Most Major Tennis

Most Major Tennis is among the most popular individual sports out there and for good reason. It features grace, endurance, power, mental strength, and several other attributes. Most importantly, it’s a noble game that has no place for hatred towards the opponent.

That doesn’t mean that tennis matches are mostly friendly events with little to no desire to win, though. The history of the game has seen plenty of epic duels in which the competitiveness has pushed many great athletes to a point that seems out of this world.

We decided to try and gather the most memorable battles on the tennis courts. There are no clear criteria, but we basically stick to a few important considerations. The importance of the match, the drama, and the level of play displayed by the two sides are the most essential among them.

The majority of the contests covered in our list of the greatest tennis matches of all time were part of Grand Slam tournaments, but we also added some from other events. Enjoy!

Most Major Tennis in the History of Wimbledon

It only seems appropriate to start with the epic matches played on the sacred Wimbledon turf. The English tournament is the oldest and is widely regarded as the greatest in the sport.

With a history that goes way back to the 19th century, the number of breathtaking encounters there is enormous. But we feel the next five are above all.

Most Major Tennis Bjorn Borg vs. John McEnroe

Most Major Tennis

One of the most famous Wimbledon matches ever featured two iconic players: the calm and composed Bjorn Borg who embodied the culture of tennis and the audacious John McEnroe. The American is one of the few legendary athletes in the history of the sport who wasn’t afraid to show all kinds of emotions on the court.

Borg was a rock star in the tennis world for a couple of years prior, dominating the French Open and Wimbledon. In fact, the 1980 first seed had won the last four Wimbledon titles before this match and was at the peak of his career.

One of the contenders for his throne was the young McEnroe, who won his first Grand Slam in the 1979 US Open. The American also reached the number-one spot in the ATP rankings in March of 1980. He was bold and eager to prove his worth.

His ambition showed in the first set when McEnroe crushed his opponent 6-1 and surprised everyone. The champion was in a tough spot but responded well. Borg steadily improved his own serve and broke McEnroe at the end of the second set, winning 7-5.

The American was down mentally, and it affected his game. The reigning Wimbledon champion took full advantage and won the third set, too. This time, the score was 6-3.

Borg rode the momentum and managed to break the challenger in the fourth as well. The victory seemed certain when the Swede had two championship points in his own service game. The level of both had increased significantly during this set already, but McEnroe rose to a new level to save the match.

The American broke after a couple of insane shots, and the set reached a tiebreak that was later known as “The War of 18-16.” Both men would produce some stunning moments of pure magic. Each had five opportunities to end the set, but every single time, the man on the other side of the net simply refused to give up.

Finally, it was McEnroe who snatched the set, and the epic clash was decided in the fifth set. It was a nerve-wracking affair, as both served well. The score reached 7-6 in favor of Borg, and the Swedish legend had two match points.

After missing seven of those up to this point, he didn’t tremble, and McEnroe didn’t have any more tricks up his sleeve. Borg was able to close the game and win the Wimbledon title for the fifth time in a row in what was considered the greatest match on grass for many years.

The young American was devastated, but he earned the respect of the tennis world this day and would later go on to win three Wimbledon titles. McEnroe’s rise at the start of the 1980s is also one of the reasons why Bjorn Borg retired early, at the age of just 26 in 1983.

Most Major Tennis Roger Federer vs. Pete Sampras

Most Major Tennis

Many of the matches on this page feature a legendary champion passing the torch to a young and hungry contender, but this one signals the rise of what many consider to be the greatest player in the history of tennis.

More importantly, he had to face what many considered the greatest player in the history of tennis at the time. We’re talking about the match between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras in 2001, of course.

The American had won 13 Grand Slam titles, including seven Wimbledon trophies at the time, and was leading the all-time ranking in both categories.

It’s safe to say that Sampras was the overwhelming favorite in the match against a 19-year-old Swiss youngster. The American had won 31 duels in a row at the All England Club and lost only one of his last 57 Wimbledon clashes.

At the same time, Federer had already caught the eye of the tennis world, and many believed he was a great player in the making, but he had yet to produce something special in a Grand Slam tournament.

This was about to change in the 2001 Wimbledon fourth round. The match was probably the tightest in this edition of the competition, as both men served exceptionally. There were almost no breakpoints, and the opportunities to even win a point on the other man’s service games were limited.

Sampras was surprised by Federer’s consistency. The serve of the youngster didn’t have overwhelming power, but it was well placed and disguised to a point that the American was often helpless. The situation was similar when he was serving, too, with Federer struggling to find any openings.

As it often happens in this type of Wimbledon game, all sets were decided either by a tiebreak or a single break. Federer was able to keep his composure more often than Sampras when it mattered the most.

The Swiss maestro snatched a tough match that remains one of the classic duels on the grass. It was one of the best showcases of the style required to win on this surface, with both men serving exceptionally and hitting a number of volleys.

Despite the famous victory, Federer would have to wait for another two years before he won his first Grand Slam, but once he did, the trophies started pouring in.

As for Sampras, the great champion did manage to lift another Grand Slam. Pistol Pete won the US Open in 2003 and extended his lead in the all-time Grand Slam rankings. That didn’t stop Federer from surpassing him in 2009, once again at Wimbledon.

