- July 5 down the years
Simpson makes British cycling history
The first British cyclist to wear the yellow jersey as leader of the Tour de France. On the ride from Pau to Saint-Gaudens, Tommy Simpson joined a breakaway group and took the coveted garment from Willy Schroeders of Belgium. Simpson wore it for just one day before handing it over to another Belgian, Jef Planckaert, who kept it for another six stages before Jacques Anquetil took over to win the race for the second year in a row. Simpson died during the 1967 Tour (13 July). No other British rider wore the yellow jersey until Chris Boardman in 1994.
Some famous Wimbledon tennis finals took place on this day.
After losing the singles final in 2008, Roger Federer won the title for the sixth time in 2009 - and left Andy Roddick kicking himself. Roddick won the first set 7-5 then led 6-2 in the tie-break, four points for a two sets to love lead. He may deny it, but he seemed to play the next few points without the same intensity as before, missing quite an easy backhand volley on the last set point. Federer tends to win tie-breaks in Wimbledon finals (11 out of 12), and he won this one and the next. So instead of winning in straight sets, Roddick trailed 2-1. To his credit, his head didn't go down. He won the fourth set 6-3 and held his ground in the fifth. When he finally lost the game that gave Federer the title 16-14, it was the first time he'd dropped serve all day. It was also the third time he'd lost to Federer in a Wimbledon final. The 77 games were the most in any Wimbledon singles final, but there would have been a lot fewer if Roddick hadn't switched off in that first tie-break.
The 1980 men's singles final was probably the most famous of the lot. Certainly the one that gets shown most often on rainy days. It had all the ingredients before and during. Baseliner against serve-volleyer; brash newcomer trying to stop popular champion from winning it for the fifth time in a row. Two years earlier, John McEnroe had reached the semi-finals as a 19-year-old qualifier. Now he was the best serve-volleyer in the world, which he proved by winning the first set 6-1 and having three break points at 4-4 in the second. Then a typical McEnroe slump. Borg won five games in a row, which effectively gave him the next two sets. In the fourth, he had two match points. If he'd taken them, we would have missed out on one of the great tennis treats: that tie-break. Borg missed another five Championship points, including four on his own serve, before McEnroe won it 18-16. That should have crushed the champion - and McEnroe hit two winners to lead 30-0 in the first game of the fifth set. But Borg was made of very stern stuff - and he was much the fitter. While Borg was losing only one of the remaining 29 points on his serve, McEnroe struggled to hold his. He hung in there for a long time, but the latest Borg passing shot won it 8-6. The following year, McEnroe won the title for the first time by stopping Borg winning his sixth in a row, but they don't show that one so often.
In 2008, Laura Robson, born in Australia but representing Britain, was only 14 when she won the Wimbledon junior singles, beating 16-year-old Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand in the final. Robson won the first set 6-3 but lost the second by the same score. Could the kid hold it together? Just a bit. She won the third 6-1. The following year, Robson was hampered by a bad back when she lost in the third round. Meanwhile Lertcheewakarn won the final, also 6-1 in the third after sharing the first two sets 6-3. But Robson had nearly caused an upset in the senior competition, winning the first set before losing to world No.32 Daniela Hantuchová.
You could have had long odds against Andre Agassi winning his first Grand Slam singles title on grass. His groundstrokes made him a top player on clay, and he reached consecutive finals at the French Open before coming to Wimbledon in 1992. There he reached another final, and found himself in a classic match-up: the best serve of all time against the greatest return ever seen. The serve belonged to the tall Goran Ivanišević, who had no other weapons but didn't need them. No-one counted the number of service winners he hit in that year's Wimbledon, but add them to his 206 aces and you had one of the almighty tennis shots. All made with the simplest of actions. No bouncing of the ball; just put it there above the left eye, swing the left arm, and watch the backstops billow. In a battle of big serves, he blew Pete Sampras away in the semis. But in the final, his irresistible force met the unmoveable Agassi, whose return of serve was a miracle of economy and power. No backlift to speak of, just a slap either side of the incoming server. Neither Becker nor McEnroe had been able to cope. The final went all the way to a fifth set. Agassi led 5-4 after saving a break point - then suddenly, after serving 37 aces in the match, Ivanišević hit two double faults to go 30-love down. He recovered to 30-all, and even at match point against him, his .22 of an arm gave him every chance. But his first serve hit the net, and so did his volley when Agassi hit the second straight back at him. It was Agassi's only Wimbledon title. Between them, he and Ivanišević lost three finals to Sampras before Goran won the title, emotionally and at last, in 2001 (9 July). He served 213 aces that year.
