Every tennis player’s dream is to one day reach a grand slam tournament and take on the best of the best with millions in prize money up for grabs. Even making it to the first round is a massive accomplishment, while making it to the final is something only a handful of players get to do. In those finals matches, there have been some all-time tennis classics that have created some of the best moments in the sport’s history.
Let’s take a look at five of those matches that molded grand slam history in the men’s singles side of things. Between upsets and legendary performances from equally matched players, these matches have withstood the test of time.
McEnroe vs. Lendl (French Open 1984)
By the time 1984 came around, the peak of John McEnroe was coming toward the end while Ivan Lendl’s peak was just beginning. The two eras of men’s tennis overlapped in 1984 when they dominated throughout the season. This included the 1984 French Open with McEnroe coming in as the top seed while Lendl was right behind him.
McEnroe looked like he was going to cruise to the French Open title, winning the first two sets 6-3, 6-2. Lendl wasn’t ready to give up, though, winning the third set 6-4. He then forced a fifth set thanks to a 7-5 win. McEnroe, who had not lost yet during the season, was pushed to the brink, and Lendl came out on top with a 7-5 win in the final set, marking the transition of one era to another.
Agassi vs. Ivanisevic (Wimbledon 1992)
A majority of the matches on the list come from the Wimbledon Championships, as it seems that players end up bringing their A-game for the historic event. The 1992 Wimbledon Championships were no exception, In that edition, not many people expected a final consisting of Croatian Goran Ivanisevic and American Andre Agassi as they were ranked eighth and 12th, respectively. However, that’s exactly what the crowd got.
Each man knocked a fellow legend out of the semifinals, with Agassi beating John McEnroe in straight sets while Ivanisevic defeated Pete Sampras in four. Ivanisevic jumped out to an early lead over Agassi, but the American won the next two sets. Ivanisevic forced a fifth set thanks to a 6-1 win, and in the final set, Agassi came out on top 6-4. It marked the beginning of Agassi’s dominance throughout the 1990s, giving him his first major title.
Djokovic vs. Nadal (Australian Open 2012)
We didn’t want to feature a single player more than once or twice, otherwise, the entire list would probably be Rafael Nadal thanks to his epic matches against some of the all-time greats. The first of the two Nadal matches that we’ll feature is from the 2012 Australian Open. Nadal was the second-seeded player in the tournament with Novak Djokovic in the top spot. The two were on a collision course (a common occurrence) and met in the finals.
The match was back-and-forth the entire way, with Nadal winning the first set 7-5. Djokovic answered back with 6-4 and 6-2 set wins himself. Nadal needed a win in the fourth set and did just that by winning a tiebreaker 7-6. However, Djokovic came up big in the final set, winning 7-5 to take the title after a nearly six-hour match, giving Djokovic his fifth major title.
Federer vs. Nadal (Wimbledon 2008)
Novak Djokovic isn’t the only major rival that Rafael Nadal has had throughout his career. He and Roger Federer formed one of the all-time greatest rivalries in tennis history. It was hard to narrow it down to just one finals match that the two had against each other, but the 2008 Wimbledon Championships final ranks number one for most tennis experts. The two men came in as the top seeds and stormed through the competition to meet for the title.
Nadal came out hot with 6-4 wins in the first two sets. Federer then needed a tiebreaker in the third and fourth sets to force a fifth. This time, though, Nadal would stand strong, earning a 9-7 win to give him the title after a grueling 4 hours and 48 minutes marathon.
Bjorg vs. McEnroe (Wimbledon 1980)
Speaking of great tennis rivalries, the original big rivalry that caught worldwide attention was between Swede Bjorn Borg and American John McEnroe. The two had a lot of epic battles, but most agree that their meeting at the end of the 1980 Wimbledon Championships ranks as the best in the rivalry and perhaps the best match in tennis history.
McEnroe dominated the first set, but Bjorg answered back with set wins of 7-5 and 6-3 to give him the edge. The fourth set saw a marathon tiebreaker with McEnroe finally coming out on top. In the deciding set, though, Bjorg got the best of McEnroe with an 8-6 win, giving him his fifth straight major title.