The Best Tennis Players of All Time (Top 10 Male + Female)
Whatever sport you're talking about, choosing the best players of all time is always going to be a contentious debate.
When it comes to the best tennis players of all time, the problem is it’s particularly hard to compare players across different eras.
Technology has moved on to such a great extent that the modern game of tennis looks little like it used to, but it is still possible to try and come up with a list of the greatest tennis players of all time.
Of course, in recent times, we’ve been especially privileged because we’ve got to witness the brilliance of many greats who are unquestionably some of the best to ever play the game, but who would make TheTennisBros.com’s list of the best tennis players of all time?
Top 10 Male Tennis Players of All Time
Let’s start with the men. It’s a little tough to reduce this list to the top 10 males tennis players of all time, so some incredible players have unfortunately missed the cut (I’m sure their multiple grand slam titles will soften the blow!).
1. Roger Federer
We hear Roger Federer talked about as the greatest tennis player of all time (G.O.A.T) so often that you might think it was easy to put the great Swiss at the top of this list.
However, it was only by the slenderest of margins that Federer earned his place as our top tennis player of all time.
So, what was it that earned Federer the number one spot?
Yes, for all his Grand Slam titles, his elegance, and his sheer brilliance, it’s actually his adaptability that we believe makes Federer the best tennis player of all time.
When the Fed came onto the scene, tennis was a completely different game to what it is now.
The strokes were completely different, the movements around the court were completely different, and Federer came and blew it all to smithereens (here’s a breakdown of how his forehand swing does this).
Years later, when in response to Federer’s brilliance, guys like Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray pushed the game on even further, Federer was still able to adapt and keep pace.
Even today, when he’s pushing his 40s he’s still able to do this, and aside from his 20 Grand Slam titles, that’s why we’ve chosen the Fed as our best tennis player of all time.
2. Novak Djokovic
When it comes to the debate over who is the greatest tennis player of all time, Novak Djokovic isn’t always a popular opinion.
Perhaps it’s because Roger and Rafa seem to be so universally loved that Djokovic can sometimes be seen as the other guy.
However, Djokovic’s stats are simply unbelievable. In my opinion, if you put a prime Djokovic up against prime anyone else on this list he wins at least 7 out of 10 times.
Whether you think that makes him the best tennis player of all time is for you to decide, but it’s hard to disagree about his backhand being one of the best of all time.
When you throw everything in though, we’ve gone with Federer, even if Djokovic might end up with the most Grand Slams.
3. Rafael Nadal
This was another difficult decision, but we just couldn’t bear to break the three rivals up.
It seems harsh putting Nadal at three given his incredible record, but here he is – it just goes to show the level of competition there is.
Nonetheless, the Spaniard will have to make do with the number one left-hander on the list, even if that’s another debatable one (numbers 4, 9, and 10 in the list are also lefties).
While Nadal might be best known for clay, he has been wonderfully adaptable, and like Federer and Djokovic has won the career Grand Slam – winning all four majors at one point or another.
Nadal’s incredible shot making is something we will all miss when he eventually retires, and it earns him a spot at number three on our list of the best tennis players of all time. Many will argue he’s the greatest tennis player of all time, and there are plenty of stats to back this up!
4. Rod Laver
We may have gone with three modern greats for our top three positions, but we couldn’t look past a legend for the fourth spot.
Australian, Rod Laver was the king of tennis in the 60s, winning the Grand Slam (all four major titles in one year) twice.
Since Laver achieved his second Grand Slam in 1969, no male player has repeated the feat, and this just goes to show the brilliance of the man.
Laver was unlucky to get caught up in the middle of the whole armateur/ professional debate, but he nonetheless had an incredible career.
You might think all this would put him at number one on the list, but for us, the increased level of professionalism and competitiveness in the game today just swung things towards the modern big three.
5. Pete Sampras
Before Roger Federer came along, “Pistol” Pete Sampras’ Grand Slam record looked like it would be almost impossible to beat.
With 14 Grand Slam titles, and 7 at Wimbledon, Sampras cemented himself as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, even if Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal have all passed his mark of 14 titles.
Armed with what surely must be one of the greatest serves of all time, the American was a master of the big points, securing an incredible career.
He walked out at the top after beating long-time rival Andre Agassi in the final of the 2002 US Open.
6. Bjorn Borg
If there was anyone who could claim to have played with the beauty and style of Roger Federer, then it’s Bjorn Borg.
Despite retiring at the age of 26, the Swede won an impressive 11 Grand Slam titles, which surely could have been so many more had he continued for longer.
