For 2020, Wimbledon’s gone, but as part of the mourning process let’s look at some of the truly grand, and not-so-grand moments our beloved gathering has given us.
BEST MALE PLAYER: Roger Federer, eight titles
BEST FEMALE PLAYER: Martina Navratilova, nine titles
MOST INSPIRING DAYS: People’s Sunday, 1991, and People’s Monday, 2001
BRIGHTEST ROSE IN THE ROYAL BOX: Princess Di
MOST ROYAL MOMENT: Queen Elizabeth presented Virginia Wade the winner’s trophy in 1977. The Queen came back in 2010
OUR FAVORITE SIGN: Please Mind Your Head
LESS IS MORE: Before 1975 a black man had never won Wimbledon. Connors was dominant on-court and fierce off-court. He had just sued Arthur Ashe. He was heavily favored to win the Wimbledon final. But, at London’s Playboy Club, Ashe and his buddies concocted a kind of rope-a-dope strategy. Hit soft, don’t give power to macho Jimbo. It worked. Connors was frustrated and dropped his head. The triumphant Ashe lifted his fist.
THE COURT WE MISS THE MOST: Wimbledon sent its “graveyard court,” the infamous Court 2, to its own graveyard. But before its demise, many a tennis Goliath was slain by aspiring Davids.There was no greater or more entertaining equalizer than Court 2. Just ask Sampras, McEnroe, Serena, Venus, Becker, Agassi or Hingis.
BEST BREAKOUT: Two 17-year-olds created shock waves. Boris Becker became the youngest male champ in 1985, and in 2004 Maria Sharapova downed Serena to become the youngest winner of the Open Era.
SIZZLING RIVALRIES: Martina Navratilova had a 5-4 record over Chris Evert. Serena leads Venus 4-1, Navratilova downed Graf three times without a loss, Boris Becker had a 3-2 record over Stefan Edberg. Roger leads Rafa 3-1. Djokovic leads Roger 3-1, McEnroe won two of his three matches with McEnroe, and Borg and McEnroe split their two matches in tennis’ most celebrated short rivalry besides the King-Riggs Battle of. the Century.
BEST NAKED TRUTH: After streaking across Centre Court before the 1996 final, 23-year-old pizza waitress Missy Johnson stated the obvious: “I am a bit of a naughty girl and I definitely have a wild streak in me.”
BEST SPLASH IN THE BUCKET: In 2016 British teaching pro Marcus Willis, ranked No. 772, won six matches to qualify for the main draw. There he beat the considerable Ricardas Berankis, before losing a noble but one-sided battle to Federer. The lefty soon returned to league play and the Futures.
BEST POWER POINTS: Germans Steffi Graf and Boris Becker came from just miles apart. Pete Sampras and Lindsay Davenport, who are both from Palos Verdes, California, won the 1999 singles titles.
BEST MATCHES: Rafa’s “Strokes of Genius” win over Roger in the dusk in 2008 stands alone as the best match of all time. Tennis’ best classic match was the Borg-McEnroe battle of 18-16. Mac won the battle, so to speak, the celebrated fourth-set tiebreak, but Borg won the war, winning Wimbledon in 1980, 1–6, 7–5, 6–3, 6–7(16–18), 8–6.
AND, BY THE WAY: Some other dandy battles that come to mind are last year’s Djokovic vs. Federer thriller, Isner vs. Mahut 2010, Federer vs. Sampras 2001, Budge vs. von Cramm 1937, Dokic vs. Hingis 1999, Murray vs. Djokovic 2013 and Nadal vs. Djokovic in 2018.
MOST BEAUTIFUL MATCH: The 1978 semi between two impalas, Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis.
BEST REFLECTIONS ON LOSS: After suffering his shock upset to Nick Kyrgios, Rafa said, “I tried. I lost. It’s not a drama.” After Jana Novotna’s collapse against Graf, Simon Barnes noted that she “played a game of tennis for everyone who has ever made an absolutely ghastly mistake. Or, to put it another way, for the entire human race.”
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: In ‘09, Andy Roddick was facing Federer for the fourth time in a Slam final. Roddick had set point to take a commanding two lead, but muffed a challenging high backhand volley to a relatively open court. With Sampras watcing, Federer won 16-14 in the fifth to surpass Pete’s record of 14 Slams.
BEST HOMETOWN HERO: In 2013, Andy Murray became the first British man in 77 years to lift the singles trophy.
