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Wimbledon special: Memorable matches in the Open Era

Last updated on: June 24, 2011 20:39 IST

When Borg survived the McEnroe onslaught


Bikash Mohapatra

With Wimbledon underway, the focus is on two weeks of superlative grasscourt tennis.

While the 134-year-old tournament has witnessed many classic contests, a few will remain etched in memory for eternity.

Senior Associate Editor Bikash Mohapatra takes a look at some memorable contests played at the All England Club in the Open Era.

Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe (Final, 1980)

Result: 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6

The Swede was going for a record straight fifth Wimbledon title, having eked out a five-set win over big-serving American Roscoe Tanner the year before.

His opponent on the day was another American, one who was equally desperate to lay his hands on what would have been his maiden trophy.

Borg lost the first, won the next two, and the fourth-set tie-break went on for eternity, the American eventually pocketing it 18-16 to force a decider.

The Swede used his experience advantage and won 8-6 in the fifth.

McEnroe did have his revenge a year later. But, by then, Borg had already made history!

Image: John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg
Photographs: Getty Images

When Evert managed to sneak past Cawley

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Chris Evert vs Evonne Goolagong Cawley (Final, 1976)

Result: 6-3, 4-6, 8-6

Chris Evert won the French Open a record seven times. But, at the grass courts of Wimbledon, she could win only on three occasions.

More importantly, she lost as many as seven finals at the All England Club, five of them against her eternal rival, Martina Navratilova.

Special: Wimbledon made them tennis legends

Among Evert's three triumphs, the most memorable one was her second, against Evonne Goolagong Cawley, in 1976.

The Australian, a winner in 1971 and a beaten finalist in both 1972 and 1975, won the second set to force a decider.

However, Evert managed to sneak through 8-6.

The Australian, though, had her revenge four years later, winning 6-1, 7-6 in the 1980 final.

Image: Chris Evert

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Connors's second title took some effort

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Jimmy Connors vs John McEnroe (Final, 1982)

Result: 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5), 6-4

Jimmy Connors lost more finals at the All-England Club than he won (4-2).

While his first title, in 1974, came courtesy a fairly comfortable win against Australian veteran Ken Rosewall, his second took some effort.

Wimbledon's six to savour

Facing compatriot and defending champion John McEnroe in the final, Connors was down two sets to one. The fourth set went into a tie-break and Connors just about managed to send the contest into a decider, winning the tie-break 7-5.

Connors scraped through 6-4 in the fifth to win his second title, eight years after his first (in between there were three final defeats).

McEnroe had his revenge two years later, thrashing Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2 in the 1984 final.

Image: Jimmy Connors

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The ice cool Swede survived a German bull

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Stefan Edberg vs Boris Becker (Final, 1990

Result: 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4

The Swede and German faced off in the final for three successive years -- between 1988-90.

Beating Bjorn Borg is good memory

While Edberg won the first in four sets, Becker was triumphant in the second, in straight sets.

However, it was their encounter in 1990 that remains the most memorable.

Having won the opening two sets, the Swede seemed to be cruising. It was here that the German, a three-time champion, mounted a comeback.

Becker won the next two sets and led 4-2 in the decider. Then Edberg decide to return the compliment, reeling off the next four games to take home his second title.

Image: Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg

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Graf's most memorable triumphs

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Steffi Graf vs Gabriela Sabatini (Final, 1991)

Result: 6-4, 3-6, 8-6

Steffi Graf was already a champion twice when she played Gabriela Sabatini, looking for her first title, in this final.

The Argentine tried her very best but just couldn't get it past the German.

Sabatini missed the opportunity and never had another shot at the title.

Steffi Graf vs Jana Novotna (Final, 1993)  

Result: 7 6 (8-6), 1 6, 6 4

It was heartbreak, for sure!

Probably, Jana Novotna deserved to win this match more than Steffi Graf.

Blame it on her nerves.

The Czech squandered a healthy lead to hand the German her fifth Wimbledon triumph.

Image: Steffi Graf, Gabriela Sabatini and Jana Novotna

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Ivanisevic hit 37 aces in a lost cause

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Andre Agassi vs Goran Ivanisevic (Final, 1992)

Result: 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4

Is it possible for a player to serve 37 aces in a match and still finish second best?

