3 players who took the longest to make their Grand Slam breakthrough
Since tennis opened its doors to professionals in the summer of 1968, 207 Grand Slam tournaments in the Open Era have witnessed 93 different players reaching a final. Of the 54 different players to lift a Grand Slam title, Roger Federer (20) leads a group of 30 players to triumph multiple times at a Major.
Tony Roche is the only player to lose three Grand Slam finals without winning one, while Dominic Thiem (2019 Roland Garros) is one of 11 players to reach multiple Slam finals without winning one.
At the other end of the spectrum, Gustavo Kuerten (three) leads a group of 12 players to have a 100% success rate in Grand Slam finals. Apart from Kuerten and Johan Kriek (two), none of these 12 players played more than one title match.
Ken Rosewall (1968 French Open) won the first Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era but the Australian had also won four titles in the Amateur Era. If players who have won a Grand Slam tournament in the Amateur Era are excluded, no player has ever won the title on his Grand Slam debut in the Open Era.
On that note, let us meet the three players who took the longest to win their first Grand Slam title.
#3 Petr Korda (1998 Australian Open)
Since going down to American Jim Courier in straight sets in his maiden Grand Slam final at Roland Garros 1992, Petr Korda made quarterfinals at the 1993 Australian Open and the 1997 US Open before making his second Grand Slam final at the 1998 Australian Open.
Contesting the first all-lefty Grand Slam final since John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors at 1984 Wimbledon, Korda faced Marcelo Rios of Chile. Rios holds the rather unwanted distinction of being the only player ranked World No. 1 to have never won a Grand Slam title.
It would be Rios' first and last opportunity to do so. The maverick Chilean, plagued by numerous injuries, would never reach another Grand Slam title match.
The final itself between the two left-handers turned out to be a rather one-sided one. Korda beat Rios for the loss of two games in each set for the most lopsided Grand Slam final in the decade since the 1991 US Open (Stefan Edberg beat Jim Courier 6-4, 6-2, 6-0). With the win, the then 31-year-old Korda ascended to a career-high of World No. 2.
With his maiden Slam title coming in his 34th appearance at a Major, only two other players have taken longer than Korda to make their Slam breakthrough in the Open Era.