A gentleman's game.
Tennis is a popular worldwide racket sport, originating as a racket-less game in France during the Middle Ages. In addition to the Bond One-Liner provided above, it is also the source for numerous sex jokes (Even when we're not scoring, we're in love!). It's regulated by the International Tennis Federation, with the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) responsible for the men's game and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) for the ladies'. The most important championships are Wimbledon and the Australian, French, and US Opens; these are referred to as the Grand Slams, but winning all four is known as the Grand Slam.
Tennis history is split into two main parts: Open Era and pre-Open Era. Pre-Open Era, the Grand Slam tournaments only allowed amateur players to compete. As of the Open Era, 1968 - present, tennis is a pro sport with prize money at all events. The advent of the Open Era also heralded standardised and reliable record keeping and consistent tournament rules.
Tennis is largely an individual and pair sport, but team events are not unheard of. The Davis Cup is a men's event (ladies get the Fed Cup and the Hopman Cup is mixed) that involves teams from different countries playing each other in a knockout tournament.
The basic game is easy to grasp: one player serves the ball, and they proceed to whack it back and forth over a netnote though it can also go round the net until one player a) hits it into the net, b) hits it out of the court, or c) lets the ball bounce in-bounds more than once. Any of those will grant the person who didn't do it a point.
Players can also concede penalty points by repeatedly engaging in 'Unsportsmanlike Conduct'; offences include shouting at officials or players, smashing racquets, deliberately hitting balls at the crowd, distracting opponents and taking too long to serve or change ends. Serious or repeat offences, such as injuring someone, lead to disqualification, as seen in the 2012 final of Queens.
The game is notable for its ludicrous scoring system:
The first scoring level is the game. Unlike other sports a score of zero is called "love" in tennis. From "love," you go to 15, 30, 40,note actually shortened from 45 then Game... unless both players are at 40, in which case one player must win by 2, necessitating 40:40note Also known as "Deuce" > 40:Advantage > Game. This can lead to very extended games when neither player can string enough points together leading to 40:40 > 40:Ad > 40:40 > Ad:40 and on and on.
Sets, the second scoring layer, are groups of games, usually played until one player reaches 6 games; but as with games, they must win by a margin of 2. As this used to lead to very long sets, a tie-breaker game is now played when the score reaches 6-6. However, there is no tie-breaker in the final set of some events, such as the Grand Slam championships apart from the US Open, so occasionally very long sets still occur (at Wimbledon in 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut had a 5th set that lasted for over 8 freaking hours, finishing at 70-68).
Finally, matches are largely to sets as sets are to games, but are typically best-of-3 sets, or best-of-5 sets in some men's events.
Believe it or not, the scoring rules are actually even more complicated than this; there are special rules made for tiebreaker games (which is the only part of the scoring system that uses a simple 1,2,3,4,5 counting system); variations such as 'No Ad' scoring (playing a single decisive point when both players reach 40); a 'Championship Tiebreak' instead of a final set; and different combinations of all the above scoring systems. However, this basically captures how you keep score in tennis. Hell of a job.
Tennis matches are played in either singles or doubles matches. In singles matches, the side margins of the court are considered out-of-bounds; in doubles, they're fair game. In doubles matches, one half of a team takes the front, the other takes the back; the back player of the serving team is the server. Typically, the better receiver takes the front for the receiving team.
The tennis season is a lengthy one and consists of five major events:
Australian Open (late Jan - early Feb in Melbourne): The first major event and Grand Slam of the tennis season. It takes place on hard courts, the most modern and common type of court surfacenote court surface types, as well as their bounce, speed, and paint job, are Serious Business to tennis fans. Used to be the red-headed stepchild of the Slams with many pros skipping it due to its distant location, original December schedule and low prize money (hence why tennis stars like Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe do not have an AO win to their names - they didn't even bother attending it most of the time), until around the 1990s when it gained equal footing with the other Slams. Also known for its swelteringly hot temperatures and its 2012 final which became the longest-ever Grand Slam final at nearly six hours.
French Open (late May - early June in Paris): Also known as Roland Garros, it takes place on clay courts that favor defenders due to their slowness and high bounce giving players more time to reach the ball and return it in ways difficult for their opponent to hit. Because of this, it was historically considered to be the hardest Grand Slam to win with many great players' tactics being ill-suited for the clay surface and many French Open champions being clay-court specialists who performed poorly at other Slams, until more recent times. Also known for its raucous crowds who aren't shy about booing their unfavorites, which include 9-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Wimbledon (late June - early July in London): The Grand Slam that most people think of first when tennis is mentioned. It uses grass courts that favor attackers due to their speed and low bounce giving players less time to return big serves and volleysnote balls hit before they bounce, typically close to the net hit by their opponents, although the courts have been slowed down recently to encourage longer rallies. At least twenty complaints are printed every yearabout this "slowing-down". Also known for its all-white dress code, no matches on the middle Sunday of the two-week tournament, and rain showers delaying play, although a roof installed in 2009 has mitigated the latter. Roger Federer, who has won a record-tying 7 trophies here, has been dubbed Wimbledon's "Favorite Son".
US Open (late Aug - early Sept in New York City): The last Grand Slam of the season (but not the "true" end of the season), it has the highest attendance record of all Slams. Like the Australian Open, it's played on hard courts that fall somewhere in between the slowness of clay courts and the fastness of grass courts. Unlike the Australian Open, its venue doesn't have a roof which means that gusting winds and match-delaying rains frequently affect play. It is also the only Slam that decides a 6-6 final set by a tiebreak system instead of the "win by 2 games in the final set" rule, which (un)fortunately means that there's no chance of its matches becoming a 3-day epic like Wimbledon's 2010 Isner-Mahut match.
WTA Tour Championships and ATP World Tour Finals (Oct. for the women, Nov. for the men): The event that marks the true end of the tennis season. Ideally, it's supposed to determine the No. 1 player with only the top eight players in the world being pitted against each other in separate tournaments for the men and women. More often, what happens instead is that there's already a runaway No. 1 who doesn't even need to win the event to be the clear Player of the Year, and the fun of the YEC lies more in its unique round-robin format that lets people see their favorites play for at least three guaranteed matches in the opening roundsnote the 8 players are split into 2 groups of 4 and each player dukes it out with the 3 other members in their group, with the best-performing 2 players from each group advancing to the semifinals; the semis and finals use the more typical knock-out format. Also worth watching for the dramatically-lit player entrances and the Confetti Drop during the trophy ceremony.