If the player is Goran Ivanisevic, then the answer is a resounding yes.

The Croat was as well-known for his freak temperament (read nerves) as he was for his thunderous serves.

Having accounted for former champion Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras in the earlier rounds, Ivanisevic was favourite to lift the title that year, especially considering Agassi, till then, was known for losing major finals he lost all three he had contested -- and grass was the American's least-favoured surface.

However, it was the Croat who crumbled under pressure, thereby handing Agassi a long-awaited major title.

Image: Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic

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Ivanisevic's two best result on Centre Court

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Goran Ivanisevic vs Richard Krajicek (Semi-Final, 1998)

Result: 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-7, 15-13

It is Goran Ivanisevic in action again.

The Croat's semi-final win over another big server and 1996 champion, Richard Krajicek, was equally memorable.

Having won the first two sets, Ivanisevic did his best to throw away the lead before eventually scraping home in a match lasting three hours, 22 minutes -- the fifth set alone lasted for 77 minutes.

He, nonetheless, lost the decider to Pete Sampras.

Goran Ivanisevic vs Patrick Rafter (Final, 2001)

Result:  6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7

Having lost in three finals, Goran Ivanisevic's moment of glory finally arrived in 2001.

Ranked 125 coming into the tournament, courtesy a wildcard, Ivanisevic became the only wildcard and palpably the lowest-ranked player to win a Wimbledon title.

Image: Goran Ivanisevic, Richard Krajicek and Patrick Rafter

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Davenport gave Venus a tough time

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Venus Williams vs Lindsay Davenport (Final, 2005)

Result:  4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 9-7

The match resulted in the third of Venus Williams's five Wimbledon titles till date.

Her opponent in the final, compatriot Lindsay Davenport, was a seasoned campaigner, having won the event in 1999 and finishing second-best to Venus in 2000.

However, the 2005 final was battle of equals.

No player was willing to give an inch.

In the end, it was just a matter of a few points.

Again, Venus won. Again, she got the better of Davenport.

But, on this occasion, the latter impressed one and all.

Image: Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport

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Of equaling a record...and creating history

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Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal (Final, 2007)

Result: 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-2

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer (Final, 2008)

Result: 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7

Two of the best Wimbledon finals in recent times. The first witnessed the Swiss wizard scrape through to his fifth successive title and the second had the Spaniard creating history.

In the 2007 final, Nadal led early on. It was Federer's experience on grass that helped him ensure the result in his favour.

A year on, though, Nadal was an improved player on the surface. Having beaten Federer on the clay courts of Paris a fortnight back, the Spaniard turned tables on the Swiss on a surface least expected.

The marathon five-set triumph meant Nadal became the first Spaniard to win the men's singles title in Wimbledon in the Open Era, and only the second Spanish man ever -- after Manuel Santana in 1966.

He has since added a second title in 2010.

Image: Roger Federer and Rafel Nadal

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Roddick's best wasn't good enough

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Roger Federer vs Andy Roddick (Final, 2009)

Result: 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14

It is, arguably, the best match Andy Roddick played in his career.

Yet, his best was not good enough. The American finished second-best to Roger Federer.

Roddick had lost twice before to Federer in the final at Wimbledon, in 2004 and 2005.

It was his third shot at the most coveted major. However, despite a valiant ever he couldn't get past the formidable Swiss.

Some players are simply not destined to win certain events!

Image: Roger Federer and Andy Roddick

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11 hours, five minutes was Isner

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John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut (First Round, 2010)

Result: 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), 70-68

It was a nondescript opening round match featuring an American, seeded 23, against an unseeded Frenchman. 

However, when it finished it had broken all records. 

John Isner had taken 11 hours and five minutes, spread across three days, to beat Nicolas Mahut. 

The match was palpably the longest ever played, the fifth set alone taking eight hours and 11 minutes, and also the one to feature the most number of games played (183). 

It also had the most number of aces in a match - Isner hitting 113 of them and Mahut replying with 103. No wonder Isner ran of steam in his second round match against Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker.

The duo met again in the opening round this year.

The affair was a poor sequel, Isner winning 7-6, 6-2, 7-6.

And before you ponder this time the match got over only in 123 minutes. It will take a long time to eclipse the longest match in tennis history.

Image: John Isner and Nicolas Mahut

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