It’s always a great story when a player saves match points to win a match. However, the narrative becomes even more grand when a player saves one or more championship points to lift a grand slam trophy. There have been a total of 15 instances in tennis history where a player achieved this feat.
The men’s game has recorded nine occasions when a player has saved championship points to win a grand slam. However, only one such event is recorded in the Open Era.
1) 1927 Australian Championships
Back in the days when the Australian Open was held on outdoor grass courts and the tie-break was not yet introduced, it was in its 20th edition when Gerald Patterson saved five Championship points to defeat compatriot John Hawkes 3-6 6-4 3-6 18-16 6-3.
2) 1927 French Championships
Five months after Patterson’s glorious feat, Frenchman Rene Lacoste defeated Bill Tilden in five sets, saving two Championship points to win the second of his three French Championship titles.
3) 1927 Wimbledon Championships
1927 was one of the most important years in the history of tennis. At the SW19, the world saw tennis being broadcast on the radio for the first time. It also marked the introduction of loudspeakers and microphones that allowed the umpire’s decision to be heard loud and clear on the radio. Moreover, a line judge was present on the court to detect a foot fault by the players.
But the most crucial event at the Wimbledon Championships that year was that the seeding format was introduced for the first time, which meant top players would not face each other in the earlier rounds. Rene Lacoste was the first top seeded player in tennis’ history. However, it was the other two members of the Four musketeers who made it to the finals that year. Henri Cochet and Jean Borotra battled for five sets. Eventually, it was Cochet who saved six Championship points – the most by any player in a slam final – to defeat his countryman 4-6 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-5.
4) 1934 French Championships
Defending champion Jack Crawford had a single opportunity to successfully defend his French title, however, Germany’s Gottfried von Cramm denied the Australian by saving a match point and winning 6-4 7-9 3-6 7-5 6-3.
5) 1936 U.S. National Championships
At the outdoor grass courts of Forest Hills, top seed Don Budge was facing Fred Perry in the finals of the US National Championships. Perry was playing his last slam before turning into a professional player. While Budge was looking for a maiden slam, Perry was aiming for a third U.S. National Championship title. Perry and Budge split the first four sets. The momentum was with Budge as he won the fourth set 6-1. The American had two championship points in the decider but the Brit saved both and won the set 10-8. Perry was the last British man to win a title at the US Open before Andy Murray won it in 2012.
6) 1947 Australian Championships
John Bromwich is often regarded as the pioneer of the two-handed backhand. Bromwich had won two Australian Championships (1939,1946) before entering the finals in the 1947 edition. Up against him was fellow Australian Dinny Pails whose career high ranking was No. 6 and had never won a grand slam before. Pails saved a match point and defeated Bromwich 4-6 6-4 3-6 7-5 8-6 to win his lone slam title.
7) 1948 Wimbledon Championships
Bromwich was at the receiving end yet again in the 1948 Wimbledon Championships, where he had three championship points but failed to convert any of them. Bromwich’s opponent, Bob Falkenburg had reached a high of World No.7 in his career and was more famous for introducing soft ice cream and American fast food to Brazil. He is also the founder of the fast food chain “Bob’s.” But the American came into the limelight only after his heroic win at the 1948 Wimbledon Championships which he won 7-5 0-6 6-2 3-6 7-5 after saving three championship points.
8) 1960 Australian Championships
Top seed Neale Fraser was a heavy favourite to win the title and reached the finals of the 1960 Australian Championships. This was Fraser’s third final at the Australian Championships and had failed to win in his previous two attempts. He was up against third seed Rod Laver, who was into his first slam final. Fraser finally saw a Championship point in his third attempt in the final but Laver kept the top seed waiting, eventually winning the match 5-7 3-6 6-3 8-6 8-6. Fraser never reached the final at the Australian Championships again in his career.
9) 2004 French Open
Gaston Gaudio was facing Guillermo Coria in an all-Argentinian final for the first time at Roland Garros. Coria, who entered as a clear favourite, took the first set 6-0. He took the next set 6-3 and inched closer to a title at the French Open. However, the unseeded Gaudio fought back to take the next two sets 6-4 6-1. Coria had two Championship points in the decider but Gaudio brushed them away and won the set 8-6. In the Open Era, Gaudio is the only player to save championship points to win a grand slam.
10) 2019 Wimbledon
At the twilight of his career, Roger Federer was giving his fans highlights to cherish. After defeating Rafael Nadal in the semis, he set up a mouth-watering finals clash against defending champion Novak Djokovic. The match featured the first ever deciding set tie-break in a Slam after the fifth set went to a score of 12-12. In the tiebreak, Federer had two championship points, but squandered them both. Djokovic eventually won the title after 4 hours and 57 minutes, making it the longest Wimbledon final.