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40 LOVE Moments: The Winning Streak

Maria Sharapova just wrapped up a 21-match winning streak on clay, the biggest clay court winning streak among active players. What's the all-time record? Multiply that by about six.

Published May 12, 2013 12:00

40 LOVE Moments: The Winning Streak
Chris Evert

ROME, Italy - This past weekend, Maria Sharapova ran her clay court win streak to 21 matches in a row before falling to Serena Williams - the longest clay court winning streak among active players.

The all-time record? Multiply that by about six.

Rewind to the 1970s and Chris Evert put together not only the longest win streak ever by a woman on clay, but the longest win streak ever on a single surface by any player, male or female. It was a giant 125-match win streak that spanned six years from 1973 to 1979 and included 24 tournaments.

But all good things must come to an end, and it was 34 years ago, on May 12, 1979, that it came to that end, albeit barely. Facing Tracy Austin in the semifinals of Rome, Evert led 4-2 in the third set and even had a point for 5-2 but just missed out, and Austin ended up squeaking by, 64 26 76(4).

"Not having the record will take pressure off me, but I'm not glad to have lost it," Evert said.

She clearly wasn't glad about the loss - she would go on to win her next 64 clay court matches until falling to Hana Mandlikova in the semifinals of the 1981 French Open. So that made it 189 of 191.

It's no surprise Evert wrote that kind of history on that surface - she was raised on the green clay of Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and by the end of her career she actually set an Open Era record for most French Open titles, winning seven of them - 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985 and 1986.

As for Austin, she went on to win that tournament in Rome, beating Sylvia Hanika in the final. Her two Grand Slam titles would both end up coming on hardcourts, at the US Open in 1979 and 1981.

Tracy Austin

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