But Wait, There's More! In addition to the above events, tennis players are expected to participate in these tournaments:
Team tournaments (various dates/places): There are three tournaments in which teams of players compete for their country: the Fed Cup for women, the Davis Cup for men, and the Hopman Cup for both. The Hopman Cup takes place in Dec-Jan in Australia and follows the same general "round-robin for the opening matches, knock-out for the semis and finals" format of the YEC, with every team playing matches against each of the other 3 teams in its group, except that they have to play each team not only once but thrice with a men's singles, women's singles, and mixed doubles match. The Fed and Davis Cups, in contrast, follow a much more straightforward knock-out format but take almost the entire year and globe to complete with teams having to keep track of not only which country they're supposed to be traveling to next but also five matches over three daysnote first 2 singles, then 1 doubles, then 2 more singles with swapped opponents with their current opponent. The finals are both held in November, by which time everyone's so confused they can't remember who's playing whom.
Other tournaments (various dates/places): The smaller tournaments that don't get as much publicity as the Grand Slams but are still important to top-ranked players who are required to enter a certain number (but not all) of them, and lower-ranked players who can farm ranking points at low-profile tournaments higher-ranked players are unlikely to bother with. The tournaments usually serve as lead-ins to a Slam, such as the clay-court Madrid and Rome Masters that precede the French Open, and the US Open Series (but the three highest scorers on their points system get a Double Unlock of big money if they win the Open proper; needless to say that in 2013, both Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal broke the bank in this manner), or to ensure that the players never get a moment of rest even between Slams with even the lull period between the US Open and YEC being jam-packed with multiple Asian tournaments.
Suffice it to say that tennis players can consider themselves blessed if they don't get a single cramp or injury during their 10/11-month-long season. Professional tennis is no endeavour for the faint-hearted or weak-legged.
In 1973 a system to rank all professional tennis players was put in place, with separate ranking lists for men and women. The system is points-based and looks only at the last 52 weeks of the calendar.
Basically, players gain points for every match they play (even if they lose), with the number of points increasing the further they progress into a tournament. The amount of points at stake varies with the tournament, with the Grand Slams giving each winner 2000 points and the smaller tournaments awarding anywhere from 250 to 1000 points to the champion.
Only points accumulated in the last 52 weeks are included in the rankings, however, which means that for each yearly tournament the points earned by their players from last year are erased and replaced with their newest results. This means that a low-ranked player can shoot up several ranking spots with a single exceptional performance at a major tournament, but also that the same player can crash back down the ranking list if s/he fails to "defend" their points at the same tournament next year (assuming that their performances at all other tournaments are the same as last year's).
Rankings also determine the draws in tournaments through four different classifications:
Seeded: The highest-ranked players, who get the honor of a number by their name. Seeding differs from ranking as it only counts the players who have entered, which means that if the World No. 1 doesn't enter a tournament, then the No. 2 ranked player becomes the No. 1 seed and so on. The number of seeds depends on the size of the tournament and the seeds are spread out across the draw so that they only meet in later rounds, to prevent the top players from knocking out each other too early.
Unseeded: Players not highly ranked enough for seeding, but still enough to get automatic entry. The amount of these players again depends on the size of the tournament.
Wildcard: Awarded to players who don't have a high enough ranking to gain automatic entry; usually ones who are young but have potential, are from the country the tournament is being held in, will sell a lot of tickets, or who used to be highly ranked but slipped down due to injury/maternity leave, etc.
Qualifiers: Players not ranked high enough for direct entry, and who can't gain wildcards. A pre-tournament mini-tournament is held beforehand to determine the qualifiers who will be placed in the main draw. Qualifiers and wildcards are usually pitted against seeded players early on and so it is highly unusual for them to progress very far.
Of course, the official rankings aren't the whole story and it's important to keep in mind that Grand Slams aren't the only events that matter points-wise (in spite of what news coverage of them might imply), which means that it's perfectly possible for a player to not win a single Slam and still finish the year as No. 1 if the Slam points were really spread out among other players and the player performed exceptionally well in all other tournaments. Or for a player to win two Grand Slams and still not be ranked No. 1 if they didn't make it very far in the other Slams and skipped a lot of smaller tournaments. The Player of the Year awards given out at the end of the year are usually more indicative of the actual stand-out players in cases like these.
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Current ATP Players
Bob and Mike Bryan (USA) 1995-present
Twin brothers who are currently the World No. 1 doubles team, and hold virtually every record in the book for men's doubles teams. Their most notable team records are Grand Slam titles (15), tournaments won (98), most weeks at No. 1 (approaching 370), and most year-end No. 1 rankings (9). Named by ATP fans as their favorite team in each year since that award was created in 2006. They have a career Golden Slam in doubles after winning Olympic gold in London in 2012, and their win at Wimbledon in 2013 made them the first men's doubles team in the Open era to hold all four Grand Slam titles at once. Finally, they are the only men's doubles team in history to win every major title in the sport—all four Grand Slam events, Olympic gold, all nine Masters 1000 events,note Depending on definitions—the Bryans won the former Hamburg Masters, but have not won that event since it moved to Shanghai. the YEC, and Davis Cup.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) 2003-present
Current World No. 1. Has held No. 1 for 102 weeks (and counting). Has won 7 Grand Slams and an Olympic bronze medal in singles. Was constantly overshadowed by Federer and Nadal early on in his career despite being World No. 3, until he went on a spectacular 43-0 game winning streak in 2011 and became the only tennis player on the planet capable of reliably defeating the above two. Some of the time. Is also known as "Djoker" for his sense of humor and impersonations of other players.
Roger Federer (Switzerland) 1998-present
Has held No. 1 for 302 weeks (longer than any other ATP player) and won an Open Era ATP record of 17 Grand Slams including a record-tying 7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open and 4 Australian Open titles (and 1 French Open, but that's not a record). Also has an Olympic gold medal in men's doubles with Stan Wawrinka (below) and a silver in singles. Is often cited as the greatest tennis player of all time. If one were to look up ATP tennis records on the Other Wiki, one would find his name on 90%.note Unless we're talking doubles records, in which case one would find the Bryans' names on about 99.9%. During his 2012 Wimbledon run he broke a record in every match he played after the second round.
Lleyton Hewitt (Australia) 1998-present
Was the youngest -ver world No. 1, which he held for 80 weeks. He has won 2 singles Grand Slams and 1 doubles. After an explosive start to his career in which he set a number of "youngest ever" records, he was unable to keep up with his peers' rapid improvement. Throw in a number of injury-related lay-offs and a run in with Father Time, and old Rusty has been stuck in the 50+ rankings for the past few years. But his raw enthusiasm and never say die attitude keeps him firmly in a crowd favourite spot.
Andy Murray (UK) 2005-present
Has won 2 Grand Slams. Was constantly known as "the best tennis player to never win a Grand Slam" until he broke a 76-year national hoodoo in 2012 by becoming the first male Brit to win a major - the US Open - since Fred Perry in 1936 and then broke a similar national drought the very next year by becoming the first male Brit to win Wimbledon since - you guessed it - Fred Perry in 1936. Also has an Olympic gold medal in singles and a silver in mixed doubles.
