One of the yearly highlights for tennis fans is watching the singles finals of the oldest tennis tournament in the world. Wimbledon is one of sport’s most prestigious tournaments, and everybody tunes in to watch which elite tennis athlete will reign supreme that year. The enjoyment in watching the men’s finals comes when the matchup is so great that it leads to a fifth and final set. Below, we’ll look at the top five-set Wimbledon finals that will be forever remembered throughout tennis history.
Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe (1980)
Known as the ‘Iceman’, Swedish Bjorn Borg became the first man in the Opera Era to win 11 Grand Slam singles titles. He’s also recognised for playing with charisma and versatility. On the other side of the court, McEnroe was known for his genius tennis skills and his confrontational on-court behaviour. The match saw Borg fighting to retain his supremacy in the tennis world, and McEnroe trying to establish control and keep his own. While this match was Borg’s fifth consecutive time winning at Wimbledon since 1976, the 1980 finals proved to be the best. Borg defeated McEnroe with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 18-16 victory that is considered one of the greatest matches ever.
Stefan Edberg vs. Boris Becker (1990)
Before the Nadal-Federer and Djokovic-Federer rivalries, there was the Becker-Edberg rivalry. They had played out two Wimbledon finals before this one, with Edberg winning in 1988 and Becker winning in 1989. The 1990 finals would determine who really reigned supreme among the two. The finals saw Edberg winning the first two sets 6-2, 6-2. However, Becker rallied to win the next two sets 6-3, 6-3. Becker broke Edberg early in the fifth set, but Edberg regained the break then broke Becker in the ninth game of the set. Edberg would eventually serve it out for a second Wimbledon championship at 6-4. Federer later attributed much of his inspiration to play tennis because of this historic rivalry.
Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer (2008)
Tennis legend John McEnroe describes this final as “the greatest match ever played,” and for good reason. This match is the high point of another historic rivalry that dominated the tennis world. The final was played out for almost seven hours because of rain delays, and ended with the 22-year-old Nadal finally dethroning Federer with a 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (8-10), 9-7 score line. Prior to this, Federer hadn’t faced a challenge on this scale during past Wimbledon finals. Nadal played with such strength and grace that the world champion was taken aback. The 2008 Wimbledon final was a spectacle involving two incredible players playing some of the best tennis the sport has ever seen.
Roger Federer vs. Andy Roddick (2009)
Roddick had one of the best tennis performances of his life in this match, but it still wasn’t enough to beat the great Roger Federer. The 2009 finals will be remembered throughout tennis history because it had the longest fifth set of any Wimbledon final. One broken serve from Andy Roddick was all that Federer needed to take that fifth set and regain the world No. 1 ranking. Federer’s 5-7, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 16-14 victory meant that he had beaten the American in the Wimbledon final a total of three times, the other matches being in 2004 and 2005. Federer’s reaction to his victory was to leap into the air and put on a white tracksuit with a golden ‘15’ embroidered on the back. Roddick’s reaction, on the other hand, was to fling his racket on the grass and sit down in his changeover chair with his head in his hands.
Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer (2019)
Touted by the Telegraph as the longest Wimbledon final in history, this year’s final was unlike any other. Djokovic became the first man in the current era of professional tennis to save Championship points in a final and still go on to win the title. The crowd support was no doubt tipped towards Federer, but the unfazed Djokovic went on to edge him out with a 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12 score line. Yet, despite losing the match there is no doubt that Federer proved why he is considered the greatest tennis player to grace the sport. This match was Federer’s 12th Wimbledon final, and he’s won eight out of the 12. Alongside that fact, he has won the most number of Grand Slams, and in Ladbrokes’s list of the highest paid sports stars, Federer is ranked fourth due to his record breaking career. Many hope that he will add a few more records before he retires from the game. However, Federer’s long history at the Wimbledon Championships did nothing to dampen Djokovic’s spirits. Having defeated Federer in his most familiar turf just goes to show how much Djokovic thrives in the midst of overwhelming adversity.