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Sunday, September 12, 2010
Updated: September 13, 11:32 PM ET
Where does Rafael Nadal's season rank?


When Rafael Nadal downed Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final Monday, he did something rarely accomplished -- win three straight majors in a calendar year. Nadal, at age 24, became the youngest man in the Open era to complete his Grand Slam set.

After claiming the French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open trifecta, the Spaniard pulled off one of the finest men's seasons in the Open era, joining illustrious company.

Here are the top five seasons in the Open era:

1. Rod Laver, 1969

The slender, stylish, attacking lefty was an amateur when he claimed the Grand Slam in 1962. Imagine the titles the Aussie would have racked up had he not been barred from 1963 to 1967 for being a professional.

Eligible in 1969, Laver achieved his second Grand Slam, competing against the likes of Ken Rosewall, his main rival, Stan Smith and Tony Roche. Back then, three of the four big ones were contested on grass.

Few noticed when Laver ousted Roche in the U.S. Open final delayed by rain.

"After the final, there were probably 10 people in the press," Laver, who went 106-16 in 1969, told ESPN.com last year. "There was nothing made of it at all."

2. Jimmy Connors, 1974

Younger fans might remember the gritty Connors for his exploits at the 1991 U.S. Open as a 39-year-old.

Seventeen years prior, Connors won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. In 20 tournaments, he lost a stingy four matches. He was one victory shy of 100, too.

Connors would have gotten there had he been allowed to participate at the French. Connors, another lefty, was ruled out after signing a contract to play World Team Tennis, to which French officials were opposed.

3. Roger Federer, 2006

In 2006, the Fed Express was blazing at full speed.

Federer reached the final at all four majors, winning three. In hindsight, this was the Swiss' best shot to complete the Grand Slam.

At the French Open, Federer crushed Nadal in the opening set. In his first service game of the second, he held a 40-0 advantage, only to blow it. Nadal then eased to a four-set triumph.

Federer made the final in 16 of 17 tournaments and went a dazzling 92-5.

4. Rafael Nadal, 2010

Even if he doesn't win another match the rest of 2010, Nadal has to be on the list. How he's improved from being simply a defensive clay-court specialist.

It all started so worryingly. His ever-tender knees forced him to retire in the Australian Open quarterfinals, and the knees bothered him again during the clay-court swing.

Nadal subsequently reclaimed his French Open title, overcame an early blip to shine at Wimbledon and finally tamed the faster New York hard courts. Not since Laver in '69 had a men's player won three majors in a row in a single season. Unlike Laver, he did it on three different surfaces.

5. Roger Federer, 2007

Federer's greatness lies in his consistency at the highest level, as evidenced by those 16 majors and his semifinal streak at the Grand Slams.

Federer backed up 2006 by once again winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open. He became the first man to reach all four Grand Slam finals in back-to-back campaigns.

When he advanced to the U.S. Open final, it marked an appearance in a record 10 consecutive Grand Slam finals.