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10 memorable Wimbledon moments as world's oldest tennis tournament returns

Ah, yes, Wimbledon. The sound of gleeful chatter as those who can afford £2.50 for a punnet of strawberries and cream descend on South West London – that price, incidentally, has been unchanged since 2010.

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Theatre of dreams – Wimbledon's centre court

There’s the grunt of 20-year-old men and women whose physical exertions see them compete for prize money of squillions. Yes, squillions. And there are fingers crossed among fans who fear the re-appearance of Cliff Richard, should the rain descend.

Wimbledon is one of the world’s greatest sporting traditions. It is the oldest and most prestigious tournament in the tennis calendar and one that’s finally getting with the times – a rule forcing women to wear white underwear has been relaxed this year so that ladies can wear coloured undershorts. Yah, Wimbledon.

Novak Djokovic is the defending men’s champion, having defeated Australia’s Nick Krygios in a four-set thrilled last year, during which he secured his 21st Grand Slam. Eleba Rybaina, of Kazakhstan, is the women’s champion, having beaten Ons Jabeur, of Tunisia, in three sets.

This year’s event will leave us gripped, though there’ll be no Boris Becker, no Emma Raducanu – more injuries, poor love – and no Rafael Nadal, who is missing the tournament for the third time in the past four years. Roger Federer will be present, though not as a player, nor a commentator. Instead, he’ll attend to be the guest of honour at a ceremony in which we all tell him how much we love and miss him.

The Weekend team will be among those watching – and so, today, we share our Wimbledon highlights and faves. Email us with yours, as the fortnight progresses.

Wimbledon has been around for 135 years, during which time it’s been bombed – in World War II – there’s been a boycott of top players, Martina Hingis became the youngest woman to win in the Open era while by 2007 equality had dawned and equal prize money was offered. Here’s a quick recap of ten sensational moments.

1. Borg-McEnroe 1980

Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe after the 1980 Men’s Singles Final at Wimbledon

Wimbledon has long been about personal rivalries. In the past decade, it’s been dominated by the duels between Novak, Roger, and Rafa – more of which later.

But rewind to the late 1970s and early 1980s and it was all about McEnroe versus Borg. Bjorn Borg was the world’s best player – a cool, unflustered Swede whose graceful procession to titles was disrupted by a brash, New Yorker; John McEnroe. Borg was placid. McEnroe was volatile. They played one another 14 times between 1978 and 1981. Indeed, their rivalry was so intense that after McEnroe’s victory at the US Open in 1981, Borg walked away. He had left the stadium with Lennart Bergelin, his longtime coach and confidant, hastily grabbed a shower and hopped in a waiting station wagon, never again to be seen competing at the U.S. Open, or any other major. Their 1980 final was a classic, with Borg securing victory with an 8-6, fifth set win.

2. Federer-Nadal 2008

Spain's Rafael Nadal left, shakes the hand of Switzerland's Roger Federer after winning the men's final on the Centre Court at Wimbledon, Sunday July 6 , 2008

The match between Federer and Nadal was a bona fide classic – many consider it the greatest game of all time. And yet the intensity of the rivalry between Borg and McEnroe makes that stand out, even more. It was the third consecutive year in which Federer and Nadal had met in the finals of Wimbledon. Federer had won not only both previous meetings, but had also been the Wimbledon champion the previous five years. Nadal raced into a two set lead, before an 80-minute interruption for weather disrupted the third set. Federer won the third and fourth sets, saving two championship points in the fourth set tiebreak, which is regarded as the greatest ever played. Federer hit some of the greatest passing shots in the history of tennis, to stay in the game, before being two points away from victory. Nadal, however, rallied and broke Federer’s serve in the 15th game of the set. The match ended in near darkness at 21.15.

3. Navratilova’s 9th

Ladies Singles Champion for a record ninth time, Martina Navratilova

The first of Martina Navratilova’s record nine Wimbledon titles was in 1978, when she came from a set down to defeat Chris Evert, the third time in the fortnight she had come from behind to win. By 1987, she was winning a sixth consecutive title, beating the up-and-coming teenager, Stefanie Graf, with a straight sets victory, following another three-set epic against Evert in the semi-final. Her 9th came in 1990 as she defeated Zina Garrison in the showpiece. It was sealed without the loss of a set and meant she had won the Championships in three different decades.

4. McEnroe – You Cannot Be Serious

McEnroe had already been labelled SuperBrat by the British press for his verbal volleys during his previous Wimbledon appearances. But his most iconic outburst came in 1981 in a first-round match against fellow American Tom Gullikson, who was serving at 15-30 and 1-1 in the first set when a McEnroe shot was called out.

