Where Wimbledon scores

Its rich history and glorious tradition, its distinguished champions and their enthralling duels all combine to make Wimbledon one of the most exalted Grand Slam events. Nandita Sridhar on some of the best moments at The Championships.

For a tournament that is the most prestigious in tennis, and has a history dating back to 1877, it seems only natural that Wimbledon has its epochal moments and its timeless champions.

Until Wimbledon welcomes its 2007 winners, here's a look at the past, the matches, the champions and the trivia that have made the Championships what it is now.

The start:

It seems far removed from Wimbledon's enduring ethereal beauty, but the fact that the greatest tennis tournament owes its origin to a malfunctioning roller only adds to its romanticism. The tournament was organised in 1877 to raise money to fix the roller, with 22 participants in the men's singles event. W. Spencer Gore, 27 years old then, besides being given his space in history, was rewarded with 12 guineas.

Three all-time greats — Men:

Pete Sampras (seven titles): His Wimbledon success started off as a delayed fulfilling of promise and took on the form of a ritual. The 1996 Championship was an anomaly, but from 1993 to 2000, one lost count of the great man's big serves and the near offensive half-volleys.

Bjorn Borg (five titles): His five-on-the-trot, mammoth as it is, is further historically elevated by the greatest match in Wimbledon history involving him and John McEnroe. Borg's success with a style perceived not suited to grass set the precedent for the likes of Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt.

Roger Federer (four titles): On course to equalling Borg's five-on-the-trot record, it all began for this Swiss when he beat Sampras in 2001. It took two years for Federer to win his first title, but the passing-of-the-baton-moment, however symbolic, had already happened.


Martina Navratilova (nine titles): With nine titles including six in a row from 1982 to 87, she more than made up for not having sighted a grass court before her maiden appearance in 1973.

Steffi Graf (seven titles): `Fraulein Forehand' could make good use of a weapon that was immensely rewarding on grass. It was fitting that her last match was at Wimbledon, notwithstanding that she lost to Lindsay Davenport in the final.

Billie Jean King (six titles): With a record 20 titles overall, and six singles crowns, King's days, before taking upon the cause of women's tennis, were well spent on the Wimbledon grass.

Memorable matches:

Borg vs McEnroe, 1980 final: Borg won 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6. The fourth set tie-break was a classic, with every point shifting its importance from being match-point for Borg and set-point for McEnroe. Borg's stamina saw him through the final set, with the overwhelming effect of the tie-break spilling over to the fifth for McEnroe.

Goran Ivanisevic vs Pat Rafter, 2001 final: Ivanisevic won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7. This one makes for the drama. The underdog and wildcard denied a win in three attempts in the final, the serve-and-volleyer looking to claim his first, and a tense fifth set. Ivanisevic rode on his faith in destiny, and the belief that he deserved to win. A few nervous match points later, his faith was rewarded. It might not have had too much for the connoisseurs, but the final had just about everything else.

Graf vs Jana Novotna, 1993 final: Graf won 7-6, 1-6, 6-4. "Don't worry Jana. I know you can do it," were the Duchess of Kent's consolatory, yet prophetic words. Novotna did eventually triumph in 1998, but the Czech weeping over the Duchess's shoulders after choking in the final set is still one of Wimbledon's enduring images. So much that Graf's ruthlessness, which drove her to stage a comeback after being down a double break, is sometimes forgotten.

Wimbledon trivia:

The trophy for the men's winner bears the inscription, "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World". The Ladies' Singles champion receives a sterling silver salver called the "Venus Rosewater Dish" or simply the "Rosewater Dish". The salver is decorated with mythological figures.

Longest match: Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor manfully fought the elements that work against long matches. It was grass and it was men's doubles, but the quarterfinal stretched on for six hours and seven minutes. Todd Perry and Simon Aspelin protracted the climax when they failed to convert six match points, and eventually watched their opponents win 5-7, 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 23-21.

Coloured history: Prior to the Williams entourage, Althea Gibson became the first black player to win Wimbledon when she triumphed in 1957. She successfully defended her title in 1958.

Jean Borotra (223) and Navratilova (326) have played the most number of Wimbledon matches.

Youngest Male Wimbledon champion: Boris Becker served, dived and summoned the reserves and concentration to become the youngest male Wimbledon singles champion, aged 17 years 227 days.

Youngest Female Wimbledon champion: Martina Hingis was 15 years and 282 days old when she decided to team up with Helena Sukova of Czech Republic, in 1996, becoming the youngest Wimbledon champion.