Qualifying begins: 26 June
The Draw: 30 June
Pre-event Press Conferences: 1 & 2 July
Order of Play: 2 July
Championships begin: 3 July
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1990: A record for Navratilova
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Martina Navratilova produced a near-flawless performance to win her ninth Wimbledon singles title, a record that will take some topping in today's day and age. Competing against fellow American Zina Garrison, Navratilova served and volleyed her way around Centre Court in emphatic fashion, dropping just five games as she took the title 6-1, 6-4.
The 33-year-old Navratilova won six consecutive championships from 1982 to 1987 but was made to wait before surpassing Helen Wills Moody's record of eight titles, losing the previous two years in the final to Steffi Graf. But, with Graf disposed of by Garrison in the semi-finals, Navratilova got there eventually, straddling the net to acknowledge her beaten opponent and then, her courtside courtesies complete, sinking down on her knees for an instant of silent communion with the tennis court she loves best.
"There were no glitches this time; everything came up nines," she said. "This tops it all, absolutely, because I've worked so hard."
1990: Boris Becker v Stefan Edberg
The most defining aspect of the rivalry between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg was the three successive Wimbledon finals they contested between 1988 and 1990. Having split the titles in '88 and '89, their 1990 encounter was undoubtedly the most riveting.
Edberg, who had been routed by Boris the year before, swept ahead, crunching through the first two sets 6-2, 6-2. But, as was his wont, Becker rallied in typical fashion to win the next two sets 6-3, 6-3, and send the match into a fifth. Becker broke Edberg early in the fifth set, on course for a fourth Wimbledon title, and setting up the possibility of being the first Wimbledon champion to win the last three sets in a five-set match since Henri Cochetin 1927.
But, it was not to be. Edberg regained the break and then broke Becker in the ninth game of the set with a topspin lob winner, eventually serving it out for his second Wimbledon title. The Swede went on to win the US Open in 1991 and 1992.
One of SW19's greatest champions arrived at Wimbledon in 1991 having suffered rather a seesaw period, registering one of the worst defeats of her career against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in the French Open semi-finals, losing her first 6-0 set since 1984.
But, as is so often the case, the green grass of the All England Club gave the formerly indomitable German a boost, powering her way to the final. Coming up against friend and rival Gabriela Sabatini, the odds on form were in the Argentine's favour, having beaten Graf in four tournaments in the spring.
But Graf was always capable of something special at Wimbledon, and so it proved, the German rallying back from dropping the second set, and holding her nerve to win an epic Centre Court final 6-4 3-6 8-6, the longest final for 15 years.
One of the wettest first weeks in the tournament's history - just 52 out of about 240 matches were completed by Thursday evening - prompted the decision to stage play on the traditional day off, the Middle Sunday. Gabriela Sabatini and Andrea Strnadova emerged from their dressing room on to Centre Court for their third-round noon showdown. They were greeted by a packed stadium, a seemingly unending roar and enough Mexican waves to fill an ocean.
The spectators had raced from the gates for prime, £10-a-head unreserved seats. They had formed part of a queue snaking almost two miles that produced an attendance of 24,894.
On No.1 Court, John McEnroe, a three-time champion, did not disappoint his adoring fans with a victory against Frenchman Jean-Philippe Fleurian, while victories for eventual Swedish semi-finalist Stefan Edberg and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario warmed up the effervescent crowd on the main court for the top of the bill: Jimmy Connors. Despite thriving on the atmosphere, Connors was eventually upstaged by fellow American Derrick Rostango, but the atmosphere overtook the results that day.
They said that he couldn't win Wimbledon, and certainly not by playing resolutely pinned to the baseline. But Andre Agassi wasn't having that. Defeating Goran Ivanisevic 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 for the Wimbledon title, the Las Vegan erased the stigma of his previous Grand Slam failures, becoming the first back-of-the-court player to win the title since Bjorn Borg, and the first American to win Wimbledon since John McEnroe in 1984.
Illustrating that thundering groundstrokes can be just as important as booming serves, the flamboyant American stood firm throughout a Wimbledon final record onslaught of 37 aces from the 6’4” Croatian, waiting for his chances, and eventually breaking Ivanisevic three times in the match. One of the remarkable statistics was the fact that Ivanisevic came to the net 91 times, not uncommon on grass, but was passed by Agassi an astounding 26 times.
"So many things were going through my mind - Wimbledon champion, Grand Slam winner, a lot of months and years of people doubting me," he said.
John McEnroe collected his fifth Wimbledon men's doubles title as he and Michael Stich beat Americans Jim Grabb and Richie Reneberg 5-7, 7-6(5), 3-6, 7-6(5), 19-17 in a record-breaking final. McEnroe had been dumped out of the singles by the sprightly Andre Agassi in the semi-finals, and so his and Stich's performance, in the longest men's doubles final since the 1968 Roche and Newcombe victory over Rosewall and Stolle, certainly made amends.
