “They’re men who had the simple misfortune of being born at the wrong time.”
Some of those contenders still have a shot: For example, Dominic Thiem is just 26 years old, but he’s already been in three Grand Slam finals. So we’ve restricted this survey to retired players. ESPN.com canvassed a host of experts to come up with a list of the main candidates in the “no-Slam wonders” club for men and women as we reflect on what was scheduled to be the start of the French Open.
We’ll start with the top eight contenders from the ATP, ranked alphabetically:
Career-high ranking: No. 3
Grand Slams: French Open final, 2004; two US Open quarterfinals
Career finals W-L: 9-11, including wins at Hamburg and Monte Carlo
Nicknamed “El Mago” (“The Magician”) in the Argentine’s native Spanish language, Coria was a wizard on red dirt. “He was actually called the ‘King of Clay’ before Rafa was,” ESPN analyst Sam Gore said. “He was lightning fast, and he’s still considered one of the best serve returners ever.”
Coria, just 5-foot-9 and 125 pounds, overcame an early career doping suspension and ultimately became the 2004 French Open finalist, losing to Gaston Gaudio in a match no witness will ever forget: Coria served for the match twice and failed to capitalize on two match points in the heartbreaking loss.
How could he choke so badly? The matchup seemed absurd. Coria, the No. 3 seed, was a prohibitive favorite facing an unheralded countryman ranked No. 44. It was a surreal challenge. As Gaudio said after he won: “Losing the French Open final with two match points isn’t easy against anyone. Imagine losing to me.”
Pros: Coria is still ranked No. 1 in three of the four most important serve return statistical categories. No one, not even Djokovic, has posted a better break-point percentage (45.71%). Coria also remains tops in first-serve return…
Read More: The best ATP players never to win a Grand Slam singles title 2020-05-21 13:04:59