10+ Best Tennis Players of All Time | Men & Women + Stats

10+ Best Tennis Players of All Time

Men & Women + Stats

By Jon Crim
TennisCompanion

On the surface, ranking the best male and female tennis players of all time might appear like an easy task. However, dig a little deeper, and it’s surprisingly nuanced, brimming with subjectivity and emotion.

Regardless, working through the data and thinking through the logic behind how one might rank players is a fun exercise.

In this article, we’ll share our selection of the greatest players of all time, but we’ll also discuss the challenges when ranking and why they’re important to keep in mind. Hopefully, the combination helps explain why we ranked players as we did while providing a jumping-off point for future debate.

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Defining Best

Before we dive into many of the nuances of ranking the best players of all time, let’s get clear on what exactly we mean by “best.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the essential meaning of “best” as:

  • better than all others in quality or value
  • most skillful, talented, or successful

By definition, the word best is subjective. Although many people would agree on the data, qualities, or attributes that make one player better than others, there’s ultimately personal opinion injected.

When there are significant gaps in achievements from one player to the next, it’s easier for people to agree on which player is the best.

However, as those achievements narrow, it’s natural for individuals to introduce their opinion on various factors that should carry more weight making it more challenging for consensus.

With that in mind, it’s natural that fans heavily debate the topic of the best male and female tennis players of all time, and our list of the best players will likely differ from others, which is part of the fun.

Ranking Challenges

A helpful place to start when considering who might make a list of the best players of all time are the challenges we face making comparisons.

Although identifying the challenges doesn’t remove subjectivity, it allows us to keep those factors in mind and ensures we weigh them accordingly when establishing a ranking.

Different Periods in History

One of the most challenging elements to establishing a list of the best players of all time is that all of the most accomplished players didn’t play tennis or compete at the same time.

It’s a crucial factor because the sport is constantly changing and evolving. From talent pools to court surfaces, gear, the physicality of the sport, advances in medicine, and even the stress and pressure players face, it’s constantly changing from one decade to the next.

Perhaps most notably, tennis was heavily divided up until the Open Era, which began in 1968. Before this year, professional tennis players who played tennis for money weren’t allowed to compete in many of the biggest tennis tournaments, including the Grand Slam events.

Instead, these tournaments only allowed amateurs to play, and these players didn’t receive prize money. It wasn’t that the professionals weren’t as talented, far from it. However, the divide makes it particularly tough to compare player accomplishments.

As a result, what one player could accomplish playing tennis in the 1950s is fundamentally different from the 2000s. It doesn’t make accomplishments from years past less impressive, relevant, or important, but it’s a factor that we should weigh when making comparisons.

Weight of Stats & Accomplishments

Another area where it’s challenging to compare players is how heavily to weigh individual stats. For example, which of the following hypothetical players is better:

ExampleTitlesGrand Slams
Player A2009
Player B7512

There’s no doubt the Grand Slam events are the most prestigious and challenging for a player to win. However, should we value player B’s three additional Grand Slam titles over player A’s 125 extra titles in total?

Furthermore, not all titles are equal. If we don’t dig deeper to understand the quality of titles, we may undervalue a player’s achievements because a win at a 1000 level is significantly more impressive than a 250.

You could even take it a step further and evaluate the perceived level of competition present at the tournaments where a player won or how convincingly they defeated their opponents during matches.

Here’s another hypothetical example to consider:

ExampleWeeks at #1Titles
Player A6020
Player B4025

Again, which player is more impressive. Do we believe player A holding the number one ranking for 20 more weeks is more valuable than player B’s five additional titles?

Regardless of your stance, the weight of specific stats or accomplishments will undoubtedly influence the ranking of players.

Length of Career & Ages

Longevity is another factor to consider. Some players have significantly longer careers than others.

For example, Björn Borg played professional tennis for roughly ten years, while Jimmy Connors played for more than double that at 24 years.

You might find a player’s ability to compete at a high level for an extended period more impressive than a shorter career, even if one player in each camp ended up with nearly the same number of titles.

Similarly, is it more impressive that a player wins a Grand Slam at the age of 16 or 35? These unique accomplishments certainly add weight to a player’s bid for consideration as one of the best players.

Each is worth considering when ranking players.

Singles and Doubles

Although singles tennis is the more popular discipline, playing doubles still carries significant weight and requires a unique skill set that many fans believe distinguishes one player from the next.

With that said, not all professional tennis players compete in doubles, or if they do, it takes a back seat to singles for a few reasons. For starters, many players compete in doubles for the extra prize money. Depending on a player’s ranking, that extra cash can be crucial.

As a result, it’s common for competitive singles players to pull back on doubles as they achieve more success because the money isn’t as crucial, and there is a desire to conserve energy, protect their health, and improve their longevity.

When evaluating the best tennis players ever, some people believe it’s necessary to consider a player’s ability to compete in doubles because it’s an essential discipline that the sport has to offer.

On the other hand, others don’t believe that while a player’s performance in doubles is interesting, it shouldn’t have a bearing on a player’s consideration for the greatest of all time. The argument is that no single player controls the outcome of a given doubles match, let alone a team’s performance throughout an entire tournament.

We don’t believe there is a right or wrong answer, but we think it’s worthy of consideration and, in some cases, can add significant weight to a player’s ranking as the best of all time.

Head-to-Head Performance

Many will argue that of the top players, head-to-head performance should carry significant weight. For example, if you’re ranking two somewhat equally successful players, then their head-to-head records is an easy way to establish who’s the better player.

