This was way before Rafael Nadal won Wimbledon, and was presented as Roger Federer’s main rival for this 2017 edition. A time where some players managed to have an honorable career without attending (or almost) the London-based Grand Slam tournament. A time where there was still a difference between the « clay specialists » and the « grass specialists. » Did someone say the good old days ?
1/ Kent Carlsson
In the eighties, the Swede much preferred living in a caravan with his family during the tournaments than staying at a hotel. After his retirement, he completely changed careers and became a horse breeder - a childhood passion - and currently owns a stud farm in his native country. A free man and an impressive competitor on clay, he won his nine titles on this surface exclusively. However, his game, based on powerful shots with a lot of topspin from the baseline was so demanding physically that he never played Wimbledon along his career. The grass is greener on the other side.
2/ Alberto Mancini, Guillermo Perez Roldan et Martin Jaite
These three Argentines truly had the ambition of making Guillermo Vilas’ sentence a reality : « Grass is for cows. » Being the sensation of the 1989 spring on clay with victories in Monte-Carlo and in Rome, Alberto Mancini never bothered to travel to London. The same goes for his fellow countryman Guillermo Perez Roldan, who never even played a single tournament on clay. Their elder, Martin Jaine, on his side, came to Wimbledon once. In 1986, when he lost in the second round…
3/ Jose Higueras
He took part in two editions of Wimbledon, and lost twice in the second round. But on the other hand, he lived a decade of success at Roland-Garros (two semi-finals and two quarter-finals). He was the instigator of the long tradition of Spaniards who are allergic to grass.
4/ Eddie Dibbs et Harold Solomon
Two exceptions in American tennis in the seventies and eighties. More comfortable on clay (Solomon played a final at Roland-Garros in 1976, Dibbs played two semi-finals there in 75 and 76) than on grass (Dibbs only took part in one edition of Wimbledon, Solomon in four…for four first-round defeats). The imperfect pair.
5/ Alberto Berasategui
A forehand which could knock out a cow, but only on clay. The Spaniard waited until the very end of his career to discover Wimbledon, in 2000, where he struggled to score six games against Andrei Pavel. Before retiring a few months later.
6/ Thomas Muster
Not a single match won in four tries. But it must be said that the Austrian enjoyed preparing for Wimbledon by playing tournaments on…clay ! He’s the only Grand Slam winner (Roland-Garros in 1995) in history to never have won a single match at Wimbledon.
7/ Marcelo Rios
The Chilean and his temper only graced Wimbledon of their presence on three occasions, only managing to go through the first round once, in 1997, after being luckily presented with an easy draw (Mahesh Bhupathi, Dennis van Scheppingen, John Van Lottum), before receiving a lesson from Boris Becker. And before telling the world this : « If I had wanted to play on grass, I would have become a football player. » Or a gardner.
8/ Alex Corretja
At the start of the new millennial, nobody liked to cross Alex Corretja’s path at Roland-Garros. But he only crossed the Channel on four occasions, winning two matches at Wimbledon, including one where Henri Leconte, his opponent, withdrew after sustaining an injury !
9/ Albert Costa
Just like his fellow countryman Corretja - he was the best man at Corretja’s wedding - but worse : he took part in five editions of Wimbledon, for only two small wins, and defeats against big guns like Mosè Navarra, Arvind Parmar or Mark Hilton. Costa bravo.
10/ Yannick Noah
The Frenchman missed out on Wimbledon in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1989. Apart from that, he never managed to go beyond the third round at the London tournament : incomprehensible for an attacker of his quality. « Yeah, but I had a bad backhand and one of the worst returns on the circuit », he later explained. Tough luck.
By Victor Le Grand et Julien Pichené