The 1994 Wimbledon championship is remembered for a lot of reasons. Who can forget Conchita Martinez, the Spaniard who won the title, a story sprinkled with fairy tales. Martinez win was against the veteran Martina Navratilova, who previously had won the coveted Wimbledon singles title nine times. If this made a ‘headline to remember ‘ for Conchita Martinez, the same tournament saw Steffi Graf bow out in the first round.
Consider this for a record – before the start of the 1994 Wimbledon, Steffi Graf had entered the quarterfinals in all of the Grand Slams since 1985. The German ace, who was the defending champion, had won the Wimbledon singles title five times and since 1982, up until that time, no other player apart from the German champion and Martina Navratilova had won the singles title.
In pure terms, the defeat of Graf was grander than upset, since it was by an unseeded player in the opening round.
In 1992, Lori McNeill on the WTA tour had achieved a similar win against Graf. It was rare for a player like Graf to suffer a loss in the opening match of any tournament (since 1985 till 1992, she never lost a first round match). Playing in New York at the Madison Square Garden, McNeill on that day played a better game to overhaul the German. If that was the indoor carpet surface, a year and a half later, on the lush green grass courts of Wimbledon, Lori McNeill caused repeated the feat.
Until Graf’s loss to McNeill in 1994, no defending champion had ever lost an opening round match.
Lori McNeill continued her impressive start and went all the way till the final four. She lost a close semi-final clash against Conchita Martinez with third set decided in 10-8 in favour of the Spaniard.
The American emulated her best performance at the grand slams (semi-finalist at the US Open 1987) and Martinez went on to win her first and only title in her career.
After a wait of more than ten years, there was a new name etched on the title. Navratilova as it turned out, played her last singles game in a grand slam tournament (she continued playing doubles), while Steffi Graf won the next two Wimbledon editions before bowing out of the game in 1999 losing to Lindsay Davenport.