Rafael Nadal (Spain) 2001-present
Has held No. 1 for 141 weeks, and also holds the record for the most weeks at No. 2. He has won 14 Grand Slams. One of only four people to achieve a singles Career Golden Slam, which entails winning all four Grand Slam championships and the Olympic gold medal. Known as the "King of Clay", he has won a record nine French Open championships and only ever lost one match there.
Juan Martín del Potro (Argentina) 2005-present
Has won 1 Grand Slam and an Olympic bronze medal in singles. One of only two active players outside of the Big Fournote Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray to have won a Grand Slam in over 10 years. Following his breakthrough Slam victory at the 2009 US Open, he spent most of the next year out with a wrist injury and has been working his way back to Slam-threatening form ever since. He has been nicknamed the "Tower of Tandil" because of his 6'6'' frame and is also known as the "Gentle Giant" of the tour for his soft-spoken disposition too.
Stan Wawrinka (Switzerland) 2002-present
The other active player outside of the Big Four with a Grand Slam win in the last 10 years, following his breakthrough Slam victory at the 2014 Australian Open, where he was the first male player to defeat both of the top two seeds in the same Grand Slam event in over 20 years.note Djokovic in the quarters, Nadal in the final—both wins were Wawrinka's first ever against each player (and his first win against the latter in any tournament) in a Slam. The last male player to take down both of the two top seeds in a Grand Slam event was Sergi Bruguera at the 1993 French Open. Teamed with Federer to win Olympic gold in doubles in 2008. Remains to be seen whether this breakthrough will hold.
Current WTA Players
Victoria Azarenka (Belarus) 2003-present
Has held No. 1 for 51 weeks. Has won 2 singles Grand Slams and 2 mixed doubles. She won the first Olympic gold medal awarded for mixed doubles (at London 2012), also picking up a bronze medal in the singles. As well as her achievements, she is known for her distinctive "wail" on court.
Martina Hingis (Switzerland) 1994-2003, 2005, 2006-2007, 2013-present
Has held No. 1 for 209 weeks. Has won 5 singles Grand Slams, 9 doubles and 1 mixed doubles. The Swiss Missnote (though born in what is now Slovakia; she arrived in Switzerland when she was 7, after her mother fled the then-Czechoslovakia with her) is the youngest Grand Slam champion ever, winning her first doubles title at just 15 years old. She is also the youngest singles champion of the Open Era, winning the her maiden Slam the next year at 16. In 1998 she achieved the Calendar Year Grand Slam in doubles. She was plagued by injuries at a young age, causing repeated retirement-return tangos. Her most recent retirement was in 2007, shortly after she received a 2-year ban for testing positive for cocaine. Since then she has been a regular player in World Team Tennis and in July 2013, she returned to the WTA tour in doubles.
Petra Kvitová (Czech Republic) 2006-present
Has won 2 Grand Slams, both of them at Wimbledon. A shy southpaw who can hit the ball with bruising power and - much like Li Na - is unstoppable on her best day but beatable by anyone on her worst. She's also affectionately called "P3tra" by some fans for her penchant for getting into 3-setters regardless of her opponents' ranking.
Li Na (China) 1999-present
Has won 2 Grand Slams. Became the first player from an Asian country (male or female) to win a Slam when she won the 2011 French Open, and also won the 2014 Australian Open. She has a reputation for being able to hit anyone off the court on a good day and herself off the same court on a bad day, and also for giving some of the funniest interviews on tour.
Maria Sharapova (Russia) 2001-present
Has held No. 1 for 21 weeks. Has won 5 Grand Slams to achieve a Career Grand Slam and an Olympic silver medal in singles. She shot to fame by winning her maiden Slam at Wimbledon when she was just 17; ever since then, she's recovered from shoulder injuries and her "cow on ice" issues on clay to become one of the steeliest (and loudest) competitors in tennis and an unexpected clay court master too.
Serena Williams (USA) 1995-present
Current World No. 1. Has won 17 singles Grand Slams, 13 doubles and 2 mixed doubles. She has achieved the Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles (her doubles partner being her sister Venus), winning the Olympic gold in doubles 3 times. Is also the only female tennis player to earn over $40 million. In 2013, she made tennis history as the oldest female tennis player to hold the No. 1 ranking at the age of 31.
Venus Williams (USA) 1994-present
Has held No. 1 for 11 weeks. Has won 7 singles Grand Slams, 13 doubles and 2 mixed. She has also won an Olympic gold medal in singles and 3 in doubles, completing the Career Golden Slam with her younger sister Serena. In singles, she and Serena have been pitted against each other eight times in Grand Slam finals. In addition to their remarkable achievements, they are also distinctive for being the most successful Black players of any nationality, for either sex.
Retired ATP Players
Andre Agassi (USA) 1986-2006
Held No. 1 for 101 weeks. Won 8 Grand Slams. One of four people to achieve the singles Career Golden Slam. Played until 36, holding the record for the oldest player ranked No. 1 (at 33). Known earlier in his career for his wild power off the ground, which gradually changed to a more measured, steady baseline attack in his later years. Also known earlier for his wacky outfits and long blonde wig and later for his Bald of Awesome. Married to Steffi Graf.
Arthur Ashe (USA) 1969-1980
Won 3 Grand Slams. His highest career ranking under the official ATP rankings was No. 2, but he was accepted as the unofficial year-end No. 1 in 1975 by many non-computerized experts. He became the first African-American man to win a Grand Slam, his most memorable Slam victory being his stunning defeat of Jimmy Connors in the 1975 Wimbledon final through tactical play. In addition to his tennis achievements, he was well-known for his humanitarian and civil rights work in the United States and Africa. A humanitarian award and the main stadium at the US Open were named after him in his honor.
Boris Becker (West Germany/Germany) 1984-1999
Held No.1 for 12 weeks. Won 6 Grand Slams and an Olympic doubles gold medal. Shot to fame as a 17-year-old in 1985 when he became the then-youngest male Grand Slam singles champion with his Wimbledon victory. This was also notable as he was unseeded and a surprise winner. He was known for his eccentric displays of emotion and for frequently diving and throwing himself across the court.
Björn Borg (Sweden) 1973-1983, 1991-1993
Held No. 1 for 109 weeks. Won 11 Grand Slams. Arch-rival of John McEnroe, he was nicknamed the Iceman because of his steely and cool demeanour on court, while his looks gained him a reputation as the first 'rockstar tennis player'. Borg won 6 titles at Roland Garros, surpassed only by Nadal, and his tireless baseline game was the model for clay-courters in the years to come. He was also noted for 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles, a record he watched Federer equal in spite of previously saying he never wanted it touched.
