Great Tennis Moments on ESPN

Great Tennis Moments on ESPN

ESPN debuted September 7, 1979 and the first tennis telecast was exactly one week later, September 14, a Davis Cup tie, Argentina at U.S. from Memphis with Cliff Drysdale on the call.  In one matchup, John McEnroe defeated Guillermo Vilas.  Since then, tennis has provided many great moments over the last 33 years:

  • A pair of Davis Cup marathons – in July 1982, John McEnroe defeats Mats Wilander in St. Louis ’82 (9-7, 6-2, 15-17, 3-6, 8-6.  The match lasted 6 hours, 32 minutes and the entire 9:17 telecast was the longest live sports telecast on national television to that point) and Boris Becker beats McEnroe in Hartford July 1987 (4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2, in a match that lasts 6 hours, 39 minutes).
  • Helena Sukova upsets Martina Navratilova 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 in the 1984 Australian Open semifinals, ending Navratilova’s record 74-match win streak and thwarting her attempt at a seventh consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • Michael Chang fights off exhaustion (even serving underhanded) in a long match en route to his 1989 French Open.
  • Andy Roddick’s epic 21-19 fifth set vs. Younes El Aynaoui in the 2003 Australian Open quarterfinals.
  • Arguably the biggest upset in Wimbledon history as defending champion and #1 seed Lleyton Hewitt loses in the first round in 2003 by unknown qualifier Ivo Karlovic.
  • The final 90 minutes of the longest match in tennis history (later surpassed at Wimbledon 2010, Isner-Mahut) – 6 hours and 33 minutes between Fabrice Santoro vs. Arnaud Clement at the 2004 French Open with Santoro surviving 6-4, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 3-6, 16-14.
  • In a February 2004 first-round Davis Cup match in Connecticut, Andy Roddick records the fastest serve in tennis history, 150 mph, against Stefan Koubek of Austria.  Later in the year, Roddick tops that mark with serves of 152 mph 155 mph effort, also in Davis Cup.
  • In the November 2004, Roger Federer defeats Marat Safin 6-3, 7-6 (20-18) in the semifinals of the Tennis Masters Cup in Houston.  The 38-point tiebreaker equals the longest tiebreaker in tennis history, accomplished just twice previously since it was created in 1970.
  • ESPN2 sticks with live coverage of the 2008 Australian Open through two scheduled breaks, resulting in 14 hours, 43 minutes of consecutive live tennis (Friday at 9:54 p.m. – Saturday 12:37 p.m.), no doubt the longest live sports telecast in U.S. history.  It was followed by a scheduled reair until 5 p.m., resulting in 19+ straight hours of tennis.  The action was highlighted by three five-set matches:  James Blake winning 4-6, 2-6, 6-0, 7-6, 6-2 over Sebastien Grosjean; Roger Federer outlasting Janko Tipsarevic 6-7, 7-6, 5-7, 6-1, 10-8; and Lleyton Hewitt ousting Marcos Baghdatis 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-3 in a match that ended at 4:32 a.m. in Melbourne.  The fifth sets were aired commercial-free.
  • At the 2009 Australian Open men’s semifinals, top-seeded Rafael Nadal outlasts fellow Spaniard #14 Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4, the longest match in the tournament’s history (5:14, surpassed in 2012).  Just 48 hours later, Nadal wins another five-setter, denying #2 Roger Federer a record-tying 14th Grand Slam title, 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-2.
  • At the 2009 Wimbledon Championships, ESPN2 televises the first match played completely under Centre Court’s new retractable roof.  Andy Murray thrilled the home crowd with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Stanislas Wawrinka.  The match ended at 10:38 p.m. local time, by far, of course, the latest ever at Wimbledon.  The previous latest match was ended at 9:49 p.m. in 2006, limited by the settting sun.
  • In 2009, at ESPN’s first-ever US Open – completing a “Grand Slam” – more than 100 hours on ESPN2 includes the network’s two most-watched tennis telecasts.  In addition, the Women’s Final, postponed a day by rain and, along with a men’s semifinal, added to ESPN2’s schedule, saw 2005 champion and wild card entry Kim Clijsters win in only her third tournament following a two-year retirement to get married and give birth.  She defeated #9 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 7-5, 6-3, to become the first mom to win a major title since Yvonne Goolagong Cawley at Wimbledon in 1980.