In some cases, this may be true, but as we’ve discovered, it becomes somewhat nuanced and isn’t always cut and dry.

First, the age and timing of head-to-head matchups can significantly influence the eventual record between two players.

For example, if player A competes later in their career against player B, who’s younger, and most of their matches happen toward the end of player A’s career, player B arguably has a significant advantage.

Furthermore, the surface can play a huge role in a player’s success against another. If most of a player’s head-to-head matches against Rafa fall on clay, he will likely have a losing record overall against him.

Finally, how convincing of a defeat over a player throughout their head-to-head meetups might be worth considering. For example, if one player has a winning record against a player with straight-set victories is more compelling than a player who has a winning record where every match was highly competitive and could have gone either way.

Adversity or Lack Thereof

Another perhaps less visible or challenging factor to consider, especially when looking back at players in history, is a deep understanding of the adversity or difficulties a player had to overcome during their career.

For example, as black athletes, Serena and Venus Williams overcame unprecedented challenges growing up to break into tennis. One might argue these experiences give extra weight to their already impressive accomplishments.

However, adversity comes in all shapes and sizes. From nagging or debilitating injuries to bad luck or loss of loved ones at crucial moments in a player’s career, these difficulties are significant and, at the very least, are worth considering when selecting players.

Conversely, some players like Roger Federer manage to go injury-free for the better part of their careers. Does it make him a better player for staying injury-free all those years, which enabled him to miss a tournament rarely and give him more opportunities to win?

It’s up to any individual to determine how they perceive these factors when ranking the greatest players of all time.

Personalities

Although people attempt to remove personality from consideration when narrowing their list of the best tennis players, it’s often a factor, especially when considering narrowly matched players like the Big 3.

As fans, many of us have our favorite players we appreciate for their style of play, how they present themselves, their off-court demeanor, and a variety of additional criteria.

After all, if someone is coming up with their list of the best tennis players of all time, they might want to consider the whole player beyond their talents on the court.

Whether you agree with it or not as a criterion, it’s frequently woven into arguments of who’s the best.

Variety in Court Surfaces

Hard, clay, and grass are significantly different surfaces, and while some players have had more success on specific surfaces, is it more compelling if a player manages to perform well on all of them?

Nadal is perhaps one of the most interesting players to analyze regarding his performance on clay – 13 of his 20 grand slam titles are on this surface, and 62 of his total 88 titles on clay.

That’s certainly not something to diminish, but everyone is going to evaluate that lopsided performance differently.

For example, some will believe it’s more impressive for a player to dominate across various surfaces and add that to the argument for why one player is better than another.

The Australian Open

Looking back on the history of Grand Slam events, the Australian Open is a bit of an outlier. Until the 1980s, very few top players attended the tournament due to Australia’s remote location, low prize money and prestige, and schedule, which fell around the holidays.

As a result, looking back at players like Björn Borg, who has a thoroughly impressive resume, only played the tournament once in 1974 as a 17-year-old, which gave him limited opportunities to further add to his Grand Slam count of 11.

These days, the Australian Open is a staple and a guaranteed stop for every player who qualifies. Moreover, 9 of Novak Djokovic’s and 6 of Roger Federer’s Grand Slam titles came on this surface.

Of course, the point isn’t to diminish the value of any player’s success at the tournament. However, with such great emphasis placed on Grand Slams when considering the greatest players of all time, it’s worthy of reference and consideration.

The Olympics

These days, the Olympics hold quite a bit of significance related to a player’s overall success and perception. However, while tennis is now an active sport in the Summer Olympics, it wasn’t always that way.

In 1896, the inaugural Olympics took place, and tennis was an official sport. However, in 1924, the Olympics dropped tennis due to disagreements between the International Olympic Committee and International Lawn Tennis Federation.

Somewhat surprisingly, tennis didn’t make it back into the Olympics until 1988, 64 years later. As a result, many players who are considered the greatest of all time didn’t have an opportunity to compete at the Olympics, which is noteworthy when evaluating a player’s rank.

Depth of Field

Another factor that often arises when selecting the best players of all time is the depth of field or how many elite players were competing during any highly successful player’s time on tour.

For example, suppose Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic never showed up in tennis. In that case, Federer may have won significantly more titles because he gave up so many to both of these players.

For that reason, that’s why the big three are held in such high regard because they so consistently dominated the game, with very few players ever breaking through to win big titles during their time on tour.

Ranking Men vs. Women

When considering the best tennis players of all time, it’s tempting to rank male and female tennis players right alongside each other.

Although there’s certainly nothing wrong with the exercise, we’ve decided to maintain two separate lists.

It’s challenging enough to reach reasonable conclusions on the best players without mixing the ATP and WTA tour. Here are a few of the factors that present challenges when drawing comparisons.

  • Men and women don’t compete against each other in singles.
  • Grand Slam events are best of five for men and best of three for women and are usually regarded as highly significant when ranking players.
  • Some rules are different, i.e., on-court coaching is allowed on the WTA tour outside of the Grand Slam events.

To be clear, we don’t perceive one tour as better or worse than the other. They’re both remarkable and critical to the health and ecosystem of the sport as a whole.

However, we removed a lot of nuances when we broke the two out and therefore decided to rank men separately from women. Perhaps at another point, we’ll consider the group as a whole.

10 Best Male Tennis Players of All Time

After significant analysis and deep consideration of the most accomplished players in tennis, here’s our list of the ten greatest male tennis players of all time.

Although there a virtually an endless list of data points one can use to compare these players, we’ve highlighted a handful of criteria that we believe help showcase why these titans of our sport made our list.