Perhaps most famous for his iconic rivalry with John McEnroe, Borg was a pioneer of the baseline game, and like so many people on this list had a real influence on how the game is played today.
One of the most noticeable features in Borg’s stats was his ability to play on all surfaces, winning 6 French Open’s and 5 Wimbledon’s.
Very, very few people have been able to achieve this, and this is why Bjorn Borg surely features as one of the best tennis players of all time.
7. Ivan Lendl
While Borg might have been known for the beauty of his style of play, most people wouldn’t say the same about Lendl.
However, it’s not about how you look, it’s about how you perform on the court, and that’s certainly something Ivan Lendl knew how to do.
Czech, Lendl took tennis by storm in the 80’s with his big serve, topspin groundstrokes, and superior fitness.
This earned him 8 Grand Slam singles titles and a record stint at the top of the world rankings.
Of course, he has gone on to do great things as a coach as well, most notably with a man who almost made this list, Andy Murray.
8. Andre Agassi
This is where things begin to get really hard because you start to think about the great players who aren’t going to make your list.
However, Andre Agassi isn’t one of them, and he thoroughly deserves his place as one of the best tennis players of all time.
We found it was very close between spots 8,9, and 10 on this list, but we’ve gone with Agassi at 8 because he managed to do the career Grand Slam.
It’s easy to underestimate how hard it is to win on such different surfaces as clay and grass, and it’s something few players have achieved.
Husband to Steffi Graf, a shoo-in for one of the top spots in the best female tennis players of all time, Agassi comes in at number 8 on the tennisbros.com’s list.
9. Jimmy Connors
Connors’ career spanned an incredible 24 years and saw him win 147 career titles including 8 Grand Slam titles.
If we were ranking this list on tournament victories alone, then Connors would be above even the great Federer.
The American was an all-action player who had some incredible rivalries throughout his time, and he’s rightfully known as one of the best male tennis players there’s been.
10. John McEnroe
You couldn’t make this list and leave bad boy John McEnroe off it.
With 105 titles and 7 Grand Slam triumphs, McEnroe’s stats were extremely impressive as he thrived in one of tennis’ greatest eras.
His larger than life personality has also done huge amounts to boost the profile of tennis over the years, and he’s now a beloved TV commentator.
The man who ended Borg’s run at Wimbledon, and was part of the greatest tiebreak in tennis history (perhaps), John McEnroe rounds out our list of the best tennis players of all time.
Top 10 Female Tennis Players of All Time
It was a struggle to choose our top 10 male players of all time, and it was no easier choosing our top 10 female tennis players of all time! Here’s what we went with.
1. Serena Williams
Arguably the all-time GOAT, Serena Williams currently holds 23 grand slam titles, second only to the great Margaret Court. Serena has shone both on the singles and doubles court, winning 14 grand slam doubles titles (all of which were alongside her sister Venus).
Serena’s longevity in the sport is what many argue to be her most impressive feat.
With her career spanning 4 decades and balancing winning grand slams whilst being a mother.
She is an unbelievable player that will go down as one of the greatest in history, her intensity and will to win is unrivaled and inspires a generation of players (particularly girls) to take up the sport.
She is also famed for her powerful groundstrokes and serve (here’s an analysis of her serve), which is one of the most technically sound shots in all of tennis. She has won 72 career titles so far including 4 Olympic gold medals and leads the way as the highest-earning female tennis player.
Surely the greatest tennis player of all time?
2. Steffi Graff
Steffi Graff has got to be in the conversation as one of the best tennis players of all time. Her 22 grand slam titles put her right up there with the likes of Serena Williams and Margaret Court.
She holds the record for the longest time spent as world number 1 throughout her career at 377 weeks and was one of the most versatile players the game has ever seen.
Steffi dominated on all surfaces, winning all 4 grand slams at least 4 times and a calendar golden slam in 1988. Her fierce forehand and impeccable footwork set her a cut above her rivals and she still serves as an inspiration to many young and aspiring tennis players today.
3. Chris Evert
Chris Evert has become a prominent tennis pundit and commentator in recent years, but it can be easy to forget just what an unbelievable tennis player she was!
Her rivalries with Martina Navratilova and Virginia Wade were legendary.
She won a total of 18 grand slams throughout her career and won at least one major for 13 straight years! Her counterpunching style is commonplace in the modern game, but back in the 70s and 80s it was the serve and volley era.
She paved the way for the modern game style of consistency and relying on fitness to win matches rather than out and out skill. She also won exactly 90% of her singles matches across her career, which is a very impressive stat and earns her a spot on our list of the best tennis players of all time.
4. Margaret Court
Widely regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, Margaret Court holds an unbelievable 24 singles grand slam titles, the most in history.
The Aussie also won 19 women’s doubles grand slams and 21 mixed doubles slams
She’s one of only 3 tennis players in history to win the grand slam boxed set, which is achieved by winning every version (singles, doubles and mixed doubles) of each of the 4 grand slams.
The records go on and on for Court and with her height and reach advantages it is clear to see why. She brought a new, athletic dimension to the game of tennis and her great ability to move around the court for her height, combined with her aggressive game style made her a formidable force.
5. Venus Williams
Older sister of the great Serena Williams, Venus is also one of the best tennis players of all time!
Winner of 7 singles grand slams and 14 doubles grand slams with Serena, she was one of the first to put so much emphasis on power and physicality in the modern game.
She also has one of the most technically perfect service motions out there, so it is no wonder she still holds the record for the most grand slam appearances with 90!
6. Martina Navratilova
Martina was one of the most innovative and successful tennis players of all time. Winner of 18 grand slam titles, she used her lefty game style to great effect and wore down her opponents with relentless pressure up at the net.
Her volleying skills were highly honed thanks to her proficiency on the doubles court.
She actually won more grand slams than on the singles court! In total Navratilova won 59 grand slams, with 31 of those coming in women’s doubles and 10 being won in mixed doubles.
She was also ranked world number 1 for 332 weeks, second only to Stefi Graff.
6. Billie Jean King
Famous for her impact in tennis both on and off the court, Billie Jean King was a formidable force on the court that was able to scramble around the court and hit hard when she got to the ball. At just over 5”4 tall she remains the shortest player ever to win a grand slam, and she ended up winning 39 of them in total!
She is a very vocal advocate for gender equality in sport and was a pioneer of social justice in tennis. She founded the WTA and has been an influential figure in the world of tennis well past her professional career ended in 1990. Even before this, she was certainly one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
7. Monica Seles
Often hailed as one of the most natural talents in all of tennis, Monica Seles was one of the best players to pick up a racket.
Winner of 9 grand slam singles titles, she still remains the youngest winner of a major ever at age 16.
She won the vast majority of her grand slams as a teenager and ended the year as world number 1 twice. She was sadly the victim of an on-court attack which definitely hampered her career, but she remains one of the most prestigious talents ever to grace the game of tennis!
8. Martina Hingis
One of the most personable characters in all of tennis, Martina Hingis spent 209 weeks at number 1 in the world but was a more successful doubles player than singles. She won 5 singles grand slam titles, 13 doubles and 7 mixed doubles so she definitely has some good hands!
She even managed to win a calendar grand slam in women’s doubles in 1998 so clearly knew how to dominate on the doubles court. She was very successful in her early career and had a crafty game that relied on outsmarting her opponents rather than blasting them off the court.
Her fitness, finesse and court awareness were some of the best we’ve ever seen, so it’s no surprise she’s considered one of the best tennis players of all time.
9. Maria Sharapova
Often considered the most steely competitor in all of tennis, Maria Sharapova can definitely be considered one of the greats of the game. Her height and reach defined her game, as she is one of the purest ball strikers ever.
She picked up 5 grand slam titles in her career and had an intense rivalry with Serena Williams.
She won Wimbledon aged just 17 and was a marketer’s dream throughout her career, until she was banned for using an illegal substance in 2016 and fell out of favor with a lot of her sponsors.
However, she remains one of the best players of the modern era and is a worthy member of our list!
10. Justine Henin
Justine Henin was the owner of one of the most beautiful tennis shots of all time. Her single-handed backhand is famed, and a long with a silky smooth game, it took her to numerous grand slam titles.
Out of all the rivalries Serena Williams faced, few if any were able to stop her as often as Henin did.
Between 2004 and 2007, she won 7 grand slam titles, and spent over 100 weeks at number one. She’s a little unlucky not to be higher on the list, but it just goes to show how tight the competition is.
Who Misses Out on Our List of the Best Tennis Players of All Time?
The question of who are the best tennis players of all time is obviously very subjective, and there are some players who certainly have a strong claim to make the top ten.
There have been some fabulous players from eras gone by who didn’t quite make the list including Ken Rosewall (oldest ever grand slam winner), Henri Cochet, and Rene Lacoste, and equally some modern players such as Andy Murray who if they didn’t play in the era they do would have won bucket load of Grand Slams.
We’re pretty happy with our picks though.
The question is, do you agree?
Let us know in the comments below!
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