This was a match for ages, one that would be remembered by everyone who witnessed this epic. When Isner and Mahut walked out on Court 18 for their first-round duel, no one would have given the contest a second glance. At the end, it would change and everyone would be glued to their television sets to watch how it ended. Three days, 11 hours and five minutes, 183 games, and 980 points – this is what it took Isner to finally beat Mahut in the longest match in the sport’s history. So many records had been shattered by the end that even statisticians had probably stopped keeping count, engrossed in some superhuman tennis played by two athletes, neither of whom was willing to concede an inch. But sport has to end with a loser, although it would be doing Mahut a great disservice to call him that. “It was the greatest advertisement our sport has had in many, many years,” said John McEnroe afterward. He couldn’t have been more correct.
Some call it the greatest tennis match that was ever played. This final had everything – drama, nerves, competition, two of the world’s best players, rain delays and an epic tiebreaker to guide the match home. 16 games in the final set decided who won the Wimbledon crown. And this time, Nadal topped Federer (on his favourite surface) for the first time in his career, avenging his 2007 final defeat to the Swiss ace.
This was the American’s first defeat at the All England Club since a quarterfinal loss to Richard Krajicek in 1996 (a run of 31 matches), which ended his bid for a record-equalling fifth consecutive title. It wasn’t just the defeat but also the opponent he lost to. In the fourth round of the tournament, Pistol Pete was shown the door by a teenage Federer, who counted Sampras as one of his idols. For the 19-year-old Swiss, this also marked a breakthrough in his Centre Court debut, although he went on to lose to Britain’s Tim Henman in the quarterfinal.
Another memorable encounter on the tournament’s final day, and this time it was contested between an Australian and a Croat. Ranked 125th in the world and recovering from a shoulder injury, no one would have expected Ivanisevic to go all the way to victory. But the popular Croat, who had beaten popular favourite Tim Henman in the semis, was not going to give it up. In one of the most boisterous Wimbledon finals, Ivanisevic did not disappoint the hundreds who had turned out with Croat national flags. And he became the first wildcard to win a Grand Slam tournament.
5. 2002, Round 1: George Bastl beats Pete Sampras (6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4)
Another match featuring Sampras, coming after he lost to Roger Federer at Wimbledon 2001. Again, his opponent was a young Swiss. Although Sampras did well to come back from two sets down, Bastl, ranked 145th in the world, was not going to fade away. The gutsy, unheralded Swiss held his own to ensure a memorable victory for him. Ominously, Sampras lost on Court Two, known as the Graveyard of Champions. Indicating the end of an era, the American would go on to win only one Major afterward – the 2002 US Open – before retiring in 2003.