Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and the 10 Best Grass Court Players of the Open Era
Today, Wimbledon is grass court tennis. Granted, there are a handful of warm-up tournaments like the Gerry Weber Open in Halle and the Aegon Championships at the Queen’s Club in London and Birmingham. But Wimbledon remains the only major still contested on grass.
Players who won a final on Centre Court at Wimbledon realized a lifelong dream because Wimbledon is considered the piece de resistance for most players when it comes to grand slam championships.
The All England Club favors high tea, strawberries and cream. Participating players must wear white and observe proper decorum. Boorish behavior is not tolerated. Just ask John McEnroe!
Wimbledon has survived the test of time, withstood the temptations to modernize and has kept its firmly-held traditions in place, except for a retractable roof over Centre Court that it unveiled during the 2009 tournament.
While Pete Sampras won seven Wimbledon Championships in the 1990s, William Renshaw of Great Britain earned seven during the 1880s. Moreover, Reginald Doherty and Lawrence Doherty of Great Britain also won titles from 1897-1900 (4) and 1902-1906 (5), respectively.
Through 1922, however, Wimbledon champions were challenged by all-comers the following year. The reigning champion defended his title by playing one match––the final against the winner from the challenger pool.
Pete Sampras was not so lucky. He had to win six matches just for the chance to reclaim his hard-earned title from the previous year.
Since 1968, the beginning of the Open Era, 19 men have won the Wimbledon title at least once while in the Amateur Era 20 men held the Wimbledon trophy aloft after winning the final.
Aussies John Newcombe and Rod Laver were the only two players in this ranking to win Wimbledon championships in both eras.
Obviously, winning multiple titles at the All England Club is very difficult. Only five players in the last 43 years have won three or more titles on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Mastering Tennis on Grass Requires Special Skills
Any sustained use of a grass court, tears it up fast. Just look at Centre Court at Wimbledon (adjacent) at the beginning and the end of the tournament.
The whole grass court season in tennis lasts approximately a month. This is unfortunate for tennis fans because grass is a unique natural surface that requires special skills, often producing brilliant, scintillating tennis.
But grass courts are expensive to maintain plus extremely dangerous when wet.
At one time, tennis was played exclusively on grass. The U.S. Open held court on grass until 1974 when the Americans tried a short stint on clay. The Australian Open was also played on grass courts until 1988, when the tournament moved to Melbourne and a new synthetic surface.
Gradually, most grass courts were replaced by synthetic surfaces which, while more expensive to install, are far easier and less costly to maintain.
Playing on grass requires speed, quickness and effective serving. For years grass, was the province of serve and volley players until technology's advancements altered the game. Baseline tennis has reigned on Centre Court since Lleyton Hewitt made it work in 2002.
Even today, however, players must expect low and unpredictable bounces at their ankles, making life on court often difficult.
In order to make the top ten in this listing of Wimbledon grass court champions of the Open Era, a player had to win more than one Wimbledon title. Beyond the top ten, for honorable mention, a player simply had to win one title at the All England Club.
Three of the players on the list are still active. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Lleyton Hewitt will take the court soon for Wimbledon in 2011––hoping to improve their standing now and into the future.
Prior to the Countdown We Acknowledge Those Who Came Away Empty...
Some very determined, competent players made the finals more than once, only to be left standing as the runner-up. These multiple finalists need to be recognized:
Andy Roddick (United States): 3 finals, 0 wins (2004-2005; 2009)
Roddick made it to three Wimbledon finals and each time he was turned away at the door by Roger Federer. Their match in 2009 was the closest Roddick came, extending the great Swiss to five sets before losing in the end.
Ken Rosewall (Australia): 2 finals, 0 wins (1970, 1974)
In all, Rosewall was a finalist at Wimbledon four times but could never find a way to win the championship. Rosewall won the Australian Open four times on grass, the French Open twice and the U.S. Open twice on grass. Never being able to win Wimbledon was a huge disappointment to the Australian tennis great.
