Today is Day 4 of the Wimbledon Tennis Championships here in London. The following 1200 words reflect on the tournament’s popularity, and offer a few Trivia Challenges regarding the sport. These Challenges are marked with bold headings in case you want to scroll through to them directly, skipping past the other reflections and explanations. The answers appear at the end of this piece, and take up a further 500 words (if you include numbers in your word count).
More than any other UK sporting event, Wimbledon has fans and followers who generally don’t like sport. On Saturday afternoon the England football team will play their first World Cup quarter-final since 2006, with the prospect of playing in a semi-final for the first time since 1990. You can easily find people volunteering how much they hate sport in general, and football in particular, and how they will definitely not be watching. But many of these people will take an interest in the tennis from Wimbledon, London SW19. Their interest may be weakened by the absence of Andy Murray this year, but all-time greats like Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and the Williams Sisters (Venus and Serena) are here, and are all still in the draw as I type these words.
Wimbledon is one of the four majors, or Grand Slam events. This year, for the first time that I can remember, it takes place entirely in July. Until fairly recently the finals were always scheduled during the first weekend of July. This year the Men’s Final is scheduled for the third Sunday of the month, and part of it will almost certainly clash with the final of the Football World Cup. This has never happened before. The games are scheduled for 2pm and 4pm respectively (UK time), so unless the tennis is done and dusted within 2 hours (very unlikely) viewers will have to choose which one to watch after 4pm. Here in the UK, from 3pm the football will be on BBC1 and the tennis will be on BBC2. The Men’s Final has never been shown on BBC2 before.
As you may know, the other three tennis Grand Slams are the Australian Open (held in January, in Melbourne), the French Open (May / June at Roland Garros Stadium, Paris) and the US Open (September, at Flushing Meadows, New York).
BBC2’s round-up of the day’s events, “Today at Wimbledon”, has been my main source of up-to-date information so far this week, with some early evening coverage on Radio 5 Live while on the move. One of these sources offered a top piece of trivia a day or two ago: the last 7 tennis Grand Slams have been won by 7 different women. This covers the time from the 2016 US Open to last month’s French Open, just under two years. In the men’s game, by contrast, 7 men have shared the last 53 Grand Slam titles, going all the way back to the 2005 French Open (just over 13 years).
First Trivia Challenge
Can you name both of the following sets of players? Can you name the 7 women who have won the last 7 Grand Slams? Can you name the 7 men who have won the last 53 Grand Slams?
The answers appear at the end of this piece, but (as usual on these pages) there are a few reflections, and some further challenges, between here and the end so that you don’t read the answers before you’re ready.
For most of us, it will be easier to name the 7 men, even if we can’t match all of them up with the tournaments they have won. I was able to recall all 7, but couldn’t get all 7 women: last year’s Paris winner wouldn’t come to mind. And this was despite plenty of time in June looking at this “List of Grand Slam women’s singles champions” from Wikipedia. I kept that tab open in a browser for several days around the time of the French Open, looked at it often, and spotted a few noteworthy patterns. For example, the French Open was won by 8 different women in a row between 1997 and 2004, and 7 different women between 2007 and 2013. There has never been such variety in the men’s game, and none of the other Slams provides such a wide range of winners. The “List of Grand Slam men’s singles champions” is here.
Second Trivia Challenge
The French Open was won by 8 different women between 1997 and 2004, and there were 7 different champions between 2007 and 2013. How many can you name? Two names appear on both lists.
If you manage both lists, and all 13 names, you are a Tennis Trivia Demon, and fair play to you. Answers appear at the end of this piece.
As many of my earlier Trivia pieces indicate, I enjoy list-based Quiz Shows such as “Tenable”, “Who Dares Wins” and “Pointless”. They have all included tennis-based questions in recent series, and the general trend seems to be that any players outside the top 4 or 5 are not especially well-known. Most people, even those keen enough to go on TV Quiz Shows, will be unable to name the current Top 10 in the men’s or women’s game. Most of the players who reached the last 32 of the 2017 Wimbledon tournament will be unfamiliar names. In “Pointless” there always seem to be a lot of pointless answers available in any question involving tennis Grand Slam winners. “Central African Republic” used to be the default pointless answer for any question regarding geography, but that is no longer true. Everyone who watches the show has now heard of it. From what I have seen, for questions regarding tennis the most frequent pointless answer is Mats Wilander. He had an excellent record in major tournaments: 7 Slams in the 1980s, the same as Ivan Lendl, and more than any other player. Despite this his name has never been given as an answer by any contestants on the many occasions when “Tennis Grand Slams” has been the subject, at least not when I have been watching. This has happened at least 5 times. He has been a pointless answer for questions involving the following: players who won their first Grand Slam before the age of 20, players who have won the French Open, anyone who has been #1 in the men’s rankings, players who have won at least 5 Grand Slams. If you ever go on “Pointless” and get a question regarding men’s tennis, it’s probably worth giving Mats Wilander as your answer.
