With the qualifiers for Wimbledon already under way, we take a look at one of the most prestigious people sporting events in the world. Wimbledon is special for multiple reasons, not just its significance as a Grand Slam in the tennis fraternity, but as a celebration of sporting endeavour, attracting royalty, celebrities and tennis fanatics from all across the world.
As the players step onto the Centre Court, with the ultimate prize in their hindsight, they are embraced by the reverence of the spectators and fellow players alike. It’s more than just a two week sporting event, and it has seen some exhilarating clashes in it 140-year-old legacy. Here, we take a look at five of the greatest Wimbledon matches over the years:
Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic
For the British, Wimbledon inspires devotion like no other sporting event; it’s about hope, determination and the will to see one of their own players win the ultimate tennis prize. And this match isn’t remembered for its fierce competition, for it lasted only three sets, but for the importance it held to this very legacy of the Great Britain’s grand slam event.
Off the back of an Olympic Gold and an US Open, Murray looked like the Britain’s brightest ray of hope at ending their 77 year wait for a men’s champion at the Wimbledon. And after a grueling three hours 10 minutes in searing temperatures, Murray finally converted his fourth championship point in a dramatic final game to win 6-4 7-5 6-4 over World No. 1 Djokovic to claim his second major title and becoming the first British man since Fred Perry in 1936 the lift the coveted trophy.
Nicholas Mahut vs John Isner
A match that defied a long standing conjecture that we needed top seeded players to produce a high quality and dramatic affair. As these two gentlemen, John Isner from USA and un-seeded Nicholas Mahut from France met each other at Court Number 18, many expected a low profile affair. But later it turned out to be written in the history books as the longest recorded match tennis game played on the planet!
The game started on 22nd June and 9:07 pm, play was suspended till next day due to fading light. The match couldn’t get completed on the 23rd either, so it was suspended further with the final set tied at 59 games apiece. Finally, on 24th June, Isner had the last laugh as the match finally ended at 4:47 pm, with the final set lasting 8 hours and 11 minutes.
Venus Williams vs Lindsay Davenport
Venus Williams’ 4-6, 7-6, 9-7 victory lasted two hours, 45 minutes, making it the longest women’s final in Wimbledon history then. But, it wasn’t just the length of the match that made it great; it was the quality of tennis observed on the court that made it the greatest match in Women tennis history.
Davenport came into the match as the Number one seeded player in the tournament while Venus, despite winning the Wimbledon in 2000 and 2001, had slipped to be seeded 14th in the tournament.
In the third set, Davenport let a 4-2, 40-15 lead slip, but had to leave due to a back injury. She also let slip a match point on Williams’ serve, credit to a blistering backhand from the latter down the line. Williams then went on to win the final set 9-7, also becoming the lowest seeded player back then to win the Wimbledon title.
Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe
One of the greatest tennis rivalries of all time, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe still recall this match as one the best of their many great clashes on the court. It was an era where Bjorg, vying for his 5th consecutive Wimbledon title, was fighting to retain his supremacy in the world while McEnroe, a 21-year-old youngster who’d taken the tennis world by a storm, was trying to establish his own.
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While Bjorg was known for his composed conduct on the court, McEnroe had a made an impression with his volatile and flamboyant personality on and off the court. This contrast added more spice to an already intense rivalry.
Like many great rivalries in the sport, this one too had many games going down to the wire, and the 1980 Wimbledon final was one of them. The highlight of the game was the 4th set tiebreak, which itself lasted 22 minutes and ended with a score of 18-16 in favour of McEnroe. Bjorg then went on to claim the title eventually, but the game was etched in the history books as one of the greatest ever.
Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer
One of the great contemporary rivalries between two players often spoken of as the best two players in history of Open tennis, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have been two icons of Men’s tennis in the 21st Century.
Few tennis matches had ever been anticipated as eagerly as this one played in July 2008. Federer and Nadal had been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively for the better part of the previous three years and had established an unassailable dominance in that decade. They had previously faced in two Wimbledon finals, with Federer winning both of them.
What followed was a stratospheric game of tennis, one that would be remembered for years as the greatest tennis match of all time. Nadal came over the disappointment and recrimination of 2007’s final defeat to finally defeat Federer 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7 in a rain interrupted final that lasted four hours and 48 minutes.
It snapped Federer’s streak of five titles, and led to Nadal’s ascension to the No. 1 ranking in the following month. But these milestones feel incidental to the contest itself, which will stand as monument to the game’s early 21st century golden era.