Ilie Nastase (Romania): 2 finals, 0 wins (1972, 1976)
The Romanian Nastase was never able to conquer Wimbledon and he tried for 13 years to do so, making the finals twice. Nastase won the French Open and the U.S. Open in 1972 when it was played on grass.
Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia): 2 finals, 0 wins (1986-1987)
Ivan Lendl devoted himself to winning the title at Wimbledon but his game just would not translate onto grass. Lendl played at Wimbledon 14 years and twice made the finals losing to Boris Becker and Pat Cash. Lendl won slams at every venue except on the lawns at Wimbledon.
Patrick Rafter (Australia): 2 finals, 0 wins (2000-2001)
It seems that Patrick Rafter with his serve and volley style would be natural to win on the grass at Wimbledon but the Aussie could never quite manage a victory, although he made the finals twice in 2000-2001.
Rafter lost to Pete Sampras 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 in 2000, and Goran Ivanisevic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 in 2001.
Honorable Mention 19: Lleyton Hewitt (Australia)
1 win, 1 final (2002) Wimbledon, Open Era
Aussie Lleyton Hewitt joined the great champions from Australia in winning a Wimbledon championship in 2002.
He defeated Argentine David Nalbandian 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to win the gentleman's final on Championship Sunday.
The former World No. 1 hoped to add another Wimbledon title to his mantle, but so far Hewitt has never managed to work his way back into a final on Centre Court.
Unlike his countrymen, who won this title in the 1960s and 1970s or even like Pat Cash who won it in 1987, Hewitt is not a serve and volley player.
Hewitt was the first baseliner to win Wimbledon since Agassi accomplished it in 1992.
Honorable Mention 18: Richard Krajicek (Netherlands)
1 final, 1 win (1996) Wimbledon, Open Era
Richard Krajicek of the the Netherlands defeated American MaliVai Washington 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to win the 1996 Wimbledon final.
Krajicek’s real claim to fame during this fantastic run was his defeat of World No. 1 Pete Sampras in the quarterfinals.
Krajicek was the only man to defeat Sampras at the All England Club since 1993 and he would remain the only man until Roger Federer defeated Sampras in the fourth round of Wimbledon in 2001.
Unfortunately, Krajicek was never able to repeat his brilliant performance of 1996.
Still he remains one of a handful of men to lift the Wimbledon trophy in triumph at the All England Club.
Honorable Mention 17: Michael Stich (Germany)
1 final, 1 win (1991) Wimbledon, Open Era
In 1991, Michael Stich defeated his more famous countryman Boris Becker 6-4, 7-6, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final.
It was the only time Stich won a slam final, although he also reached the finals of the U.S. Open in 1994 and the French Open in 1996.
In a gigantic upset, Stich defeated Stefan Edberg, the current World No. 1, in the semifinals to reach the finals of Wimbledon where he dispatched Becker in straight sets.
Stich never flew so high again, but he got there once, which is more than most.
Honorable Mention 16: Pat Cash (Australia)
1 win, 1 final (1987) Wimbledon, Open Era
Aussie Pat Cash was able to win his only major title at Wimbledon in 1987. Cash accomplished it by upsetting the No. 1 player in the world, Ivan Lendl, winning the final in straight sets 7-6, 6-2, 7-5.
It was one of two occasions when the great Lendl made a Wimbledon final. It remained a center court where the Czech could not bring his talents to bear.
Cash, on the other hand, lost only one set during the entire tournament on his way to a surprising victory.
The Aussie celebrated by climbing into the stands to embrace his family, stunning the assembled dignitaries.
Cash was the first player to do that after winning the trophy, starting a tradition that continues today.
Honorable Mention 15: Arthur Ashe (United States)
1 win, 1 final (1975) Wimbledon, Open Era + 2
The great Arthur Ashe of the United States defeated countryman Jimmy Connors during the 1975 Wimbledon final 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.
It was the only time Ashe appeared in the gentleman’s final at the All England Club.
Connors was the clear favorite coming the tournament but fell short in the final match.
