Wimbledon forms the perfect British backdrop for the Grand Slam with its luscious and delicately manicured lawn grass and it is the only Grand Slam to be played on this surface type. The venue offers 18 championship courts and 22 practice courts making it heaven for any tennis fan wanting to see their favourite players. The top games featuring the best players take place on Centre Court and Court Number One. Centre Court can hold up to approximately 15,000 spectators, the sixth biggest tennis only designated stadium in the world. It creates an electric atmosphere as does Court Number One, which houses almost 12,500 fans.
Each year 128 of the most talented professional tennis players in the world congregate to test their wits, fitness, reflexes, techniques and tactics to overcome their rivals. Automatic qualification is available to the top 104 ATP world ranked players. Sixteen further places will be awarded to some of the best players outside the top 104 ranked places. Those selected to play in the qualifiers will need to win three consecutive matches on a grass surface prior to the main Wimbledon championship commencing. The remaining 8 places will be selected by a special committee. They will choose players that may help increase interest in the tournament. For example, players that have suffered injuries but are coming back and may have dropped down the rankings as a result, losing their chance to qualify automatically or through the qualifiers.
With the 135th men’s Wimbledon 2022 singles championship looming it’s time to take a look at the most famous male tennis players of the prior 134 tournaments. To win the championship, excluding the qualification rounds, the player needs to win seven matches against top opponents over a tournament period starting 27 June and ending 10 July. Today, matches are played as the best of five sets, often taking up to five hours to determine the winner.
The First Men’s Singles Wimbledon Winner
Spencer William Gore
Maybe not a household name and maybe not the most successful, Spencer William Gore receives his special mention for being the first male to win the Wimbledon singles in the amateur era. The son of a well off family, he lived near Wimbledon and was a great sportsman as he also played cricket for Middlesex. In the Wimbledon final, Gore beat William Marshall in three sets and is claimed to be the first ever player to use the volley as a technique to win. The serve and volley are often referred to and used as an important tactic at Wimbledon.
Famous Wimbledon Brothers
William Renshaw and Ernest Renshaw
William Renshaw is a player who dominated Wimbledon men’s singles championships during the 1880’s. He won the title on no less than seven occasions, between 1881 and 1886, with his seventh title won in 1889, and to this day only one player has ever won more. The six consecutive titles remain a Wimbledon record and it should be noted he also won an additional five Wimbledon titles playing doubles with his twin brother Ernest Renshaw. Not only did he play doubles with his brother he played against him three times in the singles final beating him on each occasion, (so much for brotherly love) but thankfully Ernest won in 1888 beating Herbert Lawford. William Renshaw was eventually elected in 1888 as the first president of the Lawn Tennis Association.
Laurence Docherty and Reginald Doherty
Just like William Gore and the Renshaw twins, the Doherty brothers were also British. Between them they dominated Wimbledon during the 1890’s and into the early 1900’s. It was Reginald who was the elder brother who won the singles championship on four occasions, between 1897 and 1900, and he was runner up in 1901. He was also a triple Olympic gold medal winner. His younger brother Laurence took up the mantle and emulated his brother going on to win Wimbledon five times between 1902 and 1906. He was runner up to his brother Reginald in 1898. Amazingly between 1897 and 1905 the two brothers playing doubles together amassed a total of eight Wimbledon titles and were two-time runners up.
The First Foreign Finalists
In 1905 an Australian by the name of Norman Brookes became the first ‘foreign’ player to reach a Wimbledon final, only to lose to Laurence Doherty. Undeterred by the loss and the distance he had to travel, Brookes made the final again in 1907 and became the champion by beating Arthur Gore, who later became a two-time winner. It was not until 1914 that Brookes featured in the final once again, beating a New Zealander, Anthony Wilding, in straight sets. Had it not been for the First World War in which Norman Brookes served as a Commissioner of the Red Cross in Egypt, he may have achieved more success at Wimbledon. At the first Wimbledon post World War One Brookes again made the final, ending as runner up.
Never mind the distance Norman Brookes had to travel to Wimbledon, Anthony Wilding was from New Zealand and had to go that extra mile. That extra mile he did, as between 1910 and 1913 he won the Wimbledon title four times and was runner up to Brookes in 1914. Like Brookes the First World War may have restricted further Wimbledon success.
United States Dominance
Over the 21 Wimbledon Championships between 1980 and 2000 there was a USA champion on 12 occasions and a US runner up seven times. There were only six finals during this period that did not feature a player representing the USA.
‘You cannot be serious man’, well we can, as despite his flaring temper and on court tantrums, left-handed McEnroe went on to win the Wimbledon title in 1981/83 and 1984. Often not the crowd favourite for his rude outbursts, he was entertaining and extremely talented beating the legendary Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. Connors was another American who won in 1982, this time McEnroe was the runner up. McEnroe also won five Wimbledon doubles titles pairing up with Patrick Fleming.
Between 1993 and 2000 one man dominated the men’s singles championships at Wimbledon. Pete Sampras won each consecutive year with the exception of 1996. A record seven-time winner, he was the first person to equal the record of William Renshaw held since the 1880’s. It was not because the competition was weak, as he beat the likes of big serving Goran Ivanisevic twice, Boris Becker and Andre Agassi. Sampras ended his career with 14 Grand Slam titles, including the Australian Open and US Open, however the French Open eluded him with his best finish as a semi-finalist. That said, a true all-time great of Wimbledon.
The record of William Renshaw and Pete Sampras winning 7 Wimbledon titles finally came to an end after the turn of this century. The likeable and hugely popular Roger Federer won the tournament for the first time in 2003 and dominated the tournament until the 2008 final when Rafael Nadal beat him in a five-set thriller, ending a 65-match unbeaten Wimbledon run. During his career Federer has won 103 ATP titles, a total of 20 grand slams including the French, Australian and US Open and eight Wimbledon titles. Federer went on to win Wimbledon again in 2009, 2012 and 2017 and has been a four-time runner-up. It now appears Roger Federer will not extend his Wimbledon record as he is unlikely to play in the 2022 championships at the ripe age of 40.
Is Federer’s Record Under Threat?
The 34-year-old talented Serbian is reaching the twilight years of his career and will be remembered as an all-time great when he eventually retires. However, there is still life in the six-time Wimbledon singles champion and one time runner-up. Can Djokovic go on to match the record of Renshaw and Sampras, ultimately meeting Federer’s eight-time Wimbledon champion record and even emulating it? For sure he has the ability to win Wimbledon again but to beat Federer’s record, at the earliest he will be 37 years old providing there are no interruptions to the tournament going ahead.
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