Michael Chang (USA) 1988-2003
Won 1 Grand Slam. Known for being the first Asian male to win a major title (the 1989 French Open) at the age of 17, as the youngest ever male Grand Slam champion. Chang was renowned for his frightening foot speed and retrieval ability, and was the first American to win a major in his generation, before being followed by Jim Courier, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi.
Jimmy Connors (USA) 1972-1996
Held No. 1 for 268 weeks. Won 8 Grand Slam singles titles and 2 doubles. The first of the notable players to emerge at the advent of the Open Era, Jimmy Connors was a ferocious power baseliner whose heart and will were only matched by his pugnacious attitude towards others. Widely regarded as a tremendous asshole on court, Connors nevertheless is one of the game's greats, having played in three decades, with one of his most memorable moments being his run to the 1991 US Open semifinals at the age of 39. Over his long career he won a record 109 ATP singles titles.
Rod Laver (Australia) 1962-1979
Started playing before the advent of the Open Era and a reliable ranking system, but subjective rankings have him as the year-end No. 1 for 7 straight years from 1964 to 1970. Won 11 Grand Slams in singles, 6 in doubles and 3 in mixed, and a record total of 200 titles overall. Is the only player to complete the Calendar Year Grand Slam twice, the first one as a pre-Open Era amateur in 1962 and the second one as an Open Era professional in 1969. Needless to say, he's often included on the short list of the greatest tennis players ever.
Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia/USA) 1978-1994
Held No. 1 for 270 weeks. Won 8 Grand Slams. Probably better regarded now then he was during his prime, Lendl took Connors's game plan and refined it, turning baseline tennis into a brutal slugfest and ushering in the era of the power-baseliner. Was not popular due to the politics of the time; at the heart of the Cold War, the robotic and seemingly emotionless Lendl was easy to root against, as Connors and McEnroe can attest to. Known for his power off the ground and his tendency to drill the ball straight at volleyers instead of attempting a passing shot. Formerly Andy Murray's coach, they are the only two players in ATP history to lose their first four Slam finals.
Held No. 1 for 13 weeks. Won 1 Grand Slam. Formerly held the record for the fastest serve, at 155 mph (250 km/h) before it was broken by Ivo Karlovic, who fired a 157 mph (251 km/h) serve in Davis Cup. Known for his friendly rivalry with Roger Federer (it became a running joke that Roddick could not get through a press conference or interview without Federer being mentioned). Also famed for his snark-filled press conferences and occasional but impressive racquet smashes.
Pete Sampras (USA) 1988-2002
Held No. 1 for 286 weeks. Won 14 Grand Slams. These were both records until Roger Federer stole his thunder. However, he still has the record for being ranked World No. 1 for the most years in a row, with six under his belt. Widely regarded as one of the greatest grass-courters of all time, holding a joint record seven Wimbledon titles (with Federer) and losing only one match there from 1993 to 2000.
Retired WTA Players
Maureen Connolly Brinker (USA) 1951-1954
Pre-ranking career. Won 9 Grand Slam singles titles and 3 doubles. Also known as Little Mo, she was the first woman and only the second person to complete the Calendar Year Grand Slam in 1953. She lost only one set in these four tournaments. Her tennis career was cut short at the age of 19 by a traffic accident that crushed her right leg.
Jennifer Capriati (USA) 1990-2004
Held No. 1 for 17 weeks. Won 3 Grand Slams. Her fame comes from the rollercoaster nature of her career that began with her rocketing to stardom when she reached the French Open semifinals at just 14 years old and won the Olympic gold medal two years later, plunged with her struggles with depression and drugs, and ascended again with her inspiring tennis comeback at a more mature age until injuries forced her out of play. Her well-publicized troubles as a burnt-out teen prodigy also caused the Women's Tennis Association to pass the "Capriati Rule" limiting the number of tournaments players below the age of 18 could enter to prevent similar burnouts in the future.
Margaret Court (Australia) 1960-1977
Won a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, 19 Grand Slam women's doubles titles and a record 21 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She achieved the Calendar Year Grand Slam once in singles and twice in mixed doubles, the Career Boxed Setnote completing the Career Grand Slam in all three disciplines twice over and the Triple Crownnote winning in the singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the same Grand Slam event on five occasions. She also holds the record for the most Grand Slam titles as a mother.
Chris Evert (USA) 1972-1989
Held No. 1 for 260 weeks. Won 18 Grand Slams, including a record 7 at the French Open and a record 6 at the U.S. Open. Also won 2 doubles Grand Slams. She was the year-ending World No. 1 singles player in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1980, and 1981. Her career win-loss record in singles matches of 1,309-146 (.900) is the best of any professional player in tennis history. Known for her calm, steely demeanor on court, she was nicknamed the "Ice Maiden" of tennis.
Steffi Graf (West Germany/Germany) 1982-1999
Held No. 1 for a record 377 weeks. Mr. Agassi's lovely wife, she won an Open Era record of 22 Grand Slams and achieved a Calendar Year Golden Slam in 1988; i.e., doing the Career Golden Slam in a single year. Is also the only player, male or female, to win every Slam at least four times. Nicknamed "Fräulein Forehand" by fans due to the power and accuracy of her signature shot.
Justine Henin (Belgium) 1999-2008, 2010-2011
Held No. 1 for 117 weeks. Won 7 Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal in singles. She abruptly retired in mid-2008 when she was still ranked No. 1, only to unretire after her countrywoman Kim Clijsters made a successful comeback in 2009 until injuries and a lack of success caused her to retire again a year later. Is renowned for her clay-court prowess and vicious one-handed backhand, and is generally regarded as one of the few players who could challenge Serena Williams in her prime.
Billie Jean King (USA) 1968-1983
Won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She completed the Triple Crown three times. In 1973, she won the second (and possibly most famous) "Battle of the Sexes", a three-set promotional match against former Wimbledon men's singles champion Bobby Riggs. Long an advocate for women's equality in sport and society, she was the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and owner of World Team Tennis, which was founded by her former husband, Larry King and three others. The complex that hosts the US Open is named after her.
Martina Navratilova (Czech Republic/USA) 1974-1994, 1999-2006
Held No. 1 for 332 weeks. Won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. Completed the Career Boxed Set and achieved the Triple Crown once. She is the only man or woman to have won 8 different tournaments at least 7 times and won a record 9 Wimbledon titles. She also had an extraordinarily long-lived career, finishing in the top 10 singles rankings for 20 straight years and winning her last Grand Slam title (mixed doubles at the 2006 US Open) at 49 years of age. Originally from Czechoslovakia, she asked for political asylum in the US in 1975, was stripped of her Czech citizenship (later restored by the Czech Republic), and became a US citizen in 1981. She also came out as a lesbian in 1981 and has been an activist for gay rights, filing a lawsuit in 1992 against Amendment 2 (a Colorado ballot proposition designed to deny legal protections to gays and lesbians that was later overturned in Romer v. Evans).