Most Major Tennis Rafael Nadal vs. Roger Federer

Most Major Tennis

The rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is legendary, probably the greatest in the history of tennis. For years, those two battled in the finals of the biggest tournaments on the circuit.

When they met in the 2008 Wimbledon final, Federer and Nadal had lifted 14 of the previous 16 Grand Slam tournaments. The younger Nadal was dominating mostly on clay up to this point and hadn’t won any of the other Big Four competitions.

I don’t think that anyone expected the Spaniard to find a breakthrough at the All England Club. After all, Federer had won the last five editions of the tournament, beating Nadal in 2006 and 2007.

The Swiss maestro had just entered his peak as well, so Rafa was supposed to lose this final.

The problem is, someone forgot to tell him that. Nadal rather comfortably won the first two sets with a score of 6-4 in each and put Federer back against the wall.

No one had challenged Roger so fiercely in Wimbledon in the past couple of years, but he didn’t tremble. The next two sets were among the highest-quality tennis that was ever played in the history of the sport.

Federer was leading 5-4 when the rain forced a break that lasted 80 minutes. The pause didn’t hurt the concentration of the two great champions. They fought hard, but the world number one won the tiebreak to survive.

The fourth set was similar and also climaxed in a tiebreak. Nadal was up 5-2 at one point and even had championship points, but Federer showed some nerves of steel and won once again.

The crowd was ecstatic, as it didn’t want the match to end. The fifth set was equally epic; both men had their chances to find the win. Eventually, it was Nadal who broke the resistance of his opponent and snatched the victory.

The Spaniard won 9-7 in the last set, and this was one of the most important moments of his career. He rode the momentum and earned titles in all Grand Slam tournaments, later on, becoming one of the most successful players in the history of tennis.

Many believe that his refusal to give up in the tough moments is the reason behind Nadal’s glory. A simple stat from the Wimbledon 2008 final can back that up. Roger Federer had 13 break points and only won one of them.

Williams vs. Elena Dementieva

Most Major Tennis

If you’re looking for the best ladies’ match in the history of Wimbledon, it’s probably the one between Serena Williams and Elena Dementieva in 2009. While the clash wasn’t even a final, the sheer quality of the displayed tennis was insane.

You would expect Serena Williams to dominate every single match, especially on grass. Her aggressive style and unmatched power helped the American become one of the most successful tennis players in the history of the sport.

She was used to breaking her opponents in a quick fashion, but Dementieva wasn’t going to back down. The Russian stood tall and contributed to a breathtaking Wimbledon semi-final in 2009.

She was the one to draw first blood, breaking in the opening game of the match. Serena quickly responded with a break of her own in the next one.

Things were quiet for a while before Williams upped the tempo and went 40-0 on Dementieva’s service game at 4-3. No one expected the Russian to survive in such a situation, but she did, and this set the tone for the rest of the match.

Riding on the momentum, Dementieva won the tiebreak 7-4 to snatch the first set, but this is where she lost her composure for a while, allowing her opponent to break her at the start of the second.

The real drama was yet to unfold, though. The Russian was able to break to love in the sixth game, holding her own serve in the next one and going two break points up.

Serena was on the brink of going 5-3 down, but this was the moment she showed the grit that made her such a great athlete. Williams fought back to save the game and then broke a couple of games later to take a commanding 6-5 lead.

It wasn’t over, as Dementieva sent a couple of fierce shots that brought her another two break points. Unfortunately for her, Serena found her first serve in this crucial moment and managed to close the wild second set to tie the match.

Most people expected the Russian to falter and lose her confidence, but that wasn’t the case. Dementieva was the first to break in the decider and even had a match point. Once again, Williams was able to recover and close the encounter, winning 8-6.

It was a mesmerizing duel, and Serena then went on to beat her sister Venus to win Wimbledon 2009. It was one of the many trophies in her career, but the match against Dementieva made it one of the sweetest among them.

John Isner vs. Nicolas Mahut

Major Tennis

We simply couldn’t skip the longest match in the history of Wimbledon. In fact, this is the longest recorded match in the history of the entire sport.

Both John Isner and Nicolas Mahut are big guys that serve well. We all know how hard it is to break the service games of such a player at Wimbledon, so the overall expectations were that it would be one long match.

I don’t think anyone realized how long exactly, though. The first four sets were gruesome but somewhat expected. Isner found a way to break his opponent to take the first one 6-4, but Mahut did the same in the second, snatching it 6-3.

The next two sets included no breaks, so they had to be decided by tiebreakers. Both men were capable of winning one a piece, so it all came down to the deciding fifth set. Since darkness was creeping in, the match was paused and continued the next day.

The players retired for a break, and boy, did they need more strength on the next day. The fifth set continued for the full day, and the score at the end was… 59-59. That’s right — Isner and Mahut played 108 games that day, without breaks.

The American had four opportunities to steal his opponent’s service game, and the Frenchman had two, but both missed the chance to end, and the match was once again halted because the sun went down.

Both players had to take ice baths, massages, and various other measures to keep their bodies in a somewhat competitive condition.

On the third day, Mahut was the first one that had an opening. He was leading 0-30 during Isner’s serve but failed to convert. The American was then able to end it all by the score of 70-68 after just over an hour of play on the final day.

The level of tennis in this match can’t compare with the rest of our list, but the sheer willpower and endurance of both Isner and Mahut deserve a place. They broke numerous records, including the longest match in terms of both length and games played.

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