Wilander is less well-known in this country than many of his contemporaries because he never won Wimbledon. In fact he never got further than the quarter-finals. This might suggest a weakness on grass courts, but he won the Australian Open in 1983 and 1984, when it was still played on grass. There is an intense focus on Wimbledon here in the UK and far less attention paid to the other Slams, so players like Wilander, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Gustavo Kuerten and Jim Courier (all multiple Grand Slam winners) were all less well-known than, for example, Stefan Edberg, Goran Ivanesevic and Lleyton Hewitt, all of whom won in SW19. Courier did make it to the final (in 1993) and has become better known in recent years because of his media work. Since Hewitt’s win in 2002 there has only been a quartet of Men’s Champions. In the same period there have been 7 different Women’s Champions.
Third Trivia Challenge
Can you name the 4 men and 7 women who have won Wimbledon singles title since 2002? This is probably easier than the previous two challenges for most people.
I am looking forward to how things will pan out over the next 10 days. Will we end up with 8 different women winning 8 Grand Slams in a row? Will the men’s title be won by someone outside the dominant quartet of recent champions? The former looks more likely than the latter. While we’re waiting to find out, here is one more Trivia Challenge, followed by all the answers.
Fourth Trivia Challenge
Can you name the last 10 different Men’s and Women’s Singles Champions at Wimbledon?
The answers are immediately below this paragraph.
First Trivia Challenge: The Answers
The 7 women who have won the last 7 Grand Slams:
Simona Halep, (French Open 2018)
Caroline Wozniacki (Australian Open 2018)
Sloane Stephens (US Open, 2017)
Garbiñe Muguruza (Wimbledon, 2017)
Jeļena Ostapenko (French Open 2017)
Serena Williams (Australian Open 2017)
Angelique Kerber (US Open 2016)
[For Jelena Ostapenko, Sloane Stephens, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep these victories represent their first, and so far only, Grand Slam titles]
The 7 men who have won the last 53 Grand Slams:
Roger Federer (16 of his 20 Grand Slams)
Rafa Nadal (17)
Novak Djokovic (12)
Andy Murray (3)
Juan Martin Del Potro (1)
Stan Wawrinka (3)
Marin Cilic (1)
Here are the details for those 53 wins:
Roger Federer (16 of his 20 Majors) [Australian Open 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018, French Open 2009; Wimbledon 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017; US Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008]
Rafa Nadal (17) [Australian Open 2009; French Open 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018; Wimbledon 2008, 2010; US Open 2010, 2013, 2017]
Novak Djokovic (12) [Australian Open 2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016; French Open 2016; Wimbledon 2011, 2014, 2015; US Open 2011, 2015]
Andy Murray (3) [Wimbledon 2013, 2016; US Open 2012]
Juan Martin Del Potro (1) [US Open 2009]
Stan Wawrinka (3) [Australian Open 2014; French Open 2015; US Open 2016]
Marin Cilic (1) [US Open 2014]
Second Trivia Challenge: The Answers
The 8 different women who won the French Open between 1997 and 2004:
1997: Iva Majoli [her only Grand Slam]
1998: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario
1999: Steffi Graf [the last of her 22 Grand Slams]
2000: Mary Pierce
2001: Jennifer Capriati
2002: Serena Williams
2003: Justine Henin
2004: Anastasia Myskina [her only Grand Slam]
The 7 different women who won the French Open between 2007 and 2013 (bold names also appear in the previous list):
2007: Justine Henin
2008: Ana Ivanovic [her only Grand Slam]
2009: Svetlana Kuznetsova
2010: Francesca Schiavone [her only Grand Slam]
2011: Li Na
2012: Maria Sharapova
2013: Serena Williams
Third Trivia Challenge: The Answers
The 4 men who have won the Wimbledon singles title since 2002 (a subset of the 7 men who have won the last 53 Grand Slams):
Roger Federer [2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017]
Rafa Nadal [2008, 2010]
Novak Djokovic [2011, 2014, 2015]
Andy Murray [2013, 2016]
The 7 women who have won the Wimbledon singles title since 2002:
Serena Williams [2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016]
Maria Sharapova 
Venus Williams [2005, 2007, 2008]
Amélie Mauresmo 
Petra Kvitova [2011, 2014]
Marion Bartoli 
Garbiñe Muguruza 
Fourth Trivia Challenge: The Answers
The last 10 different Men’s Singles Champions at Wimbledon [1st title / most recent title]:
Roger Federer [2003 / 2017]
Andy Murray [2013 / 2016]
Novak Djokovic [2011 / 2015]
Rafa Nadal [2008 / 2010]
Lleyton Hewitt [2002 / 2002]
Goran Ivanisevic [2001 / 2001]
Pete Sampras [1993/ 2000]
Richard Krajicek [1996 / 1996]
Andre Agassi [1992 / 1992]
Michael Stich [1991 / 1991]
The last 10 different Women’s Singles Champions at Wimbledon [1st title / most recent title]:
Garbiñe Muguruza [2017 / 2017]
Serena Williams [2002 / 2016]
Petra Kvitova [2011, 2014]
Marion Bartoli [2013 / 2013]
Venus Williams [2000 / 2008]
Amélie Mauresmo [2006 / 2006]
Maria Sharapova [2004 / 2004]
Lindsay Davenport [1999 / 1999]
Jana Novotna [1998 / 1998]
Martina Hingis [1997 / 1997]