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Wimbledon: Five biggest women’s shocks

The 2024 Wimbledon women's singles gets underway on Monday 1st July and the grass-court showpiece has a rich history of shock results.

This year's French Open champion and world number one Iga Swiatek is favourite to put her best foot forward at the All England Club, but the Pole has yet to show she is as dominant on the grass. 

Defending champion Elena Rybakina and world number two Aryna Sabalenka are also amongst the favourites, but even the greatest players can be vulnerable on their day and we have picked out five of the biggest upsets during the Open Era at SW19.

Wimbledon 2024

Kathy Jordan v Chris Evert (1983)

American star Chris Evert was a force to be reckoned with during the 1970s and 1980s, winning at least one Grand Slam title every year from 1974 to 1986.

She reached a record 34 Grand Slam finals, winning 18 of them, and arrived at Wimbledon in 1983 having made at least the last four of the first 34 majors in which she had competed.

Evert's opponent Kathy Jordan was a useful player, runner-up to Martina Navratilova at the 1983 Australian Open (a tournament that Evert missed), but she was unseeded at Wimbledon and not expected to trouble her fellow American in the third round.

However, the hot favourite was struggling with a stomach bug after a steak dinner the night before and Jordan took the initiative, rattling Evert with her serve-and-volley game and taking the first set 6-1.

Normal service appeared to be resumed when Evert, Wimbledon champion in 1974, 1976 and 1981, raced into a 4-0 lead in the second set but Jordan battled back to win the set, and the match, in a tie-break.

She reached the semis at Wimbledon the following year, losing to Navratilova, who went on to defeat her great rival Evert in the final.

Lori McNeil v Steffi Graf (1994)

Steffi Graf won her first Wimbledon title in 1988, the year in which she claimed a 'Golden Slam' by triumphing at all four majors as well as the Olympic Games in Seoul.

Six years later, the German was still dominating women's tennis, starting 1994 by winning the Australian Open and following up with tournament victories in Tokyo, Indian Wells, Delray Beach and Miami.

Her first-round draw at Wimbledon looked straightforward enough as she had won her first eight career meetings with American Lori McNeil, the daughter of American Football star Charlie McNeil.

Graf was beaten by McNeil in a WTA Tour event in Houston in 1992 but a repeat of that outcome at Wimbledon, where 'Fraulein Forehand' had won the title in five of the previous six years, was surely out of the question.

The British weather was unsettled, as storm clouds gathered over south-west London, and so was Graf when the players resumed at 5-5 in the first set after a lengthy rain delay.

She double-faulted on set point, allowing McNeil to win the opening set 7-5, and the American held her nerve to seal victory in a second-set tiebreak. Her title odds were cut from 100/1 to 7/1 but her run ended against champion Conchita Martinez in the semis.

It was the first time a women's defending champion had lost in the first round of Wimbledon although Graf bounced back in style, claiming the title in both 1995 and 1996.

Jelena Dokic v Martina Hingis (1999)

Another remarkable first-round shock came in 1999 when the 16-year-old Jelena Dokic thrashed world number one Martina Hingis 6-2 6-0.

Hingis, 1/33 for victory, became only the third top-ranked player to lose in the first round of a women's Grand Slam in the Open era and there was absolutely no fluke about the result.

Dokic, who had encountered the Swiss ace as a hitting partner on the practice courts, came through qualifying to produce a stunning performance in the first round of the main draw.

The world number 129 took victory in her stride – "I thought I played quite well," was her modest post-match verdict – and she went on to beat Mary Pierce before suffering a quarter-final defeat to fellow qualifier Alexandra Stevenson.

Virginia Ruano Pascual v Martina Hingis (2001)

There was more despair for Hingis backers at Wimbledon in 2001 when the number-one seed again fell at the first hurdle, losing in straight sets against another unheralded opponent.

Spain's Virginia Ruano Pascual had an illustrious doubles career, winning 11 Grand Slam titles, but she never got beyond the quarter-finals in the singles draw at a major and was 83rd in the world rankings going into her clash with Hingis.

The world number one had made a promising start to the year, beating both Serena and Venus Williams on her way to the Australian Open final, but she was lacklustre in her opening match at SW19.

Ruano Pascual, an experienced operator at the age of 27, took advantage of Hingis's struggles with a back injury to ease through to round two 6-4 6-2.

Eleni Daniilidou v Justine Henin (2005)

Serena Williams's fourth-round defeat to Sabine Lisicki in 2013 and her sister Venus's first-round loss to 15-year-old Cori Gauff in 2019 are among the more recent Wimbledon shocks.

Back in 2005, though, Justine Henin arrived in London on a 24-match winning streak and her Greek opponent Eleni Daniilidou went off at double-figure odds to win their first-round clash.

Henin was aware of Daniilidou's threat, having lost to her on grass in the Den Bosch semi-finals in 2002, and the pair produced an epic three-set contest during which Henin struggled with a hamstring problem and Daniilidou required treatment for a leg injury.

Henin saved two match points in the final set but her serve let her down at the decisive moment as her 11th double-fault of the match gave her opponent a 7-6 2-6 7-5 victory.

Daniilidou never got beyond the fourth round of a Grand Slam singles event but, like the other underdogs featured here, she has earned her place in Wimbledon history.

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