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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wimbledon: Magical Moments

A general view of Centre Court during the Men's Singles first round match between Roger Federer of Switzerland and Teimuraz Gabashvili of Russia during day one of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 25, 2007 in London, England.


Ivanisevic had already won over the SW19 crowd after finishing as runner-up in three previous finals and, at the age of 29, most felt his chance to conquer Wimbledon had gone. The odds were against him from the start due to a shoulder injury, while he also needed a wild card to get into the tournament having dropped to 125th in the world. But the popular Croatian fought his way through to the final, where he went on to beat Pat Rafter in a five-set epic. To add to the drama, bad weather meant the match was played on the third Monday but the crowds turned out in droves to cheer an emotional Goran on every step of the way.


Borg was aiming to win his fifth successive Wimbledon title, while McEnroe was making his first appearance in the All England Club showpiece. It was an intriguing contest from the very first point but it was the fourth-set tie-break that would go down in history. With Borg leading by two sets to one, McEnroe eventually levelled the match on a tie-break that lasted 22 minutes and saw 34 points contested. In the end it took an uncharacteristic error from Borg to hand the American an 18-16 advantage. The Swede went on to win the match, although McEnroe got his revenge the following year.


Last year's final was remarkable for several reasons, not least because it saw the top two players in the world slogging it out on Centre Court once more. It was the third All England final in a row between the two, and ultimately needed five sets and 288 minutes of tennis to separate the two, becoming the longest men's singles final in Wimbledon history. Several rain interruptions added to the suspense and the contest finished in near darkness. After Federer had fought back from two sets down, it was Nadal who came out on top in the decider to claim his first Wimbledon trophy and end the Swiss star's five-year dominance of the event.


Wimbledon was marking its centenary, so it was only fitting a Briton should leave their mark on the tournament. At 31, Virginia Wade was considered an outsider in the women's singles draw but overcame Chris Evert in the semi-final before beating Betty Stove in three sets to claim the trophy in front of the Queen in her Silver Jubilee year. Wade remains the last British player to win a senior Wimbledon singles title, although even she was surprised by her success, confessing: "It was my 16th attempt. I'd been trying since 1962. I'd virtually given up."


One of Wimbledon's more unexpected results saw unfancied Arthur Ashe take the crown from defending champion Jimmy Connors. Connors was the overwhelming favourite and had not dropped a set en route to the final. Ashe had survived a five-set tussle in the semis to secure his place in the showpiece. The first two sets took everyone by surprise, though, as Ashe brushed aside his opponent 6-1 in both. Connors fought back to claim the third but Ashe went on to wrap up a 6-1 6-1 5-7 6-4 success, becoming the first black player to win a men's singles title at SW19.


It took three attempts and saw many tears shed along the way but Jana Novotna finally came good in the women's singles final, beating Natalie Tauziat in straight sets. Five years earlier, the Czech had found her way into the hearts of many on Centre Court when she lost the final to Steffi Graf. Then, Novotna had been unable to hold back the tears during the presentation ceremony, famously crying on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent. Novotna had also lost the 1997 final to Martina Hingis but overcame her demons 12 months later to become one of Wimbledon's most popular winners.

We are a day away from the 122-year-old Wimbledon tournament. Here is a look back at some of the best moments.

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