Friday Five: The biggest upsets in tennis history

Published by Paul Moore

Nick Kyrgios rocked the tennis world with his win over Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon 2014. Photo: Getty Images
From Robin Söderling’s win over Rafa Nadal, to Steffi Graf’s shock first round exit, these are the biggest upsets in tennis history.

Juan Martin Del Potro, Elina Svitolina, Safarova and Strycova… it’s been a week of tennis upsets at the Olympics. A week that got us thinking: what are the biggest tennis upsets of all time? Welcome to today’s Friday Five:

Roberta Vinci ended Serena Williams' Grand Slam dreams. Photo: Getty Images
5: Roberta Vinci d. Serena Williams, US Open 2015
Nobody expected Roberta Vinci to beat Serena Williams at the US Open – not even Roberta Vinci. Just two matches shy of realising the true Grand Slam, Serena was playing in front of an adoring, expectant Arthur Ashe crowd. But Vinci hadn’t read the Flushing Meadows script, and after surrendering the opening set the diminutive Italian battled past the World No.1 2-6 6-4 6-4, breaking the hearts of American fans, the TV networks, and Serena Williams herself.


4. Nick Kyrgios d. Rafa Nadal, Wimbledon 2014
Forget who and where they are right now, think about what they were back then. When Nick Kyrgios squared off against Rafa Nadal on Centre Court, the then world No.1 would have known he had a tough match in store against the 18-year-old wildcard. He would not have expected it to go the way it did. Kyrgios came out swinging, played a unique brand of audacious, attacking tennis (including that shot), and ended up a 7-6(5) 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3 winner.


3. Richard Krajicek d. Pete Sampras, Wimbledon 1996
What Rafa Nadal is to Roland Garros, Pete Sampras used to be to Wimbledon. The American dominated the tournament in the nineties, losing just once between 1993 and 2000. That once was to big serving Richard Krajicek. As a spectacle the match was far from appetising, but for sheer shock factor the Dutchman’s 7-5 7-6(3) 6-4 win stunned the tennis world.


2. Lori McNeil d. Steffi Graf, Wimbledon 1994
There are some players who just don’t lose in the first round of a tournament. Steffi Graf was one of those. When Graf walked onto Centre Court as defending champion at Wimbledon 1994, most people thought she was in for a routine afternoon. It proved to be anything but. Lori McNeil went on the attack, making the most of an uncharacteristically passive Graf to win 7-5 7-6(5). It was the first time in the history of the tournament that the women’s champion was ousted in the opening round.

Robin Soderling beats Rafa Nadal
1. Robin Soderling d. Rafa Nadal, French Open 2009
Between 2005 and 2014, Rafa Nadal lost one match at the French Open. One. Such was his dominance on the Parisian dirt that had he lost to a Federer or Djokovic it would have been an upset. But he didn’t lose to one of them, he lost 6-2 6-7 6-4 7-6 to unheralded No.23 seed Robin Soderling. The Swede ended the Spaniard’s 31-game win streak at Roland Garros, going on a run to his first Grand Slam final (which he eventually lost to Roger Federer).

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