Over the many years that Wimbledon has entertained tennis fans around the World, it has always appeared that the tournament has stood out on its own as the premium tennis Grand Slam. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the standard of the tennis that treats our eyes whenever the white cladded warriors of tennis step onto the court to do battle.
Wimbledon has not only seen some of the greatest tennis matches of all time, it has also played host to some of the greatest Grand Slam finals of all time. The following will be a series reminiscing over some of the great finals that have graced the stage on Centre Court, as we attempt the difficult task of ranking them one to twenty.
Many fantastic finals have narrowly missed out on the list, a testament to the large amount of quality that has been on show on Centre Court over the years. The list itself focuses on the Open Era, when tennis became a professional sport in 1968.
It is unlikely that this list will remain unchanged throughout the years, with many classics undoubtedly still to come. With the 2023 edition of Wimbledon right around the corner, make sure you’re there in person to witness the potential Centre Court classics, by getting your premium Wimbledon tickets here at Wimbledon Debenture Tickets.
#20- 1977: Virginia Wade vs Betty Stove 4-6, 6-3, 6-1
At number twenty on the list, is perhaps one of the most significant moments in the history of British tennis, made all the more so as it remains the last time a British woman won Wimbledon.
Prior to the 1977 edition of Wimbledon, Virginia Wade had made the semi-finals on two separate occasions and, despite having won the US Open in 1968 and the Australian Open in 1972, was still desperate to get her hands on her home Grand Slam.
Her opponent in the 1977 semi-final was the world number one and reigning champion Chris Evert. Wade came through a difficult three set match to triumph 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to reach her first Wimbledon final. In the other semi, Betty Stove conquered Wade’s fellow country woman, Sue Barker, to prevent an all-British final.
In the early stages of the final, Wade struggled to deal with Stove’s big serve and hard-hitting style, and the Dutch number one took the opening set 6-4. Wade continued to struggle to break the Stove serve in the second set, and at 3-3 she was getting dangerously close to falling at the final hurdle.
However, Wade managed to dig deep and produced some of the best tennis of her career, only dropping one further game in the rest of the match. Wade won the second set 6-3 and continued her good form into the third set. At 5-1 down, Stove was serving to stay in the match, but Wade seemed to have sussed out the Dutch player’s serve and returned magnificently. On match point Wade hit a crushing forehand down the line, which Stove failed to return. She was finally Wimbledon Champion.
Wade was handed the trophy by the Queen herself and she remained the last British winner of Wimbledon until the man at number nineteen on the list stepped onto Centre Court in 2013.
#19- 2013: Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4
Much like Wade’s victory in 1977, the 2013 Wimbledon final was one of the most important matches for British tennis in recent history. Andy Murray’s Wimbledon triumph in 2013 marked the first time a British tennis player had won Wimbledon since Wade in 1977, and the first time a British man had won the Championship since Fred Perry in 1936.
His opponent was the world number one and 2011 Wimbledon Champion Novak Djokovic. Despite the daunting task that stood before Murray, he got straight into his stride winning the first set with relative ease, 6-4.
But it was the next two sets that give this match its place on the list. In both sets two and three Djokovic took a 4-2 lead, serving to make it 5-2 in both. But in each set Murray showed his mental fortitude to come back and win both, 7-5 in the second and 6-4 in the final set.
The last game of the match, Murray’s service game for the title, is often regarded as one of the finest individual games ever seen. The match looked all but over when Murray raced to a 40-0 lead, but Djokovic showed why he is often regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, winning four straight points to evaporate Murray’s Championship points and bring up his own break point.
In a back-and-forth battle, Murray saved a further two break points to bring up his fourth Championship point. This time he didn’t let it slip, as Djokovic’s backhand found the net to give Murray the title.
Murray’s victory is made all the more impressive when you take into account the force of nature that Djokovic would soon become at Wimbledon, winning six of the next eight titles. It would have taken a masterclass to beat Djokovic in straight sets, and Murray provided just that.
#18- 1984: John McEnroe vs Jimmy Connors 6-1, 6-1, 6-2
I know what you’re thinking, “how can a match this one sided make it onto the greatest Wimbledon finals of the Open Era?” Well, there are only three other matches on the entire list that concluded in straight sets, and each has done so because it represented something special.
Jimmy Connors was a phenomenal grass court player, the American star had won Wimbledon twice and had made multiple finals over the ten years preceding 1984, actually beating McEnroe in the 1982 final. He was a fierce competitor who never made it easy for his opponent. But what awaited him that day on Centre Court was an unprecedented level of tennis, one that has perhaps hasn’t been seen since in a Wimbledon final.
Both men were looking for their third Wimbledon, but it was pretty clear from the outset who the Champion was going to be. In the first set McEnroe didn’t commit a single unforced error as he dismantled Connors 6-1. The onslaught from McEnroe would continue, as Connors would have to wait until half way through the second set for McEnroe to commit his first error, and even that was a disputable line call.
Unforced error aside, the second set was not much different from the first, as McEnroe displayed relentless class, yet again blowing Connors away 6-1. The battered Connors managed one game better in the final set, but the match was concluded in just eighty minutes, with McEnroe only hitting four unforced errors the entire match.
Connors, renowned for his high-quality return game, only managed eleven points off the McEnroe serve, as he succumbed to one of the most one-sided Wimbledon finals in history.
The 1984 gentlemen’s Wimbledon final, whilst short in length, is often considered the greatest display of tennis from an individual player in history, hence earning its spot on the list.
#17- 2004: Maria Sharapova vs Serena Williams 6-1, 6-4
Much like with the previous entry on the list, the 2004 ladies’ Wimbledon final, while short in length, is special for many reasons. Seventeen year old Maria Sharapova was making her first appearance in a Grand Slam final, and if that wasn’t daunting enough, her opponent was the world number one and winner of the last two Wimbledon Championships, Serena Williams.
Williams was an overwhelming favourite for the title and few gave Sharapova a chance. Despite this, it was Sharapova who looked more like the world number one in the first set, the Russian player appearing undaunted by the task at hand, breaking Williams’ serve twice to take it 6-1.
The second set, however, was not so one sided, as it appeared that Williams had turned the tide taking a 4-2 lead. The set looked to be heading the way of the Champion, but Sharapova proved to be a player beyond her years, as she came back to level the set 4-4. In the very next game some fantastic hitting off the backhand side gave Sharapova another break point. Though Williams was able to rescue some of the breakpoints, eventually Sharapova got the break and her third consecutive game. She was now serving for the Championship.
Showing remarkable poise, Sharapova served out the match to become the second youngest player in the Open Era to win Wimbledon, after Martina Hingis is 1997. Williams would go onto to be a force at Wimbledon, winning it a further five times in her career, further emphasising the accomplishment achieved by Sharapova on Centre Court in 2004.
#16- 1978: Martina Navratilova vs Chris Evert 2-6, 6-4, 7-5