Tennishead’s guide to Wimbledon 2022 – Classic matches through the years
Wimbledon has seen some brilliant battle down the years throughout the Open Era.
1980 – Bjorn Borg defeats John McEnroe – Final – 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6
This was a battle for the shifting times.
Borg was the four-time defending champion and at 24 years old was very much at the height of his powers.
The younger McEnroe, 21, had claimed his first Major title at the US Open in 1979 but well behind Borg’s tally of nine Slam titles to this point.
In their respective routes to the final, Borg dropped just two sets while McEnroe dropped three, including in a four-set semi-final with rival and fellow American Jimmy Connors.
And it was McEnroe who started the stronger, taking the opener with a double break.
But Borg hit back in the second and third to lead 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 entering the fourth.
After McEnroe saved two championship points as Borg served for it at 5-4, the fourth set would put out an incredible 34-point tiebreak to determine whether a fifth set was required.
There McEnroe saved an astounding five more championship points to force a decider after claiming the breaker 18-16.
Borg eventually came out on top 8-6 in the final set for an unprecedented fifth consecutive title on the grass of Wimbledon.
That record streak would eventually be equalled by Federer in 2007.
While this was Borg’s final Wimbledon title, McEnroe went on to win three in four in 1981, 1983 and 1984.
1997 – Martina Hingis defeats Java Novotna – Final – 2-6, 6-3, 6-3
Today teenage stars Emma Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez and Coco Gauff are lighting up the women’s tour, but back in 1997 it was Martina Hingis.
She was already world number one at just 16 years old entering Wimbledon.
She already had a Slam title to her name from the Australian Open earlier in the year, as well as an appearance in the final of Roland Garros soon after.
Meanwhile, Novotna was an experienced 28-year-old and a former Wimbledon finalist in 1993, losing to Steffi Graf that day.
Hingis had breezed through to the final without dropping a set, while Novotna had three each of straight sets and three-set wins.
After Novotna inflicted the first dropped set of The Championships on Hingis it looked as though the Czech might redeem her 1993 final loss.
But the youthful exuberance of the Swiss was eventually too much for Novotna as Hingis triumphed for her second Major title and first and only crown at the All England Club.
2002 – Serena Williams defeats Venus Williams – Final – 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
In 2002, tennis was in the midst of Williams dominance.
Serena and Venus had won six of the last 11 Majors stretching back to the 1999 US Open.
Moreover, Venus was the two-time defending champion at Wimbledon entering The Championships in 2002.
Serena on the other hand was yet to reach a final at the grass Slam, having lost to Venus in the semi-finals in 2000 and to Jennifer Capriati in the quarter-finals in 2001.
Come 2002, Venus made it through to a third successive final with ease, dropping just one set en route, whereas Serena did so without even dropping one set.
Serena had won the pair’s two most recent meetings earlier in the year, in the finals of the Miami Open and at Roland Garros.
And so it would prove again here as Serena clinched her first of seven Wimbledon titles to date.
2008 – Rafael Nadal defeats Roger Federer – Final – 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7
This match was truly one for the ages, a battle some consider to be the greatest tennis match ever played.
Astonishingly, Federer came into Wimbledon having been world number one for over four years straight since February 2004.
Soon after breaking onto the Slam scene with his first Major triumph at Roland Garros in 2005, Nadal had been chasing Federer as world number two.
The two men had fought in the Wimbledon final in 2006 and 2007, with Federer coming out on top on both occasions, in four and five sets respectively.
In 2008, Federer cruised to the final without dropping a set, while Nadal had surrendered just one, in a second round encounter with Ernests Gulbis.
Already their 18th showdown in just over four years, the final had the hype for sure.
However, initially it seemed as though the match would be straightforward, and not for the five-time defending champion Swiss.
Nadal went two sets to love up as he looked to have broken his Wimbledon curse.
But champions do not lie down, and neither did Federer as he steeled himself to win the following two sets in tough tiebreaks.
The second of those included two saved championship points from Federer, one with an unreturned serve and the other with an incredible down the line backhand passing shot.
Nadal could have crumbled from the missed opportunities…
But he did not.
Deep in the decider and without a tiebreak to separate them the two men arrived at 7-7 before Nadal finally broke.
As the light faded on Centre Court, Nadal finally clinched victory as Federer sent an approach forehand into the net.
2019 – Novak Djokovic defeats Roger Federer – Final – 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 13-12 (7-3)
More than a decade on from that final heartbreak for Federer, another came along against another great rival in Djokovic.
The Swiss had won a men’s record-breaking eighth Wimbledon title in 2017 and was pursuing a ninth to tie the all-time singles record of Martina Navratilova.
Djokovic was looking to defend his 2018 title and claim a fifth crown at SW19, one which would see him level with none other than the great Bjorn Borg.
While the world number one did not reach the final flawlessly, he did so with minimal fuss, dropping just two sets across his first six matches.
Federer was similar, dropping one more set than the Serb, including in a four set encounter with long-time rival Nadal in the semi-finals.
So, the two most recent men’s champions locked horns in what would become a modern epic.
Djokovic won the opener in a tiebreak, taking the set at his first opportunity there, before Federer responded strongly with a triple-break in the second.
Like the first, the third was close, and again Djokovic came out on top.
That meant that despite not yet being broken on serve, Federer was still one set from losing the final.
Djokovic did land his first break of serve against the Swiss late in the fourth, but Federer held out to level the match and force a decider.
2019 was the first year that Wimbledon introduced a final set tiebreak, to be played at 12-12 if necessary.
Up until the final, not a single men’s match required this tiebreak.
So, after Federer failed to convert two championship points on his serve up 8-7, it was only fitting that such a close contest would be the first to be decided in such a manner.
And Djokovic made it three from three in tiebreaks in the final to clinch a 16th Slam title and fifth on the hallowed lawns of the All England Club.
At just under five hours long, it was the longest men’s singles final in Wimbledon history.
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