Wimbledon establishes itself in tennis history more than any other event in the world. So many moments and memories from the past are brought back to our attention during these two weeks out of the year. Unfortunately, most of the greatest tales from the Championships occurred before I was even born, or I was too young to really appreciate them. Nevertheless, as I have gotten older I find myself valuing tennis history more and more. Now with Tennis En Fuego, together we can all take a look back at some of those moments.
My Own Reflections
On a personal level Wimbledon reminds me of summer. Since the tournament is always in June, it was the only grand slam that took place when I was out of school. Often times these summers were filled with sports camps, tennis lessons, and other shenanigans from young childhood through to adolescence. However, at some point during these summers the green grass always found its way onto the TV screen at home or the local tennis club. As the years went by I found myself looking forward to waking up early on a special Sunday morning to enjoy “Breakfast at Wimbledon.” Even though the broadcast featured strawberries and cream, usually my own breakfast was a less charming bowl of Cheerios or Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
Agassi Achieves the Impossible
An unforgettable moment in Wimbledon history, especially for Americans, was the championship run by Andre Agassi in 1992. Against all odds, he triumphed in five sets over Goran Ivanisevic, defeating two former Wimbledon champions along the way. Who would have thought a flashy baseliner whose one time slogan of “image is everything,” would prevail on the lightening quick grass courts to win his first career major? Nobody. In fact, Agassi had chosen not to play Wimbledon in the past because he thought Wimbledon was too old-fashioned… how ironic! I was too young at the time to really understand the gravity of that moment. Fast forward to present time, and nowadays I get choked up every time I see a replay of that match point. Agassi falls to his knees and throws his arms up in disbelief as the tears of joy immediately flow.
Sampras the Great
Pete Sampras and Wimbledon went together like fireworks on the 4th of July. With a game built for grass courts, Sampras absolutely dominated his time as he won 7 championships over an 8 year span. In my opinion he possessed the best serve in history, and he backed it up with impeccable volleys, God given talent, and supreme athleticism. His last Wimbledon title in 2000 was my favorite. As the evening dusk took over the last glimpses of sunlight, Sampras triumphed over a gritty Pat Rafter to break the all-time record for major titles (later broken by Roger Federer in 2009). Then as he failed to hold back the tears, he embraced his mother and father amongst the crowd… it was the first and only major final they had watched in person.
Rivalry for the Ages
Any tennis enthusiast needs to watch the recent HBO Special, “McEnroe vs Borg: Fire & Ice.” Centre Court at Wimbledon was the stage for one of the greatest individual sports rivalries in history. The Swede had the flowing golden hair perfectly tucked underneath his iconic headband, and a stoic presence on the court with an unmatched level of fitness… a Nordic God. He entered the 1980 final with four consecutive Wimbledon championships, not to mention five French Open titles. Borg was the epitome of a champion and probably the most globally popular tennis player ever seen. Enter the ever so contrasting John McEnroe. At that time he was a punk American kid, whose flaring temper and lack of tennis etiquette couldn’t feel more out of place at Wimbledon. McEnroe sported on iconic headband of his own, but the curly fro didn’t quite have the same appeal as Borg’s. Nevertheless, hailing from New York, the brash teenager was certainly a star in his own right, and his star was rapidly on the rise towards number one. The rest of the story, including the telling of the 1980 final, I will leave to HBO… go see it.
Battle of the Thrones
From one great rivalry to another. If McEnroe and Borg was “fire” against “ice,” then Nadal and Federer could be “brute strengh” versus “graceful perfection.” Many tennis analysts, including McEnroe, have called the 2008 Wimbledon final between Nadal and Federer “the greatest match ever.” Anybody who joined the ride on that long Sunday of tennis two years ago has to somewhat agree. In the previous two Wimbledon finals, Nadal had been knocking on the door of Federer. In 2006 Nadal’s run to the final was a surprise to almost everybody. In 2007 Nadal surprised us once again by actually pushing Federer to five sets in a match he could have won. Everything came to a peak in 2008. The two future hall-of-famers gave us a monumental final that saw unbelievable tennis take place through several rain delays, the five set match ultimately took the entire Sunday to complete. Again amid the waning last minutes of sunlght, Rafael Nadal, the undisputed King of Clay, finally found a way to dethrone Roger Federer in his own grass court kingdom.
Now that Tennis En Fuego has shared our fondest memories from The Championships, tell us what does Wimbledon bring back for you?