Held over from Saturday because of fading light, the match was moved to Court 1 on the final Sunday, the All England Club allowing 7,500 fans into the Grounds for free. After 34 games in the final set had gone with serve, McEnroe produced a stunningly disguised lob to bring up match point, followed by Reneberg dumping Super Brat's serve into the net. Stich grabbing McEnroe around the waist and lifting him into the air, the unseeded pair triumphed after five hours and one minute.
In March 1993, The All England Lawn Tennis Club unveiled its Long Term Plan, the blueprint to take Wimbledon into the 21st Century by providing the finest facilities for all those involved with the event — spectators, players, media, officials — and consistent with our aspiration for The Championships to be embraced as the world’s premier tennis tournament, and still played on grass.
Steffi Graf's fifth Wimbledon title was almost overshadowed by her opponent, Jana Novotna, conspiring to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory after leading by a double break of serve in the third set. Graf looked down and out as Novotna went for broke on a second serve while leading 4-1 in the third set, having romped through the second set 6-1. But whether it was nerves or simply getting ahead of herself, she missed, and the whole match changed.
The German storming back to win 7-6, 1-6, 6-4, Novotna cried her eyes out on the Duchess of Kent's shoulder during the trophy presentation, in what has become one of Wimbledon's most iconic images. "Don't worry Jana, I know you can do it," said the Duchess to Novotna. And she was right, the Czech player triumphing in her third Wimbledon final in 1998.
"With the way Jana was playing and the way I was playing, yes, I'd kind of lost it," said Graf, who yelped for joy after pulling off a remarkable turnaround. "I didn't give up but I didn't have a very positive feeling."
In a timely reminder, 1994 proved no champion is safe at Wimbledon. The first Tuesday dawned with an ill wind that blasted through Wimbledon's elite like a bull in a china shop, rattling nerves, stealing the strawberries, flipping the table with a glorious smash. And there was no greater fall than the world No.1 and five-time champion Steffi Graf, a victim of what the legendary Fred Perry described as "wet, greasy and slippery" gusts.
Graf and the wind proved no match for the contrasting cool intensity of her first round opponent, the unseeded Lori McNeil of the US. The German, winner of the last three Wimbledon’s and five of the past six, was blown out of the draw faster than any other defending women's champ in 101 years, and after she cracked nobody was safe.
Triumphing 7-5, 7-6, it was the best showing by African-Americans at a Grand Slam event since Arthur Ashe won Wimbledon in 1975, and was received with a huge ovation from the rather wet Centre Court crowd. It was, McNeil said, the best moment she had ever known. "It seemed very short, but at the same time—if this makes any sense—it seemed very long and very loud," she said. "It was a great feeling, a great moment for me."
Even in Wimbledon’s rich history, Conchita Martinez’s triumph in the 1994 Ladies’ Singles has to be one of The Championships’ most fascinating stories. She beat a whole host of top names, including nine-time Champion Martina Navratilova in the final. By doing so, Martinez became the first – and to date only – Spanish woman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish, and the only Champion between 1982 and 1996 other than Navratilova or Steffi Graf.
Despite her excellent run, few gave Martinez a chance in the final against Navratilova. Even at 37, the legendary left-hander was a huge favourite, hunting what would have been her 10th singles crown. But it was not to be, as Martinez produced a stunning upset.
The Spaniard admits she was actually more anxious about the prospect of meeting Princess Diana on Centre Court that day. "When they told me she would be at the final and I would have to curtsy for her, I was more nervous about having to do that and meeting her than playing the match! So maybe that was a good thing."
Always considered to be the epitome of British etiquette, it comes as some surprise that Tim Henman, who shouldered British hopes admirably for so long, became the first player ever to be disqualified from Wimbledon. Playing a doubles match alongside Jeremy Bates, the British pair were leading Jeff Tarango and Henrik Holm by two sets to one. Deep into the fourth set, Henman missed a net cord during the tie-break, and, being an impressionable young thing at that time, lashed out with his racket in frustration, hitting the ball he was holding. But it was his and her misfortune that as he did so, a ball girl was crossing the net, and received the full force of the ball on the side of her head.
Referee Alan Mills and Wayne McKewan were summoned to the court, and defaulted the pair for ball abuse. At a late-night press conference at the All England Club, Henman described the incident. "I was not happy at losing the point and was angry. I went to hit the ball hard. I'd looked to see if the linespeople were out of the way." Clearly on the verge of tears, he said: "It's a complete accident, but I'm responsible for my actions."
Steffi Graf won her sixth Wimbledon title but was forced to work hard in the final by her erstwhile rival Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, eventually triumphing 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.
