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September 17, 1960: The day when the US Nationals finals took place a week late due to Hurricane Donna

Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day in 1960, a quartet of legendary players took to the court a week after their semi-finals to play the hurricane-delayed US Open final

What exactly happened on that day?

On this day, September 17, 1960, the US National Championship finals were played a full week after the semi-finals, as New York was hit by Hurricane Donna. Both the men’s and women’s finals were scheduled on the same day. After the long wait, Neale Fraser won his last Grand Slam title while Darlene Hard eventually triumphed at the US Nationals after having previously lost in the final. It was the longest delay ever seen at a Major tournament.

The players: Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Darlene Hard and Maria Bueno

  • Neale Fraser: the world’s top-ranked amateur

Neale Fraser, from Australia, was born in 1933 in Melbourne. He was considered the world No 1 amateur since winning his first Grand Slam crown at Forest Hills in 1959, defeating Alex Olmedo in the final (6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4). Beaten in the 1960 Australian Championships final by countryman Rod Laver, he took his revenge at Wimbledon, edging “Rocket” in the final (5-7, 3-6, 6-3, 8-6, 8-6). The Australian left-hander had also claimed seven major titles in doubles.

  • Rod Laver: the Rocket from Rockhampton

Rod Laver was born in 1938 in the town of Rockhampton, Australia. The southpaw from Queensland achieved his first remarkable success in 1957, when he became both the Australian and the US champion in juniors. He made himself famous in 1959, reaching the three finals at Wimbledon (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) and being a part of the Australian team who won the Davis Cup. In 1960, he claimed his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Championships, held that year in Brisbane, and he finished runner-up at Wimbledon a second time.

  • Darlene Hard: the Roland-Garros champion

Darlene Hard was born in 1936 in Los Angeles, California. In singles, she had obtained several great results in Grand Slams since 1955. She finished runner-up twice to Althea Gibson, the first time at Wimbledon in 1957 (lost 6-3, 6-2), and the second time in 1958 at the US Nationals (lost 3-6, 6-1, 6-2). In 1960, she won her first Grand Slam title at Roland-Garros, defeating Yola Ramirez in the final (6-3, 6-4). Hard was even more accomplished in doubles, where she had already accumulated eight major titles.

  • Maria Bueno: the world No 1 from Brazil

Maria Bueno, from Brazil, was born in Sao Paulo in 1939. In 1959, she was considered the world No 1 after she triumphed at Wimbledon (defeating Darlene Hard, 6-4, 6-3) and at the US Nationals (beating Christine Truman, 6-1, 6-4). In 1960, defeated by Darlene Hard in the Roland-Garros semi-finals, she successfully defended her title at the All England Club, beating Sandra Reynolds, 8-6, 6-0. She also held three major titles in doubles.

The place: The US Open

The US Open (known as the US Nationals before 1968 and the start of the Open Era) was established in 1881, and, although it is the only Grand Slam to have been played every single year without an interruption since its beginning, it moved several times throughout the 20th century. First held in August 1881 on grass courts at the Newport Casino, on Rhode Island, the tournament moved to New York in 1915, where it was held at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills. 

The facts: Hurricane Donna postpones the finals by a week

Everything had started normally at the 1960 US National Championships. It was not before the semi-finals were completed, on September 10,  that things turned upside down. After Fraser and Laver, as well as Hard and Bueno, progressed to the finals, Hurricane Donna was raging. Although its eye didn’t approach the West Side Tennis Club, it caused enough rain to make playing impossible for seven days. Never before in tennis history had players waited so long to finish a Grand Slam tournament.

On September 17, the grass courts were eventually suitable for play at Forest Hills. Fraser, the defending champion, retained his title, beating Laver in a battle of left-handers 6-4, 6-4, 10-8, achieving the feat of winning the US Nationals without dropping a single set. It was the third time the two Aussies faced each other in a Grand Slam final in 1960, and Fraser took the lead 2-1, having won at Wimbledon after losing to Laver in Brisbane.

The women’s final was more competitive. In 1959, Darlene Hard had lost to Maria Bueno in the Wimbledon final, and later, in the US Nationals semi-finals. The two players knew each other very well – they had even won the US Nationals doubles titles together. Hard, who had accumulated much confidence by triumphing at Roland-Garros in June, took the first set (6-3). The defending champion didn’t give up so easily and won a close second set, 12-10. In the decider, the American eventually prevailed, 6-4, claiming her second Grand Slam crown. 

What next? Rod Laver goes on to win the calendar Grand Slam twice

While Neale Fraser did not win any more major titles, Rod Laver would become the greatest player of his time, completing the calendar Grand Slam twice: the first one in 1962 as an amateur, and the second one in 1969 in the Open Era. In the meantime, he would have also become the best professional player in the 1960s. 

Darlene Hard would defend her US Nationals title in 1961, claiming the last of her three Grand Slam titles. At the end of her career, she would hold 13 Grand Slam crowns in doubles, five of these partnering Maria Bueno. Bueno would win four more major tournaments in singles, the last one at Forest Hills in 1966.

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