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The rigours of qualifying

Steven LynchJuly 6, 2014
John McEnroe reached the Wimbledon semi-finals as a qualifier in 1977 © PA Photos
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A recent question asked about unseeded winners at Wimbledon. But has a qualifier ever reached the final? I remember John McEnroe getting to the semis very early on in his career … asked John Patterson

John McEnroe reached the Wimbledon semi-finals in 1977, when only 18, after going through the rigours of qualifying at Roehampton.

McEnroe's run, which included a five-set victory over the seeded Australian Phil Dent, ended when Jimmy Connors beat him in four sets in the semi-final, played on the same day as an epic semi between Bjorn Borg (the eventual champion) and Vitas Gerulaitis.

McEnroe was the first qualifier to reach the singles semi-finals since the system was introduced. He was joined in 1999 by the American teenager Alexandra Stevenson, who beat another qualifier (Jelena Dokic, who had upset the top seed Martina Hingis in the first round) in the women's quarter-final, before losing to the eventual champion Lindsay Davenport in the semi.

The following year the Belarussian qualifier Vladimir Voltchkov made it to the semi-finals before losing to Pete Sampras, who went on to win his seventh and last title.

As I write, the Australian Nick Kyrgios is still in this year's tournament, after sensationally beating Rafael Nadal. He got into Wimbledon 2014 as a wild card (Ed's note - but has since been knocked out).

Only two qualifiers made it to the third round of the men's singles in 2014: Jimmy Wang of Chinese Taipei, and Simone Bolelli of Italy, who was actually a lucky loser from the qualifying tournament, drafted in to the main draw after a withdrawal. On the women's side Tereza Smitkova, a qualifier from the Czech Republic, reached the fourth round before losing to her compatriot Lucie Safarova.

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