  • Opening day 2010 is the longest day ever at Wimbledon, with thrilling five-setters bookending the day.  Roger Federer rallied from two sets down to defeat Alejandro Falla, and later the Centre Court roof was used to continue the Olivier Rochus-Novak Djokovic match, making for an 11.5-hour telecast – all live – on ESPN2.  Djokovic won just before the 11 p.m. local time curfew.
  • In 2010, on the day Queen Elizabeth II makes her first appearance at Wimbledon since 1977, American John Isner and Nicolas Mahut of France conclude the first-round match started two days earlier with a multi-record-breaking 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 score.  Stopped for darkness on Tuesday, June 22 after four sets and nearly 3 hours of play, the fifth set started Wednesday and each held serve to 59-59 when darkness fell a second evening.  After more than an hour of play Thursday – making for a total of 11 hours, 5 minutes – the American triumphed in the longest match (in time and in games) in tennis history (the 8 hour, 11 minute, 138-game fifth set alone would hold the record).  Each player broke the record for Aces in a tennis match.
  • With the 2010 US Open men’s final delayed a day to Monday, and then again by rain at 4-4 in the second set, the action moves from CBS to ESPN2 and Rafael Nadal completes a career Grand Slam, defeating Novak Djokovic 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.
  • In the fourth round of the 2011 Australian Open, Francesca Schiavone defeats Svetlana Kuznetsova in the longest women’s match ever at a Grand Slam event – 6-4, 1-6, 16-14.  The match lasted 4:44.
  • In tennis’ longest Grand Slam final ever, No. 1 Novak Djokovic outlasts No. 2 Rafael Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5 in 5 hours and 53 minutes at the 2012 Australian Open on ESPN2.  It was Djokovic’s fourth title in the last five Majors.
  • At Wimbledon 2012, in one of the biggest upsets in tennis history, unheralded Czech Lukas Rosol defeats 11-time Major winner Rafael Nadal in a dramatic five-set match in the second round (6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4) on ESPN2.  Rosol, 26 and ranked No. 100 in the world, was playing in his first Wimbledon, having entered the qualifying tournament five times and winning a total of one set in five losses.  Nadal entered the day with 583 career match wins, and Rosol 19.
  • In the third round at Wimbledon on ESPN2, Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan scores a “Golden Set” against recent French Opon finalist Sara Errani of Italy, winning all 24 points of the first set in a 6-0, 6-4 victory.  The accomplishment had only been achieved once before in the Open Era (Bill Scanlon against Marcos Mocevar in 1985).
  • Later that day, ESPN2 stays three hours beyond schedule to show the latest finish in Wimbledon history.  Andy Murray defeated Marcos Baghdatis in four sets under the roof.
  • In the first Wimbledon Ladies’ Championship on ESPN, Serena Williams captures her 14th Major title and fifth in London with a 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Agnieszka Radwanska. ESPN continued to air live from Centre Court (totaling nine hours) with both the Gentlemen’s and Ladies’ Doubles Finals.  First, Great Britain saw its first Wimbledon male champion of any kind when unseeded Jonathan Marray and his Danish partner Frederik Nielsen proved victorious in a stirring five-set affair.  The telecast concluded with Serena Williams returning to the court alongside her sister Venus to take their fifth Wimbledon Doubles title together.
  • The next day, the 2012 Gentlemen’s Championship on ESPN was sure to provide headlines for the ages regardless of the outcome.  Andy Murray stepped onto Centre Court with nothing less than the sporting hopes and dreams of a Kingdom on his shoulders.  It has been 76 years since Great Britain cheered their own as Wimbledon champ.  In the end, however brave Murray fought, Roger Federer raised the golden trophy for a record-tying seventh time on the sacred sod and extended his unmatched tally to 17 Grand Slam events titles (4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4). It was the first time the Wimbledon Championship had been decided with the roof closed (middle of third set).