Ashe also won the Australian Open in 1970 when it was played on grass as well as the U.S. Open in 1968 when that Grand Slam tournament was held on grass courts.
In all, Ashe won three grand slam tournaments––all on grass.
Honorable Mention 14: Jan Kodes (Czechoslovakia)
1 win, 1 final (1973) Wimbledon, Open Era
Jan Kodes won the 1973 title at Wimbledon over Alex Metreveli of the Soviet Union 6-1, 9-8, 6-3.
It should be noted that 13 of the top 16 players did not participate at Wimbledon that year because of a labor dispute.
Kodes won three grand slams during his career. In addition to his Wimbledon title, the Czech also won the French Open twice in 1970-1971.
His primary strength came on clay, not grass. He never made it to another Wimbledon final.
Honorable Mention 12: Andre Agassi (United States) (tie)
1 win, 2 finals (1992, 1999) Wimbledon, Open Era
1992: After seemingly spurning the Wimbledon grass, American Andre Agassi showed the tennis playing world that you could win on grass playing primarily from the baseline.
He did just that in dispatching Croat Goran Ivanisevic 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 in 1992 on Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Early on in his career Agassi did not play on the grass courts of Wimbledon from 1988-1990 because of the All England Club's "dress code." Agassi, in those days, was know for his rebellious style. The American did not appreciate being told he had to wear all white on court.
After he won for the first time, Agassi no longer complained about Wimbledon traditions.
Seven years later, after winning the French Open for the first time in 1999, Agassi faced countryman Pete Sampras in the Wimbledon final, losing in straight sets.
Agassi never made to another Wimbledon final.
Honorable Mention 12: Stan Smith (United States) (tie)
1 win, 2 finals (1971-1972) Wimbledon, Open Era + 1
1972: American Stan Smith finally captured his only Wimbledon title, defeating Romanian Ilie Nastase in a five set thriller 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
It was a sweet victory after losing a five set final to John Newcombe the year before.
American Smith also won the U.S. Open in 1971 when it was played on grass. Both of his grand slam wins came on grass courts.
Known primarily for his doubles play, Smith also won frequently at singles, reaching the No. 1 ranking in 1972.
Honorable Mention 11: Goran Ivanisevic (Croatia)
1 win, 4 finals (1992, 1994, 1998, 2001) Wimbledon, Open Era
2001: The big-serving Croat finally won the Wimbledon title in 2001 after four tries. His victory came against Australian Patrick Rafter in a thrilling five set final 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7.
Ivanisevic had a big serve and volley game with the emphasis on serve. The Croat had also reached the Wimbledon finals in 1992 where he lost to underdog Andre Agassi whose baseline play proved to be superior on the day.
In 1994, Ivanisevic reached a ranking of World No. 2, but he could not overcome defending champion Pete Sampras in the Wimbledon finals that year. Instead the Croat lost to the American in straight sets.
Nothing seemed to go the Croat's way at Wimbledon, especially facing Pete Sampras in the final––which he did again in 1998. This time, however, Ivanisevic stretched Sampras to five sets before succumbing.
That made winning the title in 2001 all the sweeter––having tried three previous times and failed. Lifting that trophy in 2001 made it all worthwhile.
10. Rod Laver (Australia)
2 finals, 2 wins (1968-1969) Wimbledon, Open Era + 7
Rod Laver played in both the Amateur Era and the Open Era of tennis. Totally he won the Wimbledon title four times, in 1961-1962 and then again in 1968-1969 as the modern era in men’s tennis began.
In all, Laver won nine of his 11 slam titles on grass. Besides four titles at the All England Club, the Aussie won the Australian Open three times and the U.S. Open twice when both tournaments were played on grass.
Throughout his career, Laver played in 11 Wimbledon championships with a winning percentage of 87.72 at the All England Club. This list concerns his efforts since 1968.
1968: Playing against his countryman Tony Roche, Aussie Rod Laver won the first modern era Wimbledon title in 1968, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. With the win, Laver became the No. 1-ranked player in the world.
