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3 Best Underdog Moments in Tennis History
Friday, 06/24/2022
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Although the histories of a wide variety of professional sports are filled with examples of underdog stories where a beleaguered player or team somehow comes back from the brink of defeat to secure a hard-fought victory, this is arguably more true of tennis than any other sport.

In many respects, this is largely a function of the unique format and ruleset of tennis. Indeed, with no set time limit on how long a game can go on for, players frequently spend hours being dominated before suddenly coming back to secure a victory.

Professional tennis is also a sport where players well outside the top player rankings can be included in tournaments as wildcards, only to end up storming to a surprise victory.

These unique features have helped professional tennis to become one of the most popular spectator sports in the United States.

As evidence of this, if you are to take a look at the rankings of the most popular sports on any sports betting platform in the US, tennis frequently ranks well against even the most popular sports such as football or basketball. 

And if you were to navigate to your sports betting platform of choice during any of the major tennis tournaments, it would be filled with American sports fans enthusiastically placing wagers!

Out of all the great upsets that have helped to define the sport of tennis, however, which are the most epic?

Boris Becker: Wimbledon 1985
Although he is now known as one of the greatest sporting talents to have ever set foot on the grass or clay court, this was not exactly the expectation we had of Boris Becker going into Wimbledon in 1985.

At the time, Becker was just 17 years old and had only turned pro in the previous year. Despite this, the German schoolboy steamrolled his way through the prestigious Wimbledon tournament.

Becker eventually faced off against the eighth seed Kevin Curren in the final and went on to win the match in four sets. This was Becker’s first Grand Slam title - earning him the unique honor of being the youngest player ever to win a Wimbledon final, as well as the first unseeded player to win the singles title.

Although this record would later be broken by Michael Chang during the 1989 French Open, Becker’s achievement is still unchallenged in the history of Wimbledon.

During the tournament, Becker earned a reputation for his powerful playing style, with his thundering serves earning him the nickname “Boom Boom Boris”.

Becker’s epic 1985 Wimbledon victory – where he went from unseeded 17-year-old to tournament champion in a matter of weeks – was followed up by further Wimbledon wins in 1986 and 1987.

This was an auspicious start to Becker’s career, with the powerful German eventually going on to win six major tournament titles.

Emma Raducanu: US Open 2021
The US Open is one of the world’s highest profile tennis tournaments, and there is often a huge amount of pressure placed on participating players.

This is particularly true for younger players just starting out - many of whom might be making their first Grand Slam appearance.

However, for Emma Raducanu, this pressure did not appear to affect her playing. And despite still being a teenager, Raducanu would go on to win the US Open in 2021.

Having turned pro in 2018, Raducanu entered the US Open as a qualifier in 2021. She advanced to the semifinals with relative ease – even managing to avoid dropping a set. This made her only the fifth player in the Open era to reach a grand slam final as a qualifying player.

When Raducanu eventually reached the final, she faced off against Leylah Fernandez. Interestingly, this was the first all-teenage women’s single US Open final since 1999.

Raducanu put in a dominant performance against Fernandez and managed to comfortably beat her without dropping a set – the first woman to do so at a US Open final since 2014. She was also the first qualifying player to win a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era.

Perhaps even more remarkably, this victory catapulted Raducanu up the rankings to No.23 – a jump of 332 places since the start of the season! It also meant Raducanu was the first British woman to secure a Grand Slam title since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon victory in 1977.

For all these reasons, this remarkable underdog victory saw Raducanu make tennis history!

Goran Ivanisevic: Wimbledon 2001
Although he is by no means the biggest or most recognizable name in professional tennis, this does not in any way take away from Goran Ivanisevic’s shock Wimbledon victory in 2001 being one of the biggest upsets in the history of the game.

When Ivanisevic entered the tournament in 2001, he was generally considered a well-liked, although very much past his prime, player.

Ivanisevic had entered Wimbledon as a wildcard, and expectations were low going into the early stages of the tournament.

Despite this, the plucky Croatian defied the odds and would eventually capture the Wimbledon title in what was a truly classic match.

After putting in solid performances as he progressed through the tournament, Ivanisevic eventually faced the Australian Pat Rafter in a hotly anticipated final. This was a classic back-and-forth match that reached its climax in the fifth set.

Ivanisevic eventually won the match 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 2-6, 9-7 in one of the most epic final sets of all time. When he finally secured victory in the final game, Ivanisevic collapsed on the court in a mixture of exhaustion and disbelief, with South West London erupting in applause around him.

This was the fourth time Ivanisevic had reached the Wimbledon final, although only the first time he had won. And as a result of this unexpected victory, he was launched from a No.125 ranking to No.16 in the world.