In 1975, Arthur Ashe became the only black player to win the Wimbledon men's singles. To do it, he had to slay a real dragon. While Ashe was taking five sets to win an insipid semi-final against fellow veteran Tony Roche, defending champion Jimmy Connors had become the Mike Tyson of tennis, destroying big-serving Roscoe Tanner with passing shots like double-handed punches. Connors had mangled poor old Ken Rosewall in the Final the previous year (6 July), and Ashe looked set to be another knockout victim. But when your power's gone and defence isn't your forte, you have to box clever. Ashe had once been a big hitter himself, going all out for his shots, especially on his backhand. In the 1969 semi-finals, he blitzed Rod Laver in the first set before blowing himself out. Today he was infinitely more cute. Connors thrived on pace, so Ashe didn't give him any. Placing his serve rather than thumping it, dinking his returns and groundshots, Ashe delighted a disbelieving crowd by winning each of the first two sets 6-1. When a voice in the crowd urged Connors on, the champion made a few friends by yelling "I'm trying, for christsake!" He pulled a set back, but Ashe took the title with his latest wide serve, tapping the return into an empty court. He was the last thirtysomething to win the Wimbledon men's singles. Connors had to wait until 1982 to win it again.
The 1919 women's singles final had everything you need for a classic, including two match points saved and one sovereign succeeding another. Even at 40, Dorothea Chambers was the queen of Wimbledon. She won the title for a record seventh time in 1914 (4 July) and was good enough to win singles and doubles against the USA when she was 46. The contrast with her opponent couldn't have been greater. Suzanne Lenglen was 20, exactly half her age. She wore shorter dresses while Chambers was still clad in floor-length skirts. She leaped around the whole court, coming to the net to volley, while Chambers hit from the baseline. She grinned while Chambers glowered. The Roaring Twenties against the Edwardian Age. But if Chambers' game and dress looked antique, her forehand drive was still a wrecking ball and she conserved energy while Suzanne was jumping about. Every set was a seesaw. In the first, Lenglen missed a set point at 5-3, saved one at 5-6, then won it 10-8 with a stop volley. She fell behind 4-1 in the second, pulled back to 4-4 after taking sugar soaked in brandy, but lost it 6-4. She led 4-1 in the decider, but she was never physically very strong and Chambers had the constitution of an ox. The champion led 6-5, had two match points on her own serve, and threw up a lob which Suzanne reached only with the frame of her racquet. A lucky winner off the wood deprived Chambers of an eighth Wimbledon singles title. She lost the second match point to Lenglen's backhand down the line that threw up chalk. Inches away from defeat, Suzanne won the set 9-7 and never lost a singles match at Wimbledon. She met Chambers again in the Challenge Round the following year, but it ended 6-3 6-0. Very much the end of an era and the start of a new one.
Jeremy Bates and Jo Durie were stalwarts of British tennis in the 1980s. They didn't reach a Grand Slam singles title between them, but had their reward today in 1987 when they won the Wimbledon mixed doubles. In the final against Australia's Darren Cahill and Nicole Provis, they played a limp-wristed tie-break at the end of the first set before winning it 12-10, then took the second set 6-3. They were the first British pair to win the mixed since Fred Perry and Dorothy Round in 1936.
Martina Hingis won the singles title in 1997. The previous year, she'd won the doubles to become the youngest ever Wimbledon champion (8 July). She was still only 16 today when her crisp baseline game overcame Jana Novotná's serve and volley after losing the first set 6-2. Novotná, who'd lost a tearful final to Steffi Graf four years earlier (3 July), won the title at last in 1998, when she added the doubles with Hingis, who amazingly never reached the singles final again.
Elsewhere in 1998, Serena Williams was also only 16 when she won the mixed with Max Mirnyi.
1952 saw the last man to win Wimbledon's triple crown. The day after winning the singles at last, Australia's Frank Sedgman retained the doubles and the mixed, easily with Ken McGregor, after losing the first set with Doris Hart.
In 1930, Bill Tilden was 37 when he won the Wimbledon singles title for the third time. Arguably the greatest male player of all time, certainly the most influential, he first won the title ten years earlier (3 July), retained it in 1921, and now won in straight sets against the unseeded Wilmer Allison while "beaming throughout". A suitable end to a seminal career.
Rorke's Drift Revisited. Great Britain's rugby league team had won the original backs-to-the-wall match against Australia in 1914 (4 July). Today in Brisbane, they finished with only eight fit men - and won again. Their captain Alan Prescott broke his arm after only three minutes but stayed on throughout; David Bolton broke his collarbone after half an hour; loose forward Vince Karalius suffered a bruised back when he replaced him at stand-off; Eric Fraser kicked five goals with burst blood vessels in his elbow; and Jim Challinor scored a try despite a "misplaced" collarbone. Somehow GB led 10-2 at half-time and increased that to 15-2 before Australia managed a try. Ike Southward scored two of Britain's five tries as they led 25-13, and Australia's fourth try came too late. They'd won the first Test but their confidence was crushed by this one and GB won the decider 40-17.
Donna Caponi became only the second woman golfer to retain the US Open. Well ahead after opening rounds of 69-70-71, she shot 77 in the fourth and would have been forced into a play-off if Sandra Spuzich hadn't missed a six-foot putt at the last. Caponi finished third the following year,