Despite all the traditions at Wimbledon, the British tennis grand slam still manages to shock us so often. This list takes a look at the most unexpected and surprising moments, controversial incidents, and shocking events (in no particular order) ever to happen at Wimbledon.
1. The Bucharest Buffoon
During his prime, the Romanian Ilie Năstase was the best player in the world. Known as “The Bucharest Buffoon”, it was a persona that Năstase played during a 1974 Wimbledon match against Dick Stockton. When rain began to sprinkle down, Ilie briefly played, holding an umbrella, a technique that suits more suitable to a celebrity match at Wimbledon. But Năstase was no joke on the court as he soon went on to become the number one player in the world. Though he did lose on this particular day, Năstase did further establish his legacy, as well as his quirky oddball legend.
2. Lightning Hits Centre Court
Boris Becker ended the 1985 competition with a bang, and that’s exactly how Wimbledon began that year too. With a lightning bolt hitting a brand new four million pound building, at first, no one knew what transpired, but everyone soon learned that the lightning had struck the press centre, making this the most shocking thing to happen at Wimbledon.
3. Classic McEnroe
Known for his on-court outbursts, John McEnroe delivered his most famous tantrum in a first-round match against Tom Golickson. The banter with umpire Ted James soon became heated, and gave a rise to some of McEnroe’s most famous catchphrases. The meltdown cost McEnroe $1,500 but the incident has found its place in pop culture, and it has got parodied many times.
4. The 11-Hour Match
On the second day of summer at Wimbledon, the United States player John Isner began his first-round play against Frances Nicolas. After nearly three hours, everyone called it a day, and the fifth and final round would begin the following afternoon, but the match took a shocking turn with neither athlete giving in. At last, mother nature once again delayed the competition, setting the stage for a Thursday finale, with the match already being the longest ever documented at Wimbledon on the previous day. On Thursday, Isner and Nicolas impressed the viewers with their endurance and disposition, with the American winning the deciding set.
The event inspired a 2015 mockumentary entitled 7 Days in Hell, which spoofs the surprising Wimbledon moment.
5. Baby-Faced Boris
Many tennis players begin training at a young age, so it’s not uncommon for teenagers to quickly reach the professional level. In 1985, Boris Becker began Wimbledon play as an unseeded 17-year-old. Although unseeded, Boris had momentum, as he just won the World
Young Masters Championship two weeks prior. That summer at Wimbledon, Becker truly announced his rival, as he trounced the competition and defeated Kevin Curran in the finals. Becker thus became the youngest male player to win the men’s Grand Slam singles championship, and he became a back-to-back winner the following year.