Top 10 Wimbledon moments
MCENROE’S MELTDOWN – 1981
The most iconic verbal outburst to emerge from the game’s lexicon, John McEnroe’s incredulous “You cannot be serious?!!” outburst leveled at umpire Ted James, for what he believed was a bad line call, was just one of numerous tantrums from the petulant American that threatened to get him kicked out of the Lawns Club. It transpired that James was indeed deadly serious and penalised the ever-moody McEnroe a point. Served.
THE PAT CASH CLIMB – 1987
While this celebration has become more commonplace -almost bordering on cliche – today, it was Australian Pat Cash’s famous scaling of the stands to the player’s box after winning the Wimbledon title that spawned the numerous copycat attempts we see today.
Vanquishing the formidable Ivan Lendl in the 1987 men’s final, Cash made a beeline off the court and through the crowds shouting “Out of my way!” in thick Aussie accent – and climbed ceremoniously up the Centre Court terraces to the open arms of his friends and family.
THE YOUNG CHAMP – 1985
When you consider the numerous 20 or 30 something-year-old tennis greats that have shed bitter, defeated tears on Wimbledon’s hallowed turf in pursuit of their prize, it seems faintly ridiculous that an unseeded German teenager could enter the tournament and win the whole thing on his first attempt. That was however, the exact feat achieved by a gangly 17-year-old German lad by the name of Boris Becker in 1985, making history with a staggering upset that is still to this day, yet to be trumped.
After the tournament, a modest Becker confessed that he had been fortunate not to have met top seeds Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe in the lead up to the last round, with those two legends having been bested by his eventual opponent in the final, Kevin Curren.
A completely unknown quantity before the tournament, Becker took just over three hours to cast off the eighth seed Connors, becoming both the youngest player ever and the first German in history to lift the championship.
THE GREATEST FINAL – 2008
Pure sporting theatre. Arguably two of the greatest players to ever pick up a tennis racquet, pitted against each other at the peak of their game – the perfect denouement to a rivalry that had dominated the last decade. The peerless, ever-graceful and seemingly insurmountable Roger Federer facing off once again against the might of the ruthless champion of the clay court, Rafa Nadal, in one of the most anticipated Wimbledon finals in years.
Nadal was entering on a 23 match winning streak, and many bookies had the Spaniard down as the favourite, despite Federer (a five-time champion looking for a staggering sixth consecutive victory) reaching the final without having lost a set. What ensued was described by former champion John McEnroe as “undoubtedly the greatest tennis match I’ve ever seen.” If it wasn’t the greatest final in Wimbledon history, it was certainly the longest (owing to rain delays), and the final points were played in near darkness. Despite squandering two Championship points earlier, the steely Nadal held his nerve on the fifth set – ending Federer’s sublime five year reign on the lawn scene – becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg to win both the French Open and Wimbledon in the same summer.
QUEEN OF THE RECORD – 1990
One of the real forces of women’s tennis, the sight of Martina Navaratilova hoisting another trophy aloft was a common one in the late eighties, but it was in the summer of 1990 that the Czech re-wrote the sporting annuls when she broke a 52-year-old record by winning a Wimbledon ladies’ championship for the ninth time. American sportswriter Frank Deford would later write of Navaratilova’s achievements: “How gratifying it must have been for her, To have achieved so much, triumphed so magnificently, yet always to have been the other, the odd one, alone: lefthander in a right-handed universe, gay in a straight world; defector, immigrant; the (last?) gallant volleyer among all those duplicate baseline bytes.”
THE LONGEST MATCH THERE EVER WAS -2010
A game of pure, unadulterated attrition, and that was just for the spectators. Spanning a quite staggering 11 hours and five minutes, John Isner and Nicholas Mahut’s exhausting Wimbledon epic claims the (highly unsought after) title of the longest tennis match in history, for both time and the number of games played. Fought out over three days, the gladiatorial bout went on for 183 games, with the eternal stalemate of a last set eventually going Isner’s way by an absurd 70 games to 68. Today the historical contest is affectionately referred to in many tennis circles as ‘The endless match’
NOVOTNA’S TEARS – 1993
While anointing this moment ‘great’ seems a little harsh, it certainly embeds itself in Wimbledon tennis folklore as one of the most memorable. Despite suffering from what some had deemed a fragile psyche, number eight seed Jana Novotna’s furious, unforgiving stride through the Wimbledon tournament culminated in a championship face off against the then world number one, German powerhouse Steffi Graf. Despite the odds stacked against her, Novotna fought her way to the precipice of a 5-1 lead in the the third and final set, needing a solitary point that would have rendered a win almost a formality.
