These stars outperformed their counterparts.
The underdog stories in tennis are always the most fascinating ones. It’s like the battle of the downtrodden against the oppressor. The champion is always expected to prevail. On the contrary, everyone expects the underdog to go down. But, when the underdog survives, it becomes that more thrilling. In a Grand Slam like Wimbledon, the underdogs have defied the odds many times.
These players produced their best tennis to outsmart the favourites in front of an enthusiastic crowd. Their performance left an indelible impression on the fans and experts around the world.
Let’s take an inside look at five of the biggest underdogs who have been crowned champions at the All England Centre Court:
5. Maria Sharapova (2004)
Maria Sharapova was the biggest underdog when she clashed against top seed Serena Williams. The American was the defending champion, a consecutive two-time winner and was looking to make a hat-trick of Wimbledon titles. On the other hand, Sharapova was the 13th seed on the hunt for her first major Grand Slam crown. So the odds were pretty much stacked against the Russian.
But, Sharapova shocked the doubters with her breathtaking performance, providing a result that no one had expected. The then 17-year-old dismissed Serena’s challenge in straight sets. She won the match 6-1, 6-4 and introduced herself to the tennis world. The victory became such news that the media dubbed it as “the most stunning upset in memory.”
4. Boris Becker (1985)
Boris Becker holds the distinction of being the first-ever unseeded Wimbledon champion. Becker, who had just turned pro a year prior, turned heads with his spectacular performance. He became the first German to win the Wimbledon singles title.
The then 17-year-old schoolboy Becker steamrolled his way through the tournament. In his final match, he faced off against 8th seed Kevin Curren. Becker won the match in four sets 6–3, 6–7, 7–6, 6–4 to clinch his first Grand Slam title.
3. Venus Williams (2007)
Venus Williams’ name might come as a surprise in the list of underdogs. The older of the Williams sisters literally ruled the grass courts before Serena came into the picture. She was a three-time Wimbledon singles champion. But, that was not the case during the 2007 edition.
She was the lowest ranked and lowest seeded woman ever to win Wimbledon. Ranked 31st overall and 23rd in the tournament, Venus was in control from the start. She dropped just one set on her road to the final. The final too was a straight sets affair for Venus against Marion Bartoli. The final scoreline was 6-4, 6-1 with Venus lifting her fourth Wimbledon singles title.
2. Richard Krajicek (1996)
Richard Krajicek came in like a whirlwind and took the tennis world by surprise in the 1996 edition of Wimbledon. This victory remains Krajicek’s only Grand Slam to-date. Moreover, it also made him the only Dutch player in history to win a Grand Slam tournament.
One of Krajicek’s fallen opponents was the legendary Pete Sampras. Krajicek faced the top seed in the quarterfinals and finished him in straight sets. Ironically this was Sampras’ only loss at Wimbledon between 1993 and 2000. The final too was another straight sets victory for Krajicek against American Mal Washington. Krajicek won the final with a scoreline of 6-3, 6-4, 6-3.
1. Goran Ivanisevic (2001)
Last but not least comes one of the most iconic moments in Wimbledon history. Goran Ivanisevic’s maiden Wimbledon victory and only Grand Slam title came at this tournament.
Ironically, when Ivanisevic entered the competition he wasn’t considered the most dangerous player on tour, but more like a player who was past his prime. He had entered the tournament as a wildcard. So, the expectations were not there. However, the Croatian laid all the doubts to rest and captured the Wimbledon title in some style.
The five-set thriller he played against Australia’s Pat Rafter in the final is an absolute classic. The match went back and forth before reaching its climax in the fifth set. Ivanisevic won the match by 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 2–6, 9–7 to complete one of the best underdog stories at Wimbledon. He collapsed on the ground in celebration as the court erupted.
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