RankPlayerCountryPlaysBirthdayTurned ProRetiredYears ProPrize MoneyGrand SlamsAustralianFrenchWimbledonUS OpenTitlesOlympicsTotal Wks at #1WinsLossesWin %Hall of FameDbls TitlesDbls Grand SlamsDbls RecordDbls OlympicsDbls Highest Rank
1Novak DjokovicSerbiaRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand5/22/872003$153,120,63520963285Bronze34698219883.22%1064-74114
2Roger FedererSwitzerlandRight-handed/One-handed Backhand8/8/811998$130,594,339206185102Silver3101,25127581.98%80131-92Gold24
3Rafael NadalSpainLeft-handed/Two-handed Backhand6/3/862001$124,961,595201132488Gold2091,02820983.10%110137-74Gold26
4Rod LaverAustraliaLeft-handed/One-handed Backhand8/8/381962197917$1,565,4131132421981,68953875.84%1981286235-7711
5Pete SamprasUnited StatesRight-handed/One-handed Backhand8/12/711988200315$43,280,4891420756428676222277.44%20072064-7027
6Björn BorgSwedenRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand6/6/561973198411$3,655,7511106506610965414082.37%19874086-814
7Ivan LendlCzechoslovakiaRight-handed/One-handed Backhand3/7/601978199416$21,262,417102323942701,06824281.53%200160187-14020
8Jimmy ConnorsUnited StatesLeft-handed/Two-handed Backhand9/2/521972199624$8,641,040810251092681,27428381.82%1998162174-78370
9John McEnroeUnited StatesLeft-handed/One-handed Backhand2/16/591978199416$12,552,132700347717088319881.68%1999789530-1031
10Andre AgassiUnited StatesRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand4/29/701986200620$31,152,9758411260Gold10187027476.05%20111040-42123

*Please note that not all the stats included above are relevant for consideration as the best player ever. Some, such as prize money and whether they were left or right-handed, are there for fun.
**Stats for active players are current as of November 2021.
***Title totals include pre and post Open Era where relevant.

10. Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi - 10th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @AndreAgassi

Andre Agassi turned pro in 1986 at the age of 16 and, in two short years, rocketed to a ranking of world No. 3.

However, it wasn’t until 1992 that he earned his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, playing Goran Ivanišević in a tough five-set match.

A few years later, in 1995, he achieved the world No. 1 ranking for the first time, a position he held for a total of 101 weeks during his career.

In 1999, Andre Agassi became the fifth man to win all four Grand Slam titles in a single year and the second in the Open Era.

Agassi also managed to earn himself a career Super Slam, which he is the only player to hold, and a Golden Slam, the latter of which has only been matched by Rafael Nadal. He earned his Olympic gold medal in 1996 in Atlanta, GA.

Agassi also was a solid contributor at the Davis Cup and helped lead the United States to three titles in 1990, 1992, and 1995.

Agassi was well known for his rivalry against all-time great Pete Sampras. However, throughout his career, Sampras got the best of him. In their 34 meetings, his record was 14-20.

Unique to Agassi, he missed out on some golden opportunities to increase his slam count, choosing to skip the Australian Open for six years from 1986 to 1994 and Wimbledon for 62 years from 1988 to 1990.

Andre Agassi had one of the longest careers of any of our top-ranked men’s tennis players at a thoroughly impressive 20 years.

9. John McEnroe

John McEnroe - 9th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @usopen

Although John McEnroe is perhaps best known for his outbursts on the court, his many accomplishments far outweigh his frequent sub-par behavior and speak for themselves.

Surprisingly, McEnroe was born in 1959 in West Germany with his parents stationed in the country because of his father’s role with the United States Air Force.

Although he competed at the French Open and Wimbledon in 1977, McEnroe officially turned pro in 1978.

The year after, John McEnroe earned his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 1979, which he defended for the following two years in 1980 and 1981. McEnroe earned himself 7 Grand Slam titles – four at the US Open and three at Wimbledon.

In 1984, he had a stellar year with his only finals appearance at the French Open and titles at Wimbledon and the US Open. However, he also amassed the single best winning record for a single season going 62-7 for an absurd win percent of 89.9%.

During his career, John McEnroe was also highly successful at the Davis Cup, where he helped revive the United States. He was part of the winning team in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1992, and 1992.

In 1980, he became world No. 1 for the first time, a position he held for a total of 170 weeks throughout his career.

Beyond his success in singles, it’s also worth noting his accomplishments in doubles, where he had 78 titles, an 87.7% win record, and ranked No. 1 for 270 total weeks through his career.

8. Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors - 8th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @JimmyConnors

Born in Belleville, IL, in 1952, Jimmy Connors is an American tennis player who turned pro in 1972 at the age of 20.

During his long 24 year career, the most of any male player in our top ten list, he had many accomplishments, but one of his most significant is his 109 titles, the most in the Open Era. Additionally, he holds the record for more wins at 1,274 than any other player in the Open Era.

Connors also holds eight Grand Slam titles, with one at the Australian Open, two at Wimbledon, and record-tying five at the US Open. Despite his success, he had a unique relationship with the slams.

First, he only played the Australian open twice throughout his entire career. He won it in 1974 and reached the finals in 1975, so he certainly missed out on some golden opportunities.

However, he was also banned or chose to skip out on the French Open from 1974 – 1978 due to his World Team Tennis association.

This fact was significant because these were arguably his peak years, winning five of his eight Grand Slam titles during this time and denying him the opportunity to complete a Grand Slam that year when he won all other majors.

