Wimbledon 2011: Top 10 Upsets in Wimbledon History
Wimbledon is the seat of history in the tennis world: the great fortress of tradition and tennis etiquette. Men only wear white at the All-England Club, and for two weeks the greatest players in the world take a step back into the tennis past.
There have been the winners, of course...who doesn't remember them? Wimbledon has been the breeding-ground for tennis' most renowned champions.
But along with winning comes pressure, and often it has been the winners who have in moments been the greatest losers. The Upset has been part of Wimbledon folklore, too, because it has played host to some of the most shocking and unbelievable the game has yet seen.
We have had Sampras, Williams, Connors, Graf; but with them, a host of underdog kings for a day.
Here are Wimbledon’s 10 greatest upsets.
Jie Zheng Downs Ana Ivanovic (2008)
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Few might believe that Ana Ivanovic’s current slump could be dated to an upset almost three years ago.
It caused a stir in 2008, for sure – especially when she was the reigning French Open champion, and looked a favourite even for Wimbledon.
The Serbian princess had saved match points in the second round, and sought a dramatic increase in intensity and tempo of intent – all of which looked awfully awry in her third-rounder against Jie Zheng.
The stout Chinese counterpuncher would stun Ivanovic, 6-1, 6-4, in a victory that must rank as one of the more surprising upsets of recent years.
Ivanovic would never regain that 2008 mojo, and indeed she has not looked the same since. She remains a puzzle to most, but was certainly most puzzling that day against Zheng.
Maria Sharapova Shocks Serena Williams (2004)
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It was a final between two players in hot form, but there was still a clear favourite.
Serena Williams had won Wimbledon in 2002 and 2003, and as the world No. 1 had the experience, and records, behind her. That final day she faced, however, a feisty, and soon to be revelation for women’s tennis – Maris Sharapova.
As a lanky 17-year-old, Sharapova had stormed her way through the draw, although many predicted a lesson in humility, as she faced up to the majesty of Serena Williams.
Instead, she dished out one of Wimbledon’s most impressive final performances, stunning and fairly sweeping Williams, 6-1, 6-4.
It was a masterclass in aggression, and revealed the power-equilibrium a quick surface can inflict on a match – whatever your credentials or ranking.
George Bastl Fells Wimbledon Giant Pete Sampras (2002)
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If there were ever a match that paid less tribute to the achievements of a tennis legend, this was it.
George Bastl’s five set, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Pete Sampras in the second round in 2002 was not so much shocking as it was upsetting.
Sampras, the seven-time champion, had not only had to endure being relegated to Court 2 (often named the Graveyard of Champions for its high-profile victims), but also the humiliation of losing – a rare event in his career – at his favourite event.
Bastl played great tennis, but his victory was mostly a story of disappointment. He had come back from two sets to love to tie it up, only to buckle in the fifth.
Grass was his home, and Wimbledon his living room; for Sampras, the most prolific player on grass of his time (and possibly ever), to have lost so ignominiously must have struck awe and pity in the hearts of most.
Arthur Ashe Outwits Jimmy Connors (1975)
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One of the earliest of Wimbledon's shockers was one which played out the ancient struggle between brains and brawn.
Jimmy Connors came into the 1975 final a heavy favourite, and he went about his preparation for it the day before in a predictably relaxed manner.
His opponent, Arthur Ashe, was after all not expected to match anything of his power. That night, Ashe devised a clever strategy, which played out the next day to startling effect.
He stunned Connors in four sets, 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, mixing up the spins, drawing Connors to the net, and generally taking the big hitting lefty right out of this baseline comfort zone.
"I'm trying!" is all he could exclaim halfway through his day of torment - but it was to no avail.
It was a demonstration of that kind of drastic mix up in pace unlikely ever to be replicated in the modern power game, but Ashe's win highlighted one crucial fact about tennis: never underestimate your opponent.
Tomas Berdych Stops Wimbledon King Roger Federer (2010)
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Tomas Berdych had reached the semifinals at the French Open coming into Wimbledon 2010, and looked primed for a deep run, with a big serve, and monumental forehand. It all seemed a tall order, however, as he faced Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
It was Federer’s serve and forehand, too, that had done the damage in his seven years atop the All-England Club – seven years in a row he had reached the Wimbledon final. He sought, that day, a chance to play for an eighth.
