Nick Brown

History Made at Wimbledon

It was an historic day at Wimbledon Monday when the $225 million retractable roof was used for the first time, when it was closed for the conclusion of the women’s round of 16 match between No. 1 seed Dinara Safina and 2006 Wimbledon champion Amelie Mauresmo. The roof stayed closed for Andy Murray’s “roof-raising” five-set, fourth-round win over Stan Wawrinka. Because the closed roof also features lights, Murray’s win also created history at SW19 as the first “night” match at The Championships and as the latest finishing match in the history of the tournament with an official 10:39 pm finish.

As for additional Wimbledon history on June 29, the following are events that will go along with Safina and Murray’s matches, as excerpted from the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.tennishistorybook.com). Excerpts from June 30 are also featured below.

June 29

1984 – Jimmy Connors wins his 65th men’s singles match at Wimbledon, breaking the men’s record set by Arthur W. Gore, defeating Marty Davis 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the third round. Says Connors, “It’s an honor to have won more matches at Wimbledon than any other male, but I play to win tournaments, not matches. Maybe if I’d won three more matches, I’d have won this tournament a lot more. For me, tennis is geared around two tournaments, the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. When I leave here, I go out preparing to win the next year.”

1991 – Twenty-nine-year-old Nick Brown of Great Britain scores a big upset at Wimbledon, beating 10th-seeded Goran Ivanisevic 4-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 in the second round. Brown, ranked No. 591 and the lowest-ranked player in the men’s championship, posts the biggest upset, based on comparative rankings, since the ATP began compiling world rankings in 1973.

1994 – Martina Navratilova sets a Wimbledon record, playing her 266th career match as she passes Billie Jean King’s record of 265 when she and Manon Bollegraf beat Ingelisa Driehuis and Maja Muric 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of women’s doubles.

1988 – In a match featuring the Wimbledon men’s singles champions from the previous three years, 1985 and 1986 Wimbledon champion Boris Becker defeats defending champion Pat Cash 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 in the men’s quarterfinals. ”I watched on television and it hurt when Cash won,” Becker says of watching Cash win the 1987 title. ”My life changed after that Wimbledon. I realized I am a human being who plays tennis and that I’m beatable, and in the back of my mind, I thought that he was the one to beat to get the title back. But it is not over. This match has given me confidence but not the trophy yet.” Mats Wilander’s bid for a Grand Slam is ended as the Australian and French and Australian Open champion is defeated by Miloslav Mecir 6-3, 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals. ”After the match, I was very disappointed,” Wilander says. ”I have been thinking of the Grand Slam a little bit. But I am going to get over that in a few days. I don’t think you can expect yourself to win the Slam.” Ros Fairbank nearly ends Martina Navratilova’s six-year grapple-hold on the Wimbledon women’s singles championship as she lets 4-2 leads in the second and third set slip away in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 loss in the quarterfinals. Says Navratilova, “Several times today. I thought I was going to lose the match. I thought, ‘What a way to go. On Court 14, to Ros Fairbank, in the quarterfinals.” Says Fairbank, ”I thought about ending Martina’s streak all the time. Maybe that was my problem.”

1977 – Thirty-one-year-old Virginia Wade stuns No. 1 seed Chris Evert 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to become the first British woman to reach the Wimbledon women’s singles final since Ann Jones won the title in 1969. An all-British Wimbledon final, however, is dashed by Holland’s Betty Stove, 32, who defeats Britain’s Sue Barker 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in the other women’s semifinal. Says Evert, “Virginia played more patiently than I did. I could see in her eyes how much she wanted to win. I just couldn’t reach deep down inside myself for what I need to win. I didn’t have it.”

1946 – Frank Parker wins the first 16 games of the match and defeats Rolando Vega 6-0, 6-0, 6-2 to help the United States to a 2-0 lead over Mexico in the Davis Cup second round in Orange, N.J.  Parker, a two-time U.S. singles winner, had registered one of the three “triple bagels” in U.S. Davis Cup history in the previous round, defeating Felicisimo Ampon of the Phillippines 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 on June 14.

June 30

1977 – Bjorn Borg and Vitas Gerulaitis stage one of the great Wimbledon semifinals in the history of the event, with Borg edging out his good friend and practice partner by a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 margin. Playing as the first qualifier and youngest man in a Wimbledon semifinal, 18-year-old John McEnroe is defeated by No. 1 seed Jimmy Connors 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 in McEnroe’s first major singles semifinal. Says Gerulaitis of the loss, “Maybe a couple of years ago I would have been happy just to play a match like that. But today I really wanted to win and get into the final. I didn’t let anything upset me. I had one intention and that was to win the match.”

1991 – For the first time in the 114-year history of Wimbledon, play is contested on the middle Sunday of The Championships, due to excessive rain the plagues the first week of the tournament. The tournament opens all of its seats to fans on a first come, first serve basis that creates a “People’s Sunday” as avid tennis fans, who normally do not have access to the prestigious and elite tickets, are allowed to enjoy the tennis – and do so in a carnival type atmosphere of singing, chanting, cheering and standing ovations. Derrick Rostagno and Jimmy Connors play their third round on Centre Court in front of a raucously appreciative crowd, as Rostagno follows up his second-round win over Pete Sampras by beating Connors 7-6, 6-1, 6-4, in Connors’ 101st match at Wimbledon. The most exciting match of the day comes when No. 3 seed Ivan Lendl comes from two-sets down to defeat Mal Washington 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, 7-5 in the second round.

