Unlikely Wimbledon Champions

AP Photo/Adam Butler

Unlikely Wimbledon Champions

The tennis world now mourns the cancellation of the most prestigious and popular tennis tournament in the world – Wimbledon. As I sit and reflect about how much I love this tournament, I also think about all the great tennis moments it has provided us. My favorite moments have to do with those that have won this tournament when nobody really thought they had a chance before the tournament started.

These dark horse wins are especially impressive because Wimbledon is a tournament that is historically won by the very top players, and those players win this tournament in bunches, such as Graf, Navratilova, McEnroe, Sampras and Federer. The following are the top 5 dark horses that won:

5. Conchita Martinez: 1994 Women’s Singles Championship

Martinez was considered a clay court specialist, and therefore not a real threat at Wimbledon, especially in the final where she was playing nine-time champ Martina Navratilova, who even though she was 37 years old, she was still playing at a high level at Wimbledon. Martinez shocked Navratilova, and the tennis world by winning her only Wimbledon title.

4. Andre Agassi: 1992 Men’s Singles Championship

Andre broke into the scene in 1987 and by 1988 he had already finished the year ranked 3 in the world. He was considered a phenom and had some big time wins and appearances early on to back it up. Unfortunately for Andre, he went on to lose his first three Grand Slam finals, two at the French and one at the US Open, all surfaces that complimented his aggressive baseline style. Early on he also skipped Wimbledon because he didn’t like the tradition nor the surface. However, in 1991 he made the quarters, so it made sense for him to return in 1992 to take a chance. Nobody thought he’d win it as the 12th seed in a surface that wasn’t ideal for him. However, he tore through the draw and won his maiden Grand Slam.

3. Goran Ivanisevic: 2001 Men’s Singles Championship

Goran’s Wimbledon career was noted for always being the bridesmaid and never the bride. He had reached three previous finals in the prime of his career but fell short against Agassi in 92 and against Sampras in 94 and 98. So when he showed up unseeded in 2001, nobody thought he had a chance in the world. But chance he did, as he rode his experience and passion for the grass all the way to the final to finally claim the trophy, he has so coveted.

2. Simona Halep: 2019 Women’s Singles Championship

Halep is a top player, with multiple years finishing at number one, and a force to be reckoned with, especially on the clay and hard courts. However, although she was capable of reaching the later rounds such as the quarters in 2016 and 2017, title hopes is not what people had in the cards for her, especially because she was facing Serena Williams in the final. Everyone was sure that this was going to be Serena’s tournament to lose, and lose she did, against a phenomenal performance from Halep. Halep has now shown she can win on clay, hard courts and grass. Hall of Fame will be calling for her someday.

1. Michael Stich: 1991 Men’s Singles Wimbledon Championship

Michael Stich went on to win his lone Grand Slam title against three-time Wimbledon Champ Boris Becker in what many though would be a walk in the park for Becker. Maybe Becker thought it would be too, because the heavy favorite lost in three straight sets. Becker would not win Wimbledon again. Stich would appear in two more Grand Slam finals, but would not come close to replicating his Wimbledon success of 1991. Although, he did pair up with John McEnroe to deliver a classic doubles win in 1992. However, John McEnroe is arguably the best doubles player in the history of the sport.

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