Tennis: a product of 12th-century monks and modified by Europeans (and then by Americans) into the sport we know and love today. This game combines extreme athleticism with precision, dedication, and commitment. In the following list, we have compiled data and statistics on the top ten greatest tennis players of all time. They're all Grand Slam title holders, incredible athletes, and earners of immense amounts of tournament prize money. Who do you think deserves the title of true greatest tennis player of all time?

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

1. Important Professional Tennis Terms

  • Grand Slam: Four annual tennis tournaments are classified as “Grand Slams” due to their popularity, earnings potential, and media attention. They are the Australian Open, the U.S. Open, the French Open (Roland Garros), and Wimbledon. These games are also known as the Majors.
  • ATP: Association of Tennis Professionals, also known as ATP World Tour, is an association that organizes men’s tennis tours and ranks players.
  • WTP: Women’s Tennis Professionals is an association that organizes women’s tennis tours and ranks players.
  • Open Era: This refers to the time in tennis history (from 1968 to the present) when professionals have been invited to participate in major tournaments. Pre-1968, many aspiring tennis players remained at the amateur level in order to play in Grand Slam championships.

2. What Makes a Tennis Player the Best?

man playing tennis

Answers vary by the individual, but generally speaking, exemplary tennis players must exhibit stamina, precision, power, persistence, and most importantly, passion. Every player on this list of greatest tennis players of all time held their own in each of these categories (to varying degrees), and a player cannot expect to make it to the top of his or her field without them. 

3. When and Where Are the Most Important Tennis Tournaments?

  • The Australian Open is held in January in Melbourne, Australia. The 2018 Men’s Singles winner was Roger Federer, and the 2018 Women’s Singles winner was Caroline Wozniacki.
  • The U.S. Open is held in late summer in New York, USA. The 2017 Men’s Singles winner was Rafael Nadal, and the Women’s Singles winner was Sloane Stephens.
  • The French Open, also known as Roland Garros, is held in early summer in Paris, France. The 2018 Men’s Singles winner was Rafael Nadal, and the 2018 Women’s Singles winner was Simona Halep.
  • Wimbledon is held in mid-summer in London, England. The 2018 Men’s Singles winner was Novak Djokovic, and the 2018 Women’s Singles winner was Angelique Kerber.
  • The Davis Cup is an international tennis tournament for men in which players represent their home countries in a 16-team four-week tournament. France won the 2017 tournament.
  • The Fed Cup is an international tennis tournament for women in which players represent their home countries in a 16-team tournament. USA won the 2017 tournament.
  • The Indian Wells Tennis Masters (BNP Paridas Open) is held in March in California. The 2018 Women’s Singles winner was Naomi Osaka, and the 2018 Men’s Singles winner was Juan Martin del Potro.

4. What Are the Differences Between Men’s Tennis Matches and Women’s Tennis Matches?

In short, the only difference is that men’s matches are played between men and women’s matches are played between women. The court size, tennis ball size, type of racquet, and types/styles of hits and serves remain the same. Traditionally, men have been thought to have had a stronger, more powerful, and more important serves. However, players like Serena Williams have shown that women’s serves can be just as powerful and game-changing. Overall, each game is differentiated by its player and his or her individual tennis style more than the gender of the players.

5. What Types of Courts Are Tennis Matches Played on?

Of the Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon is played on a grass court, the French Open is played on a clay court, and the Australian Open and the U.S. Open are played on clay courts. The type of court can drastically change the play of the game, so the ability of one player to win multiple tournaments (especially in one year as many of our greatest tennis players of all time have done) is incredibly impressive.

HOW WE Ranked the Players

The following tennis players were selected for this list and analyzed based on their career history, statistics, and overall earnings. We reviewed a variety of different legitimate websites to compile our player histories, statistics, and earnings.