  • The 2012 US Open on ESPN2 includes the final professional match of two of the sports’ most popular and successful players in recent history, Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick.  Clijsters, who had announced earlier in the year that she would retire after this event, lost to Laura Robson in the second round.  Roddick stunned the tennis world by announcing during the first week (and on his 30th birthday, August 30) he would retire after the US Open, thrilled crowds with great play before falling in the fourth round to Juan Martin Del Potro.
  • The 2013 Australian Open provides many memorable moments, including the upset of Serena Williams by 19-year old American Sloane Stephens in the quarterfinals followed by Stephens falling to top-seeded Victoria Azarenka in a semifinal notable for the defending champion leaving the court for a medical timeout for 10 minutes late in the second and final set only to say in the on-court post-match interview that it was nerves. In the final, Azarenka fought off No. 6 Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 to defend her title and retain the No. 1 ranking in a match stopped twice when Li twisted an ankle (the second time included her hitting her head hard on the court when falling backwards) plus once for the annual fireworks celebration of Australia Day.  On the men’s side, Roger Federer extended his record streak of 35 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances, defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets in the quarters before falling in five sets to Andy Murray in a semifinal.  Novak Djokovic won his fourth title in Melbourne and became the first man to win three in a row in the Open Era, defeating Murray 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2. Along the way, he outlasted Stan Wawrinka in the fourth round in a five-hour thriller 1-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-7, 12-10.
  • A historic first few days of Wimbledon 2013 stun the tennis world with huge upsets, critical injuries and retirements (many due to a rash of slips and falls) that lay waste to the seedings.  On Day 2, two-time champ Rafael Nadal loses in straight sets to Steve Darcis (ranked #135) in the first round, followed by shear carnage on Day 3:  No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka withdraws before her second round match for injury suffered in round one, No. 3 Maria Sharpova loses in two sets, and biggest of all, seven-time champ Roger Federer loses to Sergiy Stakhovsky (ranked #116). Those three are among the seven former No. 1-ranked players to lose this day (also, Lleyton Hewitt, Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki). Another shocker came on the second Monday when No. 1 seed Serena Williams fell to No. 23 Sabine Lisicki.  The 22-year old German went on to the finals, falling to Marion Bartoli of France.
  • All of Great Britain rejoices as Andy Murray of Scotland, the No. 2 seed, wins the 2013 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Singles trophy, the first Brit to do so since Fred Perry in 1936.  It was in straight sets over No. 1 Novak Djokovic, but three long sets with numerous lengthy rallies, 6-4, 7-5, 6-4.
  • At the 2014 US Open, tennis’ famed Bryan Brothers of California – twins Bob and Mike – win their 100th career doubles title together, and their 16th Major title, in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
  • At the 2015 Wimbledon Ladies’ Championship, Serena Williams wins her fourth consecutive Major title – a “Serena Slam” – for the second time of her career. En route to the final, she defeated three former No. 1 players with multiple Major titles (her sister Venus, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova) as well as promising hometown favorite Heather Watson who led 4-0 in the third set. Williams claimed the crown by downing 21-year old Garbine Muguruza in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.
  • In 2015, ESPN’s first exclusive US Open chronicles Serena Williams’ quest for tennis’ first Grand Slam (calendar year) since 1988, ending with a shocking loss to unseeded Roberta Vinci in the semifinal. In the final, Vinci falls to fellow Italian and lifelong friends Flavia Pennetta, who promptly announces her retirement while accepting the trophy. On the men’s side, Novak Djokovic won his 10th Major title, defeating Roger Federer in a Grand Slam final for the third time in 14 months.


  • Wimbledon 2016 offered many memorable moments….
  • A miraculous run by Brit Marcus Willis, ranked #772 in the world. He advanced to the main draw only after succeeding in the qualifying matches…and before that the qualifying matches to reach qualifying.  Then he won his first round match, resulting in a Centre Court meeting with Roger Federer.  The seven-time champ triumphed, of course, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4 but the instant local hero acquitted himself quite nicely.
  • An onslaught of rain forced play on “Middle Sunday” – the traditional day of rest at Wimbledon – for only the fourth time in history.
