Greatest Wimbledon finals: Top six grand slam deciders on grass
Wimbledon Centre Court

Greatest Wimbledon finals: Top six grand slam deciders on grass

The All England Club has hosted some classic matches over the years and we have picked out some of the greatest Wimbledon finals of all time.

Roger Federer is the men’s record holder with eight titles, but two of the championship matches he lost feature in our top six deciders.

Lindsay Davenport vs Venus Williams (2005)

Debate may rage about the greatest men’s final at Wimbledon, but there is no doubt the 2005 contest between Venus Williams and Davenport tops the women’s list in this all-American classic.

Davenport was heading for a second Wimbledon crown when she served for the title at 6-4 6-5, but Williams broke to love with three winners before edging the tie-break 7-4.

Venus was on the brink again when she double-faulted at 4-5 and 30-30, but saved match point with a backhand winner en route to a 4-6 7-6 9-7 victory and a third singles title at Wimbledon.

Goran Ivanisevic vs Pat Rafter (2001)

Ivanisevic broke British hearts by defeating Tim Henman in a semi-final which took three days to complete because of rain delays but all that was forgotten as the big-serving Croat became the first wild card to win a major in a match which took place on ‘People’s Monday’ owing to bad weather.

That ensured an electric atmosphere on Centre Court and the final did not disappoint as the two men went to a deciding set.

World number 125 Ivanisevic, who had lost his three previous Wimbledon finals in 1992, 1994 and 1998, had tears in his eyes as he served for the match but twice double-faulted at championship point to heighten the drama before getting over the line at the fourth time of asking.

After falling to the ground and embracing Rafter, he climbed into the players’ box and hugged his team and father in one of the most emotional and unexpected scenes ever witnessed on Centre Court.

Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer (2019)

Federer’s last appearance in a grand slam final was an absolute classic, swinging this way and that before it was finally settled by the now defunct version of the champions tie-break in a match lasting close to five hours.

The 37-year-old Swiss legend outplayed Djokovic statistically in almost all of the categories used to determine performance and held two match points at 8-7 in the fifth and deciding set, but came up short as he did against the same opponent in the 2014 and 2015 finals.

Djokovic’s resilience eventually saw him pull through 7-6 1-6 7-6 4-6 13-12 in one of the greatest Wimbledon finals of all time, much to the disappointment of the crowd who were never to see Federer in a grand slam championship match again.

Carlos Alcaraz v Novak Djokovic (2023)

Djokovic had not lost at Wimbledon since 2017 and had not been defeated on Centre Court since Andy Murray beat him in the 2013 final 10 years earlier.

The Serb faced world number one Carlos Alcaraz in the final hoping to equal Federer’s record of eight men’s singles titles and the 24 grand slams held by Margaret Court.

All seemed well when the Serb raced into a 5-0 lead en route to taking the opening set 6-1 and looked on course for the title when he led 3-0 in the second-set tie-break and held a set point but unusually netted two backhands before seeing a return fly past him as the atmosphere changed dramatically.

Djokovic was on the ropes when Alcaraz took the third set 6-1 in front of a crowd including the Prince and Princess of Wales, King Felipe VI of Spain, plus Hollywood stars Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, but after a long bathroom break he returned to a few boos and inevitably forced a decider.

Had Djokovic put away an apparently simple overhead to break for 2-0, he may well have walked away with the trophy again, but he netted it and instead it was Alcaraz who broke for a 2-1 lead.

Djokovic hurled his racket against the net post in frustration, shattering the frame and earning more boos, with another hole now to dig himself out of.

But this time he could not and Alcaraz, with the touch and courage of a true champion, seized his moment.

Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe (1980)

The 1980 final was a massive contrast in styles and personality between the super cool Borg, bidding for an unprecedented fifth successive title in the open era, and the volatile US Open champion McEnroe, appearing in his first Wimbledon final.

The 21-year-old New Yorker, nicknamed ‘Superbrat’ by the press, was booed on to Centre Court because of his heated exchanges with the umpire during the semi-final win against Jimmy Connors, but the jeers had no effect as he breezed through the opening set 6-1.

But, the Swede won the next two and then followed one of the greatest tie-breaks of all time, which McEnroe took 18-16 after saving five match points.

Borg then lost just two points in his seven service games in the deciding set which he eventually won 8-6, prompting him to assume his traditional victory pose, knees on the ground, arms outstretched and eyes facing the heavens.

McEnroe, cheered off court in contrast to his entrance, avenged that defeat by beating Borg in the final 12 months later, but it did not come close to this classic which was regarded as number one in the greatest Wimbledon finals until it was finally beaten 28 years later.

Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer (2008)

The above stood above the rest until 2008 when Nadal and Federer produced what both Borg and McEnroe claimed as the greatest match they had ever seen.

Federer was bidding to become the first player in the open era to win six successive men’s singles titles at Wimbledon and he must have been confident given he had beaten Nadal in the two previous finals at SW19.

Just like in 2007, the match went the distance, although this time Federer fought back from two sets down to square the match, saving two championship points in the fourth-set tie-break when Nadal served at 5-2 but failed to convert.

The court was so dark by the time the players returned from a second rain delay that Hawk-Eye wasn’t working and at 7-7 in the decider, the championship referee decided only two more games would be played before calling it off for the night.

Nadal broke Federer’s serve and then in a dramatic change in tactics decided to serve and volley for the first time in four and three quarter hours. At deuce, he diverted from the plan once more by serving to Federer’s forehand to earn a match point which he converted, exorcising the demons of the previous two years.

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