This history of the Wimbledon tournament is intertwined with the history of its winners and losers at an almost atomic level. Telling the story of the tournament in this century, for instance, is as much an exercise in Roger Federer hagiography as it is in picking through statistics, numbers, architecture and trends. What often gets lost in this “history of titans” are the upsets and meteoric runs by unlikely competitors that shine brightly but briefly.
A journeyman baseline slogger somehow makes it to the semi-finals or final even, is briefly the toast of the tennis world, gets a massive rankings boost, before fading away into obscurity, or top 100 anonymity.
The stories of the MaliVais and Jaegers are easily eclipsed by the Borgs and Beckers. Which is a pity because fans like nothing more than an underdog to back all the way to Centre Court.
This is a list of 10 such players who punctuated Wimbledon history with brief moments of exceptional tennis.
From left to right: Chris Lewis (Getty Images); Andrea Jaeger (Getty Images); Pat Cash Bob Martin/ Getty Images); Nathalie Tauziat (Mike Hewitt/ Allsport)
Achievement: The Australian serve-and-volley exponent lost only one set en route to winning the 1987 men’s singles title. He beat Ivan Lendl in one of his only three major finals to win his only major title. Pat Cash is also remembered for his black-and-white checkered headband, cross-shaped earring, and shocking the traditional Centre Court crowd by clambering up the stands after his win.
Life after:Due to a series of injuries, Cash never reclaimed his form after Wimbledon, though he remains popular with fans to this day. Later, he became a media analyst and has coached several players, including Greg Rusedski. He still wears the headband and earring.
Achievement: He reached his only Grand Slam final at Wimbledon in 1996 before losing to Richard Krajicek. MaliVai Washington was the first African-American after Arthur Ashe in 1975 to reach the last stage.
Life after: Washington would reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam only once after that final. He retired in 1999, largely due to injuries, and then became a TV presenter and interviewer.
Achievement: Andrea Jaeger’s 1983 women’s final came almost at the fag end of a short but successful career. After a traumatic falling out with her father, Jaeger lost the final tamely to Martina Navratilova. She later told a British newspaper she had thrown the match.
Life after: After retiring in 1987, Jaeger spent much of her life using her winnings for charitable projects. In 2006, Jaeger became a Dominican nun but, according to The Wall Street Journal, left the order in 2009.
Achievement: For the first time in Grand Slam history, a defending champion lost in the opening round when Lori McNeil beat Steffi Graf in 1994. She went on to reach the semi-finals, where she lost to Conchita Martinez. This came seven years after her previous best Grand Slam performance, a semi-final at the US Open in 1987.
Life after: While McNeil’s singles career slumped thereafter, she had a much better doubles career, winning tournaments right up to 2001 before retiring in 2002. But she continues to be best remembered for her win over Graf.
Achievement: The New Zealander reached the 1983 final and then lost to John McEnroe. Chris Lewis, who beat Kevin Curren in the semi-finals, was only the seventh unseeded male ever to reach the Wimbledon final.
Life after: It was Chris Lewis’ only major final and in 1984, he achieved his career-high ranking of 19. In 1999, he stood for and lost parliamentary elections in New Zealand before moving to the US to start an online tennis equipment store.
Wesley Moodie & Stephen Huss
Achievement: The unseeded duo were the first ever qualifiers to win the men’s doubles title in 2005, when they beat the top-notch Bryan twins from the US.
Life after: Stephen Huss’ career never regained those heights. In the years since, he has never made it past the third round of a Grand Slam. Wesley Moodie had much better fortune. He was a runner-up in the men’s doubles at Roland Garros in 2009 and won the mixed doubles event at Wimbledon last year with Lisa Raymond.
Achievement: Astonishing in hindsight, but Michael Stich only played top-level tennis for less than a decade. His greatest moment was beating Boris Becker in the final and Stefan Edberg in the semis to win the trophy in 1991.
Life after: While Stich continued to be a force on the tour, he never again achieved anything close to that win. He never won another Grand Slam. He retired in 1997 going on to start an AIDS foundation and become a commentator for the BBC.
Achievement: The Vladiator was a qualifier in the 2000 tournament and made it all the way to the semi-finals before running into Pete Sampras. Vladimir Voltchkov prepared for his match by eating fish and chips and watching The Gladiator four times.
Life after: A career-high ranking of 25 in 2001, it dropped outside the top 1,000. Voltchkov last won a tournament in 2007 but continued to play Davis Cup for Belarus till 2008.
Achievement: Nathalie Tauziat lost the 1998 women’s singles final to crowd favourite Jana Novotna. Tauziat was the first French female finalist since the legendary Suzanne Lenglen in 1925.
Life after: Tauziat reached two more Wimbledon quarter-finals in the next three years, and achieved a career-high ranking of 3 in 2000. But she never won a Grand Slam. In 2001, Tauziat wrote a book about life on the road as a tennis player.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org