  • Serena Williams put on a tour de force during the fortnight and quelled her Australian Open nemesis, Angelique Kerber, 7-5, 6-3 for her 22nd career Major title, tying her with Steffi Graf for the most in the Open Era. Later in the day, she teamed with sister Venus for the Ladies’ Double crown, their sixth on the grass of the All England Club and 14th of their career (they are 14-0 in Major doubles finals).


  • At the 2016 US Open…
  • The new roof over Ashe Stadium is first used when closed mid-match during Rafael Nadal’s 6-0, 6-3, 6-1 win over Andreas Seppi in the second round (evening, first Wednesday).  Overall, the roof was closed on nine occasions.
  • After Serena Williams – seeking her 23rd Major title and seventh in New York – is ousted in the semifinal by Karolina Pliskova, Angelique Kerber is assured of rising to No. 1 in the rankings (and at 28 is by far the oldest ever to do so for the first time), ending Williams’ record-tying streak of 186 weeks atop the list.  Kerber goes on to defeat Pliskova in the three-set final to win her second Major of the year (Australian Open).
  • Stan Wawrinka wins the men’s championship over Novak Djokovic 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3 to win his third Major in as many Major finals, all against the current No. 1 player in the world.
  • The 2017 Australian Open is called by some “the greatest tennis Major in history” with storylines both historic and incredible…
  • The Williams Sisters meet in the final, their 28th meeting as professionals.  For Serena, it was almost expected, as she had reached at least the semifinals in her previous nine Majors, winning five and losing two finals.  But Venus had not reached a Major final since Wimbledon 2009 (losing to Serena) and was the oldest women’s finalist since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1994 (37).  Serena wins 6-4, 6-4 for an Open Era record 23rd Major title, breaking a tie with Steffi Graf.
  • The 35th meeting between all-time greats Roger Federer (35) and Rafael Nadal (30) was a  completely unexpected matchup for the Championship.  They both took much of 2016 off to recuperate from injuries, and were seeded an unfamiliar 17 (Federer) and 9 (Nadal).  However, when No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic was upset in the second round and No. 1 seed Andy Murray in the fourth round, fans began to dream of a reunion of this storied rivalry.  In the end, Federer won his 18th Major (extending his record) 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 by winning the final five games.  In his first tournament since Wimbledon the previous July, he became the second oldest Major winner in the Open Era (Ken Rosewall was 37 when he won the 1972 Australian Open), winning three matches that required five sets, all against top-10 opponents.
  • Wimbledon 2017 continued the year’s theme in tennis – veteran legends refusing to yield the sport’s stage without a fight. At 35, Roger Federer won his second Major title of the year (his previous was in 2012), defeating Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.  Notably, the Swiss did so without dropping a single set (only done by Bjorn Borg in 1976 among men in the Open Era) in winning his 19th Major championship (extending his record) and record eighth Wimbledon.  On the Ladies’ side, Venus Williams, 37, reached her second Major final of 2017 but fell to Garbine Muguruza 7-5, 6-0.
  • The women’s semifinals of the 2017 US Open were all-American – Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, CoCo Vandeweghe and Venus Williams – a first at any Major since 1985 Wimbledon and a first in New York since 1981. Keys and Stephens met in the final with Stephens – who had foot surgery in January and only returned to play at Wimbledon – winning her first Major 6-3, 6-0. On the men’s side, top seed Rafael Nadal captured his 16th Major crown, beating surprising finalist No. 28 seed Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
  • The 2018 Australian Open saw Roger Federer win his 20th Major title (extending his lead in the stat) and Caroline Wozniacki – long on the short list of top women players who never won a Major – her first.
  • At Wimbledon 2018, in what seemed for a while to have the potential to threaten the record for longest match ever (John Isner defeating Nicolas Mahut 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 on ESPN at Wimbledon in 2011), Isner falls to Kevin Anderson 7-6 (6), 6-7 (5), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 26-24 in the second longest match in Major tennis tournament history. Also, Serena Williams reaches the Ladies’ Championship in her first Major event since giving birth in 2017, losing to Angelique Kerber 6-3, 6-3.



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