Top 10 Great Men's Singles Wimbledon surprises in the open era
Wimbledon has produced some surprising results over the years. There have been a number of top players that have usually reached the later stages but on one or two occasions have lost early. Some top players' games are more tailor made for grass than others, which is one of the reasons for ranking Boris Becker's loss to Peter Doohan above Rafael Nadal's loss to Lukas Rosol. Also Becker was at the peak of his powers, whereas Federer was slightly past his best, which is one reason to rank the Federer loss below Becker. Pete Sampras' loss to Georg Bastl in 2002 is not listed as by then he was seeded sixth (considerably above his world ranking). It was more of an upset that he managed to win the US that year. To qualify for this list, the player that lost must be seeded in the top four and the player that won must be seeded outside the top 16 (one exception is made in the case of Rafael Nadal losing to Steve Darcis, as Nadal was only seeded five because of a long injury lay-off and was the reigning French Open champion).
1. Querrey v Djokovic 2016 3rd round
Coming into the 2016 Wimbledon championships, Novak Djokovic was the overwhelming favourite. He'd won the previous 4 Grand Slams and the previous 2 Wimbledons. In the third round he came up against Sam Querrey, a player pushing 30 who had never been beyond the third round of a Grand Slam. Djokovic played well below his usual standard and seemed to be fatigued. Djokovic was fortunate that the players came off for bad light when he was 2 sets down. Djokovic came back the next day and won the third set and served for the fourth, but he faded away and Querrey took the biggest win of his career.
2. Mayer v Nastase 1973 4th round
1973 was the boycott year at Wimbledon. Ilie Nastase had won the US in 1972 and the French in 1973. He was at the peak of his powers. The boycott came about because of an incident involving Nikki Pilic. All the members of the ATP (which meant most of the top 50 players in the world, with a few exceptions) had withdrawn. Roger Taylor, who was nearing the end of his career and felt this would be his last chance to win Wimbledon, defied the boycott. So did Ilie Nastase. There was one other also. With the decimated field, top seed Nastase was the overwhelming favourite for the title. However, he lost to the unheralded Sandy Mayer in four sets in the fourth round. If the boycott hadn't occured the result would have been a shock, but with the field so utterly decimated, this has to rank as the greatest upset of all time. Nastase was never quite the same after that. The only other player with recent Grand Slam pedigree, clay court specialist Jan Kodes, went on to win Wimbledon 1973. Borg and Connors, both fairly unknown at the time, lost in the quarters.
3. Doohan v Becker 1987 2nd round
This was a gigantic upset. Boris Becker was the top seed and two times defending champion. He was at his peak and always at his best on grass. He failed to reach the quarters at Wimbledon on one other occasion between 1985 and 1997 and that was when he pulled out due to injury in 1996. Becker reached seven Wimbledon finals. Peter Doohan was an unknown Australian. Doohan played the match of his life and won in four sets. After the loss Becker said "there wasn't a war. Nobody died. I lost a tennis match!"
4. Stakhovsky v Federer 2013 2nd round
This was the match when Roger Federer's run of consecutive quarter finals that had lasted over nine years finally came to an end. Whilst it is true that Federer had looked past his best in 2013, there was nothing to suggest that he would not make it through to the quarter finals once again at Wimbledon. Federer was the defending champion and had won the event seven times. He was up against a player ranked outside the top 100. Sergiy Stakhovsky played the match of his life and came in to the net behind his serve a lot. Despite suffering from nerves when a break up in the fourth set leading by two sets to one, Stakhovsky held on to win a tight tie break. Hopefully this win will give the other lower ranked players the belief that the top players can be beaten if they aren't at their best. Upsets were commonplace once but in recent years has become rare, though it has to be said Federer has played fewer poor matches in Grand Slams than any other player in the history of the game. This was certainly one of them though.