Berdych took a leaf out of Federer’s book, however, and played with even greater verve on his own serve and forehand, than Federer, and stunned most of the world in winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
It was a slightly limpy performance from the Swiss legend, who had hardly looked his best all tournament. But it was real – the king of grass had lost on the grass of tennis kings.
Ivo Karlovic Stuns Defending Champion Lleyton Hewitt (2003)
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It is rare for a player almost singularly adept at the baseline to win Wimbledon; yet more so, for a defending champion to lose in the first round.
These were the two unusual events that Wimbledon bore witness to in 2002 and 2003, with Lleyton Hewitt winning Wimbledon almost entirely from the baseline in the former year, only to be bounded out at the first outing back in the next.
His opponent wasn’t just anybody, however – it was Dr. Ace, at that time merely an apprentice, the one and only Ivo Karlovic. He serves out of a tree, and certainly did so that day, to eke out an unlikely victory, 1-6, 7-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Only Hewitt and Manolo Santana have ever lost in the first round as the men’s defending champion.
For the Australian, it was the beginning of the end for his reign at the top of men’s tennis, and not a small part would have been played by the loss in a day of so many ranking points, hard earned from the year before.
Kevin Curren Ends John McEnroe's Wimbledon Run (1985)
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1985 was the beginning, in hindsight, of the slow and irrevocable decline of John McEnroe’s fortunes at the highest level. He reached his last grand slam final ever that year, although it was his loss at Wimbledon which must have been most galling.
He had reached, up to that point when he faced Kevin Curren in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, five straight finals, winning three, and indeed was the two-time defending champion.
Five is a special number at Wimbledon, because few have won five straight titles (only Federer and Sampras), but equally few have ever even reached five straight finals. But McEnroe sought the unthinkable – a sixth.
Perhaps it was too much for even the hotheaded American to ponder, as he fell, quite listlessly, a 6-2, 6-2, 6-4 surprise loser.
It was a dangerous slump for a player who promised so much, and one which foreboded more misfortune, as he would withdraw from the tournament the next year, and never go beyond the semifinals to the day of his retirement.
In the context of McEnroe’s wonderful serve-and-volley domination of the lawns of Wimbledon, his loss, above all the ambitions he might have harboured, was the most inconceivable of all.
Tsvetana Pironkova Silences Grass Queen Venus Williams (2010)
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Venus Williams hadn’t lost a set at Wimbledon all tournament coming into her encounter against Tsvetana Pironkova, and it looked unlikely that she would.
The latter’s 6-3, 6-2 victory must remain one of the more perplexing and surprising losses in the resume of the five-time champion. Williams looked terrible all match, and was nervy, and error-strewn, all through the match.
That she failed to find an extra gear was either indicative of that something special in Pironkova (which one is likely to doubt), or merely a strange and unhappy period in Venus’ years at Wimbledon.
A loss for any champion is hard to bear, after many years of dominance. It comes, however, for all, one day.
Richard Krajicek Stupefies Pete Sampras (1996)
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Many upsets at Wimbledon have exemplified the fickleness of grass, and its unerring ability to give almost anyone willing to have a real crack, a go, on any particular day.
The stars, however, must surely have been aligned on that quarterfinal day when Richard Krajicek stunned Pete Sampras, the three-time defending champion, in 1996. He didn’t even relinquish a set to Sampras, winning 7-5, 7-6, 6-4.
For Sampras it was a hard blow to take, and indeed 1996 would mark a low point in his reign atop men’s tennis. But he would return strong, and with a vengeance, clocking seven titles in all, and indeed only made his loss all the more galling.
‘It would have been unbelievable,’ Bjorn Borg would later say, ‘because had he won that match in 1996 he would have won eight straight Wimbledons.’
Krajicek would go on to win Wimbledon in 1996.
Lori McNeil Deals Steffi Graf a First-Round Loss (1995)
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When one has made the semifinals or better in 27 of one’s last 30 grand slam tournaments, the first round is an awfully grim stage to bow out at.
These would have been exactly the feelings of Steffi Graf in 1995, who, as the three-time defending champion, and five-time overall champion, fell to Lori McNeil, 7-5, 7-6.
McNeil was one of Graf’s pet rivals, who would defeat her twice in a row throughout her career – this win being the second and last time ever.
How glorious, her moment of victory – marring an otherwise perfect record for Graf, and bringing to defeat the defending champion in the first round at Wimbledon for the first time ever in women’s tennis.