Class of 1983
World No. 1 (1881)
Grand Slam Results
12-time Wimbledon champion
Roger Federer. Pete Sampras. William Renshaw.
To casual tennis observers, those three tennis players share nothing in common. In fact, the name Willie Renshaw is an anomaly amidst the names of the two greatest players in history who combined to win more 30 Grand Slam titles.
Dig deeper. What that trio shares ranks among sports greatest achievements and Willie Renshaw was the first to do so – win seven Wimbledon Gentlemen Singles titles.
Six of those championships were consecutive (1881-86). No one in history can touch that streak. And while records are meant to be broken, it won’t be anytime soon that Renshaw’s mark gets eclipsed. Baseliner extraordinaire Björn Borg and the brilliant all-courter Federer each won five straight. That ranks as the modern record.
Sprinkle in five doubles championships (1884-86, 1889-90) playing with his younger twin brother, Ernest, and Willie’s Wimbledon titlist collection swells to 12 trips to the winners circle. It ranks second all-time behind Reginald Doherty’s 12 trophies (4 singles, 8 doubles) and eight behind the remarkable 20 titles won by Martina Navratilova.
Renshaw, noted for his serving and overhead smashes, won three of his championships against his brother Ernest (1882, 1883, 1889), who could never match his younger sibling’s championship prowess. Compatriot John Hartley was Renshaw’s first victim in 1881, 6–0, 6–1, 6–1, and Herbert Lawford suffered a 6–0, 6–4, 9–7 loss in 1884. Lawford, incidentally, was on the losing end of Ernest’s lone Wimbledon title in 1888, 6-3, 7-5, 6-0.
William advanced to Wimbledon’s third round in his first foray, losing to Otway Woodhouse in 1880. After that, he lost only twice more, in the 1888 quarterfinals and in his last trip to the finals in 1890, a 6–8, 6–2, 3–6, 6–1, 6–1 decision against nemesis Willoughby Hamilton. He won 22 of 25 matches and had 14-match streak from 1881-88. Fred Perry eventually broke that record by winning 15 straight.
In 1888, Renshaw was elected the first president of the British Lawn Association.
Wimbledon’s first 30 years were ruled by Britons and both Willie and Ernest led the assault. The duo, who had done wonders to popularize the game, were known as the “Renshaw Rush.”
Wimbledon: W 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1889
Wimbledon: W 1884, 1885, 1886,1888, 1889