Goran Ivanisevic is First Wimbledon Wild Card Winner at 250/1 Odds

Wimbledon Championships

He was old, his shoulder required surgery, and his game relied on his big serves and ability to rally – nobody thought Goran Ivanisevic had a hope in hell of winning Wimbledon in 2001.

He was a brilliant player who was very popular though; he had got to the final 3 times in the past, in 1992, 1994, and 1998, but lost out first to Andre Agassi, and then twice to Pete Sampras.

He was almost 30 years old in 2001, and ranked 125th in the world, meaning he did not gain automatic place in the main draw at Wimbledon; however, as he had been runner up three times he was awarded a wild card by the committee.

Ivanisevic postponed his shoulder surgery specifically so that he could compete in one final Wimbledon Championship, and the bookies gave him long odds of 250/1.

Even after the competition had gotten underway, his odds were only reduced to 150/1, and at least one punter bet big at those odds – a man called James Hesketh, from London, who stood to win £27k from the £240 bet he made on the well loved no-hoper.

The tennis world expected nothing more than an enjoyable swan song from the former finalist, but they had no idea what was about to happen.

How Ivanisevic Won Wimbledon

Goran Ivanisevic Wimbledon Champion 2001

MacKrys, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

First up against the soon to be champion was Fredrik Jonsson, who Ivanisevic cleanly dispatched winning 3 sets all 6-4.

In the second round, he faced the seeded player Carlos Moya who had been world number 1 a few years earlier, narrowly losing the first set 7-6 before taking the next three 6-3, 6-4 and 6-4.

Andy Roddick was Goran’s next victim, and although he was not yet a world number one, he would reach that pinnacle in 2003 so was well on the way and a difficult opponent. He was beaten 7-6 then 7-5, before coming back to take the third set 6-3, but losing the fourth 6-3 and being knocked out.

Another big gun in Greg Rusedski stood in his way in the 4th round of the section, and Rusedski had been demolishing his opponents thus far. It was to be the other way around when he faced Ivanisevic though, who never dropped a set, winning 7-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Arguably the toughest opponent yet was to come at the quarter final stage, in the form of Marat Safin, who had been world number one for 9 weeks in 2000, and seeded 4th in the competition. A 7-6 then a 7-5 win put the wind up him though, and even though he did win the 3rd set 6-3, Ivanisevic put the match to bed with a 7-6 win in the 4th set.

Onto the semi-finals, and now everyone was talking about Goran Ivanisevic, especially as he was to face home grown hero Tim Henman, who had just defeated a young Roger Federer in the quarter finals. It started well with a 7-5 win in the first set, but then Henman made something of a comeback with a 7-6 win and then a very confident 6-0 thrashing. People thought the dream journey was finally over for Goran, but he fought back in set 4 to win 7-6, then ended Henman’s Wimbledon dreams with a 6-3 win in the final set.

Now, all that stood between Ivanisevic and the Wimbledon Championship was Patrick Rafter, the Australian former world number one and 3rd seeded player in the competition. He had been runner up the year before, so was as hungry as Ivanisevic for the win.

It was a brilliant final, with the crowd going wild towards the end.

They traded sets 6-3 apiece for the first three, Rafter took the fourth 6-2, and a fifth and final set saw some electrifying moments as the two exhausted players fought to an eventual 9-7 victory for Goran Ivanisevic.

After the win, Ivanisevic’s world ranking shot up to 16, but his shoulder issues proved too much in the end, and he retired in 2002 before making a very brief comeback in 2004.

He might have had to wait a long time, but when he finally got his hands on the Wimbledon trophy, he had done it like nobody else, defying all the odds and becoming the first wild card entry to win Wimbledon in the history of the competition, beating former and future champions at almost every step of the way.