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21 JUN 1994: LORI MCNEIL OF THE UNITED STATES PLAYS A FOREHAND SHOT DURING HER FIRST ROUND MATCH AGAINST STEFFI GRAF OF GERMANY AT THE 1994 WIMBLEDON TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS. MCNEIL DEFEATED THE NUMBER 1 SEED GRAF.

Joel Drucker: Wimbledon Flashback Day 2 - Women’s First Round – Graf Toppled

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.

Read more articles by Joel Drucker

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