Held No. 1 for 178 weeks. Won 9 Grand Slam singles titles. An incredible young woman who made the semifinals of her first Grand Slam tournament at the age of 14, before winning her first Slam two years later at Roland Garros. She won 7 Slams between 1990 and 1993, including an undefeated run at the Australian Open. Her career was tragically cut short in 1993 when she was stabbed in the back by a crazed Graf fan in Hamburg. She made a comeback in 1995 and went on to win the Australian Open the next year; however, she never regained her incredible form before the attack.note Years later, she acknowledged bouts with depression and food addiction in the wake of the stabbing. Also, not long after she came back, her father (and longtime coach) was diagnosed with cancer, and died in 1998.
And let's not forget the 2012 Olympic Games, where the "longest 3 set match" record was broken twice in two days by Tsonga vs. Raonic and then Federer vs. del Potro.
Broken Streak: Statistics are almost as extensive and detailed in tennis as they are in baseball; as such, when someone's streak is broken, you know about it.
Martina Navratilova had the longest-ever winning streak in the Open Era, racking up 74 consecutive wins in 1984 and winning 3 Grand Slams in a row. Helena Sukova ended it in the Australian Open semifinalsnote the Australian Open was held in December instead of January at that time.
Roger Federer had a remarkable streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances dating back to the 2004 Wimbledon Championships that was finally broken by Robin Söderling in their 2010 French Open quarterfinal. His similar record streak of 35 Slam quarterfinals stretched from Wimbledon 2004 - French Open 2013, before it was broken in the second round of Wimbledon by Sergiy Stakhovsky.
The most recent big streak came from Novak Djokovic over 2010-11 where he went 43 matches in a row without being defeated. It was broken by Federer in their French Open semifinal.
Rafael Nadal's insane 46-match winning streak (and 8 consecutive titles won) at the Monte Carlo Masters was broken in the 2013 final by Djokovic.
Brother-Sister Team: Marat Safin and Dinara Safina are the only brother and sister to both reach the No. 1 ranking in singles. They also physically teamed up for the mixed doubles at the 2009 Hopman Cup, achieving a runner-up finish.
Crack Defeat: Wimbledon 2013 was infamous for the number of losses, injury retirements and withdrawals that occurred during the first week. Amongst the biggest shocks were:
World No. 5 and French Open champion Rafael Nadal losing to World No. 135 Steve Darcis in the 1st round. Darcis has won a total of 2 matches at Wimbledon in his 10 year career.
World No. 3 and defending champion Roger Federer losing to World No. 116 Sergiy Stakhozsky in the 2nd round, snapping his record breaking QF streak and marking his first loss to a player outside the top 100 in 8 years.
World No. 3 Maria Sharapova losing to World No. 131 Michelle Larcher de Brito in the 2nd round. Larcher de Brito had only appeared in the main draw twice before.
World No. 1, US, French and defending champion Serena Williams losing to Sabine Lisicki in the 4th round. This was the 4th consecutive time that Lisicki had knocked the French Open champion out of Wimbledon.
Crowd Chant: This generally happens between points and games, as quiet is required whilst the ball is in play. You are least likely to hear it at Wimbledon (sometimes known as the Cathedral of Tennis, it's so quiet) where tradition overrides raw enthusiasm - unless there's a home favourite or an Aussie in the later stages.
Dark Horse Victory: Ever since the 2005 French Open, there have been only two (men's) Grand Slam titles won by someone who isn't Federer, Nadal, Djokovic or Murray—Juan Martín del Potro's surprise 2009 US Open win., and Stan Wawrinka's equally surprising 2014 Aussie Open win.
Djokovic's 2008 Australian Open win occurred in the midst of the Federer-Nadal era and his opponent was the just-as-unexpected finalist Tsonga, essentially setting up a Dark Horse Match that was the first Grand Slam final since 2005 that didn't have Federer or Nadal playing in it.
In the women's 2011 US Open final, the two opponents were Serena Williams, who had won 13 Grand Slams and the US Open 3 times and had breezed through the earlier rounds without dropping a single set, and Samantha Stosur who had never won a Slam before and had a reputation for choking under pressure. Guess who won.
In the 2013 Wimbledon Championships, defending champion and World No. 1 Serena Williams was considered to be such an overwhelming favorite that virtually everyone was coronating her before the tournament had even started. Everyone also agreed that if Serena did lose for some reason, either No. 2 Victoria Azarenka or No. 3 Maria Sharapova, her two closest rivals, would be the one lifting the trophy instead. The actual women's champion? Marion Bartoli, who entered the tournament as an all-but-invisible 15th seed and ended up winning the whole thing without dropping a set.
Defeating the Undefeatable: Prior to the 2009 French Open, Robin Söderling had never made it past the third round of a Slam, and his fourth-round opponent in this particular Slam happened to be Rafael "King of Clay" Nadal who 1) was riding a record undefeated streak of 31 wins at the French Open, 2) had broken Roger Federer's own record streak of 237 weeks as World No. 1 just last year, and 3) had soundly beaten Söderling in all of their previous encounters. What ensued from their match was the tennis equivalent of Buster Douglas upsetting Mike Tyson (although Söderling would go on to prove that his victory wasn't quite the fluke that Douglas's had been by snapping Federer's record of 23 consecutive Slam semifinals the very next year).
Down to the Last Play: If a match goes to a final set (3rd or 5th depending on the tournament) the players are essentially starting from scratch; whoever takes the set takes the match.
This is even more apparent in tournaments that employ the final set tie-break. A single point on the opponent's serve will win you match that will have lasted hours.
The race between Marat Safin and Gustavo Kuerten in 2000 for the year-end No. 1 ranking. Safin lost in the semifinals of the year-end championships, but had enough of a lead over Kuerten that Kuerten needed to win the championships to overtake him for No. 1 - and he had to beat both Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to do it. No one had ever beaten both Sampras and Agassi in the same tournament before, but Kuerten amazingly managed to pull it off and snatch the No. 1 spot from under Safin's nose. It's the only time in the Open Era that the final No. 1 ranking was decided by the very last match of the year.
If you want last play, try the Isner - Mahut match at the 2010 Wimbledon: it took them three days to finish their match. It technically took them 11 hours of total game time, and 8 of those hours were trying to win the last set (Isner won). They killed the scoreboard during the second day.
