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What is the greatest Wimbledon match ever?

Harry Howes | 29 June 2020

We’ve narrowed it down to four options

Is there a greater British tradition than the Wimbledon Tennis Championships? Two weeks of thrilling tennis action, glorious sunshine (sometimes) and strawberries and cream.

The tournament was due to get started today before being cancelled for the first time since the second World War due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, in honour of the historic competition, we’re on a mission to find the greatest ever Wimbledon match.

There’s been plenty of classics, including John Isner and Nicolas Mahut’s record-breaking 11 hour and five minute match in 2010.

But we could only choose four and we need your help in deciding the ultimate winner.

Bjorn Borg v John McEnroe – 1980

Generally regarded as the greatest tennis match of all time, Borg v McEnroe was inevitably going to make our shortlist.

The pair’s rivalry was nicknamed ‘Fire and Ice’ due to their contrasting playing styles and temperament. Borg was renowned for his cool demeanour and conservative approach to tennis while McEnroe, who was an aggressive player and regularly got into arguments with officials, was known as ‘SuperBrat’.

And despite the Wimbledon crowd being traditionally respectful and unbiased, McEnroe was booed as he walked onto the court to face Borg in his debut final in 1980.

The odds were stacked against the American, with Borg the four-time defending champion, but he came out of the blocks and comfortably took the first set 6-1.

But Borg was no pushover and he fought back, edging the second set 7-5 before quickly wrapping up the third.

The match looked to be over in the fourth but McEnroe managed to take it to a tie-break, which lasted 20 minutes as he saved five championship points to win 18-16 and take it to a final set.

But his efforts proved to be in vain as he failed to break Borg and the Swede ultimately won 8-6 to claim his fifth successive title.

McEnroe soon got his revenge as he beat Borg in the US Open final later that year, before triumphing again back at Wimbledon a year later.

Borg retired from the game shortly afterwards, meaning their rivalry was short-lived, but it was so iconic in the world of tennis that it inspired a film about the pair, which was released in 2017.

Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal – 2008

One match that could rival McEnroe and Borg’s classic was the 2008 final between two of the greatest players of the modern era.

Federer and Nadal met each other in the Wimbledon final for the third successive year, with the young Spaniard losing on each of the two previous occasions.

Roger Federer

In fact, Federer had won the last five Wimbledon titles and the odds were in his favour, with Nadal looking to win a rare French Open-Wimbledon double.

Rain delayed the start of the match by 35 minutes and Nadal came out firing, winning the first two sets 6-4 before rain put a stop to play once again.

Almost 90 minutes later, the players returned to court and the enforced break appeared to help Federer regain focus. The Swiss edged the third set 7-6 before surviving two championship points in the fourth set tie-break to win by the same scoreline.

Rain delayed the match once again and by the time the players returned to court, darkness threatened to end play until the following day.

But Federer and Nadal battled out a gruelling fifth set, in which the Spaniard survived a scare to break his opponent in the 15th game before holding serve to win the game 9-7 and claim his first Wimbledon title.

The match brought an end to Federer’s Open-era record of 65 consecutive wins on grass and set a new record for the longest ever Wimbledon final, which was broken by Federer and Novak Djokovic last year.

Steffi Graf v Jana Novotna – 1993

Graf went into the 1993 Wimbledon final as the clear favourite, having won four of the previous five championships.

The German was the best player in the world at the time and she would have expected a relatively easy ride against Novotna.

But her Czech rival was in the final for a reason and was determined to make it a contest. And she certainly achieved that, shocking the tennis world by winning a tie-break to take the first set 7-6.

Not wanting to be embarrassed, Graf came out swinging in the second set, storming to a 6-1 win to take the match to a final set.

Yet those expecting an easy win for the defending champion were in for a shock. Novotna raced into a 4-1 lead and was just a point away form winning the sixth game before Graf rediscovered her cutting edge.

And Novotna struggled to cope with the pressure and her opponent’s aggression, leading to several unforced errors.

Graf’s determination saw her turn the tide and eventually win the set 7-5, delivering her a fifth Wimbledon title and causing an exhausted Novotna to drop to the court in tears.

Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic – 2013

A mission to find the best Wimbledon match of all time wouldn’t be complete without Murray’s first Grand Slam win on home soil.

Despite being the underdog against No.1 seed Djokovic, Murray triumphed in straight sets to become the first British man to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936, as well as the first in the Open era.

Andy Murray

The match-up had been tipped throughout the tournament after both Federer and Nadal suffered early exits and Murray was determined to go one better having lost in the final the previous year.

And that he did. The Scot broke Djokovic twice in the first set before serving to love to win 6-4.

But the second set was not as comfortable as Murray was broken down to trail 4-1. The pair looked set to enter the third set at level pegging but Murray managed to win three consecutive games to reach 4-4 before breaking again on the way to a 7-5 win.

The third set was just as competitive, with Murray surrendering a 2-0 lead to go 4-2 down. Yet Murray could smell the prospect of a maiden Wimbledon title and he managed to win four consecutive games to take the set 6-4 and win the match.

It was Murray’s fifth Grand Slam and the first of his two Wimbledon titles, with his second coming in straight sets once again against Milos Raonic in 2016.

Cast your vote

So, there you have it. Our shortlist of the four greatest Wimbledon matches of all time. Do you agree with our selections? Let us know in our poll on Twitter.

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