5. Rosol v Nadal 2012 2nd round
The great Rafael Nadal did not have a game tailor made for grass, yet he had reached the final every year he played from 2006-2011. Nadal had struggled in early rounds at Wimbledon before, but his competitive spirit had always enabled him to win through in the end. Lukas Rosol was an unheralded player ranked 100 in the world. Rosol led by two sets to one. Then Nadal came back to win the fourth set easily and seemed to be getting on top psychologically. Then there was a break while they closed the roof because there wasn't enough light to play a full set. This meant a break in Nadal's momentum. Nadal then lost his opening service game of the fifth set and Rosol held on to his break and served out to win the match, showing no sign of nerves. Although Nadal hadn't won a Grand Slam outside the French for nearly two years, this was still a big shock. Rosol then lost his next match.
6. Olhovskiy v Courier 1992 3rd round
In 1992 Jim Courier was at the peak of his powers. He had won the Australian and the French and was world number one. Although grass wasn't his best surface, he was still among the favourites to win Wimbledon (this was before Sampras dominated the event). In the third round he lost to qualifier Andrei Olhovskiy in four sets. The following year Courier reached the final.
7. Krajicek v Sampras 1996 quarter final
In 1996 Pete Sampras was at his peak. Grass was his best surface. He had won the last three Wimbledons. Richard Krajicek was a good player but had never done much at Wimbledon before. He didn't seem to be in the same class as Sampras. Then they stepped on the court and that all changed. Krajicek's serve was on form and so were his returns and groundstrokes. The match was interrupted by rain and Krajicek played superbly and won in straight sets. Krajicek, the seventeenth seed, deservedly won the tournament. Sampras then won the event for the next four years. Krajicek never reached another Grand Slam final.
8. Darcis v Nadal 2013 1st round
After his early loss the previous year, Rafael Nadal was trying to regain some grass court form. However, he appeared to be struggling physically and his game made little impact. Steve Darcis played the match of his life and beat Nadal easily. Unfortunately Nadal seems to have two different ways of playing. He either mixes attack and defence and looks to hit forehand winners, or he plays ultra defensively and hits balls half way up the court. Also when he is in defensive mode he seems unable to time his backhand properly. This may well be due to his knee injury. Only Nadal knows how much pain it causes him. What is clear is that playing the way he did in this match, his game looks very ordinary and he can't rely on his competitive spirit to take him through every time, particularly on grass or hard and if his opponent gets inspired like Darcis did (and Rosol did the previous year).
9. Flach v Agassi 1996 1st round
Andre Agassi had just lost early at the French, but was still the number three seed for Wimbledon. Then he lost to some guy who was Ken Flach's brother. Doug Flach was not a player that normally played in Grand Slams, yet he beat the out of form Agassi in four sets. Flach then disappeared back into obscurity again.
10. Norman v Ivanisevic 1997 2nd round
Goran Ivanisevic was one of the top grass court players of the 1990s. He often reached the later stages at Wimbledon, but occasionally his serve wasn't firing and he lost early. In 1990 he had reached the semis, losing a tight four setter to Becker. Then in 1991 he had been seeded 10 and lost early to the unknown British player Nick Brown. In 1992 he reached the final, just losing to Agassi. In 1993 he lost early to Todd Martin. In 1994 he had reached the final and in 1995 the semis. In 1996 there had been a lot of upsets and he was the favourite left in but lost in four sets in the quarters to Jason Stoltenberg (a match that just misses out on being listed here). In 1997 Ivanisevic lost an epic five setter 14-12 in the fifth to the then largely unknown Magnus Norman. Then in 1998 he reached the final. Then he declined and by 2001 needed a wild card. And the rest is history.
The top surprise that almost came to pass but didn't
Federer v Falla 2010 1st round
Roger Federer lost early to Gustavo Kuerten at the 2004 French Open. Then he reached the quarter finals or better of every Grand Slam event that he entered for nine years. However, in 2010 at Wimbledon he came very close to losing his opening match. Federer was the defending champion and number one seed. Allejandro Falla was an unheralded player that led by two sets to love and served for the match before Federer came to his senses and won in five sets.
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