Top 10 upsets and near-upsets:
2012 – Rafael Nadal loses in the second round to Lukas Rosol. It was only a few days before the Wimbledon Championships that Rosol, ranked 100, played his first tour-level match on grass, at Queen’s Club. on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, he turned in the performance of his life, defeating the world No 2 in five sets.
1999 – Martina Hingis loses in the first round to Jelena Dokic. If the world No 1 thought she could just breeze through round one, she didn’t count on a 16-year-old from Australia (via Croatia) who thumped every ball as if it were her last. Her father, Damir, had already begun his hell-raising by then but though Dokic would later become a top-five player, her 6-2, 6-0 victory was the Open Era’s biggest upset.
2002 – Pete Sampras loses to George Bastl. During the changeovers, Sampras sat on his chair and read the note addressed to, “my husband, seven-times Wimbledon champion, Pete”, which instructed him: “Remember this – you truly are the greatest player ever to pick up a racquet.” This was one of the most astonishing days in the history of the All England Club — and it is not a place that is short on history — as Sampras went through what amounted to a grass-court existential crisis. Hence why he fished around in his bag for that letter from his wife, and why he ended up losing in the second round to a Swiss unknown and lucky loser.
2003 – Lleyton Hewitt loses in the first round to Ivo Karlovic. When the defending champion won the first set in 19 minutes, it looked like all was well for Hewitt but the 6ft 10in Karlovic, playing just his 11th Tour match, served him off the court in the rest of the match to win in four sets and make Hewitt the first men’s defending champion to lose in the first round in the Open Era.
1987 – Boris Becker loses in the second round to Peter Doohan. Two weeks before Wimbledon, Becker beat Australia’s Doohan at Queen’s Club without really breaking sweat but a fortnight on, the German’s hopes of winning a third straight title at 19 were blown away by the world No 70. Doohan beat Becker at his own serve-and-volley game, prompting Becker to say: “I lost a tennis match – it was not a war, nobody died out there.”
1994 – Steffi Graf loses in the first round to Lori McNeil. Having won the title in five of the previous six years, Graf was again a huge favourite but on a wet, windy day, the German was blown out by 30-year-old American McNeil, who went on to make the semi-finals. Graf was the first women’s defending champion in the history of Wimbledon to lose in the first round.
2010 – Roger Federer is almost beaten in the first round. Six years before, Alejandro Falla won just three games against Federer in round one at Wimbledon but with a ranking of 60, the Colombian served for the match against the defending champion, six times the winner. It might just have been the biggest upset ever but from two sets to one and 5-4 up, his nerve failed and Federer survived, just.
1967 – Manuel Santana loses in the first round to Charlie Pasarell. Having once suggested that “grass is for cows”, Santana entered the 1967 event as the defending champion. But Pasarell had come over to Wimbledon early to practice his serve-and-volley game on grass and it paid off as he ousted the holder in four sets.
1996 – Richard Krajieck beats Pete Sampras in the quarter-finals. In ranking terms, Sampras’s defeat to No 13 Krajicek may not seem that big a shock but at Wimbledon, where the American reigned supreme, it was of seismic proportions. Much as Kevin Curren did to John McEnroe in 1985, Krajicek just bulldozed through Sampras to dismiss him in straight sets. It was Sampras’s only defeat at Wimbledon between 1993 and 2000 and the Dutchman went on to take the title.
1996 – Andre Agassi loses to Doug Flach in the first round. Former champion Agassi was the No 3 seed and a massive favourite against world No 281 Flach, better known as the younger brother of doubles star Ken. But unbeknown to the outside world, Agassi’s personal life was in turmoil and he was beginning his mid-career slump. Spraying shots way over the baseline, Agassi offered Flach a chance and he took it.