As we head into championship weekend at Wimbledon, let’s take a look back at legendary matches that are forever part of Wimbledon lore.The legends Pete Sampras, Arthur Ashe, Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean King, and Stefi Graf are just a few of the participants featured in these extraordinary matches at Wimbledon.
One of the matches was interrupted by rain delays, another lasted five hours over a period of two games, and others ended with epic tie-breaks.
If the tennis tomorrow is half as good as the matches from the past, we’re all in for a real treat.
The Score: 1-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2
What Happened?: Mikael Pernfors was 10 years younger than the 35-year-old Jimmy Connors when he gave the American tennis legend a real run for his money in the fourth round of the 1987 Wimbledon tournament. Not only did Connors come back from a two-set deficit, he also came back from a 4-1 score in the third set, and a 3-0 score in the fourth. Not bad for an old guy.
The Score: 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
What Happened?: Illie Nastase was a lot like Novak Djokovic before there was Novak Djokovic. He was a showman who loved to imitate the mannerisms of his opponents just like someone else we know. Stan Smith was more of a lunch pail type who loved competition.
The first three sets of this match were exciting, but the final two were especially memorable. Nastase was down in the fourth set, but he managed to break the strong-served Smith to force an amazing fifth set where both players found an extra gear to reach shots previously thought to be unreachable. Smith ended up prevailing in the end, and Nastase didn't mock him either. In fact, he was a very gracious loser who understood how great that match was.
The Score: 2-6, 6-2, 9-7, 6-0
What Happened?: Laver and Ashe had the misfortune of playing a match after intense rain storms made the grass at Wimbledon as close to unplayable as possible. The baselines ended up getting chewed up, and some areas of the courts gave about as much bounce as a swamp would. Even though the elements weren't in his favour, Laver used his warrior-like qualities to take down a motivated Arthur Ashe.
The Score: 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
What Happened?: This was a match that wasn't particularly spell bounding, but it was full of great moments. Virginia Wade was a British player who unexpectedly defeated Chris Evert in the semifinals. Since there was a British player in the finals, the pageantry was rampant. It was the 100th anniversary of the first Wimbledon, it was also the 25th anniversary (the Silver Jubilee) of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. And yes, she was there.
The Queen ended up giving Wade the trophy, and the crowd responded by singing 'For She's A Jolly Good Fellow' for the newly crowned champion.
The Score: 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
What Happened?: A good way to frustrate Andre Agassi was to have him play most of the game at the net. Pat Rafter's style of casting players out and drawing them back in worked wonders as he ended up defeating the American. Agassi wasn't anemic by any stretch as he played well, but the net play ended up being too much for him.
The Score: 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2
What Happened?: This was a great match in it's own right, but this ended up being just the beginning of what was to come between the best two tennis players of the modern era. Federer and Nadal's match in the finals of the 2007 Wimbledon was the epitome of a 'seesaw' battle. Federer took the first, third, and final set whereas Nadal took the second and the fourth. Federer earned his fifth Wimbledon crown, and Nadal found the motivation to top him in next year's encore. There will be more on that 2008 match soon.
The Score: 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
What Happened?: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova were the two best players in women's tennis for a better part of the 1970s and 1980s. As a result of this, Navratilova and Evert ended up meeting each other in 60 tournament finals. Their 1978 Wimbledon final was likely the best of all. Evert was on the offensive for the early part of the match, but Navratiova ended up digging deep in order to force a well-played third set.
The Score: 7-6, 5-7, 6-4, 6-7, 7-5
What Happened?: Consider this match the moment Sampras passed the Wimbldon torch. Having won seven titles at the All England Club coming into the 2001 tournament, most tennis fans assumed that Pete was nearing his end and a new tennis phenom named Roger Federer was about to make his presence felt. Sampras didn't relinquish his reins easily, forcing four of the five sets to at least twelve games, and tiebreaks in two of them. Since losing this match, Sampras only won one more grand slam, and Federer ended up breaking his all-time grand slam title record.
The Score: 7-6,1-6, 6-4
What Happened?: Novotna had this match won. After dropping the first set, she responded soundly in the second only allowing Graf to win one game. Novotna kept it rolling in the third, and was one point away from taking a 5-1 lead in the final frame, but Graf ended up sticking around long enough to grind out a Wimbledon tournament victory. Novotna openly wept after losing this one.
The Score: 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
What Happened?: This may have been the only time in Billie Jean King's career where she looked truly rattled at Wimbledon. Her opponent, England's Ann Jones, was obviously the preferred choice of the British crowd lucky enough to attend the 1969 ladies' Wimbledon final.
King got off to a fantastic start in the first, but once the crowd started to make their opinion more well-known, Jones found her game and, as a result, also found the giant plate sitting on her mantle.
