Wimbledon 2012: Highlighting the Greatest Champions in Wimbledon History
The Championships, Wimbledon have existed since 1877 (gentlemen's) and 1884 (ladies'). There have been many great champions in the century and a quarter since the tournament's inception.
Sadly world wars took away 10 years of action at Wimbledon and derailed what could have been even more great tennis and history.
Nonetheless, selecting 25 (and a bonus) great Wimbledon champions is a fun task.
It teaches us the power of consistency and, for some, resilience. Many champions on this list have repeated championships and carried the crown for years upon years. Others have won once and then found their way back to the trophy many years later.
All have embodied what it means to win at Wimbledon: class, heart and great skill.
Ladies': Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers (Great Britain)
If you know anything about world history, you recognize it's taken a lot longer for women to gain rights than men. They have always been viewed as second-class citizens. Unfortunately that has been true at the classiest of places, Wimbledon.
The tournament did not conceive ladies' competitions until 1884, seven years after gentlemen's competition had begun. Thus it took longer for a lady to establish herself as a great champion.
Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers was the first great ladies' champion at Wimbledon. She spread out her success a little more than most of the tournament's noted champions.
She first won in 1903, followed it up the next year winning in 1904 and again in 1906, but fell off for a few years before returning to her place atop ladies' tennis, winning again in 1910 and 1911 and again consecutively in 1913 and 1914.
It should be noted she is the only British lady to have any great success at Wimbledon. Of course every champion from 1884 to 1904 was British, but few since then have made any kind of run even close to what Chambers accomplished in those early years of the tournament.
Suzanne Lenglen (France)
Suzanne Lenglen was the first, and only, French lady to establish herself as a notable champion, winning five straight tournaments from 1919 to 1923 and one more in 1925.
Her dominance in those years opened the door to ladies outside of England to come to London to compete in this now-famous tournament. Though American ladies were coming and competing (and recording a few wins) the tournament was still mostly dominated by British ladies.
Lenglen changed that and gave other ladies reason to think they could make their mark at Wimbledon.
Hellen Wills Moody (USA)
Before 1927, U.S. women were actively involved in the Wimbledon championship. But Helen Wills Moody became the first great U.S. ladies' champion.
She won four consecutive times from 1927 to 1930, in 1932 and 1933, again in 1935 and finally in 1938.
U.S. ladies began to dominate the tournament for many years after. Moody should get some of the credit for that.
Louise Brough Clapp (USA)
Louise Brough Clapp won four times at Wimbledon. She won three in a row in 1948, 1949 and 1950. She then rallied later in her career to win in 1955.
The time in between her wins is quite impressive. And it certainly makes her one of the best Wimbledon champions ever.
Maureen Connolly Brinker (USA)
Maureen Connolly Brinker was one of the best ladies' tennis players in all of history. Her three consecutive Wimbledon titles from 1952 to 1954 only further cemented her legacy.
That she has a cup named after her is a great testament to her abilities and accomplishments as a tennis player and a person.
Maria Bueno (Brazil)
Maria Bueno is the only Brazilian, male or female, to ever win at Wimbledon. She did so three times, first in 1959 and 1960. She then completed her Wimbledon career by winning in 1964.
For the only Brazilian winner, to win three times makes her an incredible champion. She was also the last lady to record the majority of her victories in the amateur era of the championship.
Billie Jean King (USA)
Billie Jean King had a bit of a unique tennis career. The peak of her career really overlapped from the amateur era to the open era of women's tennis. Her first two Wimbledon titles, in 1966 and 1967, came in the amateur era. Then she won in 1968 in the first year known as the open era.
The next few years saw King come up a bit short at Wimbledon, before she went on to win 1972 and 1973 and again in 1975 (pictured here).
With those six victories she remains tied for the third most wins in ladies' championship history at Wimbledon.
Martina Navratilova (USA)
As crazy as it is to think that Martina Navratilova is an American, her tennis career was even crazier.
Believe it or not, Martina has the most wins among ladies ever at Wimbledon.
She won in consecutive years in 1978 and 1979. Then she went on an incredible six-year winning run from 1982 to 1987. Her Wimbledon career culminated in 1990 when she won for a record ninth time.
Her nine wins at Wimbledon give her a leg up on any best player of-all-time conversation. It is not a definitive clincher for her but it helps a ton.
Chris Evert (USA)
Chris Evert is probably one of the most famous women's tennis players ever. While her Wimbledon resume doesn't match up to King's or Navratilova's, it's still pretty darn impressive.
With three wins (1974, 1976 and 1981) and six runner-up finishes Evert cannot be deemed a failure. Among those runner-up finishes three took place in consecutive years from 1977 to 1979.
Evert used her appeal as a player to carve out a nice post-tennis life. She is probably one of the most talked-about people in all of tennis, and she hasn't played in two decades.
She may not have had the most playing success, but she is probably the most recognizable of all ladies' champions at Wimbledon.
Steffi Graf (West Germany)
If you're as young as I am you may not have even realized there was such thing as a West Germany (thanks U.S. school system for that). That is the country Graf represented throughout the majority of her career.
And she represented it really well, winning seven times at Wimbledon in a span of nine years. Her titles came in 1988, 1989, 1991-1993 and 1995 and 1996.
Many players have dominated Wimbledon. No one has done it in quite the manner of Graf.
After Evert she is probably the most talked-about retired women's tennis player ever. Sadly most young tennis fans will know her for her marriage to Andre Agassi, and not the way she played in between the lines of the grass surface in London.
Venus Williams (USA)
With five titles (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008) and a number of runner-up finishes to her sister Serena, Venus is one of the ten greatest ladies' players ever at Wimbledon.