The match lasted one hour. It is amazing how fast a match can go it you don’t towel off after every point. Laver won $4,800. Some players today spend that much on dinner and a movie for themselves and their entourage. Look how far the sport has come in 40 years.
1969: Laver not only won Wimbledon in 1969, he won the three other slams as well. The Australian won his second Grand Slam (winning all four major finals in the same calendar year). Laver won the first before turning professional in 1962.
In the Wimbledon final, Laver faced another Aussie, John Newcombe. Though Newcombe extended him, in the end, the great Laver would not be denied, winning 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.
Laver knew how to move and how to win the big points.
9. Stefan Edberg (Sweden)
3 finals, 2 wins (1988-1990) Wimbledon, Open Era + 2
Serve and volley artist extraordinaire Stefan Edberg played in 14 Wimbledon Championships, appearing in three finals, winning two titles in 1988 and 1990. His overall winning percentage was 80.33 at the All England Club.
Besides winning on the grass at Wimbledon, Edberg also captured two other grass court titles at the Australian Open in 1985 and 1987.
1988: While Boris Becker of Germany was going for this third Wimbledon title, Stefan Edberg of Sweden was attempting to win his first in 1988.
Becker had not lost a match on Centre Court since 1985. Defeating the German on his home court seemed a large task for Edberg.
The final was delayed to Monday because of rain and the German seemed out of sorts as Edberg won 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. Edberg collapsed onto his back, fulfilling his boyhood dream to win the Wimbledon title.
1990: After losing to Becker in 1989, Edberg came back in 1990 to win the rubber match between the two rivals 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-2.
It proved to be a very difficult match to win, especially after the Swede found himself down a break in the final fifth set.
The two had met 24 times, with Becker holding the edge 15-9.
That day, Edberg had the answers as he maintained his poise, his mental edge and fought back to win the final set and the match.
8. John Newcombe (Australia)
2 wins, 3 finals (1969-1971) Wimbledon, Open Era + 3
John Newcombe’s career spanned two eras. The Aussie was known for his big serve. In his autobiography, Jack Kramer credited Newcombe with having the best second serve in the men’s game.
Altogether, Newcombe participated in 14 Wimbledon Championships with an accumulated winning percentage of 78.85. Totally, he won three Wimbledon championships, making four finals; but for this listing, we count those he won in the modern era––two titles in three finals.
Newcombe actually won six major finals on grass. Besides the three Wimbledon titles, the Aussie won the Australian Open twice, in 1973 and 1975 on grass. Newcombe also won the U.S. Open in 1973 on a grass court.
1970: After coming in second to Rod Laver in 1969, Aussie John Newcombe came back to take the Wimbledon title in 1970, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, playing against another man from down under, Ken Rosewall.
Winning the title, Newcombe denied 35-year old Rosewall his chance to be a Wimbledon champion. It was Rosewall’s third try.
It would not be his last chance but Rosewall could never quite reach the summit at the All England Club.
1971: The following year Newcombe defeated American Stan Smith 6-3, 5-7, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in another five-set Wimbledon gentleman’s final.
The United States, whose hopes were pinned on Smith winning the title, saw him fade in the last set under the constant pressure from the Newcombe serve and volley game. No American had won the title at the All England Club since 1963.
U.S. fans would have wait another year.
7. Rafael Nadal (Spain)
2 wins, 4 finals (2006-2008; 2010) Wimbledon, Open Era
Rafael Nadal played in six Wimbledon championships, winning twice in four final appearances. His overall winning percentage at the All England Club in men’s singles is 87.87 to date.
2008: After being defeated in 2006 and 2007 by Roger Federer in the Wimbledon finals, Rafael Nadal won his first slam final not on clay in 2008. Nadal won the Wimbledon final in 2008, denying Federer his sixth consecutive championship.
The 2008 Wimbledon final is judged by many as the greatest grand slam final at Wimbledon, perhaps rivaling the 1980 final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. Many regard the 2008 Wimbledon final as the greatest major final at any venue.
During a rain-interrupted match, with the light failing, Nadal held on to win 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 9-7.
