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Federer's record hunt

Steven Lynch June 26, 2013
Roger Federer has some way to go to break Jimmy Connors' record © PA Photos

This week, as the strawberries start to sell at Wimbledon, it's a tennis special:

I remember Venus Williams surviving a match point in one of her Wimbledon finals and going on to win. How often has this happened? asked Karen McKenzie
The one you're thinking of was in 2005, when Venus was match-point down to Lindsay Davenport in the third set before going on to win 4-6 7-6 9-7. It was the first such instance in a ladies' final since 1935, when Helen Wills Moody survived a match point in the third set against her fellow American Helen Jacobs. It also happened in 1919 (Suzanne Lenglen overcame Dorothea Lambert Chambers, who had two match points in the third set) and 1889 (Lena Rice had three match points, but lost to Blanche Hillyard). The last time it happened in the men's singles final was in 1948, when the American Bob Falkenburg survived three match points before beating Australia's John Bromwich. "I saved one with a good passing shot," Falkenburg told me, "but then I hit one that wasn't so good and it looked as if he was going to put the volley away. But he let it go, and it dropped on the line. I won that game, and he was so disappointed he didn't win another one." It also happened in 1927 (Henri Cochet saved six match points to beat Jean Borotra), 1921 (Bill Tilden saved two against Brian Norton), 1895 (Wilfred Baddeley saved one to beat Wilberforce Eaves) and 1889 (Willie Renshaw saved six against Harry Barlow).

How do the seedings work at Wimbledon? I'd have thought the No. 1 should play the No. 32, then the No. 16, then the No. 8 ... but it doesn't seem to work like that? asked Joe Larlham
For years that was the system used at Wimbledon (and elsewhere) but, as the seedings came to be based more and more on official ranking lists, the probability arose that similarly ranked players would keep finding themselves in opposition. I was quite surprised to discover that it was as far back as 1974 that Wimbledon used the "traditional" formula (1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 etc) for the last time. What happens now is that the No. 1 seed goes at the top of the draw, and No. 2 at the bottom; then Nos. 3 and 4 are drawn randomly into each half, Nos. 5 to 8 randomly into each quarter, and so on. It still means the top two seeds can't meet until the final, and the top four until the semis.

Rafael Nadal just won the French Open for the eighth time. Is this an individual record by any player for the same Grand Slam tournament? asked William Harris
Rafael Nadal's eighth singles title at Roland Garros gave him the record for any Grand Slam tournament - on the men's side, anyway. Pete Sampras and Roger Federer have both won seven Wimbledon singles titles, as did Willie Renshaw in the 1880s. Bill Tilden (1920s), William Larned (1901-11) and Richard Sears (1881-87) all won the US Championships seven times too. Nadal still has a little way to go to take the overall record, though: Margaret Smith (later Mrs Court) won the women's singles at the Australian Championships 11 times between 1960 and 1973. Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon nine times, beating Helen Wills Moody's old record of eight, set in 1938. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory won the US Championships eight times between 1915 and 1926.

Is it true that the marathon match between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut in 2010 was over twice as long as any other one at Wimbledon? asked Andrew Carr
That epic first-round match was spread over three days in 2010, and lasted 11 hours five minutes in total. Isner eventually won 6-4 3-6 6-7 7-6 70-68, a total of 183 games. The previous Wimbledon record, in terms of time, was set in the second round in 1989, when Greg Holmes beat his fellow American Todd Witsken in a match that lasted five hours 28 minutes in all - so the Isner-Mahut marathon was indeed over twice as long. In third place is the famous 1969 Centre Court match between Pancho Gonzales and Charlie Pasarell, which the 41-year-old Gonzales eventually won 22-24 1-6 16-14 6-3 11-9 after five hours 12 minutes. That one weighed in at 112 games in total, and was the record until it was smashed 41 years later by Isner and Mahut. They also set records for the longest set (the fifth one lasted eight hours ten minutes, longer than any other entire professional match), games without a break of service (168), and the number of aces (Isner 113, Mahut 103). The following year Isner and Mahut were, remarkably, drawn together again in the first round: spectators expecting another bout of record-breaking were rather disappointed by Isner's straightforward 7-6 6-2 7-6 win.

I wear glasses, and wondered how many people have won Wimbledon with them? asked David Barrington
Well, me too - I wondered what had stopped me from winning on Centre Court! The only bespectacled men's singles champion at Wimbledon was Jaroslav Drobny, the Czech-born left-hander who by then was representing Egypt, back in 1954. Drobny was also an Olympic ice-hockey silver medallist (1948), and apparently picked up an eye injury in his hockey days that meant he had to wear glasses. The only other man to wear glasses in the Wimbledon final is the American Howard Kinsey, who lost to Jean Borotra of France (the only man to wear a beret in the final!) in 1926. Billie-Jean King won all her six singles championships at Wimbledon while wearing glasses, while the last four of Martina Navratilova's record nine singles titles came while she was sporting spectacles.

Roger Federer was seeded in the Wimbledon singles for the 13th time this year. Is this a record? asked Sally Bateman
Roger Federer will have to keep going a bit longer to claim this particular record: Jimmy Connors was seeded in the Wimbledon singles on 17 occasions - every year from 1973 to 1989, when he was 36. Pete Sampras was seeded No. 1 a record eight times (every year from 1993 to 2001, except 1995). Martina Navratilova, however, was seeded in the women's singles on no fewer than 20 occasions - every year from 1975 to 1994. She was ranked No. 1 eight times, a record she shares with Margaret Court and Steffi Graf.

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