Greg Holmes

40 Years Ago Today – A Wimbledon Classic

It was 40 years ago today, June 25, that one of the greatest matches in the history of Wimbledon – and in tennis – was concluded on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finished off his 5 hour, 12 minute victory over Charlie Pasarell, coming back from two-sets-to-love down and saving seven match points. That match – as well as other Wimbledon Classics – are documented below in the June 25 excerpt from ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com).

1969 – Forty-one-year-old Pancho Gonzales finishes off his classic, darkness-delayed five-set win over Charlie Pasarell 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 in 5 hours, 12 minutes – the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time. Gonzales, 20 years removed from when he won his last major at age 21 at Forest Hills, trails Pasarell two-sets to love when the match was suspended the night before due to darkness after 2 hours, 20 minutes of play. Gonzales sweeps all three sets on its resumption to move into the second round, but heroically fights off seven match points in the fifth set – at 4-5, 0-40, at 5-6, 0-40 and at 7-8, ad-out. Writes Fred Tupper of the New York Times of the match’s conclusion, “It was a question of raw courage now. How long could Pancho go on? He was leaning on his racquet between exchanges, flicking globules of sweat off his brow. At 9-9, Pasarell played a bad game. He double-faulted, hit a volley wide, a lob over the baseline and another volley just out. Gonzalez served for the match. A serve, a smash to deep court and a backhand volley that creased the sideline put him at match point. In sepulchral silence, Gonzalez toed the tape to serve. Then Pasarell lobbed out. Gonzalez had taken 11 points in a row. He had clawed his way back and won.” In 1989, in a second-round match played over three days, Greg Holmes beats fellow American Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 14-12 in 5 hours, 28 minutes.

1953 – In the what the New York Times calls “one of the finest matches seen here since the war,” No. 4 seed Jaroslav Drobny defeats 1950 champion Budge Patty 8-6, 16-18, 3-6, 8-6, 12-10 in four-and-a-half hours in the third round of Wimbledon. The match, concluded in fading light on Centre Court, is the longest match played at Wimbledon at the time – eclipsed by the Pancho Gonzalez-Charlie Pasarell match in 5:12 in 1969. Patty has six match points in the match – three in the fourth set and three more in the fifth set – but is unable to convert.

1973 – The 1973 editions of The Championships at Wimbledon begins, but not with 82 of the top men’s players who boycott the event in support of Yugoslav player Nikki Pilic, who is suspended by the International Lawn Tennis Federation for not participating in Davis Cup for his country. The boycott is led by the new men’s player union, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and includes such notable players as defending champion Stan Smith, John Newcombe, Ken Rosewall and Arthur Ashe. Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and Britain’s Roger Taylor are among the notable players who refuse to boycott the tournament. Jan Kodes of Czechoslvakia, the No. 2 seed, goes on to win the tournament, defeating Alex Metreveli of the Soviet Union in the men’s final.

1979 – Wimbledon’s famous “Graveyard Court” – Court No. 2 – claims two high profile first round victims as 1975 Wimbledon champion Arthur Ashe, in what ultimately becomes his final match at the All- England Club, is defeated by No. 139 ranked Australian Chris Kachel 6-4, 7-6, 6-3, while No. 4 seed Vitas Gerulaitis is defeated by fellow American Pat DuPre 7-6, 6-3, 3-6, 3-6, 6-3.

2001 – For the second time in three years, Martina Hingis exits in the first round of Wimbledon as the No. 1 seed. Hingis, 20, loses on Court No. 1 to No. 83-ranked Virginia Ruano Pascual of Spain 6-4, 6-2 in 1 hour, 7 minutes. Two years earlier, in 1999, the top-seeded Hingis is also bounced in the first round by qualifier Jelena Dokic. Says Hingis, the 1997 Wimbledon champion, after her loss to Ruano Pascual, “It seems like I do really well here or I lose in the first round here.”

2005 – Jill Craybas, the No. 85-ranked player in the world, performs a shocking upset of two-time champion Serena Williams 6-3, 7-6 (3) in the third round of Wimbledon. “Horrible,” Williams mutters in a post-match press conference when asked how she was feeling. “I guess I had a lot of rust. I just didn’t play well today. I mean, the other days I kind of played through it and got better in the second and third sets. Today, I just didn’t do anything right.” The match was originally scheduled for Centre Court, but due to weather delays, the match is moved to Court No. 2, the “Graveyard Court” where champions such as Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Pete Sampras have all lost. At one point during the match, Williams misses a backhand and exclaims, “What am I doing out here?!”