Approaching the umpire, he said: “Chalk came up all over the place, you can’t be serious man.” Then, his anger rising, he bawled the words that would stay with him for a lifetime and, for all his wonderful play and myriad achievements, earn him a special niche in the sporting annals. “You cannot be serious,” he screamed. “That ball was on the line. Chalk flew up, it was clearly in, how can you possibly call that out?” he went on. “Everybody knows it’s in in the whole stadium and you call it out? You guys are the absolute pits of the world, you know that?”

On the receiving end of the tirade was umpire Edward James, who eventually responded by politely announcing: “I’m going to award a point against you Mr McEnroe.”

5. Andy Murray in 2013

Andy Murray with the Wimbledon trophy

Andy Murray broke a 77-year hoodoo when he became the first British male player to win the Wimbledon crown, in 2013. Edging Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4, it completed Murray’s lifetime quest. He had been stopped previously three times in the semi-final (by Andy Roddick in 2009, then by Rafael Nadal in 2010 and 2011) and once in the final, in 2012, by Roger Federer. It was Murray’s second Grand Slam title, as he had already beaten Djokovic in the 2012 US Open final, after having lost his four first major finals.

6. Jana Novotna’s Tears – 1993

Having bottled her big chance to win Wimbledon, the late Jana Novotna broke down in tears. Letting a commanding lead slip was too much and her agonising final set collapse left her distraught. The tears started to flow and in one of Wimbledon’s most memorable moments, she was offered a shoulder to cry on by the Duchess Of Kent, as the royal guest carried out the trophy presentation. The fairytale ending that Novotna’s new-found fans wanted came in 1998, when she finally won the Wimbledon title, having again come close against Martina Hingis a year earlier.

Going into the 1998 final as the favourite, she dominated against Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat, and as the Duchess of Kent presented her with the famous Venus Rosewater Dish, this time there were only smiles between them.

7. Isner versus Mahut – 2010

It was spread out over three days and took 11 hours and five minutes to complete. John Isner eventually triumphed in a record-breaking match by a final set score of 70-68. Playing on court 18 on June 22, 2010, Isner and Mahut played four sets on the day when play was halted due to a lack of natural light. The players returned on the following day and began their long vigil in the fifth set, relentlessly holding their serves before play had to be suspended again due to no natural light, stretching the match to an unprecedented third day. It was such an unexpected occurrence that the electronic scoreboard stopped working at 47-47 in the fifth set, as it had not been programmed to keep scores beyond that point. Isner and Mahut kept playing on June 24, serving over 100 aces each and holding serve for an incredible 168 consecutive games through the match. The American eventually prevailed, holding serve in the 137th game of the fifth set, and then broke Mahut in the 138th to prevail in the marathon match and progress to the second round. The fifth set alone lasted eight hours and 11 minutes.

8. Ivanisevic winning as a wildcard

By the summer of 2001, Goran had slipped in the rankings to world No. 125. This was not enough to earn him an automatic place in the main draw but, given his past record as a three-time runner-up, he was awarded a wildcard.

After beating former and future world No. 1 players Carlos Moyá, Andy Roddick and Marat Safin as well as Fredrik Jonsson and Greg Rusedski on the way to the semifinal, he would have to face local-boy Tim Henman. In a five set thriller, which was rain-affected, Goran prevailed. In the final he faced the 2000 runner-up, Australian Patrick Rafter and the Croatian would win it in five-sets 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 2–6, 9–7.

9. Boris Becker winning as a 17-year-old and Martina Hingis winning as a 16-year-old

A 17-year-old Boris Becker with his trophy in 1985

Wimbledon has been a cradle for great new talent – none more so than in the case of Boris Becker and Martina Hingis. Both became record breakers, with Becker winning as a 17-year-old in 1985 and Hingis winning as a 16-year-old in 1997.

10. The Williams sisters going head-to-head in 2000

Venus Williams, right, puts her arm around her sister Serena, after defeating Serena in their Women's Singles semi-final in 2000

The Williams sisters dominated the game and their rivalry extended over two decades. They met 31 times in professional tournaments between 1998 and 2020, with Serena leading their head-to-head 19–12. Both sisters were ranked world No. 1 in singles: Venus for a total of 11 weeks, beginning in February 2002; Serena for a total of 316 weeks, beginning in July 2002. Their 2000 match provided a victory for Venus.

Do you have a favourite Wimbledon moment you would like to share with our readers? Email your letters and memories to