Jimmy Connors reached the world No. 1 ranking in 1974, his strongest year on tour, and held the top spot for a total of 268 weeks.

7. Ivan Lendl

Ivan Lendl - 7th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @atptour

Born on March 7, 1960, in Ostrava, Czechoslovakia, Ivan Lendl had an impressive career that began in 1978 when he turned pro.

His success started in the 1980s with numerous titles and his first Grand Slam victory over John McEnroe at the French Open, a year McEnroe was virtually untouchable. He came back from two sets down to beat him 3–6, 2–6, 6–4, 7–5, 7–5.

Overall, Lendl earned 94 titles and is currently the third most in the Open Era behind Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer.

He also won ten Grand Slams evenly spread out among each tournament and holds a joint record with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic for the most runner-up appearances at Grand Slam events totaling 11.

He was first ranked No. 1 in the world in 1983, and he held that post for a total of 270 weeks throughout his career.

In addition to his Grand Slam count, he has a convincing lead in our rankings over Jimmy Connors because he had a head-to-head record of 22-13 over Connors, which gives him a clear edge.

6. Björn Borg

Bjorn Borg - 6th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @ESPNStatsInfo

Björn Borg resides in Monte Carlo, Monaco, but was born in Sweden on June 6, 1956.

Björn’s impressive career started early at the age of 15 when he represented his country in the 1972 Davis Cup, but he didn’t officially turn pro until 1973.

Right off the bat, he was seeing success and making deep runs into some of the world’s biggest tournaments, including the French Open and Wimbledon.

However, it wasn’t until 1974 that Borg captured his first French Open title at the age of 18.

Borg won 11 Grand Slam titles, six at the French Open and five at Wimbledon. For of the French Open titles were back to back from 1978 – 1981. Similarly, all of his Wimbledon titles were consecutive from 1976 -1980.

Like many players in his time, Björn only played the Australian Open once during his career, which potentially limited his Grand Slam count. Furthermore, he was never able to win the US Open despite four appearances in the finals.

In 1977, Borg reached the world No. 1 ranking for the first time, which he retained for 109 weeks throughout his career. Björn also won 66 titles.

Borg’s career was relatively short, especially compared to many other tennis players on our list. He retired at the early age of 26 in 1984 and likely could have achieved significantly more if willing to continue competing.

With that said, his achievements are thoroughly impressive, especially considering the short timeline of his career.

5. Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras - 5th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @Wimbledon

Born on August 12, 1971, Pete Sampras is an American tennis player who was considered by many to be the best tennis player of all time at his retirement.

In 1988, Sampras turned pro at 16 years old, and not long after, in 1990, he claimed his first Grand Slam title at the US Open, defeating Andre Agassi in straight sets.

Sampras would claim five total US Open titles, two Australian Open titles, and seven Wimbledon titles for a total of 13 Grand Slam victories. However, he never managed to win the French Open, where his best result was a semi-final appearance in 1996.

In 1993, Sampras reached the world No. 1 ranking for the first time and held it for a total of 286 weeks throughout his career.

In total, Sampras claimed 64 titles, 762 wins, and had a 77.4% win record.

Sampras is well known for his rivalry with fellow American Andre Agassi, and it was unique because of Sampras’ dominant serve and Agassi’s return. Throughout their careers, the two played 34 times, and Sampras won 20 of those matches.

4. Rod Laver

Rod Laver - 4th Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @Wimbledon

Australian Rod Laver was born on August 3, 1938, and players and fans widely regard him as one of the greatest players of all time.

Rod Laver’s career is unique because of his success and crossover from amateur to professional and subsequent success during the Open Era.

In 1956, Laver started to pursue a career in tennis as an amateur and quickly established himself as a junior before winning his first Grand Slam singles title in 1960 at the Australian Championships, now the Australian Open.

Not too long after, in 1962, Laver became the second man after Don Budge to achieve a calendar-year Grand Slam, winning all four major tournaments in a single year.

However, he decided to turn professional to start 1963, which meant he couldn’t compete in any Grand Slam Events through 1967.

During those years, he claimed eight titles at three of the biggest professional tournaments, the US Pro, French Pro, and Wembley Pro. Furthermore, and appeared in the finals of nearly every one of these events except the Wembly Pro in 1963 and won all three events in 1967 – a professional Grand Slam.

In 1968, the Open Era began, which allowed professional players to compete in Grand Slam events. That year, Laver claimed the Wimbledon title. However, he impressed once again, winning another calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969. To date, he’s the only player to achieve that feat twice in his career, and only five players on the men’s and women’s side have won a calendar Grand Slam.

In the 1970s, Laver’s dominance in Grand Slam events diminished due to his commitments with the National Tennis League and World Champion Tennis tours, where he remained dominant.

Despite that, he managed to win 72 of his 198 titles in the Open Era past the age of 30.

Overall, his list of accomplishments is beyond impressive, and for years, it looked as if no one would ever come close to matching his success on the court. That is until the big three came along.

3. Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal - 3rd Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @rolandgarros

Born on June 3, 1986, in Mallorca, Spain, Rafael Nadal has consistently delivered some of the most impressive results the sport has ever seen and is one of the most successful teenage players in history.

Nadal’s career started early. In 2002, he turned professional at the age of 15, and he quickly began posting results. It wasn’t until 2004 that he’d win his first singles ATP title. However, in 2005, he earned his first Grand Slam singles title, winning the French Open to wrap up a dominant clay-court season and becoming one of only two male players to win the French Open on his first attempt.

