British Grand Slam Champions in the Open Era of Tennis

To modern British tennis fans, Andy Murray has been a bright, often lone, star on which to hang their Grand Slam hopes. The brilliant Scot delivered the goods on three occasions but his career is very near its end now, and his chances of landing a fourth major have almost certainly passed. But is Murray the only British player to win any of the game’s big four events in the Open Era?

In this article we will take a look at who else has won a Grand Slam event in either the men’s or women’s singles since 1968. Much as we love watching doubles, that is not something we are analysing here. Nor will we consider those wins pre-1968, of which there were many, albeit chiefly at Wimbledon in the 1800s, and for a short period when Fred Perry dominated men’s tennis. So, with those parameters set, who else stands alongside Andy Murray as a modern, British, Grand Slam champion?

Murray the Only British Man to Win Open Era Grand Slam

Andy Murray
Andy Murray (Credit: Maxisports via Bigstockphoto)

Sadly, Murray is indeed the only man to claim a Grand Slam title for Britain in the Open Era. He became the 147th man to win one of the majors (including the pre-Open Era) when he landed the 2012 US Open. In all, the Dunblane ace made 11 Grand Slam finals, winning three and losing eight. That incudes losing in the Australian Open final five times in just seven years, although Murray is one of a small number of players to have made it through to the final at all four Slams.

2012 US Open

The Scot’s first appearance in a Grand Slam final came at the 2008 US Open but he was easily beaten. Roger Federer bettered him in straight sets and would do the same in the final of the Australian Open two years later. Murray would lose two more Slam finals before making it through to the last two at the 2012 US Open.

He faced Novak Djokovic for the trophy and was desperate for revenge having lost to the Serb in straight sets in the final of the 2011 Australian. Murray would finally be able to call himself a Grand Slam champion though as he won a gruelling match in five sets. He won the first 12-10 in the tie-breaker, and things looked good when he moved 2-0 up with a 7-5 win in the second set. However, when Djokovic won the next two, Murray and his many fans must have feared the worst, but the Scot did superbly well to hold his nerve and take the decider 6-2.

2013 Wimbledon

Murray made the 2012 Wimbledon final but lost to Federer. However, after he won the Olympic gold in 2012 he was not to be denied in 2013. Fans in the UK must have thought they would never get to see one of their own triumph on the famous grass courts but Murray got the job done where Tim Henman and others could not.

In the end the final was all too easy for the Scot. He claimed his fourth title of the year at a time when he probably played the best tennis of his whole career. Djokovic had no answers to Murray’s sustained brilliance and the home favourite won 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 to claim his second Slam.

2016 Wimbledon

Murray claimed his third and we are almost certain final major, when he once again won at Wimbledon. 2016 was up there with the best of his career after injury issues had limited his success in 2014 especially. He made three Grand Slam finals in 2016 and whilst his old foe Djokovic beat him in Melbourne and Paris, he took glory at SW19. Milos Raonic was his opponent and Murray won in straight sets against the big-serving Canadian (6-4, 7-6, 7-6).

British Women Grand Slam Champions

Ann Haydon-Jones
Ann Haydon-Jones (Credit: Wikipedia)

Britain’s women have done slightly better, which may come as a surprise to some younger tennis fans. There was the same early success at Wimbledon in the 19th century, and Britain also produced four different Grand Slam winners in the 1950s and early 1960s (one of whom would also go on to success in 1969).

In terms of Open Era champions, there are two from the past who are both familiar names, and indeed faces. In addition, there is of course one very modern champ. But the only British winner to span both of tennis’ “before” and “after” eras is a much lesser-known figure.

Ann Haydon: Three Grand Slams, One in the Open Era

Ann Haydon won eight Slams in total, including five in doubles and was also a hugely talented table tennis player. Born in Birmingham in 1938 she is still going strong at the time of writing, aged 85. She won the French Open in both 1961 and 1966 but her first, indeed only, Open Era success came in 1969.

The left-hander lost the US Open final in both 1961 and 1967 but it was on the grass courts of Wimbledon that she won her final Slam. She lost the first set to the legendary Billie Jean King but battled back to win the next two.

Three More British Slams for Virginia Wade

Virginia Wade is a much better-known figure and like Haydon she won three Grand Slam titles. All of Wade’s came in the Open Era, including the 1968 US Open. Wade, who reached number two in the world, added the Australian Open in 1972 and then the 1977 Wimbledon crown. She also won four doubles titles.

Sue Barker: Not Just a TV Host

Sue Barker has appeared on TV for many years, including hosting Question of Sport and fronting the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage for almost three decades. But before all that, younger fans may be surprised to learn that not only did she play tennis, she was actually rather good.

Barker, who was born in Gloucestershire in 1956, won 15 titles during her career and was ranked number three in the world in March 1977. Her sole Grand Slam victory came in 1976 at the French Open when she beat Czech Renata Tomanova by the slightly strange score of 6-2, 0-6, 6-2.

Emma Radacanu… Hopefully More to Come

Radacanu captured the hearts of the nation and indeed the imagination of the whole tennis world when she won the 2021 US Open. Most outside the inner circle of British tennis had probably never even heard of the Bromley girl, who is still only 21 heading into the 2024 Grand Slam season.

She became the first qualifier ever (Open Era) to win a Grand Slam in what was truly a seismic sporting shock. She was superb for that fortnight in New York and thoroughly deserved her crown, beating Canadian Leylah Fernandez in straight sets in the final as she played without any fear whatsoever. Injuries and, perhaps, off-court distractions, have hampered her progress since but we remain optimistic that Radacanu can add more majors to her locker.