What followed first was a visibly nervy double fault, cruelly compounded by an implosion of catastrophic proportions. Right on the edge of glory, the young Czech went to pieces – losing control of her forehand, her backhand, and eventually what had previously looked to be her championship. Seizing on this weakness, Graf ran out a 6-4 winner in the final set, claiming her third straight Wimbledon championship. The image that would resonate through the corridors of sport however would not feature the victorious German, but rather this poignant shot of a broken Novotna, weeping on to the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent. A tender homage to both the cruelty of sport and the price of failure at the highest level.
THE WONDROUS WILDCARD – 2001
It takes an individual of strong mental fortitude to bounce back from the most crushing of losses, and perennial fans favourite Goran Ivanisevic had suffered on Wimbledon turf considerably more than most. Before his fateful 2001 final date, the talented and eminently affable Croat had already played and lost in no fewer than three Wimbledon finals already. Breaking British hearts when he dispatched the nation’s only real tennis hope, Tim Henman in a fiercely contested semi-final, Goran (who entered the competition as a wildcard on account of injury) was pitted against Australia’s Pat Rafter in what would be his fourth and ultimately last Wimbledon final.
Having been bested in the same English arena by legends Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras in preceding years, this time around it was – in Ivanisevic’s humble words – the European’s ‘destiny’ to seize glory. He beat Rafter in five pulsating sets in front of a Monday Wimbledon crowd (the final had been delayed owing to the bucketing rain that had been a semi-permanent fixture throughout the tournament) and afterwards said of the victory, “Winning Wimbledon is the most beautiful moment in my career. By far. If I had lost that match, my fourth final, I would have had to move to the North Pole, or maybe I’d have killed myself by hanging myself off a bridge.” Thankfully for all concerned, destiny it seemed, had other desires for Goran.
THE TIE BREAK – 1980
The most famous tie-break in the history of Wimbledon and perhaps by extension, even the game itself. The 1980 men’s final saw a war between what was then the epitome of the old guard – the supreme Swede Bjorn Borg – and the new, in the tempestuous yet supremely talented, John McEnroe. Indeed, the duo’s playing styles were so different it led US network to sensationally label the match a clash of ‘Fire and Ice’.
While there has been many similar or higher scoring tie-breaks down the years, none hold a candle to what is often deemed by tennis purists, ‘The War of 18-16′.
In what later become a famous 20 minute battle, McEnroe would save match point a nerve shredding seven times, eventually winning the tie-break 18-16. It was however, to be Borg’s day, and ultimately his championship. Though the Swede was clearly shaken by what had just unfolded, losing the tie-break and throwing away so many match points, like all greats of the game he exhibited far sterner stuff than most of us hold in our sinew, serving out the first game of the fifth and final set before eventually emerging victorious by 8 games to 6. Arguably it was tennis however, that proved the real winner that fateful summer afternoon.
MURRAY ENDS 77 YEARS OF HOME TURF HURT – 2013
Often seen by many as a morose, but undeniably gifted Scottish tennis talent, it was Andy Murray’s heroic efforts in the 2012 Wimbledon final that saw him transcend this loose description into a different animal entirely. His warrior-like attempts against Roger Federer -a man who had long before etched his name into the pantheon of tennis greats – garnered international plaudits and acclaim the likes of which he had never seen. While the pained tears he shed afterwards endeared the athlete to the nation in a manner that they had probably never seen. And though most of Britain’s eyes watered along with Andy’s that July evening, here stood a player they could not only be proud of, but more importantly, one they could finally pin their championship hopes to. Fortunately, the partisan British crowd would only have to wait a year…
Bolstered by his very first major in America a few months before, Murray set up his second successive final date at the All England Club, against the very man he usurped in the US Open, Novak Djokovic. Not since 1936 had the Wimbledon faithful celebrated a home-grown champion, and with 15,000 vying for him on Centre Court – not to mention millions more around the country – a herculian Murray put Djokovic to the sword in three straight sets, as -relief etched all over his face – the Scottish champ reclaimed one of Britain’s most coveted sporting prizes.