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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
Modern grass-court legends
Bjorn Borg celebrates victory at Wimbledon
Bjorn Borg bestrode Wimbledon for five consecutive years
The Open era of the Wimbledon Championships has been dominated by four players.

In the men's game Bjorn Borg and Pete Sampras won a remarkable 12 times between them in 25 years.

And of the women, Martina Navratilova lifted the ladies trophy on nine occasions, to add to 10 doubles titles, while Steffi Graf captured seven singles titles of her own.

But that quartet are just four on a roll call of celebrated champions since the start of the Open era in 1968, during which time there have been 31 different singles winners.

In the first professional Wimbledon, Rod Laver - in his second Grand Slam year - and Billie Jean King set the ball rolling with victory.

Laver's win was among five successive titles won by Australians, with John Newcombe claiming three.

Margaret Court followed Laver's lead in 1970 with victory in her Grand Slam winning year.

But as well as some of the game's most celebrated champions, Wimbledon also hosted some unlikely winners in the 1970s.

Home winner

The 1973 tournament was beset by a players' strike which saw 79 players - and 13 of the 16 seeds - withdraw, leaving Jan Kodes, the new number two seed to take the title.

Two years later Arthur Ashe was an equally unlikey victor beating the overwhelming favourite Jimmy Connors in one of the best-ever finals.

And a further two years on, Virginia Wade enjoyed one of the most acclaimed wins - a home victory in the Queen's silver jubilee year.

By the time Wade's win was hailed by a rendition of 'For She's a Jolly Good Fellow' in 1977, Borg was the dominant force in the men's game.

His run of five successive victories stretched from 1976 until 1980, when Borg and John McEnroe served up a treat of a final that included one of the game's most memorable tie-breaks.

Despite McEnroe winning the battle in an engrossing 34-point fourth-set shoot-out, Borg won the war - although the American gained revenge a year on when the Swede lost the final before retiring.

Martina Navratilova poses for the cameras in 1982
Navratilova was the queen of Centre Court in the 1980s
The year after Wade's momentous victory, Navratilova won her first singles title.

She was to dominate the women's tournament as Borg did the men's, eclipsing King, her friend and predecessor, with six successive titles and nine in all.

However, King trumps Navratilova when it comes to the total number of titles - 20 to 19.

Graf followed their lead with seven singles titles as German tennis dominated Wimbledon on the back of Boris Becker's startling victory in 1985.

Becker came into the tournament as an unseeded 17-year-old. He left two weeks later as the youngest champion, the first unseeded winner and the first German to lift the trophy.

His victory and all-action style endeared him to the crowds and served as a watershed in the men's tournament.

Out went the likes of McEnroe and Connors as Becker fought for titles against fellow grass-court specialists Stefan Edberg, Michael Stich - another German - and Sampras.

Pete Sampras savours his seventh triumph
Sampras savours his seventh win
The last of Becker's seven finals came in defeat against Sampras in 1995, by which time the American was in his pomp.

That victory secured a first hat-trick for Sampras, and from 1993, until his seventh title in 2000, he lost only once in 57 outings.

He was peerless on Centre Court, and his absence in 2003 allows somebody else to step from the shadows.

Goran Ivanisevic became the first wildcard winner in the memorable Monday final in 2001 and the Williams sisters have stood head and shoulders above allcomers in the women's game.

The future of Wimbledon promises to deliver a story as exciting and intriguing as the past.

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