Goran Ivanisevic became the first wild card to win a major, with the 125th-ranked Croat capping a spectacular run through Wimbledon 2001 – including a semi-final defeat of hometown favourite Tim Henman – by downing Australia’s Pat Rafter in an epic final.
Ivanisevic took the first set 6-3, but third seed Rafter hit back to take the second 6-3. The trend continued with Ivanisevic powering to a 6-3 third set, before Rafter forced the final to a decider by taking the fourth set 6-2.
Ivanisevic’s history-making victory was sealed in a marathon fifth set, prevailing 9-7. The electric atmosphere and scintillating tennis – along with a hint of drama, and a tantrum or two from the eventual winner – rendered the 2001 final one of the greatest ever seen at the All England Club.
For the 29-year-old Ivanisevic, it represented a searing career highlight – his only grand slam triumph, after losses in the 1992, ’94 and ’98 Wimbledon finals.
Meanwhile, it would be two-time US Open champion Rafter’s last grand slam final appearance, and his second Wimbledon final defeat in succession after being trounced by Pete Sampras in 2000.
Sampras, the four-time defending champion, was bundled out in the fourth round of the ’01 tournament by a promising 19-year-old name Roger Federer.