DOUBLES DEMONS: Venus and Serena Williams and Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde each have won six titles. Navratilova and Pam Shriver collected five. McEnroe and Peter Fleming, Gigi Fernandez and Natasha Zvereva, Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals teamed up for four. Bob and Mike Bryan won three. Sadly, they probably will never play again. And who knows about Roger, Venus, Serena and Andy Murray?
BEST SPEECH: Andy Murray’s 2012 teary on-court interview in which he confided, “This…is not going to be easy.” And after losing in 2018 to Angie Kerber, Serena said, “For all the moms out there, I was playing for you.”
BEST MARATHON: The average time for a male to finish a marathon last year was 4.5 hours. In 2010 the Isner vs. Mahut match, that finally ended at 70-68, took 11:05.
IT’S THE GRASS, SILLY: Wimbledon changed to perennial ryegrass in 2001, a move that slowed the surface and greatly diminished serve and volley play.
PRESS ROOM BATTLES: ESPN’s Charlie Steiner fought with a Brit in the press room and Jeff Tarango’s wife bashed umpire Bruno Rebeuh.
NOTABLE SIGNATURES: Federer’s inside-out forehand, Becker’s diving volley, Edberg’s and McEnroe’s distinct service motions, Isner’s power serve, Borg’s topspin forehand, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario’s drop shot, Martina’s serve and volley, Serena’s serve, Graf’s slice backhand, Vitas Gerulaitis’ movement.
PIVOTAL MATCHES: There have been so many key matches in Wimbledon history. Borg’s first win signaled a new generation of European stars. The emergence of the Williams changed the landscape. And Nadal proved that supposed clay-court specialists could prevail on grass. But to us, Federer’s fourth-round win over Sampras in 2001 was a harbinger of a new era like few others.
MOST CRITICAL YEAR: In 1973, the Yugoslav Tennis Association suspended Niki Pilic for not playing a Davis Cup tie. The recently formed ATP retaliated by organizing a Wimbledon boycott. Eighty-one top players, including reigning champ Stan Smith, refused to play. Czechoslovakian Jan Kodes didn’t and he won the title.
BEST UPSETS: Wimbledon shocks spark fierce debate. Here are some for your consideration: Stakhovsky over Federer 2013, Dokic over No. 1 Hingis 1999, Querrey over Djokovic 2016, Lisicki over Serena 2013, Doohan over Becker 1987, Flach over Agassi 1996, Karlovic over Hewitt 2003, Bastl over Sampras 2002, Rosol over Nadal 2012, Darcis over Nadal 2013, Kyrgios over Nadal 2014, Brown over Nadal 2015.
BEST TRIPLE HEADER: Bobby Riggs won the singles and the men’s and mixed doubles in 1939.
WIMBLEDON GOT TORCHED: In 2012 Tim Henman jogged down St. Mary’s Walk holding aloft the Olympic torch.
BEST VIEWING SITE IN TENNIS (OUTSIDE A STADIUM): Henman Hill. Or is it Murray Mount?
BEST TO NEVER WIN: Decades ago, the extraordinary Ivan Lendl was dominant. But he fell short at Wimbledon, where he lost twice in the finals and five times in semis. Tim Henman lost four times in the semis. Some of the other top players to never win were Monica Seles, Justine Henin, Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, Tracy Austin, Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario, Li Na, Jennifer Capriati, Mary Pierce, Gabriela Sabatini, Hana Mandlikova, Dinara Safina, Jim Courier, Stan Wawrinka, Mats Wilander, Guillermo Vilas, Guga Kuerten, Ilie Nastase, Ken Rosewall, Patrick Rafter, Marat Safin, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Marin Cilic, Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berydch, Mark Phillippoussis, Milos Raonic and Sergi Bruguera.
GONE FISHIN’: Many in tennis adore fishing: Miloslav Mecir, Michael Chang and Rafa come to mind. But our fave fisherman is Murphy Jensen, who skipped out on his mixed match to go fish in Scotland.
CELEBRATIONS WE REMEMBER: A beaming Virginia Wade offering a curtsy before the Queen. Borg on his knees. Ashe with his fist high. Pat Cash clamoring up to the Friends Box, Venus leaping high to the sky, an elated John Isner tumbling to the ground, Federer on his knees leaning backwards, Sharapova calling her mom, Djokovic and Navratilova bending over to get a blade of grass to chew on – and about a thousand others flat out on their backs.