Saturday School: Players who saved Championship points to win a major

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It is always a great story when a player saves match points to win a match. However, the narrative becomes even more grand when a player saves one or more championship points to lift a grand slam trophy. There have been a total of 15 instances in tennis’ history where a player achieved this feat.

The men’s game has recorded nine occasions when a player has saved championship points to win a grand slam. However, only one such event is recorded in the Open Era.

1) 1927 Australian Championships

Back in the days when the Australian Open was held on outdoor grass courts and the tie-break was not yet introduced, it was in its 20th edition when Gerald Patterson saved five Championship points to defeat compatriot John Hawkes 3-6 6-4 3-6 18-16 6-3.

2) 1927 French Championships

Five months after Patterson’s glorious feat, Frenchman Rene Lacoste defeated Bill Tilden in five sets, saving two Championship points to win the second of his three French Championship titles.

3) 1927 Wimbledon Championships

1927 was one of the most important years in the history of tennis. At the SW19, the world saw tennis being broadcast on the radio for the first time. It also marked the introduction of loudspeakers and microphones that allowed the umpire’s decision to be heard loud and clear on the radio. Moreover, a line judge was present on the court to detect a foot fault by the players.

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But the most crucial event at the Wimbledon Championships that year was that the seeding format was introduced for the first time, which meant top players would not face each other in the earlier rounds. Rene Lacoste was the first top seeded player in tennis’ history. However, it was the other two members of the Four musketeers who made it to the finals that year. Henri Cochet and Jean Borotra battled for five sets. Eventually, it was Cochet who saved six Championship points – the most by any player in a slam final – to defeat his countryman 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-5.

4) 1934 French Championships

Defending champion Jack Crawford had a single opportunity to successfully defend his French title, however, Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm denied the Australian by saving a match point and winning 6-4 7-9 3-6 7-5 6-3.

5) 1936 U.S. National Championships

At the outdoor grass courts of Forest Hills, top seed Don Budge was facing Fred Perry in the finals of the US National Championships. Perry was playing his last slam before turning into a professional player. While Budge was looking for a maiden slam, Perry was aiming for a third U.S. National Championship title. Perry and Budge split the first four sets. The momentum was with Budge as he won the fourth set 6-1. The American had two championship points in the decider but the Brit saved both and won the set 10-8. Perry was the last British man to win a title at the US Open before Andy Murray won it in 2012.

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6) 1947 Australian Championships

John Bromwich is often regarded as the pioneer of the two-handed backhand. Bromwich had won two Australian Championships (1939,1946) before entering the finals in the 1947 edition. Up against him was fellow Australian Dinny Pails whose career high ranking was No. 6 and had never won a grand slam before. Pails saved a match point and defeated Bromwich 4-6 6-4 3-6 7-5 8-6 to win his lone slam title.

7) 1948 Wimbledon Championships

Bromwich was at the receiving end yet again in the 1948 Wimbledon Championships, where he had three championship points but failed to convert any of them. Bromwich’s opponent, Bob Falkenburg had reached a high of World No.7 in his career and was more famous for introducing soft ice cream and American fast food to Brazil. He is also the founder of the fast food chain “Bob’s.” But the American came into the limelight only after his heroic win at the 1948 Wimbledon Championships which he won 7-5 0-6 6-2 3-6 7-5 after saving three championship points.

8) 1960 Australian Championships

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Top seed Neale Fraser was a heavy favourite to win the title and reached the finals of the 1960 Australian Championships. This was Fraser’s third final at the Australian Championships and had failed to win in his previous two attempts. He was up against third seed Rod Laver, who was into his first slam final. Fraser finally saw a Championship point in his third attempt in the final but Laver kept the top seed waiting, eventually winning the match 5-7 3-6 6-3 8-6 8-6. Fraser never reached the final at the Australian Championships again in his career.

 

9) 2004 French Open

Gaston Gaudio was facing Guillermo Coria in an all-Argentinian final for the first time at Roland Garros. Coria, who entered as a clear favourite, took the first set 6-0. He took the next set 6-3 and inched closer to a title at the French Open. However, the unseeded Gaudio fought back to take the next two sets 6-4 6-1. Coria had two Championship points in the decider but Gaudio brushed them away and won the set 8-6. In the Open Era, Gaudio is the only player to save championship points to win a grand slam.

In the women’s category there have been six instances similar to the above scenarios. Two of them were recorded during the Open Era.

1) 1935 Wimbledon Championships

It was a clash between Helen’s as Helen Wills Moody faced Helen Jacobs in the finals of the 55th edition of Wimbledon. Moody took the first set 6-3 and Jacobs replicated the scoreline in her favour to take the second. In the decider, Moody saved a Championship point and won the set 7-5 to win the sixth of her eight Wimbledon singles titles.

2) 1946 French Championships

In the first event at Roland Garros after the second World War, the women’s singles draw saw two Americans meet in the final. Margaret Osborne duPont was facing Pauline Betz in the final. DuPont lost the first set 6-1 but staged a fightback to take the second 7-5. Betz had two Championship points in the decider to win her maiden title at Roland Garros but it was duPont who saved them and won the first of her two women’s singles French Championships.

3) 1956 Australasian Championships

Mary Carter Reitano was facing fellow Australian and two-time Australasion Championships winner, Thelma Coyne Long in the final. Reitano saved a match point to win the match 3-6 6-2 9-7. Reitano would later win the title again in 1959.

4) 1962 French Championships

Margaret Court had already won three grand slam titles before reaching the finals of the French Championships in 1962. She was facing another Australian, Lesley Turner Bowrey in the finals. Court saved a Championship point to win the match and title 6-3 3-6 7-5. Bowrey won the French Championships twice in her career (1963 & 1965) and was ranked as high as World No.2 in the world.

5) 2002 Australian Open

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Defending champion and top seed Jennifer Capriati was facing third seed and three-time Australian Open Champion Martina Hingis in the finals. Capriati dropped the first set 6-4 and was facing four Championship points in the second set. Hingis failed to capitalise and Capriati won the tiebreak 9-7 to level the match. The American dominated the third set 6-2 and successfully defended her title.

6) 2005 Wimbledon Championships

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In an all American final in the ladies’ singles at the 2005 Wimbledon Championships, Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport put on the longest women’s final in Wimbledon’s history. Both players had tasted a title victory at the Championships in the past. Davenport was the top seed and had taken the first set 6-4. Venus, seeded 14th won the second set 7-6. In the decider, both the former top ranked players played their heart out, with Williams saving a Championship point and after 2 hours and 45 minutes winning the set 9-7. This was Venus’ third of five titles at Wimbledon.


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