View Full Version : Could have, should have won Wimbledon?

Jun 20th, 2010, 06:40 PM

Opportunities lost: The would-be Wimbledon champs
Bruce Emond, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sun, 06/20/2010 11:09 AM | Sports A | A | A |
Francesca Schiavone’s surprise French Open victory last month showed that fairy-tales can come true in tennis.

The 29-year-old tour journeywoman played with heart to beat higher-ranked, more powerful and naturally talented players. She rose to the occasion, saying later that she wanted to prove that anybody can achieve their dreams if they believe.

It’s an inspiring thought, but sometimes where there is a will there is still not a way to triumph. It’s especially true at Wimbledon, the oldest, most prestigious and most unusual of all the Grand

Although grass was once the surface the sport was played on, today it is limited to a three-week swing of tournaments in Europe.

Players have to learn a different style of play; bending their knees, being alert to funky bounces and moving forward to volley. They also must deal with London’s notoriously inclement weather.

Another factor is simply the luck of the draw; several defending champions — Martina Hingis against Jelena Dokic in 1998, Steffi Graf versus Lori McNeil in 1994, Lleyton Hewitt facing towering Ivo Karlovic in 2003 — have been shocked in the first round by dangerous floaters.

But others were able to seize the opportunities gifted them. Although a semifinalist the year before, Conchita Martinez was not considered a top contender in 1994.

But she labored past McNeil 10-8 in the third set of their semifinal, and sliced and spun her way to defeat Wimbledon legend Martina Navratilova in the final.

Justine Henin says her aim in returning to the tour this year is to add the grass-court Grand Slam to her collection.

She has the all-court game and agility to triumph, if all the other variables fall her way.
Otherwise, she (and Andy Roddick) will go down in history on the list of greats from the past 40 years who could not clinch the most important title of all.

Ken Rosewall

If you think Roger Federer has a beautiful backhand, then take a look at YouTube videos of this Australian’s stylish one-hander.

Rosewall came to prominence in the 1950s, along with compatriots Frank Sedgman and doubles partner Lew Hoad. Seeded third in 1954 at the age of 19, he was expected to defeat his surprise final opponent, Czech veteran Jaroslav Drobny, but was upset in a dogged battle. He lost again two years later to Hoad, and then turned professional.

He returned with the open era in 1968, but was often eclipsed by another Aussie great Rod Laver. He fell in five sets to countryman John Newcombe in 1970, and four years later, at age 39, he had the chance to perform his own Drobny-like upset of young pretender Jimmy Connors. It was not to be as the American teenager decimated his defenses. He ended his career with multiple Grand Slam titles — the Australian, French and US Opens — but no Wimbledon.

Ilie Nastase

Generally regarded as one of the most talented and frustratingly self-destructive of players. The Romanian lost an epic 1972 final against American Stan Smith in five sets, and four years later, at the age of 30, crumbled against the consistency of Bjorn Borg. In ensuing years, the 1972 US Open and 1973 French Open champion became better known for his on-court antics and spreading waistline than his once magical talent.

Ivan Lendl

With a sour, all-business demeanor, Lendl was no favorite among fans or fellow players.

Still, there was something poignant about his perennial losing quest to take Wimbledon, and there was no Goran Ivanisevic charmed ending. He was unlucky to be playing during an era of grass-court greats, from John McEnroe, through Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg (the one that truly got away from him was the 1987 final against Pat Cash, when the unfavored Australian gave his all).

Perhaps he wanted it too much; in his autobiography, Becker says Lendl, who usually needled his opponent before a match, appeared “frightened, almost transfixed” before their 1986 final.

Lendl no doubt rues frittering away his chances as a young player when he pulled out of the tournament claiming an “allergy” to grass (and was then photographed playing golf).

Hana Mandlikova

Another poker-faced Czech, Mandlikova’s sweet-stroking game seemed cut out for Wimbledon. A losing finalist twice (1981 to Chris Evert, 1986 to Martina Navratilova), she lacked the consistency and focus to win it all. The naturalized Australian has all three other Grand Slams to her name: The Australian (1980, 1987), the French (1981) and the US Open (1987).

Monica Seles

There will always be a host of “what ifs” shadowing the career of Seles due to the 1993 knife attack that sidelined her for two years. (After catty complaints from other players about her grunting, a subdued Seles had lost the 1992 final to Graf).

Two-handed off both sides, her style of play was not naturally suited to grass, but her indomitable will to win and strength would have made her a top contender if her career was not so brutally interrupted.

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario

The Spanish player was the little baseliner who could, relying on grit, determination and superb court coverage to grind out wins. A true clay-courter, she won the French Open three times, but adapted well to all surfaces, and also took the US Open in 1994 and was a two-time Australian Open finalist.

On grass, she reached the Wimbledon final in 1995 and 1996, losing on both occasions to longtime rival Graf.