The Players We Listed

  • Roger Federer
  • Rafael Nadal
  • Pete Sampras
  • Novak Djokovic
  • Bjorn Borg
  • Ivan Lendl
  • Jimmy Connors
  • John McEnroe
  • Serena Williams
  • Steffi Graf

Roger Federer

Roger Federer can easily be considered one of the top tennis players of all time. Born in Switzerland in 1981, this 37-year-old player became a professional player in 1998 and is still winning titles today (like Wimbledon in 2017). Between 2004-2008, he spent 237 weeks ranked as the top tennis player in the world - an unheard of and record-breaking spree. Although he is consistently older than his opponents, his quality of game has not decreased with age.

History

  • 1998 - Turned pro
  • 2004 - Won three of four Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, U.S. Open, Wimbledon)
  • 2002-2016 - Ranked in the Men’s Tennis Top Ten
  • 2017 - Won Australian Open and Wimbledon; re-entered the Men’s Tennis Top Ten

Career Stats

  • 98 career titles
  • 20 Grand Slam Singles (6 Australian, 1 French, 5 US Open, 8 Wimbledon)

Earnings

So far in his career, Federer has reportedly earned  $116,974,122.

RAFAEL NADAL

Although this Spanish tennis player is known as the “King of Clay” has been recently plagued by injuries, he is still active in the game. Winning the French Open title in 2018 (his 11th) proved that he is clearly not letting his age (32) or his injuries get the best of him or his status as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

History

  • 2001 - Turned pro
  • 2008 - Gold medalist at the Beijing Olympics
  • 2010 - Achieved a Career Grand Slam

Career Stats

  • 79 career titles
  • 17 Grand Slam Singles titles (1 Australian, 11 French, 3 U.S. Open, 2 Wimbledon)
  • 2008 Olympic Gold Medal

Earnings

So far in his career, Nadar has reportedly earned $100,564,598.

PETE SAMPRAS

When he retired in 2002, Sampras was at the top of his game. He was ranked the top player in men’s tennis for six consecutive years, and his 14 Grand Slam titles held the record for a time. He won 3 out of 4 Grand Slam titles (all but the French Open) over the course of his tennis career, and while he was clearly a better grass and hard court player, his award-winning lifetime achievements make him one of the greatest tennis players of all time.


History

  • 1988 - Turned pro
  • 1989-2002 - Rivalry with Andre Agassi
  • 2002 - Retired
  • 2007 - Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame

Career Stats

  • 64 career titles
  • 14 Grand Slam Singles (2 Australian Open, 7 Wimbledon, 5 U.S. Open)

Earnings

Pete Sampras reportedly earned $43,280,489.

NOVAK DJOKOVIC

This still-active player has a lot of potential left in him. With 13 Grand Slam single titles and a career Grand Slam completed with his 2016 French Open win (one of only eight men in history to secure a career Grand Slam), he certainly sits towards the top of the list. The Serbia native took home the 2018 Men’s Singles Wimbledon title, so although he may be nearing the end of his tennis career, he is still playing for keeps.

History

  • 2003 - Turned pro
  • 2016 - Completed career Grand Slam with French Open win
  • 2018 - Won Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon (for the 4th time)

Career Stats

  • 69 career titles
  • 13 Grand Slam singles (6 Australian, 4 Wimbledon, 2 U.S. Open, 1 French Open)

Earnings

So far in his career, Djokovic has reportedly earned $114,136,035.

BJORN BORG

Although Swedish Borg’s career was only 10 years long (1973-1983), he amassed 101 titles during that time. In the years 1976-1980, Borg won the Wimbledon Men’s Singles title every single year. During that time, he was also the first modern player to rack up 10 Grand Slam singles wins. Despite his short career, he played some incredible tennis and earned a spot as one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

History

  • 1973 - Turned pro
  • 1976-1980 - 5 consecutive Wimbledon wins
  • 1983 - Retired
  • 1987 - Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame

Career Stats

  • 101 career titles
  • 11 Grand Slam singles (6 French Open, 5 Wimbledon)

Earnings

Bjorn Borg reportedly earned $3,655,751.

