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The Wimbledon Championship Trophy

The bright green grass at the All England Lawn Tennis Club are a welcome sight for the best men and women that swing the racquets, but only a few are true contenders for the Wimbledon Championship Trophy. Awarded at every tournament since 1887, it is one of the smaller trophies in the pantheon of major sports prizes at just a shade over 18 inches tall.  (The ladies’ singles trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish, is a quarter-inch taller, for comparison.) Despite the somewhat underwhelming proportions, the eyes of the tennis world are transfixed on tournament every spring, without fail.

History

The tournament we now know as Wimbledon was first contested in 1877, with the winning player receiving the Field Cup at the end of the tournament.  It remained so for the next seven competitions, until William Renshaw claimed his third consecutive title and kept the trophy permanently.  Organizers set about having a new trophy manufactured in time for the 1884 edition, naming it the Challenge Cup.  However, Renshaw continued his tear with another three victories, again taking the prize home for good.

Determined to avoid a repeat of the proceedings, the All England Lawn Tennis Club proclaimed the new trophy for the 1887 tournament would remain in its possession on a permanent basis.  Using the profits from the previous year, the organizers commissioned a 100-guinea silver-gilt trophy that remains one of the most elegant in all of sports.  Graced with a pineapple at the top (oddly), complex scroll work which fill the borders and sweeping handles.  As if to further provide the cup with a regal flair, the base of each helmet features a winged helmet in the Greek tradition.

Each champion is honored by having his name engraved on the cup, joining a list that dates all the way to Spencer Gore’s triumph at the first tournament in 1877. Beginning in 1949, the committee set aside additional funds to provide the winner with a half-size replica of the Wimbledon Championship Trophy, a practice that remained in place until 2006.  At that point, in the middle of a streak of victories by Roger Federer, the All England Lawn Tennis Club elected to provide the champion with a three-quarter-size reproduction.  In 2009, after more than 120 years in service, with the available space for engraving being completely filled after Rafael Nadal’s win the previous tournament, a black plinth with a silver designed to accompany the trophy as new names were added.

Best Players

Pete Sampras (7 wins)

Throughout the history of Wimbledon, no player has taken on the role of unassuming champion quite like Pete Sampras.  Winning three straight titles after his rival Andre Agassi beat him to the punch in 1992, only a 1996 upset by Richard Krajicek (who would go on to win the Wimbledon Championship Trophy) kept Sampras from claiming eight straight titles.  Quietly confident and seemingly shy, his class on the court and classic serve-and-volley style endeared him to the crowds of the All England Club.

Roger Federer (7 wins)

When Sampras stepped away from the game, most pundits were confident the championship would not see a dominant force in the men’s game again for quite some time.  It took just two years.  Federer, a similarly reserved Swiss star with a thumping serve, won six of seven – and was runner-up the year he didn’t finish on top.  In back-to-back tournaments, he competed in some of the better Wimbledon matches in recent memory, losing out to Rafael Nadal in 2008 and besting Andy Roddick in 2009 during long tiebreakers in both cases.

Bjorn Borg (5 wins)

After a century worth of play, the contest for the Wimbledon Championship Trophy, was not in need of a boost in popularity.  However, as television broadcasts brought new eyes to the tournament, the long-haired Swede ascended to the top of the sport and engaged in some of the best duels in Wimbledon history.  His battles with John McEnroe, in which he won his last title and suffered his only championship defeat during 1980-81, were tight affairs involving multiple tiebreakers and breathtaking tennis.

Boris Becker (3 wins)

Though there have been more successful players at the All England Club, the red-haired German is one of the most revered in the modern era.  He only managed three victories amongst his seven appearances in the title match, including consecutive victories in 1985-86, yet his frenetic style of play and youthful exuberance – he won his first title as an unseeded 17-year-old – made him a favorite for many throughout his career.  From 1988 to 1991, he made four straight finals, including three in a row against Stefan Edberg, his rival in the era, against whom he claimed his final victory in 1989.

Recent Winners

Andy Murray (2013, 2016)

Novak Djokovic (2011, 2014-15)

Rafael Nadal (2008, 2010)

Roger Federer (2003-07, 2009, 2012)

Lleyton Hewitt (2002)

Goran Ivanišević (2001)

Pete Sampras (1993-95, 1997-2000)