The Championships Wimbledon, played at the All England Club, is the oldest tennis tournament in the world. The Grand Slam tournament maintains ceremony lacking in the other Grand Slams; the Duchess of Kent still presents the trophy. Each year, the best tennis players in the world don their white clothes and challenge their opponents as well as the green lawn beneath their feet. A select few have emerged as the best Wimbledon champs of all time. From June 21-July 4, 2010, Roger Federer and Serena Williams defend their titles, cementing their places as the best Wimbledon champs.
Billie Jean King
First of all, Billie Jean King played her last Wimbledon when she was 39 years old, remarkable feat for a sport in which female players rarely reach 30 years old. King has won 20 titles, including six singles championships. It’s unlikely any player, male or female, will beat this record because most players don’t participate in doubles and mixed doubles.
Martina Navratilova has won 20 Wimbledon championships, including nine singles titles. In 1990, she won her last singles title at the age of 33. She won her last mixed doubles title in 2003, when she was 46 years old. She has professional title in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and 2000s, beating women half her age.
During the late 1980s and the 1990s, Steffi Graf dominated tennis, not just Wimbledon. From 1988 to 1996, she won seven singles titles and one doubles title. In 1988, she received the Golden Grand Slam (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open and an Olympic Open). In 1993, Jana Novotna was ahead, but Graf came from behind and crushed her. So upset, Novotna cried on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder.
Pete Sampras was the all-time Grand Slam title winner, with 14, until Roger Federer surpassed him in 2009. Sampras dominated the 1990s, winning seven Wimbledon titles from 1993 to 2000. He broke the all-time Grand Slam record set by Roy Emerson at Wimbledon, defeating Patrick Rafter in a match that ended after dark.
Roger Federer broke Pete Sampras’ all-time Grand Slam record at the 2009 Wimbledon tournament, earning his 15th Grand Slam title by beating Andy Roddick. In all, Federer won six Wimbledon titles in the past seven years. Only Rafael Nadal has been able to defeat him at Wimbledon. As he defends his title at the upcoming Wimbledon, we will see if he can extend his Grand Slam lead and tie Pete Sampras’ record for most Wimbledon titles won in the Open Era.
Althea Gibson does not have the impressive record as Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova or the Williams sisters at Wimbledon. Gibson, though, did for tennis what Jackie Robinson did for baseball. She became the first African American to win a Grand Slam title; predating Arthur Ashe’s Wimbledon title in 1975 (he was the first African American man to win a Grand Slam). In 1957 and 1958, she won Wimbledon singles titles. Gibson also won Wimbledon doubles titles from 1956 to 1958.
Bjorn Borg won five Wimbledon titles in a row, from 1976 to 1980. Only Roger Federer matched this effort. In the late 1970s, he was the master of Wimbledon, with John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors serving as his victims in three. After he was defeated by McEnroe, Borg decided to hang up his racquets. He’s one of those champions that some reporters and tennis fans think exited the game too soon.
The Williams name has been etched on the Wimbledon trophy most years since 2000. Venus Williams won the singles title five times (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2008) as well as four doubles titles. At times, she limped her way to Wimbledon titles, making it to finals despite injuries. I’d compare her to Pete Sampras because both players managed to be victorious even when their bodies were not cooperating.
Serena Williams has only won three singles Wimbledon titles, including the 2009 title, but with her sister, Williams has dominated this Grand Slam in the new millennium. Only two other women (Maria Sharapova and Amelie Mauresmo) interrupted their Wimbledon run. She and her sister also recognized Althea Gibson as a forerunner to their success on the grass.
Unless you are an avid tennis fan, you probably don’t know who Helen Wills-Moody is, but in the 1920s, she set the women’s record by winning eight Wimbledon singles titles as well as four doubles and mixed doubles titles. Wills-Moody held the singles record until Martina Navratilova won her ninth in 1990. Her biggest rival was Suzanne Lenglen, the French player who has a court at Roland Garros Stadium named after her. Wills-Moody lived to see Navratilova surpass her record; she died at 92 in 1998.
These tennis players make my list because of their achievement on the court and the historic significance of their victories. As the 2010 Wimbledon tournament approaches, who know who will won or what player will come out of nowhere and become a future record setter.