Wimbledon: Top 10 Men's finals of Open era
By Les Roopanarine
Forty years ago the Open era began in 1968, and since then there have been 18 different champions. We take a look back at ten of the best Men's finals in the intervening period.
1. Bjorn Borg beat John McEnroe (1980) 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7 (16-18), 8-6
The Ice-Man reigneth
Great rivalries thrive on contrasts, and this clash of mighty opposites - of ice-cool Swede and fiery New Yorker, imperturbable four-times champion and volatile challenger - was steeped in them. McEnroe had the initial momentum, but failed to consolidate his early dominance and was slowly, inexorably hauled back. At 5-4, 40-15 in the fourth set, Borg held two championship points. McEnroe saved both, forcing a genre-defining tie-break in which, from 5-5 onwards, every other point was either a match point or a set point. McEnroe eventually sealed it 18-16, but Borg, serving with majestic authority, climbed a mental Everest to win the final set and claim his fifth consecutive title. Unforgettable.
2. Goran Ivanisevic beat Pat Rafter (2001) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7
Goran's miracle moment
As the first final in history to begin on the third Monday and the last-chance saloon for two former finalists soon to be forced into retirement by shoulder injuries, this had the makings of a classic from the outset. With the match held over by rain, 13,370 spectators paid at the gate, their unrestrained passion generating a tumultuous clamour that was mirrored on the court by some fearsome attacking tennis. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Ivanisevic - ranked 125, pushing 30 and three times previously a faller at the final hurdle - became the first wild-card entrant in history to lift the trophy. "I'll remember this day forever," blubbed the Croatian. So will we.
3. John McEnroe beat Jimmy Connors (1984) 6-1, 6-1, 6-2
McEnroe's rage for perfection frequently brought him into vociferous conflict with Wimbledon officialdom, but on this occasion he silenced everybody - including the normally loquacious Connors - with a performance of flawless virtuosity. Against the best returner in the business, McEnroe conceded just 11 points in as many service games, sweeping to the most one-sided victory since 1938, when Don Budge routed Bunny Austin 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 en route to the first ever Grand Slam. For some, there was a faint whiff of schadenfreude; a decade earlier, Connors had swept aside Ken Rosewall in similarly ruthless fashion.
4. Andre Agassi beat Goran Ivanisevic (1992) 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4
After a decade of domination by serve-volleyers, even the most optimistic gambler in Agassi's home town would have thought twice before backing the Las Vegan to make his Grand Slam breakthrough at Wimbledon. His baseline game seemed as unsuited to the slick lawns of the All England Club as his long hair and fluorescent attire. Yet Agassi, clad in pristine white, beat Boris Becker and John McEnroe before staging a return-of-serve master class against Ivanisevic to remind us that Wimbledon could still be won from the baseline. Another decade would pass before Lleyton Hewitt repeated the feat.
5. Arthur Ashe beat Jimmy Connors (1975) 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
Ashe outwits Connors
Probably the most cerebral final in Wimbledon history. Connors came into the tournament as the world No 1, defending champion and overwhelming favourite. He had beaten Ashe in each of their previous three meetings, had not dropped a set en route to the final, and warmed up by way of a light-hearted hit with Ilie Nastase. Ashe's meticulously conceived, flawlessly executed strategy left him with a rather sterner countenance. By taking the weight off his own shots, Ashe nullified his opponent's power; by slicing low to the forehand, he exposed an inherent flaw in Connors' technique. Tactical perfection.
6. Boris Becker beat Kevin Curren (1985) 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4
Boris' big moment
When Johan Kriek tipped Becker as a contender for the Wimbledon title, at the time most of us put it down to the fact that he had just been trounced by the teenager in the final of Queen's. Big mistake. Three weeks later, after a sustained blitzkrieg of booming serves, diving volleys and thunderous returns – not to mention a gutsy fourth-round comeback from match point down against Tim Mayotte – Becker had comprehensively rewritten the record books. Wimbledon's first German and only unseeded champion was also, at 17 years, 227 days, its youngest.
7. Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi (1999) 6-3, 6-4, 7-5
The best a man can get
When a player with a record 14 Grand Slam titles, including seven at Wimbledon, identifies a performance as possibly the best of his career, it pays to take heed. While Agassi arrived in SW19 with confidence buoyed after completing a career Grand Slam at the French Open, Sampras, his best days seemingly behind him, had made an indifferent start to the year. It mattered not. Sampras produced a superlative exhibition of grass-court tennis that at times reduced his fellow American to the role of helpless spectator. "Today he walked on water," said Agassi. Few would disagree with his assessment.
8. Roger Federer beat Rafael Nadal (2007) 7-6 (9-7), 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 2-6, 6-2
Federer equals Borg
With Bjorn Borg's modern record of five consecutive titles beckoning and the Swede looking on from the front row of the Royal Box, Federer had more to contend with than the unrelenting brilliance of Nadal. The cumulative burden weighed heavily on the Swiss, who was uncharacteristically tetchy at times as he was extended to a fifth set for the first time in a Wimbledon final. Federer survived the sternest examination of his reign to take his appointed place in history. Victory for the Swiss this year would equal the all-time record set by William Renshaw in the 1880s, when the holder went straight into the final.
9. Stefan Edberg beat Boris Becker (1990) 6-2, 6-2, 3-6, 3-6, 6-4
Edberg's sweet revenge
Fittingly, the final act of the Edberg-Becker Wimbledon trilogy was also the most enthralling. Edberg, who had beaten Becker in the 1988 final only to have the Challenge Cup firmly prised from his grasp by the German the following summer, stormed into a two-set lead with a regal exhibition of serve-and-volley tennis. Becker belatedly discovered his service rhythm, recovering the deficit before breaking to lead 3-1 in the final set, but some inspired returning earned a fired-up Edberg a double break and his second title. "It was the kind of final you don't see too often," said Becker. He was not wrong.
10. Rod Laver beat John Newcombe (1969) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
All that glitters is gold
The fourth and final Wimbledon title of the Rockhampton Rocket's glittering career was also the most significant. As the third leg of a calendar year Grand Slam – the second of Laver's career following his clean sweep of the majors as an amateur in 1962 – his four-set victory over fellow Australian John Newcombe was a key staging post on the road to sporting immortality.