IVAN LENDL

For four years, Lendl was the top-ranked men’s tennis player in the world. The Czech player was known for his stroke style, his quiet competitiveness, and his extreme conditioning that made him masterful on the court.

History

  • 1978 - Turned pro
  • 1980s - 270 weeks at number one
  • 1994 - Retired
  • 2001 - Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame

Career Stats

  • 144 career titles
  • 8 Grand Slam singles titles (2 Australian Open, 3 French Open, 3 U.S. Open)

Earnings

Ivan Lendl reportedly earned $21,262,417.

JIMMY CONNORS

This American greatest tennis player of all time had a fantastic career, especially in the 1970s. During 1974 alone, he won 99 of 105 matches as well as three Grand Slam tournaments. With 109 titles, he is still the record holder for ATP tour titles. This wouldn't be a complete "Greatest Tennis Players of All Time" without him.

History

  • 1972 - Turned pro
  • 1974 - Three Grand Slam titles (Australian Open, U.S. Open, Wimbledon)
  • 1996 - Retired
  • 1998 - Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame

Career Stats

  • 147 career titles
  • 8 Grand Slam singles titles (1 Australian Open, 2 Wimbledon, 5 U.S. Open)

Earnings

Jimmy Connors reportedly earned $8,641,040.

JOHN MCENROE

Although McEnroe may be better known for his attitude and occasionally boisterous behavior than for his game, he is unquestionably one of the greatest tennis players of all time. His incredible skill and creativity in the game make this American player one of the finest.

History

  • 1978 - Turned pro
  • 1978-1992 - 12 Davis Cup titles
  • 1992 - Retired
  • 1999 - Inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame

Career Stats

  • 105 career titles
  • 7 Grand Slam singles titles (3 Wimbledon, 4 U.S. Open)

Earnings

John McEnroe reportedly earned $12,547,797.

SERENA WILLIAMS

Serena Williams is a star and unquestionably one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Her all-powerful serves began her domination, but her determination keeps the wins coming. Since her entry onto the court in 1995, she currently holds an incredible 795-135 win-loss record, and at 36 she is still going strong. Over the course of her Grand Slam career thus far, she has beaten 12 different players who, at the time of their Grand Slam matches, were ranked number 1. She is one of only two women to have ever won each major more than three times and has won a total of four Olympic gold medals.

History

  • 1995 - Turned pro
  • 2002-2017 - Ranked number 1 women’s singles tennis player
  • 2002, 2003, 2016 - Held all four women’s singles Grand Slam titles at once

Career Stats

  • 23 Grand Slam singles titles
  • 72 singles titles
  • 4 Olympic gold medals

Earnings

So far in her career, Williams has reportedly earned $86,383,301.

STEFFI GRAF

This phenomenal female tennis player spent 377 consecutive weeks ranked number 1. She holds 22 Grand Slam singles titles, and her playing consistency isn’t dependent on the type of court. The German player dominated on all types of tennis courts; winning tournaments on grass, clay, and hard court surfaces, often in just one season. Over the course of her career, Graf won 107 singles titles and was ranked #3 at the time of her retirement in 1999. She is clearly one of the greatest tennis players of all time.

History

  • 1982 - Turned pro
  • 1988 - Completed a career Grand Slam in one year (won all four singles titles)
  • 1999 - Retired

Career Stats

  • 22 Grand Slam singles titles
  • 107 career singles titles
  • 377 weeks at number one

Earnings

Steffi Graf reportedly earned $21,895,277.

THE VERDICT

Each of the players reviewed on this list is incredible and could arguably be labeled the best tennis player of all time in their own right. Numerically, Roger Federer has won the most Men’s Single Grand Slam titles, while Serena Williams technically outpaces him with 23 Grand Slam Singles wins to his 20. Regardless of personal preferences and favorites, all of these top ten best tennis players of all time have revolutionized the game we all know and love. Who is your own personal greatest tennis player of all time?

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