Sadly it looks like her best days are behind her.
Serena Williams (USA)
Gentlemen's: William Renshaw (Britain)
The picture here is of village cricket. In William Renshaw's time (late 1800s) village cricket was probably a much more popular sport than this game called tennis.
Renshaw definitely added to tennis's popularity as he won six straight Wimbledon titles from 1881 to 1889 and another in 1890.
Renshaw may not be a household name today, but there's no doubt his success at Wimbledon helped make it the tournament it is today.
Wilfred Baddeley (Britain)
So a lot has changed since the late 1800s, even in England. People dress so much more casually, the whole event is televised and broken down like it's the most important event in the world and there is never ending print media coverage at your disposal.
One thing hasn't changed: greatness. Wilfred Baddeley dethroned the great one of his time, Renshaw, in 1891, and followed it up with wins in 1892 and again in 1895.
Reginald Doherty (Britain)
You may be noticing a similarity between the gentlemen's and ladies' tournaments in the early days. Both were won by British players.
Reginald Doherty in fact won four in a row from 1897 to 1900.
The dominance is close to what we saw from Renshaw and thus quite impressive.
Laurence Doherty (Britain)
These British gentlemen who are preparing for the Olympics (to be held in London in less than a month) may have actually been alive when Reginald Doherty's brother made the grass courts at Wimbledon his own personal wrecking ball.
For their sake, I kind of hope they were, because there has been only one other Brit to dominate the tournament since Laurence Doherty won five straight championships from 1902 to 1906.
Then again that player came a few decades later so they could have celebrated those victories as well.
Anthony Wilding (New Zealand)
Apparently this photo has something to do with Anthony Wilding, the only New Zealand player to ever sustain any success at Wimbledon.
He was also the last player to dominate Wimbledon before the world collectively went to hell, a.k.a. war.
His four victories from 1910 to 1913 might have been the cause of World War I now that I think about it. I mean New Zealand, having success in anything? In 1910?
That would have been enough to set the world on its ear.
Bill Tilden (USA)
The United States of America began its stranglehold on the world after World War I due to its military brilliance. That dominance also made its way to the world of tennis where Bill Tilden came out of the Wimbledon break guns 'a-blazin'.
He took two titles consecutively in 1920 and 1921. Then he did what few gentlemen or ladies have done and came back in 1930 to win the championship.
Tilden wasn't the best American male tennis player ever, but he certainly did something important in the world of men's tennis—he showed Americans can win in London.
Fred Perry (Great Britain)
How many players have a statue built for them at the facility in London? I can't actually tell you since I've never been there.
But Fred Perry does. He was the last great British champion, winning consecutively in 1934, 1935 and 1936.
The statue itself made him worthy to be on this list. As did his being the last great British champ. Anything else to be said in his regard is a bonus.
Rod Laver (Australia)
Maybe history isn't really your thing. You may have had teachers like those in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and ended up sleeping in class.
If that's the case you may not realize Australia and England are sister countries. Australia remains a part of the royal head.
It is no wonder then that the only great Australian champ is still revered so fully in London. He is one of the older gentlemen in the title slide photo and is celebrated throughout this championship.
For good reason. He won four times, twice going back-to-back (1961-1962 and 1968-1969). Not bad for an Aussie.
Jimmy Connors (USA)
Jimmy Connors is one of the few players worthy of an exception to my rule that a player must win at least three championships to be considered on this list as a great Wimbledon champion.
He won twice (1974 and 1982). But he was also a runner-up four times.
Connors rode his success as a player at Wimbledon and in other Grand Slams into a somewhat successful announcing career, while also spending time coaching American players, most notably Andy Roddick.
Bjorn Borg (Sweden)
Bjorn Borg is one of the prominent players in Wimbledon history. His five consecutive wins from 1976 to 1980 make him one of the most dominant players as well.
He is also the only Swede to ever win in London.
So much more could be said, but I'm going to assume you probably already know much of that.
John McEnroe (USA)
Not only did John McEnroe win at Wimbledon three times, he also was the runner-up twice.
British fans, as is true of most tennis fans, have a love-hate relationship with McEnroe. But he has partnered with Borg to do some nice things for the game and tournament.
And much like Borg I'm going to assume you know just about everything else there is to know about Johnny Mac.
Boris Becker (West Germany)
The late 1980s and early 90s were great years for West Germany in the sport of tennis, especially at Wimbledon. Too bad for the country that tennis was about the only positive thing going on. Hopefully you don't need to revisit that history lesson from earlier to know why.
Boris Becker's three titles (1985, 1986, 1989) were great moments. The great champion also had four heartbreaks as a runner-up. Nonetheless, Becker was and is a great Wimbledon champion.
Pete Sampras (USA)
Winning at Wimbledon clearly never got old for Pete Sampras (seen here kissing that gold trophy for his seventh and final tournament victory).
His seven victories are historic because of the number and where they rank him in the tournament's history—that is, No. 1.
Sampras' decade of dominance is unlikely to be matched at Wimbledon again.
Of course there is much to know about Sampras beyond tennis, but he was a good enough tennis player that all that other stuff is just that—stuff.
Roger Federer (Switzerland)
While no one is likely to dominate a decade at Wimbledon the way Pete Sampras did in the 90s, Roger Federer came about as close as is possible.
He won six Wimbledon championships (2003 to 2007 and 2009) in the decade.
Nonetheless, our final great champion reminded us of what great Wimbledon champions look like. They dominate for years at a time.
At least that's been the trend for the tournament's first century and a quarter.