Most Hated Wimbledon Champions of All Time
There is something that differentiates Wimbledon from the other Grand Slam tennis tournaments. Maybe it's the royalty sitting in the VIP boxes. Maybe it's the all-white uniforms. Maybe it's the grass courts.
Win here, and you're a legend forever. Win here, and you're basically a tennis immortal.
While it takes a lot to win over the Wimbledon crowd, it also takes a lot to turn them against you. And to be a champion that the crowd eventually turns on? That taps into another level of bad sports behavior we rarely get to see. Here's a look at the most hated Wimbledon champions of all time.
10. Maria Sharapova
Born: April 19, 1987 (Nyagan, Russia, Soviet Union)
Wimbledon singles titles (1): 2004
Other Grand Slam titles (4): Australian Open (2008), French Open (2012, 2014), Wimbledon (2004), U.S. Open (2006)
Bottom Line: Maria Sharapova
While Sharapova's tennis career has earned her more than $300 million — mostly from endorsements — it was also a pretty rocky ride.
Sharapova's behavior on the court turned off real tennis fans in droves, including her pre-serve ritual that involved talking to the wall and staring down her opponent. Not normal behavior on a tennis court.
She was also a drug cheat on a level that could make Major League Baseball players blush. Multiple failed drug tests resulted in a four-year suspension in 2015 that was later reduced to 15 months.
9. Bobby Riggs
Born: Feb. 25, 1918 (Los Angeles, California)
Died: Oct. 25, 1995, 77 years old (Encinitas, California)
Wimbledon singles titles (1): 1939
Other Grand Slam titles (2): U.S. Open (1939, 1941)
Bottom Line: Bobby Riggs
Riggs had one of the biggest paydays of his life at Wimbledon in 1939 when he bet an initial $500 on himself to win the singles title and then continued to bet on himself to win doubles and mixed doubles. Riggs eventually banked the 2023 equivalent of $2.2 million on his wins, which he wasn't allowed to take out of the country until 1946 because of World War II.
Here's the thing — sports betting was illegal in England at the time. And it's pretty unseemly to have bet on a sporting event you're participating in. While some may think it's cool he made that money, it didn't win him any fans at Wimbledon.
8. Serena Williams
Born: Sept. 26, 1981 (Saginaw, Michigan)
Wimbledon singles titles (7): 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016
Other Grand Slam titles (16): Australian Open (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017), French Open (2002, 2003, 2015), U.S. Open (1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-14)
Bottom Line: Serena Williams
Williams owns a triple career Grand Slam, meaning she's won all four Grand Slam singles titles at least three times in her career, and seven of her 23 career Grand Slam singles titles came at Wimbledon.
Williams was just 16 years old when she first ran afoul of Wimbledon fans after refusing to shake hands with the opponent she lost to in 1998. The disapproval continued through the end of her career in 2022 when she skipped the Centenary celebration of 100 years of Centre Court — reportedly because she was upset for not being able to continue the use of five courtesy cars from the All-England Club after losing in the first round.
7. Lleyton Hewitt
Born: Feb. 24, 1981 (Adelaide, Australia)
Wimbledon singles titles (1): 2002
Other Grand Slam titles (1): U.S. Open 2001
Bottom Line: Lleyton Hewitt
Hewitt spent his almost 20-year career behaving poorly on the court, where he heaped abuse on officials. If he was losing a match or a call didn't go his way, he wasn't above going full-blown racist, as he did in a 2001 U.S. Open match against James Blake.
This is a Wimbledon champion we'd all like to forget.
6. Martina Hingis
Born: Sept. 30, 1980 (Kosice, Czechoslovakia)
Wimbledon singles titles (1): 1997
Other Grand Slam titles (4): Australian Open (1997-99), U.S. Open (1997)
Bottom Line: Martina Hingis
Hingis won five Grand Slam singles titles in her career and all in a three-year stretch from 1997 to 1999. The reason no one looks back very fondly on her time as the best player in tennis is that she's super racist, possibly homophobic and once said Steffi Graf was "past her prime" before losing to her in the 1999 French Open final when Hingis was the No. 1 seed and Graf was the No. 6 seed. Hingis actually had to be convinced to stay on the court for the trophy presentation by her mother.
