In the autumn of 1969, Rod Laver was staying in a penthouse apartment in Manhattan owned by Charlton Heston. The apartment – as Laver recounted in his memoir – had three floors and the fridge was perfectly stocked for a 1960s tennis player: Steak, eggs, juice, beer. Charlton, the Oscar-winning actor from Ben-Hur was known for his Biblical films, but Laver was the star of real-life epics. He was about to win the US Open and seal his second Grand Slam.
Fifty-two years later Novak Djokovic comes to New York chasing his first Grand Slam with enough money to buy his own penthouse. In 1969, Laver – whose first Grand Slam was in 1962 – won US$106,000 all year while this year Djokovic has US$6,195,865. Tennis has altered. The morning after winning Wimbledon in 1969, Laver woke up in his bathtub with his tuxedo on. Djokovic this year perhaps celebrated his grass-court win by feasting on a gluten-free concoction and getting in touch with his inner Novak.
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