For Nadal, it was an historic and memorable win. For Federer, it was a disappointing and record-ending loss.
2010: Unable to defend his 2008 championship because of injury, Nadal came back to win his second Wimbledon crown in 2010 defeating Czech Tomas Berdych in the final.
It marked the first time Roger Federer had not appeared in the Wimbledon final since 2002. Berdych had dismissed the Swiss in the quarterfinals.
Nadal overwhelmed Berdych in the final 6-3, 7-5, 6-4. The Majorcan enters Wimbledon this year as the defending champion.
6. Jimmy Connors (United States)
2 wins, 6 finals (1974-1975; 1977-1978; 1982, 1984) Wimbledon, Open Era + 2
Jimmy Connors played in 21 Wimbledon Championships, appearing in six finals, winning twice. His overall winning percentage was 82.35 at the All England Club.
Connors also won two other major titles on grass. The American won the Australian Open and the U.S. Open in 1974 when both were played on grass courts.
1974: Appearing in his first Wimbledon final, American Jimmy Connors defeated Aussie Ken Rosewall 6-1, 6-1, 6-4.
Seeded third coming into the tournament, Connors defeated Jan Kordes in a very tough five-set quarterfinal matchup, followed by upending fellow American Dick Stockton in the semifinals.
At age 21, the sprite American found that almost 40-year old Rosewall had no legs left in the final.
1982: There were never any warm and fuzzy feelings between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors––no forgiving embraces at the net.
When these two guys met on court, the attitude was one of a battle of “life and death,” as described by Connors. Their five-set final at Wimbledon in 1982 was no exception, only this time it was Connors who won, leaping high into the air.
Connors upset the defending champion 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. The two would meet once more a final in 1984––for both of them, the last.
5. Boris Becker (Germany)
3 wins, 7 finals (1985-1986; 1988-1991; 1995) Wimbledon, Open Era
Boris Becker played in 15 Wimbledon Championships during his career, winning three times in seven final appearances, giving the German a winning percentage of 85.54.
1985: Becker burst onto the scene as an unseeded player in 1985. At the tender age of 17, Becker became the youngest Wimbledon champion, as well as the first unseeded player to win the coveted trophy.
His opponent, Kevin Curren, had knocked off Jimmy Connors as well as defending champion John McEnroe to advance to the finals.
The South African was powerless against Becker, however, as the German swept him aside in three hours and 18 minutes 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4.
1986: The following year the 18-year-old Becker defended his Wimbledon championship by defeating Ivan Lendl in the final.
The Wimbledon Championship forever eluded the great Czech. This was Lendl’s first final, however, and the grass was not kind.
Becker, however, was right at home and defeated the Czech 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 to win his second consecutive title at the All England Club.
1989: In winning the title in 1989, Becker overcame one of his fiercest rivals, Swede Stefan Edberg 6-0, 7-6, 6-4.
Edberg had defeated Becker in 1988 and revenge was sweet for the German, who felt Wimbledon was his home. The win gave Becker his third Wimbledon title.
Fellow German Steffi Graf won the women’s championship. The Germans were sky high.
4. John McEnroe (United States)
3 wins, 5 finals (1980-1984) Wimbledon, Open Era
John McEnroe played in 14 Wimbledon Championships from 1977-1992, winning three titles in five finals. His overall winning percentage at the All England Club in men’s singles was 84.29.
1981: After coming so close in 1980 to defeating the cool Swede, Bjorn Borg, McEnroe accomplished the feat in 1981, winning in four tense sets, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.
It was the American’s first win at the All England Club and Borg’s last appearance on Centre Court.
It was the end of an era, although no one knew it at the time.
McEnroe’s improved style of play would dominate on the grass courts of Wimbledon until technology and Roger Federer ushered in another era.
1983: McEnroe lost the 1982 finals in five sets to another arch rival, fellow American Jimmy Connors.
In 1983, however, McEnroe defeated New Zealand’s Chris Lewis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to win his second Wimbledon Championship.
