Nadal eliminated in the first round and Federer in the second... In terms of surprises, this 2013 Wimbledon has already hit very hard. But it is not a first in the history of the London institution: Historically reserved for the favourites, the tournament doesn't do by halves when it decides to smile on outsiders...
1973: The ultimate showdown
Open since 1968 to professionals, tennis unionized. To show their solidarity with Niki Pilic, suspended following his refusal to play in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, more than 80 players decided to boycott the 1973 edition of Wimbledon, among them some of the biggest names of the era: Stan Smith, defending champion, John Newcombe, triple winner, Arthur Ashe and Ken Rosewall. Among the stars of the time, only Nastase and Jan Kodes made the trip. If the Romanian didn't benefit from it much, Kodes on the other hand, took full advantage of the situation: rather more famous for his qualities on clay - he won Roland Garros twice – the Czechoslovak beat a lucky loser in the quarter-finals, Roger Taylor in the semis, before winning the ultimate prize against Alexander Metreveli, the first Soviet to play in a major final. Although not very 'brotherly', Kodes did well to be opportunistic.
1983: Chris Lewis can’t lose (or almost)
In the pantheon of Wimbledon surprise finalists, Chris Lewis sits at the head of the table. Although a former winner of the junior event, it was nonetheless a great surprise that the New Zealander, ranked 91st in the world, had a part to play on the last Sunday of Wimbledon in 1983. A pioneer in terms of equipment (using shoes with studs and an oversized racket), he also took full advantage of a draw where outsiders synchronized their watches to better prepare for the colossal surprise: Lewis started by taking out Steve Denton (n 9), while the Nigerian Nduka Odizor dealt with an ageing Guillermo Vilas (No. 4) and especially, the South African bomber Kevin Curren dispatched the defending champion and World No. 1, Jimmy Connors, in last sixteen. And, as Curren had the bad habit of never taking advantage of the opportunities he created for himself (see below), he happily left Lewis to be crushed by an aerial John McEnroe in the final. No problem: the adventure was beautiful.
1991: The one-man-Stich
Unique. Michael Stich has only triumphed on one occasion in a Grand Slam. But he did it properly. In 1991, the German plodder, who had revealed himself to the public thanks to a semi-final at Roland Garros, had a wonderful journey at Wimbledon. Ranked only 42nd in the world in January, the talented German eliminated in turn the world No. 4 Jim Courier, recent winner of Roland Garros, the world No. 1, Stefan Edberg, the defending champion and, in the final, the world No. 2, Boris Becker, a three-time winner of the tournament. Eliminating three of the first four of the ATP rankings at the same Grand Slam was, is, simply unheard of. The feat was even more mythical as, despite two other future finals at the U.S. Open and Roland Garros, this would remain Stich's only tournament victory in a Grand Slam.
2001: The wildest of cards
Goran Ivanisevic had tears in his eyes when serving for the title. The Croatian had come from nowhere. Three times a finalist in London in the 1990s, he seemed crushed by past failures and a papier-mâché shoulder. Having dropped to 125th place in the world, and following an unsuccessful effort in qualifying at the Australian Open, it was only for services rendered that he received a wild card for this Wimbledon which was such a dream for him... and so much suffering. But the characteristic of dreamers is that they have no limits: the former world No. 1s (Safin, Moya), the great servers (Rusedski, Roddick) and the crowd-pleasers (Henman); Goran beat them all to reach a fourth final on the Centre Court. The most unexpected of them all: never had a wild-card made it to the final of Wimbledon. This time Ivanisevic was not to be denied, finally winning in the fifth set 9-7 against Patrick Rafter. Not without being two points away from another defeat at one point. There is a fairy godmother for crazy geniuses after all...
2002: “Black Wednesday”
And the title goes to the World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt. So, 2002, an edition without intrigue? Quite the opposite, it would be one of the wildest Wimbledon has ever seen, particularly because of "Black Wednesday". That day, in the second round, the following fancied players bid good-bye: Marat Safin, world No. 2, knocked in five sets by Olivier Rochus, Pete Sampras, world No. 6 and seven-time winner of the event, defeated by the obscure George Bastl, a lucky loser, and Andre Agassi, world No. 3, beaten by the emerging Paradorn Srichaphan, ranked 67th in the world. Soon after, Kafelnikov, world No. 5, was defeated by Xavier Malisse, and Roddick, world No. 11, by Greg Rusedski. In the quarter-finals, there were only two players ranked in the top 16, Hewitt and Tim Henman! This state of affairs particularly benefitted an unknown Brazilian, Andre Sa, a veteran with a protected ranking after 20 months without playing, Richard Krajicek, and, most of all, two promising young players named Malisse and Nalbandian. Opposed in the semis, the Argentine emerged victorious to claim a place in the final. Where Lleyton Hewitt finally decided to bring a semblance of logic to an otherwise unreal tournament…
By Guillaume Willecoq