In total, Nadal has claimed an unprecedented 13 French Open titles. However, as far as Grand Slam titles go, his record-tying 20 include one at the Australian Open, two at Wimbledon, and four at the US Open. As of now, he shares his record Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.

He is also one of only two players to achieve a career Golden Slam winning all four majors and a Gold Medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Andre Agassi is the only other player to accomplish this feat.

Overall, Nadal has 88 titles to his name, with an astounding 62 of those coming on clay.

In 2008, Nadal became the world’s No. 1 player for the first time after defeating his rival Roger Federer to take his first Wimbledon title, and since then has held that position for 209 weeks throughout his career.

Throughout his career, Nadal’s most significant rivalries have come against the only two players I rank above him for the greatest male tennis players of all time.

Against Federer, Nadal has an impressive 24-16 record. However, against Djokovic, he trails slightly by 28-30.

Of course, Rafael Nadal’s career isn’t over yet, and at 35 years old, he still has plenty of time to improve upon his standing as the best player of all-time against Roger Federer if he chooses to continue to compete for a few years.

2. Roger Federer

Roger Federer - 2nd Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @Wimbledon

Born on August 8, 1981, in Switzerland, Roger Federer is one of the most dominant players in the history of our sport with a massive number of impressive stats that will cement him as one of the greatest players of all time.

Federer turned pro in 1998, and it didn’t take long before his career began to pick up steam. In 2001, he claimed his first significant singles title, and he also managed to make it to the quarterfinals of the French Open that year.

In 2003, Federer claimed his first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, one of 20 and a record he shares with Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. His Grand Slam titles include seven at the Australian Open, one at the French Open, eight at Wimbledon, and give at the US Open.

From 2004 to 2007, Federer asserted significant dominance winning 11 of the 15 Grand Slam events during this period.

Federer first claimed the world No. 1 ranking in February 2004 and has held that ranking for a total of 310 weeks – 237 of which were consecutive weeks where he was virtually unbeatable.

In addition to his Grand Slam success, Federer has claimed 103 ATP titles, the most ever behind Jimmy Connors in the Open Era. Furthermore, Federer has notched 1,251 match wins with a winning rate of 81.98%.

In the Olympics, Roger Federer has a silver and gold medal. In 2012 he won the silver in London, and in 2008 he won the Gold in Beijing.

Roger Federer’s most significant rivalries in his career are Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. He has a 16-24 record against Nadal and an 18-20 record against Djokovic.

Despite his record against Nadal, I give Federer the edge in my list of the all-time best tennis players for a few reasons.

Federer owns 15 more titles, over 100 extra weeks as world No. 1, and has a more diverse record for Grand Slam events, while Nadal’s success heavily skews toward clay.

Furthermore, Federer has six year-end championship titles to his name, while Nadal has none.

With that said, there is still time for Nadal, and I do believe if his body can hold up, he can overtake Federer. However, as it stands now, I think Federer is more deserving of this spot.

1. Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic - Best Male Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @DjokerNole

Born in Serbia on May 22, 1987, Novak Djokovic is currently my pick for the best men’s tennis player of all time. Furthermore, in the coming years, I believe Djokovic will only further cement his position here.

Djokovic turned pro in 2003. However, he wouldn’t play his first ATP tour event until 2004, and he’d claim his first ATP title in 2006.

Two years later, in 2008, Djokovic claimed his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open defeating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

He’d add a record-tying 20 Grand Slam titles to his name with tremendous success at all of the tournaments, including nine at the Australian Open, two at the French Open, six at Wimbledon, and three at the US Open.

In doing so, Djokovic is only one of three players to have achieved a double career Grand Slam along with Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.

In July of 2011, Djokovic became world No. 1 for the first time, which became one of the most dominant seasons of any player in history. He claimed three Grand Slams and five ATP Masters titles with significant wins against his two biggest rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. His performances in 2015 and 2021 were equally impressive on many levels, both years earning three Grand Slam titles.

Novak Djokovic has held the No. 1 ranking for longer than any other player in history at 345 weeks and currently has 85 titles to his name.

Although Djokovic has the same number of Grand Slam titles as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, his wins are the most diverse across the events showing that he can perform well in all conditions and on all surfaces.

Combine that with his dominance as world No. 1 and a winning 30-28 record over Nadal and a 27-23 record over Federer, and I consider him to be the greatest male tennis player of all time.

However, at this stage in his career, Djokovic is particularly unique in that he continues to dominate and remain healthy, which means he’s only going to extend his results and further cement his position as the greatest player ever to live.

Honorable Mentions

It’s relatively easy to identify who deserves to be near the top of the list for the best male tennis players of all time. However, as you get deeper into the rankings, narrowing down candidates becomes a bit more challenging.

Of course, we had to make the cutoff somewhere, so here are a few additional men worth noting.

PlayerCountryPlaysBirthdayTurned ProRetiredYears ProPrize MoneyGrand SlamsAustralianFrenchWimbledonUS OpenTitlesOlympicsTotal Wks at #1WinsLossesWin %Hall of FameDbls TitlesDbls Grand SlamsDbls RecordDbls OlympicsDbls Highest Rank
Ken RosewellAustraliaRight-handed/One-handed Backhand11/2/341956198024$1,602,700842021471,81171071.84%1980149211-11314
Fred PerryGreat BritainRight-handed/One-handed Backhand5/18/091936195923811336269528171.21%19752
Stefan EdbergSwedenRight-handed/One-handed Backhand1/19/661983199613$20,630,9416202241Bronze7280127074.79%2004183283-153Bronze1
Boris BeckerGermanyRight-handed/One-handed Backhand11/22/671984199915$25,080,95662031491271321476.91%2003150254-136Gold6
Mats WilanderSwedenRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand8/22/641981199615$7,976,25673301332057122272.01%200271168-1273
Arthur AsheUnited StatesRight-handed/One-handed Backhand7/10/431969198011$1,584,90931011761,18837176.20%1985182323-17615

10 Best Female Tennis Players of All Time

When it comes to the best female tennis player of all time, many consider the case to be closed due to the sheer dominance of Serena Williams in recent years.

