Welcome to Wimbledon Flashbacks, where wtatennis.com will take a look back at some of the most memorable narratives from The Championships over the past 20 years. After recapping Birmingham's best battles and excellent Eastbourne encounters, our retrospective heads to the lawns of SW19. Next up is the classic 2005 final, an epic encounter between former champions Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport.
For more classic moments, check out our other Wimbledon Flashbacks:
1999: Qualifier Dokic dispatches top seed Hingis in first-round stunner
2003: Navratilova shows her class at 46 to win title 20 alongside Paes
2017: Returning Rybarikova stuns Pliskova in 2017 Cinderella run
2019: From qualifying to Centre Court, Gauff's star rises at SW19
THE MOMENT: Two multiple major-winning superstars faced off in the 2005 Wimbledon final, which was a rematch of the championship match at SW19 from five years before. Those facts already foretold a scintillating final, and yet no one was fully prepared for the all-time classic which followed.
1999 Wimbledon champion Lindsay Davenport came into the event as the top seed, having finished 2004 as World No.1 and holding that position throughout the first half of the 2005 season. The American had won seven WTA singles titles in 2004 as she ascended to the pinnacle of the rankings for the first time since 2001.
Davenport, though, entered 2005 having not reached a Grand Slam final in over four years. Bolstered by her return to the top ranking, Davenport broke that duck by making the 2005 Australian Open final. After taking the first set of that match from Serena Williams, Davenport eventually fell in three sets to her compatriot, but the No.1 seed was confident that major titles were back in her sight.
Now on the grass in London, Davenport stormed through the first three rounds, but had to fight past Kim Clijsters in the round of 16. After a straight-set win over No.5 seed Svetlana Kuznetsova in the quarters, Davenport edged past No.3 seed Amelie Mauresmo in the semifinals after three circuitous sets, which included an overnight rain delay at 5-3 in the final set.
Despite the challenging path at the back end of the fortnight, Davenport was back in the Wimbledon final for the first time since 2000 -- where she would face the foe who vanquished her title defense in that very final five years prior.
Venus Williams took that 2000 Wimbledon title for her first-ever Grand Slam singles crown, and the American star followed that up with a second consecutive trophy lift on the London lawns in 2001. Williams also won back-to-back US Open titles in those same years, and it appeared that she was on her way to an overwhelming Grand Slam-winning haul over the next few seasons.
However, after rising to World No.1 in 2002, Williams was unable to cross the finish line with a crown for the next three years. Her prodigiously talented sister Serena defeated her in four straight Grand Slam finals during 2002 and 2003, and nagging injuries also took a toll on Williams's results in 2003 and 2004.
Thus, Williams came into 2005 Wimbledon ranked World No.16, and had to fight through the draw as the No.14 seed. Faced with that challenge, though, Williams rose to the occasion. The American did not drop a set en route to the final, including wins over Mary Pierce in the quarterfinals and No.2 seed Maria Sharapova in the semifinals.
The stage was set for a bruising battle between two of the best hitters in the game, both of whom had been itching for a return to the top of the podium at a Grand Slam event for a number of years. Davenport led the head-to-head 14-12, but Williams had won both of their meetings in Grand Slam finals, at the aforementioned 2000 Wimbledon, as well as at the US Open later that year.
This time around, it was Davenport who held the upper hand for much of the clash. The top seed held her nerve throughout the opening frame, claiming the one-set lead as her powerful shots sent Williams sprinting from side to side with Davenport ending up as the victor in most of the key points.
A critical break at 5-5 in the second set gave Davenport a chance to close out the match in straight sets and win her first major title since the 2000 Australian Open. However, Williams started to turn the tide there, as aggressive, forward-thinking play gave the No.14 seed a stunning break at love. An emboldened Williams used that momentum to ease through a tiebreak and eke out the second set.
The stirring second set galvanized the crowd as the players moved into the third. The fiery hitting continued from both ends of the court, as both combatants tussled for a long-awaited return to Grand Slam singles glory.
After her second-set chance, Davenport was even more tantalizingly close to victory at 5-4 in the third, where Williams double faulted at 30-30 to give Davenport championship point. Williams, unfazed, pummeled a winner down the line to erase that chance, eventually holding for 5-5 from the brink of defeat.
With no final-set tiebreak available to truncate the match, the barrage continued to 7-7. There, Williams moved into the power position for the first time all day, breaking for 8-7 and getting her chance to serve for the match.
In that game, Williams stormed to triple championship point, and she finished off the victory on her second match point to win 4–6, 7–6(4), 9–7, claiming her third Wimbledon singles title, and her first major title since the 2001 US Open.
An ebullient Williams bounded across the court after her handshake with Davenport, and for good measure -- she had won the longest Wimbledon women's singles final in history, lasting a protracted two hours and 45 minutes.
Her epic victory in an instant classic also made Williams the lowest-ranked (World No. 16) and lowest-seeded (No. 14) champion at the event -- until she broke her own records two years later, when she won the 2007 title ranked World No.31 and seeded No.23.
THE MEANING: With both players firing on all cylinders during the enthralling barnburner, Williams used her preeminent focus to propel her to her first major victory in nearly four years. "I was just thinking about, 'I've got to stay tougher,'" said the champion in her post-match press conference. "'I've got to stay tougher than whoever's across the net. I have to play the ball. I have to stay tougher.'"
"I just wanted to hang in there," Williams said, when reviewing the turnaround game at 6-5 in the second set. "I don't know what happened in that game. I think I got it, you know, four points in a row. I was just trying to keep my feet moving and my energy up, just trying to stay as positive as I could."
Williams was always undaunted in her quest to start winning majors again, and her confidence was rewarded by triumphing in what is now considered one of the most thrilling Grand Slam finals of all time.
"I always felt like a champion in my heart because every single time I walked out on the court, I always gave my best," said Williams. "Whatever it was at that time, I gave a hundred percent."
"I feel great to have accomplished this, but I feel like I want to do a lot more," Williams continued. Indeed, it was the start of more Wimbledon winnings for the American legend, as she would increase her Wimbledon singles title count to an even five after hoisting the Venus Rosewater Dish in 2007 and 2008.
As for Davenport, despite finishing as year-end World No.1 again in 2005, this would prove to be the last Grand Slam final of her singles career. "I feel like I gave it everything I had out there, and every time the chips were down for Venus, she played unbelievable," the 1999 Wimbledon champion said to the media, after the final.
"I thought I had a lot of chances, and I felt like she never allowed me to take advantage of those chances," Davenport continued. "She just played great whenever she was down."
"It was great and it was exhilarating," the top seed added. "I felt like I played great. I felt like I did everything I wanted to do out there, and I felt like I got really close and just didn't win the one or two points that would have won the match for me."
Davenport's three Grand Slam singles titles, 55 WTA singles titles, and 98 weeks at World No.1 made her an obvious choice for induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014.