1979 – No. 2 seed John McEnroe falls victim to Wimbledon’s infamous Graveyard Court No. 2 and No. 16 seed Tim Gullikson as the 20-year-old is defeated by Gullikson 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 in the round of 16. Says Gullikson of McEnroe, “He’s not playing nearly as well as he was. He’s not serving as well, and the whole match — just looking across the net at him all the time — he really seemed like he was unsettled. It just seemed like there were a lot of things on his mind. Maybe it’s the tremendous pressure that’s been put on him. He’s been kind of labeled as a bad boy, which he really isn’t. He’s only 20 years old, and really everybody thought he was going to win Wimbledon this year. That’s a lot of pressure on anybody, and you can’t play well all the time. There are a lot of good players out there.”

1987 – In one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sports, Jimmy Connors trails Mikael Pernfors 6-1, 6-1, 4-1, but incredibly rallies to a 1-6, 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-2 round of 16 victory in 3 hours, 39 minutes.Writes Peter Alfano of the New York Times. “Connors added another page in a career that has required several volumes. The complete works of Jimmy Connors will now include what Wimbledon sages are saying was one of the more memorable matches in history, a comeback the equal of any staged here during Wimbledon’s 101 years.“ Says Connors, “I don’t think I’m surprised I won. I think I can still play. I didn’t have time to be embarrassed today. I was too busy trying to do something to win. If I didn’t want to win, I’d just lose, 6-1, 6-1, 6-1, and get off there.”

1988 – Controversy strikes the 78th meeting between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova as Evert’s cross-court forehand clips the top of the net and apparently lands on the line, only to be called out by the linesman, giving the 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 victory to Navratilova, advancing her into the Wimbledon final. After fighting off a match point in the 10th game of the final set, Evert faces triple-match point serving at 5-6 in the final set. Evert is able to fight off the first two match points, before her controversial missed forehand on the third match point.  Says Evert, “But I was sure it was good and I was so happy that I just turned and walked back to the baseline. Then, I turned again and saw Martina with her hand out. I put two and two together and figured the ball was called out…Maybe it was a mixture of me hoping and seeing what I wanted to see. The umpire will rarely overrule on that kind of call. It was bad luck for me considering the match was so close.” Says Navratilova, “I cannot say that it was good or that it was out and there was nothing that I could do about it. It’s a shame it had to be like that because now, there will always be doubts in people’s minds. But we’ve never had a stranger ending in one of our matches than that.”

1983 – Thirty-nine-year-old Billie Jean King suffers her worst defeat in 110 Wimbledon singles matches as she is defeated 6-1, 6-1 in 56 minutes by 18-year-old Andrea Jaeger in the women’s singles semifinals. “She just cleaned my clock,” says King. In the other women’s semifinal, Martina Navratilova needs only 36 minutes to defeat Yvonne Vermaak of South Africa by the same 6-1, 6-1 score.

1982 –Thirty-eight-year-old Billie Jean King defeats Tracy Austin 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 for the first time in her career to advance to the semifinals of Wimbledon for a 13th time in her career. King’s achievement makes her the oldest Wimbledon women’s semifinalist since Dorthea Lambert Chambers reaches the last four in 1920 at 42.

1984 – Boris Becker’s first Wimbledon ends in injury as the 16-year-old upstart retires with torn ligaments in his left ankle in the fourth set of his match with Bill Scanlon. Becker returns to Wimbledon the next year and becomes the youngest men’s singles champion in the event’s history.

1987 – Thirty-five-year-old Jimmy Connors reaches the Wimbledon semifinal for an 11th time in his career with a 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Slobodan Zivojinovic of Yugoslavia.

2003 – Mark Philippoussis fires 46 aces to defeat Andre Agassi 6-3, 2-6, 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 16 of Wimbledon.

Wimbledon Memories

Qualifying at Wimbledon is a great experience and I remember walking through those pearly gates in the early 1990’s.  The two times I played singles there I drew Nick Brown and Mark Petchey, both of England.

Nick beat me in straights and went onto upset Goran Ivanisevic in the next round. I would have loved to have played a top player, but I drew the local boys each time.  I was suppose to play Mark on the first Monday, and it rained all week and I didn’t play until Friday.  Petchey was used to it but it was severe torture for me.  It would be like having to choose to either marry Maria Sharapova or Helena Christensen.

The seeded players at Wimbledon get a special locker room, while the other participants would be regulated to the second one close to the road.  You could open up the window and peer out and watch all the people come in.  I remember Derrick Rostagno, the cool southern Californian who was seeded, choose to keep his belongings with the plebians rather than the seeded players locker room.

I remember that my wife accompanied me to Wimbledon often. The Austrian player Horst Skoff (who recently passed away) used to always hit on her, so I thought if he liked her, she couldn’t be that bad.  She was becoming a dentist in Stockholm, and it was nice to have her come along with me to these events. I played mixed doubles with Lori McNeil and we got to play Grant Connell and a young Lindsay Davenport on Centre Court.  We got waxed, and I was again a nervous dude.

I played doubles with Dave Randall, and we had some tough matches.  I never got past the round of sixteens in doubles at a major.  It irks me in that it is always good to say you got to the “quarters” of a slam.  Playing at Wimbledon always reminded me of my upbringing in Albuquerque, where Mike Velesquez would beat me in the state high school finals my junior and senior year.  He wore shades once when he beat me before wearing shades was in style.

Overall, there is nothing like competing at The Championships, and one must go and check it out.

Take care,

The Journeyman

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