Playing against left handers can be a notoriously difficult task. Their natural topspin that pulls a righty out of the court makes for a very effective weapon.
Whilst lefties are less common on the ATP and WTA World Tours, there have been some legends of the game that play southpaw.
Each has their own unique characteristics and personalities, but all of the players listed below are greats of the game in their own right.
We will delve into what they achieved in their career, how their game style made them unique and why we think they are one of the best left handed tennis players ever!
Of course, we had to start our countdown of the greatest lefties ever with the king of clay, Rafael Nadal.
The Spanish sensation has won 20 grand slams and counting, with an astonishing 13 of them coming at the French Open.
He has been a dominant force on the red stuff throughout his entire career, but has proven his abilities on the different surfaces, by winning at all found grand slams.
Nadal has quite a unique game style.
When he burst on the scene back in 2001, he was a swashbuckling player that wore sleeveless shirts, baggy pants and would chase every ball down like a bat out of hell!
His sheer determination, physicality and humility has won him fans the world over, but one of the most recognisable features of Rafael Nadal’s game is his spin.
He produces more topspin than any other player in the history of the game, owing to his unique ‘buggy whip’ forehand.
His unorthodox technique allows him to rip up the back of the ball with incredible speed, meaning he can impart massive revolutions on the ball and hit aggressively but retain great margin for error.
Rafael Nadal will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest players in history, so it is only fitting that he sits on the top of our list.
He is one of the most charismatic and recognisable tennis players of all time.
John McEnroe, winner of 7 grand slam titles was famous for his angry outbursts and comical commentary on court.
He would often berate umpires and officials when decisions didn’t go his way, which led to some of the most legendary moments in tennis history.
Since his playing days came to an end, he has become a well loved tennis commentator.
McEnroe had a creative serve and volley game and was famed for his touch around the net, incredible shotmaking and athleticism.
Who can forget his infamous “You cannot be serious!” line! He is one of the most recognisable lefties ever and will go down in history as one of the greatest champions too.
Arguably one of the greatest female players of all time, Martina Navratilova was an unbelievable singles and doubles player in her generation.
She is second on the all time weeks at number 1 list in singles and tops the list in doubles.
Whilst her 18 grand slam singles titles may seem incredibly impressive, her 31 women’s doubles and 10 mixed doubles major titles are achievements that will likely never be replicated.
She also won the end of year tour finals 10 times and the Fed cup 4 times.
Martina revolutionised the women’s game back in the 1970s and 80s as she brought a new level of athleticism and skill to the sport.
She was an aggressive serve and volleyer that liked to win or lose points on her own terms.
She was renowned for her cross training techniques that were then adopted by many other players that attempted to replicate her success.
Navratilova has already cemented her place in the history books and is certainly one of the greatest left handed players ever!
Another former world number 1, Jimmy Connors is one of the most recognisable American athletes of all time.
Conners was famed for his longevity in the men’s game, holding some impressive long standing records. Jimmy won 109 tour level titles, and won 1274 of his 1557 professional matches.
Connors won 8 grand slam titles across his 24 year career, but one of his most impressive achievements was reaching the semi-finals of the US open in 1991 at the age of 39.
Jimmy’s longevity is a credit to his gritty mentality and athleticism.
He also had a unique game style, being one of the first players in the modern era to adopt a flat backhand and play predominantly from the baseline.
He was a divisive character in the tennis world who would often come out with brash behaviour and argue with officials and fellow players.
He was a very love or hate character in the eyes of tennis fans, but was popular nonetheless.
Many consider ‘Rocket’ Rod Laver to be the greatest tennis player of all time.
He played at a time before the open era came into fruition, so a lot of his career was played as an amateur. However, he holds some impressive records that still stand to this day.
Laver is still the only player in history to have won the ‘Grand Slam’ twice. This is when a player wins all 4 major titles in the same calendar year.
Rod also won an unrivalled 200 career titles, including 11 grand slams. He had a technically sound serve and volley game and liked to be aggressive off the ground.
He had a perfect serve that was incredibly well disguised and would swing away from his opponents, that he could then back up with an accurate volley or big forehand.
Laver is widely considered the best player of his generation, if not of all time!
Monica Seles was one of the most impressive young talents the sport of tennis has ever seen.
She was a teenage prodigy, winning 8 of her 9 grand slam titles before she was 20 years old! However, the story of Monica Seles is an unfortunate one.
After such a promising early career, she was tragically stabbed in an attack by a crazed fan on court in Hamburg, Germany.
She was the world number 1 at the time and following the attack took 2 years out of the game.
She did make a comeback and subsequently won an additional grand slam, but her career was never the same.
Many regard Seles as one of the most natural raw talents ever to grace the game. She will certainly go down in history as one of the best lefties ever!
Winner of 23 grand slam titles and one half of the infamous Bryan Brothers, Bob Bryan is one of the most successful doubles players ever.
He has won 16 men’s doubles and 7 mixed doubles grand slam titles and holds a number of impressive records.
Bob reached 30 grand slam doubles finals, spent 439 weeks on top of the rankings, won 116 ATP tour level titles and won at least 1 grand slam for 10 consecutive years.
He also achieved the ‘Bryan Golden Slam’, which consisted of holding all 4 grand slam titles and an olympic gold medal at the same time.
He also won the ‘Career Golden Masters’ with his broker Mike, which is when a player wins all 9 of the Masters 1000 events.
Bob certainly had a very impressive doubles career, no double helped by the fact that he was an unbelievable lefty!
Another former world number one, Thomas Muster was an impressive clay courter that liked to grind on the court.
Muster won the French Open in 1995 and won 8 masters 1000 titles.
Prior to Rafa Nadal’s emergence on the tennis scene, Muster was considered the original ‘King of Clay’.
In the 1995 season, Muster won an impressive 12 tour level titles, an achievement that was only tied by Roger Federer in 2006.
Muster also has the highest winning percentage in singles tour level finals, winning 44 of his 55 appearances. He is a very clutch player and a great lefty!
Other Noteworthy Mentions
Some of the most recognisable lefties that have graced the game, but perhaps not achieved the stratospheric levels the the greats above have include:
- Jaroslav Drobny
- Guillermo Villas
- Goran Ivanisevic
- Marcelo Rios
- Fernando Verdasco
- Denis Shapovalov
- Feliciano Lopez
- Federico Delbonis
- Adrian Mannarino
- Petra Kvitova
- Angelique Kerber
- Kristyna Pliskova
- Taylor Townsend
- Gilles Muller
- Albert Ramos-Vinolas
- Jarkko Nieminen
There have been some outstanding left handed tennis players over the years.
They have always stood out as having unique styles of play that have been a nightmare for their right handed counterparts.
That lefty spin is a force to be reckoned with and is a difficult foe for any player to take on.
Ultimately, the best left handed tennis players have all been individual in their own right and long may we continue to have lefties at the top of the tennis world!