The Score: 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6
What Happened?: Borg and Gerulaitis were the best of friends and training partners prior to this match. They knew each other's games inside and out and it resulted in a back-and-forth match for the ages. For most of it, spectators really didn't have a clue who really had the upper hand. Gerulatis had an opportunity in the final set to take a 4-1 lead, but he ended up choking it away and Borg got the trophy.
The Score: 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7
What Happened?: Goran Ivanisevic was ranked 125th in the world, recovering from a bad shoulder injury, and was a wild card qualifier for the 2001 Wimbledon. No one expected that he'd win the entire thing, but that's exactly what he did. The final against Pat Rafter was an epic, three-hour, five set match.
The crowd at this Wimbledon final was unreal. The normally proper and polite crowd was covered by Croation flags for Ivanisevic, and inflatable kangaroos for Rafter. Few days at Wimbledon can compare to this one.
The Score: 4-6, 6-1, 7-5
What Happened?: Now this was just plain good tennis. Steffi Graf was the favourite in the match, but Vicario sure acted like she belonged there. The Spaniard won the first set, and Graf won the second one, but the third set was truly the stuff of legends. One of the games in that third set had 30-two points and thirteen deuces. Graf used her powerful forehand to escape that game and to win the match.
The Score: 14-12, 11-9
What Happened?: Few match-ups have a ring to it like a match called King vs. Court, so it makes perfect sense that the 1970 Wimbledon final was truly splendid. Both players had serious leg injuries to deal with during the match, but they gutted it out and pushed both sets to over 20 games. Court technically won in straight sets, but it certainly didn't feel that way.
The Score: 4-6, 7-6, 9-7
What Happened?: The longest women's final match in Wimbledon history, that's what happened! This power vs. power struggle was laborious for its participants, but exciting for its observers. Davenport did at one point serve for match point, but Venus didn't relent and hit some incredible running forehands that forced the final set to a tiebreaker. Davenport never again appeared in a grand slam final
The Score: 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
What Happened?: We talked about this match a little bit in shocking upsets feature, but that doesn't change the fact that the 1975 Wimbledon final between Connors and Ashe is one of the best ever. Jimmy was widely favoured to win this match-up. Ashe got the upper hand when he employed spins and speed changes to keep Connors on his toes all day long. Most of the excitement generated from this match was simply because no one saw this coming.
The Score: 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
What Happened?: During Agassi's bad boy phase, he once derided Wimbledon as a tournament stuck in the past that he didn't care for. His opinion changed radically when he beat Goran Ivanisevic in a gruelling five-set match in the 1992 Wimbledon final.
Agassi showed why he is one of the best baseline players in tennis history and held his own against the large Croation's lethal serve. Even after Ivanisevic appeared to have found his swagger in the fourth set, Agassi kept his composure until the fifth set concluded with him crying face down on Centre Court.
The Score: 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9
What Happened?: Pancho was 41-years old in 1969, but he showed the stamina of someone who was half his age in his first round match-up against Charlie Pasarell -- who was practically half Pancho's age.
This match had a total playing time of five hours and twelve minutes, spread across two days, and contained 112 games. After the marathon-esque first set ended with Gonzales losing, daylight was fading and Gonzales said he couldn't see the ball anymore. The umpire wanted play to continue, so Pancho basically threw the second set and walked off the court to the sound of boos.
When play resumed the next day, Pancho re-found his competitive nature and left everything out on the court. The young Pasarell, who deeply respected Gonzales, tried to take advantage of Pancho's advanced age by making him chase after soft serves. It didn't work.
In the fifth set, Gonzales faced seven match points from Pasarell, but he successfully evaded all of them and eventually won the final set 11-9. Until the Isner-Mahut match of 2010, no match in tennis's history was longer than Gonzales v. Pasarell.
The Score: 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6
What Happened?: Borg, the calm, cool, and collected swede against the fiery American John McEnroe created an interesting dynamic on the court. They also usually had interesting matches. This particular 1980 Wimbledon final was more than interesting.
A back-and-forth affair finished off with an epic tiebreak, the 24-year-old Bjorn Borg won his fifth (and final) Wimbledon in a row.
The Score: 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7
What Happened?: It just doesn't get any better than this. It started out with a 35-minute rain delay. Nadal then won the first two sets of the match which worried the tennis fans who were expecting to see an ultra-competitive match. Federer started his comeback in the third set, but it was stopped at 5-4 when another rain delay took effect for 80 minutes. The third set ended up going to tiebreak, but Federer held on. The next set was also a Federer-winning tiebreak. Just when everyone thought the match couldn't possibly get any more tensions, there was then one more rain delay in-between the fourth and fifth set. The action never stopped again after that.
At Wimbledon, there are no tiebreaks in the final set which ended up going 16 games. After various breaks, holdings of serves, and incredible rallies, Nadal topped Federer at his best event for the first time in his career. He also became only the third player ever to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back.
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