In many sports we increasingly seem to see athletes extending their careers into their late 30s and even beyond. At the age of 40, Jimmy Anderson was ranked the number one bowler in the world in cricket, whilst incredibly, in 2023 Venus Williams celebrated her 30th year playing tennis on the WTA Tour!
However, our focus here is at the other end of the age spectrum, as we take a look at the youngest ever Wimbledon champions. For the purpose of this article we are looking only at singles champions and also focussing on the Open era (1968 onwards). So, who are the youngest ever men and women to win Wimbledon?
Boris Becker Youngest Men’s Winner at Wimbledon – 17 Years Old
Carlos Alcaraz has already broken a number of records in his short and very successful career. He will break many more and in 2023 he won his first Wimbledon title at the tender age of 20. However, compared to the youngest man to ever taste victory in the final on Centre Court, the Spaniard was almost a veteran. Boris Becker was just 17 years old when he won Wimbledon in 1985.
The German would win another five Grand Slams and even retained his Wimbledon title in 1986 when still just 18. Even when he won his third and final crown at the All England Club, the man from Leimen was still months away from his 22nd birthday.
His win in 1985 came in his second appearance in the tournament, following a defeat in the third round in 1984 when he had to retire against American William Scanlon. Becker was a qualifier that year and 12 months on he made the draw on merit, although was unseeded. He was ranked number 20 in the world at the time but moved up to eighth after his victory.
His exciting, swashbuckling serve-and-volley style saw him surge through the tournament, though it is fair to say he enjoyed something of a favourable draw. He beat the fifth seed, Swede Anders Jarryd in the semis and the eighth seed, Kevin Curren, in the final, winning both matches in four sets. American Curren had earlier dispatched the top seed, John McEnroe, in the quarters, as well as third seed Jimmy Connors in the semis, in what was a very strong era for US men’s tennis.
By winning Wimbledon, Becker became the youngest ever winner of a Slam (singles, male). He was 17 (plus seven months and 15 days). American Michael Chang would break that record in 1989 at the US Open, taking the title at 17 years and 109 days which remains the youngest Grand Slam ever by a man. However, Becker’s piece of Wimbledon history remains – and we suspect it will do for many years to come.
Other Young Winners
Becker is the youngest man to ever win the singles at Wimbledon and that includes in the pre-Open era too. Prior to his victory English player Wilfred Baddeley had won at the age of 19, way back in 1881. The record-holder prior to Becker in terms of the Open era was Bjorn Borg. The Swede, who won Wimbledon five times in a row, was 20 when he claimed his first title in 1976.
Martina Hingis is the Youngest Women’s Singles Champion – 16 Years Old
Swiss ace Hingis is the youngest ever winner of a singles title at Wimbledon in the Open era, bettering even Becker. The five-times Grand Slam champion well and truly burst onto the scene and in 1997 won three Slams and made the final of the other (the French Open). She was more than two months shy of her 17th birthday when she added the Wimbledon title to her collection and remains the youngest ever world number one and youngest winner of any Grand Slam.
When she won the Australian Open in 1997 she was only three months past her 16th birthday and, incredibly, did not drop a single set in the whole tournament. By the time of Wimbledon she had lost the French Open final but ascended to the number one ranking and was a firm favourite with the fans.
She was seeded one for Wimbledon and up until the final won every game in straight sets. She faced the number three seed, Jana Novotna, in the showpiece, and the Czech won the first set. That merely served to get Hingis going though and the young star rattled off the next two sets 6-3, 6-3.
Sadly, injuries prevented Hingis from fulfilling her unbelievable talent but for a 16 year old to be the best player in the world, and by such a distance, really was incredible. She had won the doubles title at Wimbledon a year earlier, in 1996, alongside Helena Sukova at the age of just 15 and 282 days. In fact, though, she made her Wimbledon singles bow in 1995, playing in all four Slams that year.
Probably more than any player in modern tennis history she was a true child prodigy, a fearless genius despite being a schoolgirl. As well as her senior achievements, she landed her first junior Grand Slam – the French – at the age of just 12! The following season she added Junior Wimbledon to her incredible CV!
Little Wonder Pips Swiss Miss
If we go way back to 1887 we can find a player to have beaten Hingis to a “youngest” record. The “Little Wonder”, Lottie Dod, is the youngest ever woman to win Wimbledon if we include its whole history. She was just 15 years, 285 days old when she won in 1887, the year before the Football League was founded!
In terms of Open-era champions, Russia Maria Sharapova is the second youngest. She was 17 years and 75 days old when she upset Serena Williams in straight sets in 2004. Sharapova completed the career Grand Slam, winning all four majors, though this would be her only triumph at Wimbledon.