Wimbledon's greatest champions by decade Special to FOXSports.com http://msn.foxsports.com/other/story/3697512 Can anyone topple Roger Federer on the grass of Wimbledon? It's doubtful, as the 23-year old top seed has a stranglehold on the place, like other great champions in the place they've held premiere tennis tournaments since 1877. 1. 2000s: Roger Federer He showed up for the first time as a teenager in 1999. Since then, Federer is 18-4 at Wimbledon, with back-to-back Championships. He even defeated Pete Sampras in a fourth-round match in 2001. It's a little early to place him with Sampras, Borg, and Laver; but not much. 2. 1990s: Pete Sampras This quiet assassin with the booming serve dominated Centre Court for over a decade. He won in 1993, 1994, and 1995. He won in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. He compiled a 40-2 match record on Centre Court at Wimbledon and 63-7 overall at All England Club. It's hard to pick his greatest Wimbledon conquest. It may have been in 1999, when he trounced Andre Agassi in straight sets. It may have been in 1995, when he defeated three-time champ Boris Becker. It may have been his epic, five-set match in the 1998 Final against Goran Ivanisevic. 3. 1980s: Martina Navratilova On the gentlemen's side, John McEnroe won three singles championships in this era, as did Boris Becker, who showed up in 1985 to become the youngest player to win Wimbledon, doing it as an unseeded player. But the competition was too fierce (throw in Borg and Connors at the beginning of the 80s, and Edberg, Cash, and Lendl at the end) for any player to truly dominate. In the Ladies tournament, Ms. Navratilova won an incredible nine times in thirteen years. Here's the judgement call: Navratilova's reign is considered superior in this column to Steffi Graf's five titles in six years (1988-1993). Why? Navratilova, who was 8-0 in her first eight Wimbledon Finals, was miles above the rest of the field. Graf won three of her titles (1993, 1995, 1996) almost immediately after the world's number one player — Monica Seles — was stabbed by an obsessive fan of Steffi's. 4. 1970s: Bjorn Borg Mr. Borg should have been prominently mentioned in two previous columns of mine. His streak of five consecutive Wimbledon championships (1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980) is worthy of inclusion in any list of great individual streaks. And his retirement in 1982 was certainly one of the great endings any athlete ever had. He defeated Ilie Nastase in the 1976 Finals. He defeated Jimmy Connors in the Finals in both 1977 and 1978. The big-serving Roscoe Tanner went down to Borg in the 1979 Finals. And then, standing in the way of a fifth consecutive Lawn Tennis championship in 1980, was John McEnroe. They battled a quarter-century ago on the famed Centre Court, the seemingly emotionless Swede and the brash kid from Queens, New York. They went at it for close to four hours. When it was over, Borg had come out on top, in five thrilling sets. McEnroe won by losing, by saving seven match points and showing the heart of a champion. The fourth-set tiebreak was unbelievable, the fabled "Battle of 18-16". Borg had five chances to win the match, but couldn't close the deal. McEnroe missed out six times to send the match into a fifth-set, before finally accomplishing the feat. Every great champion needs a great challenge. Borg was a great champion, but needed McEnroe to show the world how truly great he was. 5. 1960s: Rod Laver His left arm was twice as big as his right arm, and he used his southpaw advantage at Wimbledon many times. He was a Wimbledon finalist in 1959 and 1960. He won in 1961 and 1962. Then, in 1963, he joined a professional tour and could not enter the Grand Slam events. By the end of the decade, in a newly created Open era ("open" meaning both professionals and amateurs could enter), Laver again won back-to-back championships, in 1968 and 1969. If given the chance, he might have won nine consecutive Wimbledon titles. 6. 1950s: Maureen Connolly Althea Gibson and Maria Bueno won consecutive Wimbledons in this era, but Connolly won three straight in 1952, 1953, and 1954. "Little Mo" is one of the great stories in sports history. She was a poor San Diego girl competing in a rich person's sport, and burst through to win Wimbledon by the age of 17. At 20, she was a three-time winner, but her career soon came to a crashing halt after her three-peat due to a freak riding accident (she was crushed against a cement truck while horseback riding) which tore up her leg. She never got a chance to win her fourth Wimbledon in a row. She died of cancer at the age of 34, in 1969. 7. 1940s: Jack Kramer I could be funny, and claim that a player named Not Held is inscribed in the list of Wimbledon champions each year from 1940-1945. But, I'll choose the man whose racket I first played with as a youngster. Jack Kramer was a tennis prodigy from Southern California. He became a wartime member of the U.S. Coast Guard, where he continued to play in tennis tournaments, until he was sent to the South Pacific, where he commanded a tank landing craft in five invasions. He was discharged in January of 1946, with the rank of lieutenant. It took him just a few months to regain his top tennis form. Painful blisters cost him the 1946 Wimbledon championship, but in 1947, he easily defeated American Tom Brown 6-1, 6-3, 6-2. He became the first Wimbledon champion to wear tennis shorts, by the way. In November of 1947, he signed a $50,000 contract to tour with professional champion Bobby Riggs. He soon became the top professional player of all time, and the highest paid, but that wasn't enough for Kramer. He had ideas about staging professional players tours, and signed up the best amateur players beginning in the early 50s. He won in '47, and was the best player in the decade. If professionals were allowed to compete, he would have been top seeded in '48 and '49. 8. 1930s: Fred Perry Perry was a table-tennis champion before taking up tennis at the age of 18. An English champion (it was easier 75 years ago for Brits; the lack of accessible and affordable air travel made it nearly impossible for foreigners to enter Wimbledon), Perry was a great three-time champion. Among his quotes: "I was always a believer in stamping on my opponent if I got him down, at Wimbledon or anywhere else. I never wanted to give him the chance to get up. If I could have beaten him six-minus-one instead of six-love I would." Perry won consecutive Wimbledons in 1934, 1935, and 1936. He didn't attempt to win a fourth straight, preferring to turn professional. 9. 1920s: Suzanne Lenglen From 1919-1926, Suzanne Lenglen lost only one tennis match — and that was by default. She won six Wimbledon titles in 7 years beginning in 1919 — remember, due to World War I, there was no Wimbledon tournament from 1915-1918 — and was one of the biggest sports stars of the 20s. She turned back Helen Wills in 1926, and avoided Wills the rest of her career. Lenglen was the first major tennis star to turn pro. She died of leukemia at the age of 39. 10. The Early Years: Lottie Dod What a great name! Lottie Dod won in '87, '88, '91, '92, and '93. Of course, that was in the 1800s.