Every Year They Fizzle Out: In tennis, mental strength is just as important to winning as physical strength and skill are and what most often causes losses by obviously talented players is choking under pressure, leading to accusations of this.
Gabriela Sabatini won only one Grand Slam in spite of reaching the semifinals or better at eighteen Slams, partly due to Graf and Seles hogging the majors during her career and partly due to her tendency to fall apart in big matches; she infamously lost the 1991 Wimbledon final to Graf in spite of coming within two points from victory and serving for the match twice.
Marat Safin was seen as a huge talent with real potential, but he only managed two Grand Slams, and in their early careers both Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer were subject to speculation that they were talents who couldn't pull off the big wins.
As recently as mid-2010, Novak Djokovic was saddled with a reputation of mentally cracking under pressure after he followed up his maiden Grand Slam title in 2008 with a string of disappointing performances and numerous claims of being too fatigued to play well. Many people called him "Choke-ovic" and thought he was destined to go down in history as just a one-slam wonder who failed to live up to his promise of challenging the Federer-Nadal duopoly. Not quite as Hilarious in Hindsight as Federer's case, but pretty close.
More recently, Andy Murray has only just shaken this image by winning his first major title - something his predecessor Tim Henman could never manage, earning him the status of Trope Codifier in Britain.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is one of the very few people outside of the Big Four who has the raw talent to beat them, but he's just as likely to flame out against an inferior player as he is to pull off a Miracle Rally against one of the best players in the world, with his stunning upsets of Nadal at the 2008 Australian Open semifinals and Federer at the 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinals being followed by him quietly fading away from the world scene until his next sudden flash of brilliance.
Caroline Wozniacki became World No. 1 on the women's side in 2010 and 2011 by winning a lot of tournaments... but not the Grand Slams. She didn't even make a single Grand Slam final during these two years, her sole career Slam final being a loss at the 2009 US Open. 2012 didn't help matters with her following up a massive upset of Serena Williams in Miami with first-round losses to unseeded players in both Wimbledon and the US Open.
Sabine Lisicki is a perennial quarterfinalist or better at Wimbledon and you can always count on her to take out a favourite or twonote Serena Williams, Sharapova, Radwanska, Li before losing to someone who should on paper pose far less of a challengenote Kerber, Bartoli.
Friendly Rival: Whilst the close nature of the pro tour means that all players have to be able to put up with each other on a day to day basis, there have only been a few genuinely close friendships between rivals.
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova were the faces of women's tennis for much of the 1980s and formed a strong friendship in spite of meeting each other in over 60 finals, with the two often having lunch together in the locker room and even traveling together to tournaments.
As mentioned below, John McEnroe to this day enjoys a strong friendship with Bjorn Borg, made all the more remarkable by how many players he alienated and had problems with on court.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have known each other since the age of twelve and have grown up on the junior tour together. In spite of experiencing some of the hardest fought Grand Slam matches against each other, they still find time to have dinner.
Fun with Acronyms: The year-end championships for the men are currently titled the World Tour Finals. Many a tennis fan has had fun using its unfortunate acronym while talking about its oddities. There's also the frequent debate about which tennis player is the Greatest Of All Time.
Game-Breaking Injury: The rigors and physical demands of a packed year-long tennis schedule can cause this for unlucky players
Juan Martin del Potro, after winning the 2009 US Open title, was widely heralded as a player who would go on to win multiple Grand Slams and become the next new World No. 1. Sadly, he fell victim to a severe wrist injury soon after and missed almost all of the 2010 season as a result and while he managed to recover from that injury it feels like every time he finally seems on the cusp of breaking back into the top 4 rankings or champion's circle, he gets derailed by yet another wrist injury.
Gotta Catch Them All: With the hundreds of different tournaments each year come billions of different combinations of winning. Some of these combinations are significant enough to have names. These include:
The Grand Slam (Career or Calendar Year edition): Winning each of the four Slams at least once (in a career or season, respectively). All victories must come in the same category: singles, doubles or mixed doubles. Some people also count the two-year Grand Slam (i.e. winning four consecutive Slams over a span of two years so that you hold all of them at one point), which is typically named after the player(s) such as the "Serena Slam" for Serena Williams in 2002-03 or the "Bryan Slam" for Bob and Mike Bryan in 2012–13.
The Golden Slam (Career or Calendar Year edition): Winning each of the four Slams plus an Olympic gold medal at least once. All victories must come in the same category.
The Super Slam: Winning each of the four Slams, plus an Olympic gold medal, plus the Year End Championships at least once. All victories must come in the same category. Has only been achieved in Career edition.
The Triple Crown: Winning the title in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the same Slam in the same year.
The Boxed Set: Winning the title in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at each of the four Slams at least once. Has only been achieved in Career edition.
The Dinner Set: Winning the title and finishing as runner-up at each of the four Slams at least oncenote i.e. winning all four cups and plates. All victories must come in the same category. Can only be achieved in Career edition.
Hero Killer: Young and/or players ranked outside the top 30, who score a signature win over a top 10-er or two are often dubbed "Giant Killers".
Robin Söderling gained this reputation and became the Designated Villain of the ATP tour (at least until he fell victim to mononucleosis) after he handed Rafael Nadal his first-ever defeat at the French Open in 2009 and then broke Roger Federer's streak of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinal appearances at the following year's French Open.
International Showdown By Proxy: It is rare to have a single country represented in the final, though in times gone by the USA had their fair share, so this comes through naturally, as well as in the events (Olympics, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Hopman Cup) where the players actually represent their countries.
Manly Tears: Very likely to be seen at a Grand Slam final, due to the mental and emotional exhaustion players experience after such intensity. The tears actually are more likely to come from the winners as it is considered bad form to cry over a loss because it dampens the celebrations for the champion.
Miracle Rally: In general, any time a player comes back from a two sets-to-love (or one set-to-love and a break down in the second set, depending on the type of tournament) deficit to win. Bonus points if they also have to fight off match points to do it.
1989 French Open: Ivan Lendl, the World No. 1 and one of the heavy favorites to win the event, had breezed through the competition so far and quickly built up a two-set lead against his fourth-round opponent, the 17-year-old Michael Chang. Chang, however, broke Lendl right back in the third set and proceeded to moonballnote hit the ball really high in the air to slow down the points his way to victory in the final three sets, in spite of suffering severe leg cramps from the fourth set onward. At one key time in the match, Chang went so far as to serve underhand, which threw Lendl off enough for him to win the point. He went on to win the whole event.
2011 Wimbledon: Roger Federer looked set to steamroll over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after winning the first two sets in their quarterfinal, only for Tsonga to break Federer in the next three sets and pull off the ultimate upset of the tournament. This was the first time Federer had ever lost from 2-0 up.
