The minute the 1994 Ladies’ Singles draw came out, all eyes pointed towards this intriguing women’s matchup. Steffi Graf had won five Wimbledon singles titles, including the last three in a row. Lori McNeil, ranked #22 in the world, was the quintessential spoiler, her chip-charge game a perfect fit for the slick lawns. McNeil had also won their previous match.
McNeil’s game plan was simple and direct: Make Graf hit backhand passing shots. Again and again, the 30-year-old American’s staccato-like strokes found the range, setting up numerous volley opportunities.
There would be three hours of rain delays and 103 minutes of tennis. McNeil won a tight first set, 7-5. The second set was even closer, but again, McNeil hung tough, taking it in a tiebreaker.
Said Graf, “It doesn’t hurt to lose my crown, it hurts to lose.”
McNeil would make it all the way to the semis, losing there 10-8 in the third to eventual champion Conchita Martinez.
Graf was only momentarily staggered. She would return to Wimbledon and take the title in each of the next two years.