The Spaniard, a clear underdog on grass, dropped only five points on her own serve to take the first set with some exquisite tennis. But Graf battled back, running through the second set before sealing the win with a break in a titanic 20-minute 11th game in the third set, which featured a boggling 13 deuces and 18 game points.
Sanchez Vicario attacked Graf's backhand with such consistency that the German spent much of the game camped in the tramlines on the edge of the court. On her sixth game point, Graf at last found a powerful backhand drive to seal the break of serve and effectively the match.
The Centre Court crowd applauded for the entire changeover, the euphoria continuing as Graf served out for the title. Graf let out an enormous sigh of relief and a cry of joy. She won seven Wimbledons among her 22 Grand Slams but never was she forced to fight harder for victory.
If John McEnroe, for all his explosions and mutterings, was a master at delivering a line and working the crowd, fellow American Jeff Tarango was the complete opposite. His meltdown at Wimbledon in 1995, was the perfect lesson in how to alienate an entire crowd with a pathetic, childish outburst.
Trailing Alexander Mronz in his third-round match, Tarango became increasingly annoyed with chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh, screaming ‘That’s it, I’m not playing….you are one of the most corrupt officials in the game’. After his request to have Rebeuh removed from the match was denied, Tarango walked off the court, defaulting the match.
He then made matters worse by yelling at the crowd to ‘shut up’ when they jeered him off. Even more bizarrely, a few minutes later, Tarango's wife, Benedicte, slapped Rebeuh twice in the face when they encountered one another in the corridor. Tarango was subsequently banned for two Grand Slam tournaments and fined $63,000.
The 1996 final between Richard Krajicek and MaliVai Washington was the subject of several headlines, not necessarily because it was the first Sampras-less final in four years, or Washington being the first black man in the final since Arthur Ashe, but because 23-year-old Melissa Johnson became the first female streaker to get on to Centre Court. As the players were preparing to warm up, Johnson ran on to the court with an apron on, disrobed, and ran around the hallowed turf.
Six years later, a streaker got on to Centre Court during the men’s final at Wimbledon. During a rain break, with Lleyton Hewitt leading David Nalbandian 6-1, 1-0 in 2002, 37-year-old Mark Roberts jumped on to the court, shed his clothes and gave spectators quite a show. He pirouetted, bowed, somersaulted over the net and flexed his muscles before he was finally caught and escorted away with a red sheet covering his modesty.
In one of the most famous and clichéd of all Wimbledon rain delays, play was interrupted extensively in 1996, and so Sir Cliff Richard was invited to give an impromptu concert on Centre Court. The ageing popstar delighted the sodden crowd with a rendition of ‘Singing in the Rain,’ backed by the implausible choir of Virginia Wade, Martina Navratilova, Pam Shriver, Gigi Fernandez and Conchita Martinez.
"I started with Summer Holiday, almost as a joke," Sir Cliff said. "It was totally a capella, which has its advantages - it's impossible to sing out of key for a start. And the crowd see the vulnerability of someone singing without any help. They were magnificent, from the first moment. The reaction was stunning."
After two days of the 1997 Championships were washed out by rain, the club took the decision to play on the middle Sunday for only the second time in Wimbledon history. This was made particularly thrilling thanks to one match where sporting theatre reached its absolute peak – a third-round clash between Tim Henman, the No.14 seed, and Dutchman Paul Haarhuis, regarded as a doubles expert.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, a Brit had a chance of Wimbledon glory and the local public, along with genuine tennis enthusiasts from all over the world, camped all night to pick up one of 14,000 cut-price £15 Centre Court tickets. As Tim Henman recalled, he would never experience a crowd like that "Super Sunday" one again in the 10 remaining years of his career.
"From the word go, it was something I'd never experienced before," he admitted. "The noise was at a different level. Every time I won a point it felt like the roof was going to come off. I’ve never played at Wembley, but I can say that’s as good as it gets in tennis."
On the 1997 Middle Sunday, Tim Henman and Paul Haarhuis met on Centre Court to contest the sought-after fourth round place against defending champion Richard Krajicek. Neither Henman nor Haarhuis were on top form - there were far too many unforced errors and double faults for the purists, but you would struggle to find any tennis match that could beat it for sheer drama. Henman carved out six first-set points in the opener and squandered them all, three on double faults, and went down 9-7 in the tiebreaker. Haarhuis then got the jitters, a double fault of his own handing the British No.1 the second set and two more giving him the third.
There then followed an absolutely exhilarating fourth set. Haarhuis broke early then held strong when Henman twice had golden opportunities to break back, to the groans of the crowd. The underdog was putting up a tremendous fight, but it now became all about who had the bravest of brave hearts. The subsequent fifth and final set went on and on, each game and each point feeling like a lifetime for the predominately British crowd, who cheered every Henman winner with a roar to put soccer fans to shame. Tiger Tim eventually prevailed 6-7(7), 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 14-12, Haarhuis dropping serve to bring the titanic 93-minute decider to an end.