Hingis has also retired three times in her career — the second time after a positive drug test for cocaine in 2007. Guess who's probably not getting invited to many reunions?
5. Bill Tilden
Born: Feb. 10, 1893 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Died: June 5, 1953, 60 years old (Los Angeles, California)
Wimbledon singles titles (3): 1920, 1921, 1930
Other Grand Slam titles (7): U.S. Open (1920-25, 1929)
Bottom Line: Bill Tilden
Bill Tilden was the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 — the first of three Wimbledon titles for him. He also held the record for the most Grand Slam finals appearances from 1929 until 2017 when Roger Federer made it to the Wimbledon finals for the 11th time.
Few Wimbledon champions have seen their post-playing careers go to such dark places as Tilden's after he was arrested in Beverly Hills, California, in 1946 for having sex with a 14-year-old boy — Tilden was in his early 50s — and again in 1949 for the same crimes with a 16-year-old boy. Do you know what people really hate? Pedophiles.
4. Jimmy Connors
Born: Sept. 2, 1952 (Belleville, Illinois)
Wimbledon singles titles (2): 1974, 1982
Other Grand Slam titles (6): Australian Open (1974), U.S. Open (1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1983)
Bottom Line: Jimmy Connors
Connors seemed like he might fight everyone in the stadium if he lost a match — not exactly what the high-minded Wimbledon crowd is looking for. He won eight Grand Slam singles titles, including two at Wimbledon, where he's one of the few players to ever actually be booed.
Even for his era of play, Connors' actions on the court went beyond the pale. He famously flipped off a referee during a match and, on multiple occasions, would put his tennis racket between his legs to simulate a sexual act. Not fun.
3. Suzanne Lenglen
Born: May 24, 1899 (Paris, France)
Died: July 4, 1938, 39 years old (Paris, France)
Wimbledon singles titles (6): 1919-23, 1925
Other Grand Slam titles (2): French Open (1925, 1926)
Bottom Line: Suzanne Lenglen
Six-time Wimbledon champion Lenglen went from beloved to hated over the course of one match — her 1926 second-round win over Evelyn Dewhurst. The match was originally rescheduled to accommodate the British royal family and then rescheduled two more times after Lenglen was a no-show because she felt the times were too close to her doubles matches.
By the time Lenglen and Dewhurst played in front of Queen Mary, it seemed like all of Great Britain had turned against Lenglen, who withdrew from the tournament and never returned. Lenglen died of a mysterious illness in 1938 when she was only 39 years old.
2. Novak Djokovic
Born: May 22, 1987 (Belgrade, Serbia)
Wimbledon singles titles (7): 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022
Other Grand Slam titles (16): Australian Open (2008, 2011-13, 2015, 2016, 2019-21, 2023), French Open (2016, 2021, 2023), U.S. Open (2011, 2015, 2018)
Bottom Line: Novak Djokovic
The hate for Djokovic at Wimbledon has shown its face many times during his matches but never more so than twice in the finals — first in 2019 when he defeated Roger Federer in an epic tiebreaker and then again in 2023 when he lost to 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz. He added some fuel to the fire in 2023 when he annihilated a racket against one of the net posts in the final.
How and why did Djokovic become so hated? Sports fans value two things above all others — winning and a sense of sincerity. Djokovic does one of those really well and the other not at all. While he now owns the record for most Grand Slam singles titles with 23, he's never once in his career been able to eclipse the popularity of his two main rivals, Federer and Rafael Nadal.
1. John McEnroe
Born: Feb. 16, 1959 (Wiesbaden, West Germany)
Wimbledon singles titles (3): 1981, 1983, 1984
Other Grand Slam titles (4): U.S. Open (1979-81, 1984)
Bottom Line: John McEnroe
McEnroe authored perhaps the most famous moment in Wimbledon history and became the definition of an "ugly American" with his famous "You cannot be serious!" rant at an umpire during Wimbledon in 1981.
But McEnroe's outbursts weren't without consequences. He had two lengthy suspensions in his career, for three weeks in 1984, which is largely considered his best season, and for two months in 1987 following an outburst at the U.S. Open.