Last year’s Wimbledon marked the 40th year of “Open Era” tennis at The Championships, culminating with what many consider one of the greatest-ever men’s final matches as Rafael Nadal outlasted Roger Federer in five grueling sets—and nearly five hours—to end the Swiss star’s reign of five straight titles at the sport’s grandest tournament.
It had been four decades since the Grand Slam tournaments abandoned their long-standing rules of amateurism and allowed professionals back in to compete in 1968, the year that two of the biggest names in tennis—Rod Laver and Billie Jean King—claimed the singles titles at Wimbledon.
Winners at this most prestigious of events certainly include some other legends of the game, such as Bjorn Borg, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf.
But the list of Wimbledon champions over the last 40 years is also comprised of surprise titlists who were not the favorites at the time or considered dominant among peers on the grass courts at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
From unseeded youngsters to baseliners whose game was more suited to clay courts to players considered past their prime, the unlikely winners have added some spice to Wimbledon’s traditional sweetness of strawberries and cream.
In an attempt to revisit some of those memorable moments, the following countdown of “The Ten Most Surprising Wimbledon Champions During the Open Era” highlights some of the unlikely singles winners who thrilled the crowds with surprising runs over a fortnight in London while adding plenty of color to the tournament that requires all-white attire from its participants.