However, our analysis suggests a bit of a different story, with her results overshadowing the past performance of other female tennis players who may deserve the title.

To come to our conclusions and rank the best female tennis players of all time, we performed an in-depth analysis of the game’s most accomplished female athletes.

Below you’ll find our selection, along with some data points that highlight why these female tennis players deserve to make our list.

RankPlayerCountryPlaysBirthdayTurned ProRetiredYears ProPrize MoneyGrand SlamsAustralianFrenchWimbledonUS OpenTitlesOlympicsTotal Wks at #1WinsLossesWin %Hall of FameDbls TitlesDbls Grand SlamsDbls RecordDbls OlympicsDbls Highest Rank
1Steffi GrafGermanRight-handed/One-handed Backhand6/14/691982199917$21,895,277224675107Gold37790011588.67%2004110173-72Bronze3
2Serena WilliamsUnited StatesRight-handed/Two-handed backhand9/26/811995$94,518,97123737673Gold31985515284.91%2314190-34Gold x31
3Margaret CourtAustraliaRight-handed/One-handed Backhand7/16/421960197717$500,00024115351923251,18010791.69%1979191
4Martina NavratilovaCzechoslovakiaLeft-handed/One-handed Backhand10/18/651975200631$21,626,0891832941673321,44221986.82%200017731747-1431
5Chris EvertUnited StatesRight-handed/Two-handed backhand12/21/541972198917$8,895,1951827361572601,30414689.93%1995323117-3913
6Billie Jean KingUnited StatesRight-handed/One-handed Backhand11/22/431959199031$1,966,48712116412922169515581.76%19871687-371
7Monica SelesUnited StatesLeft-handed/Two-handed Backhand12/2/731989200819$14,891,7629430253Bronze17859512282.98%20096089-4516
8Justine HeninBelgiumRight-handed/One-handed Backhand6/1/821999201112$20,863,3357140243Gold11752511582.03%201620473-3523
9Evonne GoolagongAustraliaRight-handed/One-handed Backhand7/31/511968198315$1,399,4317412086270416581.01%198846618-16
10Venus WilliamsUnited StatesRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand6/17/801994$42,280,5417005249Gold1181528475.53%2214185-37Gold x31

*Please note that not all the stats included above are relevant for consideration as the best player ever. Some, such as prize money and whether they were left or right-handed, are there for fun.
**Stats for active players are current as of November 2021.
***Title totals include pre and post Open Era where relevant.

10. Venus Williams

Venus Williams - 10th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @Venuseswilliams

Born on June 17, 1980, in California, Venus Williams is an American tennis player who’s achieved considerable success in her long career on the WTA tour.

Venus turned pro at the early age of 14 in 1994 when she played her first WTA tournament. She played a limited schedule for the following two years but accumulated a few solid wins, including her first top 20 victory in 1995.

Her breakout year was in 1997, when she made it deep into a few tournaments, including the finals of the US Open, where she lost to Martina Hingis. In 1998, she won her first WTA tournament, which she followed up with a few additional titles that year.

In 1999, Venus saw quite a bit of additional success, which would push her year-end ranking to No. 3. However, it wasn’t until 2000 when Venus would capture her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, one of seven total – five at Wimbledon and two at the US Open. During the summer, Venus also claimed her first and only singles gold medal at the Olympics in Sydney.

In 2002, Venus ascended to the world No. 1 ranking for the first time, a position she held briefly throughout her career for a total of eleven weeks.

Beyond her success in singles, Venus achieved stellar results in doubles with fourteen Grand Slam titles and three gold medals.

Although her career has slowed, Venus Williams competes in a limited number of tournaments on the WTA tour and has not yet made it clear when she intends to retire.

Regardless, she’s well deserving of the title as one of the best female tennis players of all time.

9. Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong - 9th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @TennisHalloFame

Born on July 31, 1951, Evonne Goolagong is an Australian tennis player whose results in the 1970s at the start of the Open Era have earned her recognition as one of the best to play the sport.

Her professional career started around the age of 16, and throughout her career, she achieved impressive results, perhaps most notably including her seven Grand Slam titles.

In 1967, she played at the Australian Open, her first Grand Slam event. However, her first Grand Slam victory came a few years later at the French Open in 1971, which she quickly followed up with a win at Wimbledon as well.

She’d claim four additional titles at the Australian Open and another her final at Wimbledon again in 1980. She also made it to 11 other Grand Slam finals, where her opponent defeated her.

In 1971, Goolagong managed to reach the world No. ranking, but despite her success, she only held that post for two weeks throughout her career.

In total, Goolagong won 86 titles, with 68 of them coming in the Open Era. She also had an impressive career record of 704-165, winning 81% of her matches.

Goolagong was also proficient in doubles with six Grand Slam victories and helped her country win three Fed Cup titles in 1971, 1973, and 1974.

8. Justine Henin

Justine Henin - 8th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @TennisHalloFame

Born on June 1, 1982, Justine Henin is a Belgium tennis player who turned pro in 1999 at 17.

