Wimbledon is the most prestigious and recognizable tennis tournament in the world. The hallowed grass courts of the All England Club field elite men’s and women’s tennis sensations every summer. One of the four Grand Slam tournaments — the others are the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open — all-time greats from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams have hoisted the iconic silver trophies. Spectators enjoy a classic Wimbledon treat of strawberries and cream, and Rolex famously keeps the time every year.
The Championships are full of tradition, but no moment was more revealing than pre-match festivities of the 1996 men’s final.
In a stacked field that included top-seed Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, Andre Agassi and Goran Ivanisevic, it was unseeded MaliVai Washington and the 17-seeded Richard Krajicek who reached Centre Court for a best-of-5 championship match.
Before they began, as is tradition, both finalists met at the net to mark the historic day with a photograph. Then, like a bat out of hell, a mysterious blonde woman raced onto the court, and let’s just say the English bombshell took Wimbledon’s all-white dress code a little too seriously.
Who Was The 1996 Wimbledon Streaker?
She hit the court and quickly left without a fight, but Melissa Johnson’s legacy was cemented forever.
The then-23-year-old London student was working as a caterer on the grounds, according to an excerpt from Peter Seddon titled “Tennis’s Strangest Matches.”
“Sporting a huge smile, Miss Johnson lifted her apron to give both players an eyeful and then proceeded to do likewise for the royals before being led away by a gentleman of the law.
“Would the royals be offended? The Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent were visibly amused. Seventeen-year-old Lord Frederick Windsor looked as if he hadn’t enjoyed a tennis match so much for years and the knock-up hadn’t even begun.Advertisement
“As for the players, they laughed too. Malivai Washington walked back to the baseline to begin his warm-up, lifted his shirt to reveal his bare chest and received a huge ovation.”
— Peter Seddon, via Tennis-Buzz.com
Johnson’s nude invasion definitely caught Washington’s attention, not just the tennis fans, because the American went down in straight sets — 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 — losing to Krajicek in just 94 minutes. Washington’s incredible run included wins over ninth-seed Thomas Enqvist in the second round, Alex Radulescu in the quarterfinals, and 13th-seed Todd Martin in the semifinals.
Krajiceck captured a Grand Slam men’s singles title for the first time, becoming the first Dutchman ever to do so in the Wimbledon finals.
According to Seddon’s account, Johnson was taken to Wimbledon police station and later released without any charges.
In today’s media world, when flashers and streakers are only doing it “For the Gram,” seeing everyone have such a light-hearted take on this girl hitting the court at Wimbledon 1996 is a refreshing reminder that not every bare ass streaking the field is done with malicious, negative intent.
This article was originally published February 18, 2020.