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WIMBLEDON SURPRISES



For all the multiple winners we’ve seen at Wimbledon this century, including Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Petra Kvitova, there are also those players who come out of nowhere, have the run of their lifetime, and then barely be sighted again.


We’re going to take a look at some of those players since 2000.


Year: 2000

Player: Vladimir Voltchkov – Belarus


Vladimir actually had a pretty good junior career, reaching number 7 in the world, and winning the Junior Wimbledon title in 1996.


So perhaps it shouldn’t have been a surprise when he reached the semi-finals. But if we’re being honest, it was a massive surprise. Voltchkov never made it past the 2nd round of another Slam in his next 16 majors (6 times he didn’t make it out of the qualifying).


Throughout his career, he never won an ATP title, nor won a match at a Masters event, going 0-8.


But during that famous summer, Vladimir fought through 3 qualifying matches, then stormed through the main draw. On his way to the semi-final he defeated:


Juan Ignacio Chela in 5 sets

Cedric Pioline (6th seed) in 5 sets

Younis El Aynaoui

Wayne Ferreira

Byron Black

His run came to a halt, when coming up against the number one seed, Pete Sampras, 7-6 6-2 6-4, who then went on to win the title over Australia’s Pat Rafter.

 

Year: 2011

Player: Bernard Tomic – Australia


Unfortunately for Bernard, all the talent he had as a junior, and all the hype which surrounded him following the 2011 Wimbledon, just didn’t eventuate. But in 2011, he announced himself on the world stage, reaching the quarter-finals at age 19, and in just his 7th main draw of a major.


Up until this time, Bernard had never even been to the quarter-finals of an ATP event, but here he was, having won 3 qualifying matches, and 4 main draw matches, defeating along the way:


Nikolay Davydenko (29th seed)

Igor Andreev

Robin Soderling (5) in straight sets

Xavier Malisse


He then faced the second seed, Novak Djokovic, and certainly gave him a scare, before going down in four sets, 2-6 6-3 3-6 5-7. The Serbian then went on to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and Rafael Nadal, to take the title.


For Bernard, it was natural to think he would get plenty of chances at the pointy end of majors, but this was the only time he ever made the quarter-finals. In 31 main draws following, Tomic’s best results were reaching the 4th round 5 times. Wimbledon 2011 remains the high point in his career.

 

Year: 2023

Player: Christopher Eubanks – American


Playing in his 23rd Grand Slam event, the 27-year-old American had only actually made it to 8 main draws before 2023, so it’s fair to say, he was not fancied to go far, despite winning the lead-up event in Mallorca.


But Eubanks rode the wave of confidence through the first week, defeating:

Thiago Monteiro in 4 sets.


Cameron Norrie (12) in 4 sets

Chris O’Connell in 3 tie-breaks

Stefanos Tsitsipas (5) in 5 sets, from 2 sets to 1 down


He then took on Daniil Medvedev in the quarter-finals, and pushed him all the way, but eventually ran out of gas in the 5th set 4-6 6-1 6-4 6-7 1-6.


Since the 2023 event, Eubanks has struggled to win matches, going 5-9 for the rest of the season, and sitting at 6-14 heading into this year’s event. At the time of writing, he has just gone down in the second round, meaning his ranking is about to slip down from in the 40’s, to around 130, making his unlikely Wimbledon run of 2023, all the more amazing.


Women

Year: 2004

Player: Karolina Sprem – Croatia


At 19 years of age, Karolina was playing in just her 5th major, and had won just one match in her previous 4.


Taking on a trio of Americans in the early rounds, she defeated:

Laura Granville

Venus Williams (3rd seed) in 2 tie-breaks

Meghann Shaughnessy, also in 2 tie-breaks

Magdalena Maleeva (21)


She then came up against another American, and 5th seed, Lindsay Davenport in the quarter-finals, but unfortunately for Karolina, her run came to an abrupt end, losing 6-2 6-2.

Over the course of her career, Sprem played another 18 majors and reached the 4th round only once, with two other 3rdround appearances, making her quarter-final run at Wimbledon the stand-out tournament in her career. She also never won a WTA title, coming runner-up 3 times.

 

Year: 2006

Player: Severine Bremond - France


Severine Bremond is a name that doesn’t jump off the page when talking Grand Slam success. And for good reason. Severine only played 23 major events across 6 seasons. During those 23 events, she recorded just 14 wins, and in her first 14 Slams leading into the 2006 event, she only had 6 wins under the belt. This makes her appearance in the second week even more extraordinary.


Bremond had to win three qualifying matches to make the main draw, and then rolled through the following players:


Anastasiya Yakimova

Patty Schnyder (8) in 3 sets

Gisela Dulko (31) in 3 sets

Ai Sugiyama (18)


In the quarter-finals, she faced Belgian number 3 seed, Justine Henin, and while putting up a pretty decent fight, went down 6-4 6-4.

Severine went on to reach a career high of 34, but never won a WTA title, and never got past the second round of a Slam following her quarter-final appearance.

 

Year: 2017

Player: Magdalena Rybarikova – Slovakia


Magdalena entered the 2017 event ranked 85 at the time. Her Wimbledon record was far from threatening for any opponent who happened to be drawn against her. She had played 9 Wimbledon’s for just 1 third round appearance, and an astonishing 8 first round exits.


Her other Slam appearances hadn’t netted her much more success. A total of 35 major appearances, and only 3 times had she won two matches. But for whatever reason, something clicked in this year, and Rybarikova proceeded to knock over the following players:


Monica Nicolescu

Karolina Pliskova (3)

Laura Tsurenko

Petra Martic

Coco Vandeweghe (24)

All of a sudden, she found herself in the semi-finals, but came up against a red-hot Garbine Muguruza, who got the better of her 6-1 6-1. Muguruza went on to win the event, only dropping one set all tournament. For Rybarikova, she only played Wimbledon twice more, but lost in the 1st and 2nd round.

 

Year 2022:

Player: Tatjana Maria – Germany


Tatjana Maria is perhaps the ultimate ‘one-hit wonder’. The German is still playing on the tour now, and has entered 43 main draw Slam events. Her record shows a staggering 29 first round losses, and only 1 3rd round appearance. Which makes 2022 all the more amazing. No-one saw it coming, but Tatjana knocked over 3 seeded players on the way through to the semi-finals. Her scalps along the way included:


Astra Sharma in 3 sets

Sorana Cirstea (26) in 3 sets

Maria Sakkari (5)

Jelena Ostapenko (12) in 3 sets

Julie Niemeier in 3 sets


The semi-finals delivered the challenge of Ons Jabeur, which she almost conquered, taking the match to a deciding set, before finally bowing out, 2-6 6-3 1-6, and falling just short of a final appearance.


Tatjana was the oldest person to make a debut in a Wimbledon quarter-final, at age 34, and reached a career high ranking of 42. She has lost to Katie Boulter in round 1 of the 2024 edition.

 

What this does show, is that even if a player hasn’t had a whole lot of ‘success’, as far as titles, rankings, and majors, it only takes one or two weeks to get ‘hot’, to possibly write their name into history.

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