Henin saw success immediately on the WTA tour, winning her first tour event as a wildcard at the Belgian Open in Antwerp.

However, it wasn’t until 2001 that her ranking began to skyrocket due to her consistent performance. She appeared in the semi-finals at the French Open and competed against Venus Williams in the finals of Wimbledon. During that year, she also managed to help Belgium win the Fed Cup.

In 2003, Henin claimed her first Grand Slam title at the French Open, making her the first Belgian ever to win a Grand Slam. That same year she also claimed the US Open title. Henin would claim seven Grand Slam titles, one at the Australian Open, four at the French Open, and two at the US Open. She also appeared in five finals, where her opponent defeated her.

Toward the end of 2003, Henin managed to find her way to the world No. 1 ranking, which she held for 117 weeks throughout her career.

In 2004, Henin won the Australian Open, but an infection kept her off the court for much of the year. Despite that, she did manage to win a singles gold medal at the Athens Summer Olympics.

In 2006, Henin was everywhere, making it to the finals of every Grand Slam tournament but only coming up with a win at the French Open. She followed up those results with an excellent 2007, where she won the French Open for the third consecutive year and the US Open.

Throughout her career, she won 43 titles and had a career record of 525-115 for a winning rate of 82%.

7. Monica Seles

Monica Seles - 7th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @TennisHalloFame

Born on December 2, 1973, in Florida, Monica Seles represented Yugoslavia early in her career and the United States – she became a US citizen in 1994.

Seles started her tennis career early at the age of 14 in 1988, but she officially turned pro the following year, where she won her first title and reached the semi-finals of the French Open, her first Grand Slam tournament.

Monica Seles returned to the French Open a year later after a solid start to the season and captured her first Grand Slam victory defeating world No. 1 Stefi Graf. In the three years that followed, Seles was dominant, winning six of the eight Grand Slam events in 1991 and 1992.

She also won the Australian Open to start 1993 before a deranged fan stabbed her in April. Despite the wound healing relatively quickly, the attack took its toll on Seles, who didn’t return to the tour until 1995, resulting in her missing ten Grand Slam events during that time.

Seles claimed her final Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in 1996 and was a successful player until 2003, although her official retirement didn’t come until 2008.

In March 1991, Seles replaced Stefi Graf as world No. 1, and she held that position for 178 weeks throughout her career. She also won a bronze medal at the Summer Olympics in Syndey, Australia.

During her career, Seles won 53 titles and ended with a winning record of 595-122.

6. Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King - 6th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @TennisHalloFame

Born November 22, 1943, in America, Billie Jean King has had a tremendous impact on the sport during and after her retirement.

She turned pro in 1959 and first competed in the US Open at the age of 15, and although her opponent eliminated her in the first round, she showed great promise. King returned the following year and made it to the third round.

However, despite significant success over the next few years, King didn’t win her first Grand Slam title until 1966 at Wimbledon. In total, she would win 12 Grand Slam titles, including one at the Australian Open, one at the French Open, six at Wimbledon, and four at the US Open.

In 1966, King became the world No. 1 for the first time, and she was able to maintain that position for a total of 221 weeks throughout her career.

Without a doubt, King’s most successful years were from 1966 to 1975. However, she remained competitive through her later years, even becoming the oldest player on the WTA tour to win a title at 39. She played her final singles match in 1983 at the Australian Open

When it came to team competition, King helped lead the United States to 11 victories, four of which she was the captain. She was also highly accomplished in doubles with 16 women’s and 11 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles.

Throughout her career, King ended up with a 695-155 record for a win rate of 81.76%. The result earned her a total of 129 titles, 67 that were during the Open Era.

5. Chris Evert

Chris Evert - 5th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @TennisHalloFame

Born on December 21, 1954, Chris Evert is an American tennis player who competed from 1972 – 1989.

However, Evert posted a handful of impressive results as early as 1970 while competing as a junior, including a win over world No. 1 Margaret Court in a small clay court tournament held in Charlotte, NC.

In 1974, Chris Evert claimed her first Grand Slam victories at the Fench Open and Wimbledon, which sparked a 13-year string where she won at least one Grand Slam event for a total of 18, which no other player has accomplished since.

Evert won two titles at Wimbledon, seven at the French Open, three at Wimbledon, and six at the US Open. Evert is the only female tennis player to have won seven titles at the French Open.

Impressively, Evert was also the runner-up at 16 Grand Slams. It’s worth noting she also competed during a period where many players didn’t compete as often in the Australian Open. During the 13 years that she won at least one Grand Slam event, she was absent from the event seven times.

In 1975, Chris Evert reached the world No. 1 ranking, and she earned this spot for a total of 260 weeks throughout her career. She’s also the second oldest woman behind Serena Williams to have held this position.

Another area that highlights Chris Everts thoroughly impressive career is her record of 1309-146, for a 90% win rate – the second-highest of all-time behind Margaret Court, but the highest during the Open Era.

In addition to her results in singles, Chris Evert also achieved success in doubles with three Grand Slam titles. Furthermore, she helped the United States win eight Fed Cup titles, including six consecutive from 1977-1982. No other female tennis player has won eight.

4. Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova - 4th Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @TennisHalloFame

Born on October 18, 1956, in Czechoslovakia, Martina Navratilova also competed as a US citizen after receiving her citizenship in 1981.

In 1974, Navratilova played on tour and won her first title at the age of 17. However, she didn’t officially turn pro until 1975, when she was runner up at the Australian Open and French Open.