2002  – One year removed from his stunning round of 16 upset of seven-time champion Pete Sampras No. 7 seed Roger Federer is bounced in the opening round of Wimbledon by 18-year-old Croat Mario Ancic by a 6-3, 7-6 (2), 6-3 margin. Says the No. 154-ranked Ancic, “I came first time to play Centre, Wimbledon, they put me on Centre Court for my first time. I qualified, nothing to lose, I was just confidence. I knew I could play. I believe in myself and just go out there and try to do my best. Just I didn’t care who did I play. Doesn’t matter…I knew him (Federer) from TV. I knew already how is he playing. I don’t know that he knew how I was playing, but that was my advantage. And yeah, I didn’t have any tactics, just I was enjoying.” Following the loss, Federer goes on to win his next 40 matches at Wimbledon – including five straight titles – before losing in the 2008 final to Rafael Nadal of Spain.

1996 – “Hen-mania” begins at Wimbledon as 21-year-old Tim Henman wins his first big match at the All England Club, coming back from a two-sets-to-love deficit – and saving two match points – to upset No. 5 seed and reigning French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov 7-6 (8-6), 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 4-6, 7-5 in the first round in what Jennifer Frey of the Washington Post calls “a cliffhanger that enraptured the winner’s countrymen in the Centre Court seats.” Henman goes on to reach the quarterfinals, where he is defeated by American Todd Martin 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-4, but remains a threat to win the title of much of the next decade, thrilling British fans in the excitement of the possibility of a home-grown player becoming the first player to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry won his last of three titles in 1936.

1988 – Thirty-five-year old Jimmy Connors fights back after trailing two-sets-to-love to defeat fellow American Derrick Rostagno 7-5, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 in 4 hours, 2 minutes in the third round of Wimbledon. Says Rostagno of Connors, “He comes up with things you haven’t seen before. Tennis is an art and he’s an artist. It was thrilling, a pleasure to play against.” Says Connors, “My game has always been to stay in until I die.”

2001 – In his third appearance in the main draw at Wimbledon, Roger Federer finally wins his first match in the men’s singles competition, defeating Christophe Rochus of Belgium 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round.

Nadal, Verdasco Play Longest Aussie Open Singles Match, But Not Longest Ever Match At The Event

Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco added another chapter in the history of tennis with their men’s semifinal epic at the Australian Open. The two Spaniards battled for 5 hours, 14 minutes – the longest singles match in the history of the Australian Open – before Nadal edged his Davis Cup teammate 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4. Boris Becker and Omar Camporese held the previous record for the longest match in the history of the Australian Open when Becker edged the Italian standout 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12 in 5 hours, 11 minutes in the third round in 1991. Many media outlets are mis-reporting that the Nadal-Verdasco is the longest match of any kind at the Australian Open. However, the Nadal-Verdasco match is not the longest match ever at the Australian Open according to THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS ($35.95 New Chapter Press, www.tennistomes.com) as Pieter Aldrich and Danie Visser won a 5 hour, 29 minute marathon men’s doubles match in the 1990 quarterfinals, defeating Scott Davis and Robert Van’t Hof 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 23-21. The last set of this match alone took 2 hours, 53 minutes.

Bud Collins, the Hall of Fame journalist and historian, documents the longest matches in the history of the Australian Open in his authoritative book. The updated list of longest matches at the Australian Open are as follows;

Longest Matches, Playing Time

Men’s singles

5 hours, 14 minutes Rafael Nadal d. Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4

5 hours, 11 minutes Boris Becker d. Omar Camporese, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-5), 0-6, 4-6, 14-12, 3rd rd., 1991

4 hours, 59 minutes Andy Roddick d. Younes El Aynaoui, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-4, 21-19, QF, 2003. The fifth set took 2:23, Roddick saved MP in 10th game of the fifth with inside-out forehand.

4 hours, 59 minutes Pete Sampras d. Tim Mayotte 7-6, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5, 12-10, 1st round, 1990

4 hours, 51 minutes, Yannick Noah d. Roger Smith, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 16-14, 1st round, 1988.

Men’s doubles

5 hours, 29 minutes Pieter Aldrich – Danie Visser, d. Scott Davis – Bob Van’t Hof, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 23-21 (last set took 2 hours, 53 minutes), quarters, 1990

Women’s singles

3 hours, 33 minutes Chanda Rubin d. Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, 6-4, 2-6, 16-14, quarters, 1996

One of the great things about THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS is that many of these statistics and lists can only be found in this book (sometimes the records that Bud has compiled are better and more detailed than the record books of the actual tournaments.)

The longest singles matches at each of the four majors is as follows:

FRENCH OPEN

6 hours, 33 minutes – Fabrice Santoro d. Arnaud Clement 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14, first round, 2004 French Open – played over two days) This match is also the longest recorded match of all-time.

WIMBLEDON

5 hours, 28 minutes – Greg Holmes d. Todd Witsken 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 14-12, second round, 1989 – played over three days

US OPEN

5 hours, 26 minutes – Stefan Edberg d. Michael Chang 6-7 (3), 7-5, 7-6 (3), 5-7, 6-4, semifinals, 1992