by Randy Walker
Other than fireworks, apple pie and Joe Chesnut eating hot dogs, Americans associate the Fourth of July with watching Wimbledon on television. Here are some of the most famous Wimbledon matches played on July 4th, as documented in my book “On This Day In Tennis History” which you can buy and download as an ebook or audio book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0942257421/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_Y6KFNSAVDRNJGX0TTA3A
1981 – Twenty-two-year-old John McEnroe wins the men’s singles title at Wimbledon for the first time in his career, ending five-time defending champion Bjorn Borg’s 41-match winning streak at the All England Club with a 4-6, 7-6(1), 7-6 (4), 6-4 final round victory. “On all the important points,” says Borg after the final, “John hit his first serve. And that was crucial, especially in the tiebreakers.” McEnroe goes on to win two more Wimbledon titles (1983, 1984), while Borg never again plays in The Championships, virtually retiring from the sport at the end of the 1981 season.
1982 – In the longest men’s singles final in Wimbledon history at the time, Jimmy Connors edges John McEnroe 3-6, 6-3, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 in 4 hours, 14 minutes to win his second men’s singles title at Wimbledon. Both players finish the match having won 173 points each. Says Connors, who claims his second of two career Wimbledon titles, to go with his 1974 title, ”I was going to do anything to not let this chance slip by. I was going to fight to the death.” With rain delaying play in the mixed doubles event, Anne Smith and Kevin Curren are forced to play four mixed doubles matches on the final day of the event, winning the title with a 2-6, 6-3, 7-5 final-round decision over Wendy Turnbull and John Lloyd.
1993 – Pete Sampras wins the first of his record-tying seven Wimbledon championships, defeating fellow American Jim Courier 7-6 (3), 7-6 (6), 3-6, 6-3 in the men’s singles final. Sampras fires 22 aces and puts to rest the controversy of him being ranked No. 1 in the world, despite not having won a major tournament title since the U.S. Open in 1990 and Courier holding the Australian Open title and reaching the final of the French Open. Says Sampras, “There’s been a lot of controversy over the computer, how come I’m No. 1 (when) Jim was in the finals of the French and won the Australian. He can’t take this title away from me and now I’m No. 1. I don’t think there will be any more controversy.” Courier’s final round showing makes him the 14th man to reach all four major singles finals in his career.
1947 – With King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in the Royal Box, Jack Kramer cruises to his first Wimbledon title, defeating fellow American Tom Brown 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in just 48 minutes. Kramer wins the title losing only 37 games in seven matches and is the first man to win at the All England Club wearing shorts rather than the traditional long flannel pants.
1999 – Pete Sampras claims a piece of tennis history winning his sixth Wimbledon crown, defeating fellow American Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 in the men’s singles final. The win was the 12th major singles title for Sampras, tying him with Roy Emerson as holder of the most major men’s singles titles. In the women’s singles final, Lindsay Davenport wins her first Wimbledon singles title, defeating seven-time champion Steffi Graf 6-4, 7-5. Following the match, Graf announces that she will not return to the All-England Club as a player, “I won’t be back. I won’t be here as a player again,” says Graf. “Right now I’m a little sad about everything. I’m not ready to talk about what I’m going to do next.” Weeks later, Graf subsequently announces her complete retirement from the game.
1975 – Billie Jean King wins the most lopsided Wimbledon women’s singles final since 1911, defeating Evonne Goolagong 6-0, 6-1 to win her sixth singles title and 19th overall title at the All England Club. King’s 19th title ties her with Elizabeth Ryan for the all time Wimbledon record. Ryan never won the singles title at the All England Club but captured 12 doubles and seven mixed crowns between 1914 and 1934. Following the match, King says she was retiring from Wimbledon singles play because of her depilating knee. “I want to quit on top,” she says, “and I can’t get much higher than this”. She, however, eventually returns to singles play in 1977 and reaches the semifinals in 1982 and 1983.
1970 – John Newcombe wins his second Wimbledon men’s singles title, defeating countryman Ken Rosewall 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in the first five-set final in 21 years at the All-England Club. Rosewall, denied the Wimbledon title for a third time, reaches the final 14 years after losing to Lew Hoad in the 1956 final.
1987 – Thirty-year-old Martina Navratilova wins her eighth Wimbledon women’s singles title – tying Helen Wills for the most ever at the All England Club – defeating Steffi Graf 7-5, 6-3 in the women’s singles final. The win is Navratilova’s sixth straight at the All England Club. Says Navratilova, ”I don’t know how many of these you have to win to be considered the greatest player of all time. But the closer I get, the more it really doesn’t matter. There are great players in different eras and I’m one of the greatest in mine.”
1989 – In her final Wimbledon, Chris Evert rallies from a deficit of 3-5 in the final set, where she was at one point only two points from defeat, to defeat Laura Golarsa of Italy 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 in the women’s quarterfinals. The win is ultimately Evert’s last at the All-England Club after 18 years of competing at The Championships. Writes Robin Finn of the New York Times. “Evert has wanted to control the setting and status of her exit, and not until she arrived at Wimbledon for the 18th time had she thought she was ready to begin viewing her tournaments as if she might never see them again. She could bear the thought of leaving the game, but only if she left it with her reputation intact, as a viable Grand Slam challenger and not a hanger-on. To accomplish that, she needed to advance to the semifinals at Wimbledon, advantage point from which she thinks she can begin to make an honorable exit from tennis.” Says Evert in her post-match press conference, “In the third set I thought, this isn’t the way I would like to go out of the tournament if it would be my last tournament, which it probably would be.”
1988 – Twenty-two-year-old Stefan Edberg wins his first Wimbledon men’s singles crown, defeating two-time champion Boris Becker 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2. The final marks the first Wimbledon final to be played over two days as rain post-pones play from Sunday with Edberg leading 3-2 in the first set. Says Edberg, “It’s hard to believe I really won it. This is something I’ve worked a long time for. It was my target this year. It’s a fantastic feeling that hasn’t sunk into my system yet.”
1996 – Three-time defending champion Pete Sampras is dismissed from the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in a flurry of 29 aces from Richard Krajicek 7-5, 7-6 (3), 6-4. Says Krajicek of his upset victory, “It’s a good feeling. I mean, I’m not unbelievably excited yet because I’m still in the tournament, but I have a proud feeling that I’m the first one in four years to beat him at Wimbledon.”