Not including these mega-dudes…
Wimbledon. Delicious Wimbledon. People sitting around eating fruit cocktails on Henman Hill, or Murray Mountain, or in the Jeremy Bates Sandpit. Inverdale and his goons watching Sharapova with beads of sweat forming on their top lips, the commentary box steaming up to Turkish Bath proportions. Sue Barker giggling and feverishly licking her lips off-camera whenever she comes into contact with Andy Roddick. Of course, the tennis itself has all become a bit boring since Sampras and Federer took out a monopoly on the men’s title, but that hasn’t stopped us assembling our top four all time champs. No sir. Federer and Sampras not included…
1. Fred Perry
Fred Perry tops our list for a number of reasons. He was the last Great British gentleman to win the men’s title, back in 1936, after also winning in 1934 and 1935. But more than all of that, he spawned the excellent Fred Perry fashion label, a big favourite amongst 1950s/60s Mods and 1970s non-racist skinheads. That fact alone nudges Rene Lacoste (1925, 1928) and Stan Smith (1972) out of contention. We also like that he played the game wearing trousers. Below is an indecipherable clip…
2. Boris Becker
It’s nearly impossible not to love Boris Becker. When he burst onto the Wimbledon scene in 1985, he was an eight year old boy with a massive ginger bouffant and legs crafted from matchsticks. And yet, he shocked the world by dancing through to Wimbledon glory, in a fairytale story up there with Peter Pan, or The Little Mermaid. He won again in 1986 and 1989. Since then, he’s gone through various image changes – at one point sporting a startling red beard and Christopher Walken hair – and he is now one of the finest commentators around. Not least because he always sounds like he might be chatting you up through the television screen when he talks. On the downside, he once impregnated a waitress in between courses.
3. Martina Navratilova
There are some wonderful lady champions out there – Venus Williams (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008), Serena Williams (2002, 2003), Chris Evert (1974, 1976, 1981), but Martina Navratilova gets our vote, for being a bit like a female version of Arnie. She won the thing nine times (1978, 1979, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1990), like Arnie she was a European who became a US citizen, and she was as hard as nails. Plus, like Mr Schwarzenegger, no one can confidently spell her surname under pressure. Quite possibly the greatest player – man or woman – to play the game, she is a shining example to Czechoslovakian lesbians all over the world.
4. John McEnroe
McEnroe (1981, 1983, 1984) just beats Borg, Connors, Cash, Edberg and Agassi to the final spot, mainly thanks to his outrageous tantrums. For some children, watching the American become increasingly furious throughout a match was an exhilarating experience, especially when he finally unleashed his barrage of colourful and exciting swear words at a nervous umpire. But all the shouty-shouty stuff aside, he really was quite brilliant.