The No. 1 seed Connors was upset in the fourth round by big-serving Kevin Curren of South Africa, while McEnroe dispatched the No. 3 seed Ivan Lendl in straight sets during the semifinals.
1984: McEnroe was able to avenge his loss to Connors in 1982, defeating him in straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the finals at Wimbledon in 1984.
McEnroe never again reach the finals at the All England Club. He handed off the baton to the next superstar of Centre Court in 1985, German Boris Becker.
3. Bjorn Borg (Sweden)
5 wins, 6 finals, (1976-1981) Wimbledon, Open Era
Bjorn Borg played in the Wimbledon championships nine times in total, winning five times. His overall winning percentage at the All England Club was 92.73.
1976: The Swede Bjorn Borg began his dominating era at the All England Club in 1976 by defeating the often eccentric Ilie Nastase. Coming into the match, Nastase was the overwhelming favorite. The Romanian had reached the final in 1972 and clearly many expected him to win it in 1976.
But Borg never let Nastase into the match, although the final set was very competitive as the Romanian fought to stay alive. Borg won 6-4, 6-2, 9-7.
1977: Borg’s win over Jimmy Connors the next year was not quite so easy. It took Borg five sets to reclaim the title 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 in a marathon match lasting three hours and 14 minutes. It allowed Borg to steal the No. 1 ranking from the American after a long, hard match.
At that point, only Lew Hoad, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe had won the Wimbledon title in back-to-back years.
1978: Borg won the Wimbledon title for the third time in a row by defeating American Jimmy Connors again in the final. This time, however, the Swede accomplished it in straight sets with the match lasting a little less than two hours. The final score was 6-2, 6-2, 6-3.
It gave Borg his third consecutive Wimbledon title, making him the first man since Fred Perry of Great Britain to win three men’s singles titles at the All England Club.
1979: Borg defeated another American in the Wimbledon final. This time, however, it was the big-serving Roscoe Tanner whose play caused Borg some problems during the match. Borg managed to win in five sets 6-7, 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The match was record-setting because no man in the modern era had ever won four titles at Wimbledon, let alone four consecutive titles. The air the Swede breathed was growing quite rarefied.
1980: So much has been written about the match between young American John McEnroe and the dominating Borg at Wimbledon in 1980 that is enough to note that Borg won this match in five sets after losing, perhaps, the most exhilarating fourth set tie break in the history of tennis.
In winning in five sets 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6, Borg won his fifth consecutive Wimbledon championship. This was a feat no man would match until Roger Federer in 2007.
2. Roger Federer (Switzerland)
6 wins, 7 finals, (2003-2009) Wimbledon, Open Era
Roger Federer has played in 12 Wimbledon Championships so far, winning six of the seven finals in which he has appeared. To date, Federer’s overall winning percentage at the All England Club is 90.32.
2003: Roger Federer won his first grand slam trophy on the grounds of the All-England Club, July 6, 2003. It brought an end to the constant barrage from the press wondering when the talented Swiss would finally win a major.
His opponent on that day was Aussie Mark Philippoussis whom Federer dispatched 7-6, 6-2, 7-6. The monkey was finally off Federer’s back and there would be no stopping the Swiss from this point forward.
2004: American Andy Roddick made it to the Wimbledon final in 2004 to face the No. 1 seed Roger Federer and the rain. Roddick took the first set and was up a break in the third when the rains came again, postponing action on Centre Court. When play resumed, Federer returned to life, breaking back and winning the subsequent tiebreak. Then the Swiss captured the fourth set 6-4 and the match.
2005: Andy Roddick was Federer’s victim once again in the 2005 Wimbledon finals, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4. In an hour and 41 minutes, the Swiss dismissed Roddick. It was Federer’s third consecutive win at the All-England Club and the Swiss still showed no chinks in his armor. Federer was settled securely in the driver seat with no plans to relinquish his perch any time soon.
2006: World No. 2 Rafael Nadal made it to his first Wimbledon final in 2006 to the surprise of many who felt the Majorcan could only win on clay. Nadal was out to prove them wrong by forcing his way into the final to face Federer.