The three-set 1995 final, full of scintillating rallies and drama, is now considered a classic.

Pat Rafter

With the all-court prowess to take the US Open twice, Rafter came close to winning in London, losing to Sampras in 2000 and almost providing a not-so-happing to Ivanisevic’s fairy-tale final the following year.

Questionable Call

These players were talented and gifted, but they did not bring home the slams. We know things happen for a reason, but with a bit of luck, who knows.

Vitas Gerulaitis

The fleet-footed native New Yorker was unfortunate to be around at the same time as Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Guillermo Vilas, who always had his measure on the big occasions (he did win two Australian Opens in the late 1970s, in the absence of the top players). Lost a famously tense semifinal to Borg in 1977. Partied a bit too much for his game’s good, too. Died at age 40 in 1994.

Bettina Bunge

A player from a polyglot of countries, Bunge reached the Wimbledon semifinals at age 19, losing to Martina Navratilova easily. With among the most stylish players tennis has ever seen, the German was tipped to go far, but was felled by injuries and a lack of consistency.

Gabriela Sabatini

The beautiful and beautifully gifted Argentinian came tantalizingly close to winning the title in 1991, and her failure to put away a volley that would have given her championship matchpoint against Steffi Graf has been analyzed ad infinitum. Burned out from the game, she retired five years later at age 26. Martina Navratilova has said she believes there was a Wimbledon title in Sabatini’s future if she had played on.

Yayuk Basuki

Tennis commentators were wowed by the grass-court skills of Indonesia’s best ever player, who reached the fourth round of Wimbledon four times and made the quarterfinals once (her scalps on grass included Magdalena Maleeva, Lindsay Davenport and Irina Spirlea). Veteran tennis writer Barry Wood is among those who believe that Yayuk had the potential to at least reach the final in London. If only.

Tim Henman

We hear the groans. The elegant serve-and-volleyer, a four-time semifinalist, was never able to send the Henman Hill into a full frenzy by giving Britain its first men’s singles crown since Fred Perry in 1936. Tiger Tim was tamed by the fire power of nemesis Pete Sampras in his heyday; in 2001, after Sampras lost, he should have beaten Ivanisevic in the semis but was unsettled by a rain delay. And Britain is still waiting.

Jun 20th, 2010, 06:57 PM
Gabby :sad:
that volley :tears: :sad:

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:01 PM
I'm so glad Amelie and Novotna weren't on that list!

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:03 PM
me too :D
especially Jana, after her nightmare in 1993

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:08 PM
I'm so glad Amelie and Novotna weren't on that list!

and Lindsay too.

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:23 PM
"Martina Navratilova has said she believes there was a Wimbledon title in Sabatiniís future if she had played on."

I don't agree with this at all....

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:30 PM
Regarding the Navratilova quote about Sabatini, maybe she meant if somehow Gaby was able to recapture the form of 1990-1991, when she was playing confidently enough to hold a winning record against Graf going into the Wimbledon final.

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:47 PM
Sue Barker should have/could have won Wimbledon in 1977

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:50 PM
Regarding the Navratilova quote about Sabatini, maybe she meant if somehow Gaby was able to recapture the form of 1990-1991, when she was playing confidently enough to hold a winning record against Graf going into the Wimbledon final.

You could be right. I can't believe the streak of wins over Graf that Gaby put together. I can't think of anyone else that beat Graf more times actually.

Jun 20th, 2010, 07:52 PM
Barker should have taken out Stove in that semifinal, she has joked about Billie Jean King telling her in the locker room that it was for hers to win, and that was what jinxed her. I think she lost 6-4 in the third in a really streaky match. And I think if she had come through, she would have had the measure of Wade, because it would have put so much pressure on Virginia facing another Brit, and also a younger one who, I think, had beaten her several times on the VS swing through the US. But after 1977, actually beginning with the loss to Tracy Austin at the US Open that year, the relationship with Sid Ball, the dog-bite incident in Spain, she really wasn't the same player, except intermittently.

jimbo mack
Jun 20th, 2010, 07:57 PM
i don't think basuki should be mentioned :o

Jun 20th, 2010, 08:01 PM
A bit of local pride ... I think Yayuk, on grass, was a top tenner, or at least one of the top 15 women of her time on grass (that would also include Tauziat, Schultz McCarthy, McGrath)

Jun 20th, 2010, 08:03 PM
"Martina Navratilova has said she believes there was a Wimbledon title in Sabatiniís future if she had played on."

I don't agree with this at all....

I'm with you on that - she had lost that flair and seemed to be going just downhill with the occassional brilliant performance - a lot like Amelie actually!

Jun 20th, 2010, 10:13 PM
Hingis was not the defending champion when she lost to Dokic. She lost that match in 1999. In 1998, when she was holder, she lost to Novotna in the SF.

Jun 20th, 2010, 11:20 PM
No Kournikova but Bunge is mentioned :rolleyes: