Tennis was always seen as the “sport of gentlemen.” This is mostly because of the outfits that were worn in the first few decades of the sport. Along with basketball, American football, soccer, and baseball, tennis is one of the most popular sports worldwide.
Thus, it’s no surprise that there have been great players from several different nations. We have prepared a list of the best tennis players that have ever competed with that in mind. Let’s take a look.
33. John Newcombe
For some, this may be a surprise, but this former Australian tennis player is certainly one of the most successful competitors of all time. Known for his one-handed backhand, John was one of the rare players who managed to be ranked world number 1 in both singles and doubles.
Not only that, but he won 17 Grand Slam titles in doubles. Five were at the Australian Open, three at Roland Garros, six at Wimbledon, and three at the US Open. Additionally, he managed to win 7 singles Grand Slam titles.
While he wasn’t able to win any Olympic medals, he represented Australia in several Davis Cups, leading his team to five titles throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
32. Arthur Ashe
There are many things that Arthur Ashe is known for. He was the first male black player to be selected for the US Davis Cup team and the first black player to win three titles in different Grand Slams. This is why many consider him to be among the most successful players ever.
Much like Newcombe, he was good at representing his national team and won four Davis Cups. Additionally, he won Wimbledon, the US Open, and the Australian Open in singles and an Australian Open and French Open in doubles.
Although Arthur Ashe never competed in the Olympic Games, many believe that he would have probably won some medals if he had participated in the Olympics. At least the main court at the US Open is named after him, though.
31. Boris Becker
While he was never able to win a Grand Slam or win the French Open finals, Boris Becker is widely considered the best German tennis play ever. He was ranked number 1 in the world in singles, winning six Grand Slam titles and various other tournaments.
Apart from two Australian Open titles, three Wimbledon titles, and one US Open title, Boris was victorious in three Tour Finals and led Germany to two Davis Cup titles. His favorite surface was grass due to his iconic serve and volley game style.
This is the first player of those we have listed so far with an Olympic medal to his name. He won gold in doubles at the Olympics in 1992.
30. Roy Emerson
With an impressive win percentage of 77.7%, it is no surprise that Roy is considered to be one of the best tennis players ever. He stands out most for his 28 major titles (singles and doubles combined), which no one was able to beat so far.
Roy Emerson won 12 Grand Slam titles in singles and 16 Grand Slam titles in doubles. Not only that, but he is the only man who has won all the Grand Slams in both categories.
While he didn’t compete in the Olympic Games, he still managed to represent Australia’s national team quite impressively. He won eight Davis Cup titles in the 1960s and 1970s.
29. Ken Rosewall
As a tennis player who enjoyed a particularly long career, Ken is known for his impressive 18 Grand Slam titles. Shockingly, though, he appeared in 4 Wimbledon singles finals but was never able to win the title.
Much like the aforementioned players, Ken was ranked number 1 in the world for some time and was mostly known for a spectacular serve/volley game, as well as a powerful one-handed backhand.
He never competed in the Olympic Games but was able to represent Australia in a very successful way by helping the team win four Grand Slam titles throughout the 1950s.
28. Jimmy Connors
As the first man ranked World No. 1 for more than 150 consecutive weeks, Jimmy is considered one of the most accomplished tennis players in the Open Era. His career total at this ranking is 268 weeks.
It is impressive how certain players from this period were dominant on a specific surface. Jimmy Connors was triumphant once at the Australian Open, twice at Wimbledon, and five times at the US Open. Additionally, he was able to win Wimbledon and the US Open in doubles.
No, he doesn’t have any Olympic medals to his name, but he is certainly very successful overall. He was also able to lead the United States to a Davis Cup victory back in 1981.
27. Andre Agassi
Whether you watched him play live or have only seen highlights, one thing is certain – as a tennis fan, you will know Andre Agassi. With an impressive win percentage of 76% and eight singles Grand Slam titles to his name, it’s no surprise he is on this list.
He was one of the first players in the Open Era to win a career Grand Slam with two titles at the Australian Open, one at the French Open, one at Wimbledon, and four at the US Open. He was also able to win the Davis Cup three times during his career.
Absolutely – in fact, he crowned his career back in 1996 when he was victorious at the Olympic Games held in Atlanta (gold medal).
26. John McEnroe
Although he is considered to be one of the most controversial tennis players ever, no one can deny that John was impressive on the court. He is one of the rare competitors that were able to be effective with his volley game both on fast and slow surfaces.
While he may not have been able to win a career in Grand Slam, he still had an impressive career with 77 titles in total, including three at Wimbledon and four at the US Open. He was also able to win the men’s doubles at Wimbledon (5 times) and at the US Open (4 times).
No, John wasn’t able to win at the Olympic Games, but he was successful in playing for the United States, as the team was able to win five Davis Cup titles during his professional career.
25. Ivan Lendl
He’s the former coach of Andy Murray, but Lendl was also a spectacular player with 94 titles to his name. He had two wins at the Australian Open, three wins at the French Open, and three wins at the US Open. He was a versatile player on any surface.
Not only that but with 270 weeks at World No. 1, he held this record for quite some time and was among the first men in the Open Era to have over 200 weeks at this rank.
As a Czech player, he was the only figure to lead the national team to Davis Cup victory back in 1980, and although he didn’t win any Olympic medals, this still is a huge success.
24. Bjorn Borg
Coming from Sweden, Bjorn Borg has one of the best winning percentages at 82.4%. Not only that, but he was the first tennis player with 11 Grand Slam titles to his name.
It is quite a shame that he wasn’t able to be victorious at the Australian Open or the US Open, but he was quite impressive at the other two majors tournaments. This is the main reason he won five consecutive Wimbledon titles and six Roland Garro’s cups.
No, he didn’t compete at any Olympic Games during his professional tennis career. However, he does have a medal to his name from representing his country at the Davis Cup back in 1975.
23. Pete Sampras
Pete may not be the most victorious player of all time regarding singles titles won (64), but he is still considered by some to be the GOAT. As someone who was ranked World No. 1 for 286 weeks in total, Pete is one player that we will all remember.
With a professional career that lasted for 14 years, Pete was able to be victorious in many different Grand Slam tournaments, including seven wins at Wimbledon, five at the US Open, and two at the Australian Open.
He never won gold at the Olympics. Still, he did help his national team win two Davis Cups, one in 1992 and the other in 1995.
22. Rod Laver
As you can conclude by this list, Australia had some impressive players throughout the 1960s and 1970s. After Roy Emerson, Rod Laver was dominant from 1964 to 1970.
While ATP accepts only 78 of his 200 titles, it is safe to say that Rod Laver was incredibly successful both in the Open Era and before it. In fact, he and Roy Emerson are the only two players who were able to win a Grand Slam twice.
No, Rod Laver didn’t make many appearances in the Olympic Games (most of his professional career was pre-Open-Era). Still, he has five Davis Cup titles to his name.
21. Rafael Nadal
We can say with confidence that the Spaniard is the most successful clay tennis player ever. Nadal was able to end five different years ranked World No. 1 and has maintained this rank for 209 weeks in total.
With 20 Grand Slam titles to his name, he is tied with Roger Federer. He was able to win the Australian Open once, Wimbledon twice, the US Open four times, and an impressive 13 French Open titles.
Nadal was successful in this sphere, as well. He was a part of the Spanish national team for five Davis Cup teams. He was able to bring home the Olympic gold medal in Beijing in 2008 (singles) and in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 (doubles).
20. Novak Djokovic
Some would argue that Novak Djokovic is the best player of all time, and he certainly has the potential to prove that. The youngest of the fantastic three (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic), the Serb has already maintained the World No. 1 rank for 307 weeks total.
He was also able to achieve a career Grand Slam with 8 wins at the Australian Open, five wins at Wimbledon, three wins at the US Open, and one win at the French Open.
Apart from the bronze medal in Beijing in 2008, he was also a part of the Serbian national team back in 2010 when they won the Davis Cup.
19. Roger Federer
With a record 237 consecutive weeks and 310 weeks, one would have to agree that Federer is probably the most successful player ever.
He has several accomplishments, including seven Australian Open titles, one French Open title, eight Wimbledon titles, and five US Open titles.
Additionally, he was able to acquire two Olympic medals – a gold in doubles (Beijing 2008) and a silver in singles (London 2012). Also, he led his team to a Davis Cup victory in 2014.
18. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is considered one of the greatest and strongest women to ever play sports. There have always been heated arguments about who is better among Serena Williams and Steffi Graf; however, one thing is for sure that Serena Williams has certainly made a mark in the tennis world.
Talking about Serena’s triumphs, the 39-year-old tennis star has won a total of 23 Grand Slam Singles titles – just one title short of Margaret Court’s 24 titles.
With 73 career titles, 842 career wins, and 4 Olympic Golds, it is pretty tough to top what Serena has done throughout her career.
17. Venus Williams
The other half of the most dominant siblings force in tennis, Venus Williams, was a phenom from a very young age. If it were not for her sister, Venus would doubtlessly have had won more Grand Slams.
The sister duo has gone head-to-head in nine Grand Slam finals, in which Serena won seven times.
Despite having a career fraught with injuries, Venus Williams has 7 Grand Slams, 46 titles, and 4 Olympic Golds in her name. Wimbledon has been Venus’s favorite court as 5 of her 7 Slams came at Wimbledon only.
16. Reginald Doherty
Great Britain’s Reginald Doherty is the Tennis Hall of Famers class of 1980. Born in the spiritual home of tennis, Wimbledon, Reginald Doherty steered towards the sport at an early age.
The massively talented British tennis star won his first Wimbledon singles titles in 1897 and defended the title for the next three years. Reginald and brother Laurence Doherty collected 8 men’s doubles titles between 1897 and 1905.
The powerful sibling duo also represented their country in the Davis Cup and lifted the trophy on four occasions (1903, 1904, 1905, and 1906.) Reginald won Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles in the 1900 Olympics and earned third place in the Men’s Singles in the same tournament.
15. Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf was a player with consistency which she displayed throughout her 17-year long career. The German tennis champion was at number one position for an astounding 377 weeks (186 consecutive weeks), which is still a record for any male or female player.
In 1988, Graff became the first-ever player to achieve the calendar year Golden Slam that involved winning the Grand Slams plus an Olympic Gold. The same year, Steffi also became the only third woman to complete the Grand Slam.
Other than her Golden Slam, Steffi Graf has 7 Wimbledon victories, 6 Roland Garros triumphs, 5 US Opens, 4 Australian Opens, and 5 WTA Tour Championships to her name.
14. Margaret Court
With a record 24 Grand Slams, 92 titles, and over 91% win rate, Margaret Court is undoubtedly one of the best tennis players that the world has ever seen. Nicknamed “the Aussie Amazon,” Margaret Court won her first Grand Slam in 1970, making her the first woman in history to mark the amazing achievement.
Margaret Court was also the first woman in the Open Era to win the Singles Grand Slam in 1970. Margaret Court has 192 career titles to her name, including 11 Australian, 5 French, 3 Wimbledon, and 5 US Open titles.
Born in 1942, Margaret Court turned pro at the early age of 18 and was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1979.
13. Martina Hingis
Swiss tennis star Martina Hingis is one of those players whose career was shortened due to injuries. However, with 5 Grand Slam titles to her name and 209 weeks on the top rank, Martina Hingis is surely one of the strongest tennis players.
Hingis has almost done it all in the game, with her accomplishments being surpassed by only a few selected players.
13 Grand Slam Doubles titles, 7 Mixed Doubles titles, 2 Tour Finals titles, 45 career titles, and an Olympic Silver in 2016, Martina Hingis left quite a mark in tennis history. Had she remained healthy, Martina Hingis certainly would have many more Grand Slam titles to her name.
12. Maria Sharapova
Russian tennis professional Maria Sharapova needs no introduction to the sports industry. However, some people feel that she is not one of the greatest players of the game, despite having a series of records and being one of the most marketable athletes.
Sharapova’s dominant style of play helped her win 5 Grand Slams, 36 WTA titles, and silver at the 2012 London Olympic.
Also, she has had a win-loss record of 645-171 throughout her career. Maria Sharapova is also noted as one of the most beautiful, stylish, and successful athletes of all time off the court.
11. Martina Navratilova
With a career spanning over three decades and a total of 354 titles across all three categories, Martina Navratilova is without a doubt among the greatest athletes in history. Known for her extreme fitness, Martina dominated women’s tennis from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s.
She secured 9 Wimbledon singles championships, 1442 wins, 167 titles, a 74-match win streak, playing in 23 consecutive finals, 59 total titles at the Slams.
Additionally, Martina would also be remembered as one of the greatest doubles players ever, thanks to her 31 Grand Slam Doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles.
10. Don Budge
The American tennis legend will always be known for being the first-ever player to win all Grand Slam tournaments in a single year. Armed with a fierce backhand, Don Budge made a major impact in the tennis world.
The former number 1 player has 43 career titles, 67.1 win percentage, and is often considered the complete player of tennis.
The redhead was at the peak of his career between 1937 and 1938, where Don Budge won all three Wimbledon – singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. In fact, in 1938, Don Budge conquered Wimbledon without losing a single set – the first-ever person to sweep the field in such a manner.
9. Billie Jean King
The founder of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), Billie Jean King, was not only one of the greatest tennis players but also a feminist icon of the 20th century. Billie Jean King’s hard-charging aggressive style of play earned her 129 career titles, including 1 Australian, 1 Roland Garros, 6 Wimbledon, and 4 US Open.
An influencer player, Billie Jean King, dominated the women’s tennis world in the 1960s and 70s.
On top of her domination in women’s tennis, she will also be recognized for defeating Bobby Riggs in the 1973 Battle of Sexes. If it were not for Billie Jean King, women’s tennis would have been at least two decades behind where we see it today.
8. Bill Tilden
Bill Tilden was a pioneer in tennis and the first American to ever win the Wimbledon. During this period, Big Bill won six straight US National Champions and two Wimbledon. He also decorated his name by winning 13 straight Davis Cup and leading the USA to seven consecutive titles: a Davis Cup record.
Overall, Bill Tilden managed to win 138 career titles, which includes 10 Grand Slam titles, 9 Men’s Doubles titles, and 5 Mixed Doubles titles.
Apart from his career titles, Bill Tilden was named the greatest tennis player of the first half of the 20th century in a 1950 poll and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1959.
7. Monica Seles
Next on the list is Monica Seles, who has 53 career titles to her name, including 9 Grand Slam Singles titles – 4 Australian, 3 French, and 2 US Open. Her win at the 1990 French Open made her the youngest Grand Slam singles winner in the Open Era –the record was broken seven years later by Marina Hingis.
The Yugoslav phenom was forced to retire from the sport for two years when a fan of her competitor, Steffi Graf, stabbed her in the middle of a game in Hamburg, Germany.
After the incident, Monica Seles was able to win just one singles title in the Australian Open in 1996.
6. Chris Evert
The undisputed female star of the 1970s, Chris Evert, revolutionized the way tennis was played in the 1970s. With a win percentage of a staggering 89.97% of total match played, Evert dominated women’s tennis from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.
The Hall of Fame of 1995 still holds the record for reaching the most Gland Slam finals with 34, out of which Evert managed to win 18 of them. The late 1970s saw a sheer on-court rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
The “Cinderella in Sneakers” at the peak of her career ensured her place in 34 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals. She ended her career with 157 career titles, including 18 Grand Slams Singles titles and 32 Doubles Championship titles.
5. Stan Wawrinka
In a tough era with players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer, it would be tough to win 3 Grand Slam titles. But, the Swiss star pulled it off and managed to win three Grand Slam Singles.
Consistent for over 15 years, Stan has been one of the most threatening players on tour and one of few players who can beat the current big 3. Altogether, Wawrinka has won 16 ATP Singles titles, including three Grand Slams each on Australian Open, French Open, and US Open.
Despite his explosive game and powerful one-handed backhand, Wawrinka has always been in the shadow of his compatriot Roger Federer.
4. Jim Courier
The former No. 1 Jim Courier spends an amazing 58 weeks at the top during the 1992-1993 season. Jim was one of the best players to ever play on the hardcourt, and America had great hopes from him.
Only seven players have managed to reach major singles finals at Melbourne, Paris, London, and New York, and Jim Courier is one of the members of that very elite group.
Jim Courier retired from tennis with four Grand Slams – 2 Roland Garros, 2 Australian Open titles, and two Davis Cup triumphs.
3. Guillermo Vilas
Nicknamed the Young Bull of Pampas, Argentine star Guillermo Vilas was a dominant player in the 70s and 80s. Guillermo Vilas was the first South American to ever win a Grand Slam title, and by his retirement, the tennis superstar managed to collect four Grand Slam titles.
1977 was probably Vilas’ year, where he won 17 different events, including two Grand Slams. The same year, he recorded a 46 win match streak and held the record for most titles won in a single season, with 16 ATP singles titles.
2. Andy Murray
Just like Stan Wawrinka, Andy Murray also was overshadowed by the three biggies during his career. If it weren’t for the triple threat of Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer, Murray would surely have more Grand Slam titles to his name.
Still, the Scottish talent has three Grand Slams under his belt and was ranked No. 1 for half a year during the 2016-2017 season. Despite competing against the all-time greats, Andy Murray’s list of records is also pretty remarkable and impressive.
These include most Olympic Singles Gold Medals – 2, most runner-up finishes at Australian Open – 5. Furthermore, Murray is the only player to win a Grand Slam, a Masters 1000, an Olympic Gold, and the year-end championships in the same year.
Stefan Edberg, one of the greats of the 80s and 90s, is one of those few tennis stars who could claim the top position in singles and doubles at the same time. The big Swede won every Grand Slam title twice, except the French Open, which he lost to Michael Chang.
Edberg is to date, the only player to win all 4 Junior Grand Slams in one calendar year. The Swedish star had a fierce rivalry with Boris Becker as they met at Wimbledon three consecutive years – Edberg claimed the title two times. Also, Edberg was decorated with two doubles crowns with fellow Swede tennis titan Anders Jarryd.
At the end of the day, declaring the greatest player of all time would be quite presumptuous.
That is why we conclude that we should all be happy that these and many other great names allowed us to enjoy tennis in its most beautiful form.