Wimbledon’s grass court champions are the most revered players in tennis history. Since the Open Era began, grass tournaments have become rare, but winning Wimbledon still requires athletic reflexes and the ability to finish quick points.
Two months ago, we presented a draw of 16 great French Open champions.
Last summer, we presented a draw of 16 US Open champions.
We are ready to do this with the most recent 15 Wimbledon champions and Rod Laver. Though it’s not possible to match champions through the past four decades, there are plenty of ways to hypothesize player strengths and weaknesses. How would they attack each other? Who would win?
It is impossible to simulate fair conditions and technology, but we will play this out at 2013 Wimbledon with today’s slower and more durable grass-court conditions. This will allow for more variety of player styles and matchups.
The rackets will be limited to late '80s graphite and strings, sort of a compromise from the extremities of Bjorn Borg’s wooden racket and the super Babolat racket and strings Nadal uses to rip freakish topspin.
Feel free to debate these particulars.
The following is a playoff format to test these champions. We can only choose between the years a player actually won Wimbledon, even if, for example, Goran Ivanisevic was better in the mid-1990s than 2001.
There will be four top seeds determined by Wimbledon success. The top half of the draw will feature No. 1 seed Pete Sampras and No. 4 seed Rod Laver (who will be the most difficult to imagine with a modern racket against modern athletes). The bottom half of the draw will include No. 2 seed Roger Federer and No. 3 seed Bjorn Borg.
All of the matchups below were randomly drawn, so this is only one of many possible brackets.
1. '95 Pete Sampras vs. '89 Boris Becker
'11 Novak Djokovic vs. '01 Goran Ivanisevic
'96 Richard Krajicek vs. '10 Rafael Nadal
4. '69 Rod Laver vs. '02 Lleyton Hewitt
3. '79 Bjorn Borg vs. ’91 Michael Stich
'74 Jimmy Connors vs. ’92 Andre Agassi
'90 Stefan Edberg vs. ’87 Pat Cash
2. '06 Roger Federer vs. '84 John McEnroe
Here is a look at how the players may have tried to attack each other in the opening matches and then in later rounds at this Wimbledon dream bracket.