Many more major tennis matches are played today than ever before, but strength doesn't lie in numbers when it comes to selecting the 20 greatest matches of all time. That task, undertaken by Tennis magazine, resulted in 11 of the game's classics dating back to the 1940s or before.
Perhaps the passage of time sweetened the memories of a panel of selectors, all of whom have spent at least half a century observing the sport. At the top of their list is the famed 1937 Davis Cup showdown between Don Budge of the United States and Gottfried von Cramm of Germany. Budge made an unforgettable comeback, fighting back twice, first from a two-set deficit and then from being down 1-4 in the fifth set to win 6-8, 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 8-6. The setting, appropriately, was Wimbledon's Centre Court. Eleven of the greatest matches were played at the All-England club, the Budge-von Cramm duel being the only non-Wimbledon confrontation.
American Bill Tilden, a star of the 1920s, appeared in four of the greatest matches, two more than any other player. Pancho Gonzales played in the longest match on the list, a fivehour, first-round Wimbledon victory over Charlie Pasarell in 1953 (the score: 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9). The only challenge match to make it was Billie Jean King's 1973 triumph over Bobby Riggs (6-4, 6-3, 6-3) in the Battle of the Sexes. The most recent classic was Bjorn Borg's 1977 triumph over Vitas Gerulaitis, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6 in the Wimbledon semifinals.