Novak Djokovic seems to have a knack for this: not only did he pull off a similarly massive upset against Federer in the 2010 US Open semifinals when he was still an unknown compared to Federer and Nadal and down two match points in the fifth set, but he did it again against Federer in the 2011 US Open semifinals where he had to dig himself out of a 2-set hole in the third and fourth sets and then another two-match-points deficit in the fifth set. There's also the more recent 2012 Shanghai Masters final, where he managed to save five match points against 3-time champion Andy Murray and go on to win the deciding set.
Olympic Games: Tennis (or at least men's singles tennis) was included in the Modern Olympic Games from its inception in 1896-1924, by Paris '24 all five disciplines were represented. It then went on a 64 year hiatus before being re-introduced at Seoul 1988 minus the mixed doubles, which were reinstated at London 2012.
One-Hit Wonder: There are several players who have won only one Grand Slam, referred to as "one-Slam wonders". These range from well known and highly ranked players, such as Juan Martin del Potro and Andy Roddick, to true one hit wonders like Gaston Gaudio who made it past the fourth round of a Slam only once in his career.
Ordered to Cheat: Occasionally the subject of match fixing has been brought up, such as at the 2008 Australian Open, but there has never been a proven case in major tournaments.
Overshadowed by Awesome: Throughout history, two or three champions have risen way above the competition in each generation, such as Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in the 1980s, Steffi Graf in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi in the 1990s, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the 2000s, and Serena Williams any time she plays.
The men's game has most recently become dominated by a group of four players (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray) that have consistently finished in the top four ranking spots for 5 consecutive years. Together, the "Big Four" have such a stranglehold on the major tournaments that they have won 36 of the last 38 Grand Slams and 36 of the last 39 Masters 1000 tournaments.
On the doubles side, the Bryan brothers and the Williams sisters so thoroughly dominate the field that they're the only doubles teams 99% of all tennis fans are even aware of.
Product Placement: The top tennis players are paid by clothing brands to wear outfits specially tailored by the companies for them at their matches, which means that Nike headbands and Adidas sneakers are ubiquitous at any major tennis competition. This even extends to watch brands; Andy Murray's first act after finally winning his first Slam was a frantic search for his Rado watch to wear during the trophy ceremony.
Tournaments themselves are also subject to this, with all official match clocks sponsored by Rolex and the speed guns by IBM. Also the 2012 Madrid Masters 1000 tournament controversially changed the colour of its clay courts to blue, apparently to match the sponsor.
The Rival: Due to the solo nature of the game and how the higher ranked players are engineered to meet in the big matches, tennis lends itself to this trope. There are usually 2 or 3 players in a generation that often meet in finals and Slams. Some of the more notable pairs include:
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova: the cool-headed hard-court baseliner vs the emotional grass-court serve-and-volleyer. They met in a whopping 80 matches, 22 of them in Grand Slams, and have the longest-lasting tennis rivalry in history with their encounters occurring over a span of 15 years from 1973 to 1988. Evert had more of a headstart on Navratilova with her winning 27 of their first 40 matches, but Navratilova dominated their rivalry in later years with the final tally being 43-37 in Navratilova's favor. Perhaps fittingly, they ended up with the exact same number of Slams at 18 each.
Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg: the wildlypassionate prima-donna vs the deliberately bland Swede. Becker won 25 of their 35 meetings, but their rivalry was made famous by meetings in three consecutive Wimbledon finals. Here Edberg won twice.
Steffi Graf and Monica Seles: the stern-faced German with the massive forehand vs the bubbly Hungariannote Although she represented Yugoslavia before her stabbing, Seles is ethnically Hungarian. The region of modern-day Serbia where she was born has a significant Hungarian minority. youth with the fearsome backhand. Their rivalry is most notorious for inducing a crazed Graf fan to stab Seles after she dethroned Graf as the World No. 1. They met in 15 matches overall, with Graf winning 10 of them.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: the graceful, traditional, right-handed grass-courter vs the raw power of the leftyclay-courter. So far they have played 33 times with Nadal winning 23, he is the only player ever to have a winning record over Federer with a difference of more than 3. Enjoying a close friendship off the court, their 2008 Wimbledon final (which broke Federer's almost record streak of 40 straight match wins there and ensured that he lost the no.1 ranking for the first time) is widely cited as the greatest match of the Open Era.
Also from the Big Four era, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Their rivalry is the least friendly of the Big Four's rivalries (although that's not saying much) and their most memorable matches have come in Slam semifinals with Federer breaking Djokovic's 41-match winning streak in the 2011 French Open semis and Djokovic coming back from double match point down against Federer in both the 2010 and 2011 US Open semis. As of this time of typing, they've actually met more times than Federer and Nadal have (35 times) with Federer having a slight 18-17 edge.
Screaming Warrior: A controversial subject in tennis; there are currently no rules against a player 'grunting' when they hit the ball, but many people are calling for it to be penalised. As well as the obvious advantages of distraction and intimidation, players will try to hear the way a ball is hit to predict how it will bounce; a tricky thing to do if your opponent is shouting over the top of it. Notable grunters include Monica Seles, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova (who has been recorded at 101 decibels), Victoria Azarenka, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi and Novak Djokovic.
Serena Williams: At the end of the day, if you're not first, you're last.
Sibling Team: Sisters Serena and Venus Williams have achieved the Career Golden Slam in doubles, winning 13 Grand Slam tournaments and 3 Olympic golds. Brothers John and Patrick McEnroe avert this slightly, they played doubles together, but their success came with other partners.
Wonder Twin Powers: The most successful men's doubles team ever is made up of twin brothers Bob and Mike Bryan. They have 15 Grand Slams and an Olympic gold medal.
Sibling Rivalry: Venus and Serena Williams (born just 15 months apart) have experienced a storied rivalry since 1998, their dominance has lead to them contesting no fewer than eight Grand Slam finals and one YEC final. Serenanote the younger sister leads their head to head by 14-10 and 6-2 in GS finals.
Manuela, Katerina and Magdalena Maleeva all spent time inside the top 10 in the late 80s-90s and played each other a combined total of 15 times. The elder sister won in every match except onenote courtesy of a retirement by Manuela and there was speculation about match fixing as all of Manuela's victories over Magdalena came via retirements.
Spiritual Successor: Gaël Monfils and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to Yannick Noah.note If you're an NBA fan and the name sounds vaguely familiar... yes, that's Joakim Noah's dad. Both are charismatic, flamboyant and extremely popular players of Afro-French descent and enormous raw talent expected to carry French tennis back to its Four Musketeers heyday of the '20s and '30s, just like Noah. Despite Noah's one Grand Slam singles title, he couldn't achieve it, because of injuries and bad luck. The same fate has generally befallen Monfils and Tsonga, neither yet able to break through to a Slam title.