Nadal played his normal, aggressive game on grass and took the third set; but Federer fought back and won one from Nadal who had defeated the Swiss in their last five matches. It gave Federer his fourth consecutive Wimbledon crown.
2007: It meant everything to Federer to tie Bjorn Borg in winning his fifth consecutive Wimbledon championship against his chief rival, Rafael Nadal. It took five sets, with Federer salvaging two tiebreaks before the Swiss closed it out in the final set 6-2. The match took 3 hours and 45 minutes. Federer won 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2. Borg was on hand to congratulate Federer as he won, tying the Swede’s accomplishment on Centre Court.
2009: After finally losing to Nadal in 2008, Federer came back to the Wimbledon final (his seventh consecutive Wimbledon final) to meet an old rival, Andy Roddick. A win would give Federer six Wimbledon championships, one ahead of Borg and one behind the great Pete Sampras. Previously, Federer had defeated Roddick in 2004 and 2005.
But Roddick did not go quite as easily as he had in 2005. The 2009 final went five sets with only one break of the Roddick serve in the final game of the match when Federer prevailed 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14.
Federer won his fifteen slam, edging past Sampras, his sixth Wimbledon title and the No. 1 ranking.
1. Pete Sampras (United States)
7 wins, 7 finals (1993-1995, 1997-2000) Wimbledon, Open Era
Pete Sampras played in 14 Wimbledon Championships, winning all seven of his final appearances. His overall winning percentage at the All England Club was 90.0.
1993: 21-year-old Pete Sampras won his first Wimbledon championship against the No. 2 seed, Jim Courier 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3 in just under three hours. Sampras won as he always won by serving up a multitude of nonreturnable serves, 22 aces, and patently solid groundstrokes. Sampras was just too good on the day for Courier.
1994: In a match that must have resembled a shootout at OK Corral, Sampras faced down Goran Ivanisevic, the Croat with a serve even more renowned than the American’s. Sampras won in straight sets 7-6, 7-6, 6-0, defending his 1993 title. Seldom did any point extend beyond five shots. It was a serving duel from start to finish. In the final analysis, Sampras had better results at the net and employed better groundstrokes.
1995: The American was going for his third consecutive Wimbledon championship against the powerful German, Boris Becker who once owned Centre Court. The opening set was settled in a tiebreak but the German could never garner a break point on the Sampras serve. Sampras won 6-7, 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 becoming the first three-time defending champion in 15 years.
1997: Sampras and Cedric Pioline of France both took the court in the 1997 Wimbledon finals but only one player actually enjoyed the match. Pioline was never really a factor in the finals as Sampras dispatched him 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, serving impeccably and volleying with panache. Sampras won his tenth grand slam tournament, well on his way to reaching the twelve total of grand slam leader, Roy Emerson.
1998: You just had to feel for Goran Ivanisevic as he battled against Sampras in 1998 as the American won his fifth title in six years on the storied grounds of Centre Court at the All-England Club. The Croat made a real contest out of the match but Sampras won 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. It was Ivanisevic’s third try to win the title. Sampras tied Borg with five Wimbledon titles.
1999: On a proud day for Americans, Pete Sampras was challenged by Andre Agassi for the Wimbledon championship on the fourth of July. There were, however, no fireworks for Agassi on this day as Pistol Pete whipped him 6-3, 6-4, 7-5.
Sampras once again dominated with his serve, his net play and his accurate groundstrokes. Sampras, with six Wimbledon titles, surpassed Bjorn Borg who had five. Sampras stood six for six in Wimbledon finals.
2000: Sampras won his thirteenth grand slam title, capturing his seventh Wimbledon title over Aussie Patrick Rafter. Serving 27 aces and rifling 13 passing shots past Rafter as he hugged the net, Sampras took the championship in four sets 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.
With his parents in attendance for the first time, Sampras climbed up to give them a hug. It would be the last time Sampras made the finals, the last Wimbledon trophy he would kiss on the last Sunday of the tournament.