Sunday 15 July 2012

Best Grass Court Players, never to win Wimbledon

With Wimbledon dust settled down, and Wimbledon mania over, and Roger Federer having won his record equalling 7th Wimbledon crown, let us have a look at the best grass court players who failed to lay their hands on the coveted Wimbledon trophy .

Ken Rosewall (Grass Court record : 108-31)

Rosewall was the first male player during the open era to win a Grand Slam without dropping a set (1971 Australian Open). Wimbledon is the only Slam that eluded him. He went on to win Roland Garros in 1968, U.S Open in 1970 and Australain Open in 1971 and defended his title in 1972.

Rosewall had even decided not to play Roland Garros any more in the seventies in order to be well rested for Wimbledon and the decision paid off immediately as he went on to reach the Wimbledon final in 1970 loosing to Newcombe in 5 sets. The final score being  5–7, 6–3, 6–2, 3–6, 6–1.

He went on to reach the final of Wimbledon in 1974 as well, defeating the then World No.1, Newcombe in the QF in 4 sets, Stan Smith, the then World no.4 in the semi-finals in 5 sets. He lost the first 2 sets of his semi-final but made a great come-back to win the thrilling encounter 6-8 4-6 9-8 6-1 6-3. However, his gruelling semi-final win seemed to have effect on his final performance against Connors as he fell in straight sets 6-1 6-1 6-4.

Rosewall also reached two Wimbledon finals before the Open Era in 1954 and 1956, but fell at the hands of  Jaroslav Drobný and Lew Hoad respectively.

Ivan Lendl (Grass Court record : 81-25)

Although none of his 144 career singles titles came at Wimbledon, the towering Czech-born American was one of the best players to never win on grass. Hen went on to reach 2 Wimbledon finals but fell short at the final hurdle and thus failed to complete the career grand slam.

Lendl's 2 Wimbledon finals came in 1986 and 1987. Going into 1986 Wimbledon, Lendl was the top seed, he overcame the challenges put forth by Tim Mayotte and  Slobodan Živojinović in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively, winning both matches in 5 sets. The finals scores being 6-4 4-6 6-4 3-6 9-7 for his quarter-final win over Mayotte and 6-2 6-7 6-3 6-7  6-4 for his semi-final epic win over Zivojinovic. The back to back 5 set wins seemed to take their tool in the final as he went down to 4th seeded defending champion Becker in straight sets (6-4 6-3 7-5).

Entering the 1987 Wimbledon, Lendl was seeded second behind 2 time defending champion Becker, he made his way to the final defeating 9th seeded Henri Leconte in straight sets and 4th seeded Stefan Edgberg in 4 sets. The final pit him against 11th seeded Pat Cash where Lendl failed to bring forth his game that took him to the final and hence he fell in straight sets to Cash.

Lendl is presently coaching Murray. Murray under lendl's guidance made it to his first Wimbledon finalfalling in 4 sets to Roger Federer.

Patrick Rafter (Grass Court Record : 74-25)

Rafter is the shortest-reigning world No. 1 in ATP tour history, when he ascended to the top spot (taking over Agassi) in July 1999 after reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals for the first time, but he remained at that spot for just one week, before Samprass claimed back the top spot from Rafter just after one week.

Rafter made it to back to back Wimbledon finals, loosing to Samprass in 2000, 6–7(10–12), 7–6(7–5), 6–4, 6–2 and to wild card entrant Ivanesevic 6–3, 3–6, 6–3, 2–6, 9–7 in 2001. Ivanesevic became the first wild card to win a major. The win meant a great deal for Ivanisevic, as he had made the Wimbledon finals three times before (in 1992, 1994 and 1998) but lost each to Agassi, and Sampras twice, respectively.

Andy Roddick (Grass Court Record : 85-21)

Roddick has a game very much suited to grass, and this shows in his results at Wimbledon as well. He has been to the championship match at the Centre Court 3 times, the most recent coming in 2009. Unfortunately, all these 3 times he had the misfortune of running into one of the best grass court players ever, Roger Federer.

Roddick's first Wimbledon final came in 2004 as the 2nd seed. He took the first set off the defending champion and top seed Federer, but lost the next 3 tight sets to loose the match. The final score being 4-6 7-5 7-6 6-4.

2005 marked the repeat of 2004's Wimbledon final with the same outcome and the only difference that Roddick failed to win a set this time, falling in straight sets to Federer.

2009 saw the third time that Federer and Roddick fought a battle for the Wimbledon crown, making it the longest Grand Slam final in terms of the games played. This definitely was a heart breaking loss for Roddick who lost his serve only once during the entire match, but that one break of serve was so expensive that it cost Roddick the championship and it earned Federer his 6th Wimbledon trophy and a return to the top spot. Roddick lost his serve in the final game of the final set. The final score of the match being 5-7 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-5) 3-6 16-14.

I have not put Murray in this category, since he is still in his prime and will definitely have some chances to get a hold on the Wimbledon trophy.

Who do you think was the bet grass court player never to win Wimbledon?

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