At the beginning of his career, Roger Federer was considered this to Pete Sampras. He cited Sampras as one of his idols, sported a similar serve-and-volley gamestyle, and, due to sponsorship, their racquets and kits often looked identical. Also, in 2001 he became the only person ever to beat Sampras over 5 sets at Wimbledon, doing so on his centre court debut, which was seen as a Passing the Torch moment.note Though Sampras went on to win the 2002 US Open and Federer didn't win his first major until Wimbledon 2003. Federer has spent the rest of his career eclipsing most of the records and milestones set by Sampras.
In turn there has been speculation of which player deserves the moniker "Baby Fed", a title held briefly by frenchman Richard Gasquet before being passed on to young, Bulgarian player, Grigor Dimitrov. He uses the same racquet as Federer did for most of his career, they both wear Nike constantly, and Federer was Dimitrov's childhood hero to the point that he essentially based his entire game around the Swiss player. Whether he will actually live up to Federer's achievements has yet to be seen.
Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Djokovic stole the spotlight from Federer and Nadal during the end of 2010 and all during 2011 when he had an incredible run. He won over 40 matches without losing, and won most of the Grand Slams, only losing once to Roger Federer during the French Open.
Speaking of Federer, try watching an ATP match between two other players in a tournament he's in and take a shot every time the commentators mention him. Or a tournament he's been knocked out of. Hell, even a tournament he never entered in the first place. Or women's tournaments. Or wheelchair tennis. Or any article on men's tennis written in the past nine years. You will die.
Stage Mum: Tennis is notorious for this, although it's usually the dads rather than the mums who are the problem.
Tough Act to Follow: Poor Andy Roddick, always labelled the underachiever. The American star player of the 2000s, his highly successful career included 32 titles, 1 Grand Slam and 13 weeks at World No. 1. Unfortunately, the American star players of the 1990s were Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, with 124 titles, 22 Slams and 387 weeks at No. 1 between them, and Roddick had the additional misfortune to be playing in the same era as Roger Federer.
John McEnroe had one of the best-ever seasons in Open Era history in 1984, going undefeated for 42 matches until his loss to Ivan Lendl in the French Open final and racking up two Grand Slam wins and a record winning percentage of 96.47%, winning 82 out of 85 matches. He would never again win a Slam after that phenomenal year, or even reach a Slam final after 1985. Similarly, Mats Wilander became just the third man in the Open Era to win three Slams in a single season in 1988, upsetting then-No. 1 Ivan Lendl along the way to do it, but the intense pressure of that year caused him to become so burnt out that he couldn't recapture the motivation that had propelled him in 1988 and failed to even reach another Slam final for the rest of his career.
Michael Chang and Lleyton Hewitt both peaked early on in their careers, with Chang becoming the youngest-ever Slam champion at 17 years old and Hewitt becoming the youngest-ever No. 1 at 20. Their later careers weren't exactly failures with them continuing to be Slam contenders for years, but Chang ultimately couldn't shake off his "one-Slam wonder" label in spite of reaching 3 more Slam finals and Hewitt was ultimately overshadowed by Federer and never reached the No. 1 position again after losing it in 2003.
Richard Gasquet is in the very strange position of struggling to live up to the act of his nine-year-old self. To make a long story short, he was hyped up hugely by his countrymen as "baby Federer" and had his face featured on the cover of a French tennis magazine when he was just nine years old. His stint as the junior World No. 1, however, turned out to be the apex of his career as the crushing national expectations and pressure proved too much for him to live up to as an adult and he has made it past the fourth round of a Slam only twice (and never past the semifinals) so far.
On the women's side, Ana Ivanovic looked set to become the next dominant WTA champion when she won her maiden Slam at the 2008 French Open and ascended to the No. 1 ranking spot at the tender age of 20. Fast forward 6 years later, and Ivanovic has yet to make it to another Slam semifinal since that French Open and has only reached a total of two Slam quarterfinals in that span of time. Even in 2014, the year when she got back into the top 10 rankings for the first time in five years, she ended up losing in the third round or earlier at three of her four Slams in that year.
Trying Not to Cry: Often happens to runners up in Grand Slam finals as they struggle to pay their respects to the winner, who has just trampled on their dreams in front of a global audience. Finals are the only matches where the loser is interviewed.
Roger Federer: You're like: 'All right, I'll handle this.' And you walk out and 15,000 people feel bad for you. Next thing you know it's a bit awkward.
In 1985 an unknown, unseeded 17-year-old became the then-youngest male Grand Slam champion ever, claiming the Wimbledon title. His name? Boris 'Boom Boom' Becker. He was a turning point in the way the game was played, paving the way for the power game.
This marked only the second time that a Wimbledon title was claimed by a Wildcard; the first was in 2001 when over-the-hill former top player and three-time finalist Goran Ivanišević returned from injury and completed a run in which he beat seeds 6, 4 and 3, and was just two points from being knocked out in the semi-final.
In a similar vein, Kim Clijsters captured the Women's Singles title at the 2009 US Open, having entered as a wildcard just three weeks after returning to tennis from extended maternity leave. She was the first mother to win a Grand Slam since 1980.
At the 2013 Viña del Mar tournament, Rafael Nadal was widely expected to win in spite of it being his first tournament after a seven-month layoff because it was on clay and packed with low-level players. He looked on track to do just that, making it to the final without dropping a set and his opponent in the final being Horacio Zeballos who was ranked outside the top 50 and had yet to win an ATP title. Much to the shock of everyone, however, Zeballos played the match of his life and won his first-ever career title against the "King of Clay", becoming the only player other than Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic to beat Nadal in a clay tournament final.
The entire 2013 Wimbeldon Open. You had Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer fail to make it to the quarterfinals. Nadal was eliminated in the first round and Federer and Sharapova were eliminated in the second.
The underdogs couldn't continue their streaks through the men's tournaments, as the final ended up a largely status quo affair between the top 2 seeds Murray and Djokovic. The women's side however suffered such a complete collapse that the final was between the 15th and 23rd seeds Marion Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki who had one previous Grand Slam final appearance between them.
While You Were in Diapers: A promotional video for the 2012 ATP year-end championships had shades of this; the players introduced themselves and said how many times they had qualified for the tournament. They all said it was their 2nd-5th time, until "Hello, I'm Roger Federer and this is my 11th appearance at the World Tour Finals." Translation: he has been in the top 8 longer than most of them have been playing professional tennis.
It was noted in 2013 Wimbledon that 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest player in the top 100, started playing in 1989, before many current tennis players were even born.
Who Needs Overtime: In general, any match that has the final possible set end with a score of 7-5, the closest score a set can have without a tiebreaker.