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  Saturday, 20 July, 2002, 20:31 GMT 21:31 UK
Laver's Grand Slam moment
Andre Agassi and Rod Laver bust
Agassi stands next to a bust of Rod Laver
For all the history and tradition of Wimbledon, the US Open was the event where Rod Laver became the only man to complete the Grand Slam of all four major championships in the Open era.

In 1969, at the event's previous home, Forest Hills, Laver beat fellow Australian Tony Roche 7-9 6-1 6-3 6-2 to claim his second Grand Slam, the first having come seven years before when he was an amateur.

Much is written about how the game has changed since 1969, when professionals were allowed to compete in the major tournaments for the first time as the Open era began.

There's no better example of this than Laver's Grand Slam. Because of rain, the men's final was held over to the third Monday, as happened at Wimbledon this year.

But instead of tens of thousands of screaming fans queuing all night to get in, only 3,708 turned up to witness tennis history.

Rod Laver
Laver was made to wait to achieve his Grand Slam

When there was more rain on the Monday, a helicopter was drafted in to hover over the Stadium Court and dry the grass court.

Even then, the surface was still slippery and Laver gave much of the credit for his win down to his decision to switch to tennis shoes with spikes.

The achievement did get into the newspapers, but with barely a fraction of the column inches it would attract today if Andre Agassi or Jennifer Capriati had continued their early season form throughout the summer.

Laver said: "Things have certainly changed from when I played. I marvel at all the improvements that have been made in the game. Competition is stiffer now. They play twice as fast and it is much harder on the body."

These days, the US Open is a slightly different affair. In 1974, they dug up the grass and played the next four championships on clay, partly so night matches could be staged.

Rod Laver
Laver: The game is twice as fast

In 1978, the event moved from the sedate surroundings of Forest Hills a few miles down the road to Flushing Meadows, its current home, where hard courts were used for the first time in the tournament.

The contrast was stark. The biggest show court was the Louis Armstrong Stadium, right underneath the flight path of planes leaving the nearby La Guardia airport - until a tennis-loving New York mayor ordered they change their route during the tournament a few years ago.

A new show court, Arthur Ashe Stadium, was opened in 1997 and is the biggest in the tennis world.

The demands of television are greater in the United States than they are anywhere else in the world.

It is for that reason that both men's semi-finals and the women's final are played on the same day, the so-called Super Saturday, with the men having to play their final 24 hours later no matter how long their semis last.

It can mean a very long day for spectators. The men semi-finalists complain about having to play two of the most important matches of their lives on consecutive days and the women grumble about taking second billing.

Laver and his contemporaries may have opened up the commercial world of tennis, but there is always a price to pay.

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