Henman went on to beat Krajicek in a four-set, three tie-break thriller before losing to Michael Stich in the quarter-finals.
Martina Hingis produced the tennis version of rope-a-dope to exhaust Jana Novotna, and become, at 16, the youngest player to win the Wimbledon singles title since 1887. Floating around the court, the young Swiss dismantled the experienced Novotna 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 with a poise and savvy far beyond her years. Despite a slightly timid start, the teenager rallied to hand out an all-court attack that the increasingly weary Novotna was too tired to handle.
"It might be that maybe I'm too young to win this title," said Hingis, who had lost in the French Open final the month before. "But at the French Open I just knew I wasn't in great shape. This time it's like I could do it."
It was another blow for Novotna, who had surrendered the title to Steffi Graf four years earlier, but she went on to triumph against Nathalie Tauziat the following year.
Some of Wimbledon's greatest champions, including Rod Laver, John Newcombe, John McEnroe, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, Louise Brough, Maria Bueno, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova gathered at the All England Club in 1997, invited for the opening ceremony of the new No.1 Court at Wimbledon.
Officially opened by the Duke of Kent, the new No.1 Court seats 11,000, an increase of 4,500 on the original No.1 Court, which has been demolished. The building incorporates a food village, a merchandising shop, 11 hospitality suites and a debenture holders' lounge overlooking courts 14-17. In addition to the new No.1 Court, a broadcast centre, new courts 18 and 19, and a road tunnel linking Somerset Road and Church Road came into operation for the first time.
As part of the continuation of the Long Term Plan, the site where the original No.1 Court stood, adjacent to the Centre Court, was turned into what is the Millennium Building today - the new player and press facilities, which were completed in 2000.
1998: Martina Hingis v Jelena Dokic
Even Jelena Dokic's volatile father was left speechless after the 16-year-old Australian qualifier knocked out world No.1 Martina Hingis in the first round in 1999 in one of the biggest shocks in Wimbledon history. Bobbing up and down like a boxer on the baseline as she swept past Hingis 6-2, 6-0, Dokic summed it up with the understatement so beloved of teengagers - "I think I played quite well today. There was no pressure on me to win. I didn't feel nervous. I just went for it," Dokic said. "It's tough to beat her, whether you practise with her or not ... I tried to play my own game."
Somewhat ironically, Hingis had taken Dokic under her wing as a training partner, practising together before the French Open, and even taking a holiday together. "Martina and her mum made us feel part of the family for a whole week. We never stopped talking and it was such good fun," Dokic said then. "I hope we are friends forever."
1999: Steffi Graf v Venus Williams
Old met new in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, as 19-year-old Venus Williams came up against Steffi Graf, on a high after claiming the French Open. It was a second quarter-final in a row at SW19 for Venus, who hussled and tussled to beat Anna Kournikova in the fourth round.
But Graf had not won seven Wimbledon titles by just ambling about. The seven-time champion neutralised the young Venus's powerful hitting in typical athletic style, running down every groundstroke that her opponent pummelled over the net, and sending it back just as hard. Interrupted four times by rain, both players were forced to produce some of their best tennis, Graf in particular mixing it up with drop shots and net play to keep Williams guessing.
Converting on her first match point, Graf hopped up and down, punching the air and screaming with delight.
"It rarely happens in the quarter-final to play that kind of tennis," said Graf, remarking that it was the best she had ever had to play to get to the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
1999: Pete Sampras v Andre Agassi
Sampras v Agassi was the classic duel of the 1990s. Pistol Pete was the quiet, unassuming fellow who kept to himself while going about the business of amassing a record haul of 14 Grand Slam titles, seven of them at Wimbledon. He served, volleyed and one-handed-backhanded his way into the record books, spent 286 weeks as world No.1 and was a model of consistency. Agassi on the other hand was a veritable firecracker, up one day, down the next. World No.1, world No.141 – it all depended on where his focus was at the time.
The two all-American heroes played each other 34 times between 1989 and 2002, with Sampras holding a 20-14 record and a 4-1 advantage in Grand Slam finals. Serving for the title at 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, Sampras fired down two service winners to make it 30-0. An Agassi backhand return clipped the baseline, then he sent a perfect cross-court forehand as Sampras came in behind a second service to level matters at 30-all. The prostrate Sampras, who had dived in vain to retrieve Agassi’s masterpiece, then picked himself up, dusted himself off and banged a second service right on the T for an ace. On match point, Sampras repeated the feat: two second-serve aces and the title, his sixth Wimbledon crown of seven – was his.