A few years later, in 1978, Navratilova won her first singles Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, defeating Chris Evert. Like Evert, Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, including three at the Australian Open, two at the French Open, nine at Wimbledon, and four at the US Open. She is the only player in history to win nine titles at Wimbledon. Furthermore, she contested 14 Grand Slam finals, where she was the runner-up.

In addition to her first Grand Slam title, she also claimed the world’s No. 1 ranking for the first time in 1968. Throughout her career, she held that ranking for a total of 332 weeks, second only to Stefi Graf.

Navratilova is the record holder for the most titles in the Open Era with 167 and ended her career with a 1,442-219 record for an impressive win rate of 86.8%.

Outside of singles, Navratilova has one of the most impressive doubles careers in history. She holds an astounding 177 career titles, including 31 Grand Slam victories.

3. Margaret Court

Margaret Court - 3rd Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @OnThisDayShe

Born on July 16, 1942, in Australia, Margaret Court is a right-handed tennis player who played with a one-handed backhand and holds some of the most significant records in women’s tennis.

In 1960, at the age of 18, Court began playing professional tennis and quickly enjoyed success, including her first major title at the Australian Open, then named the Australian Championships. Since then, Court racked up more Grand Slam titles than any player in history – male or female.

Her Grand Slam titles include 11 at the Australian Open, five at the French Open, three at Wimbledon, and five at the US Open totaling 24. Her most notable record related to Grand Slam titles was her 1970 performance, where she won all four Grand Slam events in the calendar year. She narrowly missed that feat before the Open Era in 1965, only losing in the French Open finals.

In 1962, Margaret Court achieved a career-high ranking of world No. 1, which she held for 325 weeks, only surpassed by Martina Navratilova and Stefi Graf.

Court holds the record for the most singles titles at 192. However, only 62 of these occurred in the Open Era, so she doesn’t have the achievement during this period.

Regarding her match singles win percentage, Court stands alone, holding the best record at 91.69% through her career and 91.17% during the Open Era.

As if her success on the singles court wasn’t impressive enough, Court was also highly accomplished in doubles with 19 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles and 21 mixed doubles titles. In total, she holds the most overall Grand Slam titles of any player at 64. She was so successful across multiple disciplines that she swept Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mix doubles at the same tournament five times, referred to as the Triple Crown in tennis.

Margaret Court retired in 1977 and earned a spot in the International Tennis Hall of fame in 1979. Without a doubt, she’s one of the greatest female tennis players ever.

2. Serena Williams

Serena Williams - 2nd Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @serenawilliams

Born on September 26, 1981, Serena Williams is an American tennis player who plays right-handed with a two-handed backhand and is one of the most prominent players of all time.

Serena was ready to play at the professional level when she was 14 in 1995. However, she was denied the opportunity by the WTA due to age restrictions. Despite that, she did compete in a professional tournament that year but didn’t perform well.

Serena didn’t return to compete again on the professional tour until 1997 when she was 16, and although it was slow going to start the year, she defeated two top 10 players in November. In 1998, she didn’t earn any titles, but she saw plenty of success, including a top 20 ranking.

Serena’s first title came in early 1999, and later that year, she also claimed her maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open. Although it would be a few years before her next Grand Slam title in 2002, Serena has claimed 23 throughout her ongoing career. She holds seven titles at the Australian Open, three at the French Open, seven at Wimbledon, and six at the US Open.

In July of 2002, Serena first hit the world No. 1 ranking and, to date, has held that position for 319 weeks. Furthermore, she tied Steffi Graf’s record for 186 consecutive weeks at No. 1 – the most ever. She holds the fifth-most career titles of any woman in the Open Era at 73 and has a record 855-152 in matches for a win rate of 84.9%.

When it comes to the Olympics, Serena is also highly accomplished. She holds three Gold medals in doubles with her sister Venus and earned a singles gold at the 2012 London Olympics.

Outside of singles, Serena has had a successful career in doubles, primarily competing with her sister. She holds 14 Grand Slam titles in doubles and two in mixed doubles. In team competition, Serena helped the United States to a win in 1999 at the Fed Cup.

Serena Williams’ career continues, but injuries have hampered her success and the frequency that she competes. She’s placed particular emphasis on Grand Slam events as she attempts to tie Margaret Court for the most Grand Slams of any player in history.

1. Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf - Best Female Tennis Player of All Time

Photo Credit: @usopen

Born on June 14, 2969, Steffi Graf is a German tennis player. Steffi is right-handed with a one-handed backhand and our pick for the greatest female tennis player ever.

Toward the end of 1982, Graf turned pro, and she played her first full season the following year at the surprisingly young age of 13. Although she was young, she delivered solid performances and made deep runs at several tournaments. In 1986, she won her first tournament defeating Chris Evert, one of the most dominant players at the time.

A year later, in 1987, Stefi Graf won her first Grand Slam tournament at the French Open, defeating Martina Navratilova, another top player and world No. 1. She’d only lose one more match the entire year to Navratilova, going an astounding 75-2 for the year.

The following year was one of her most impressive, winning all four Grand Slam events and a gold medal in singles at the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. Steffi Graf is the only player in history, male or female, to achieve this feat in a calendar year.

Graf earned 22 Grand Slam titles throughout her career, including four at the Australian Open, six at the French Open, seven at Wimbledon, and five at the US Open.

Graf became the world’s No. 1 women’s tennis player in August of 1987, not long after her first Grand Slam title and final appearances in Wimbledon and the US Open. She held that position for a record 377 weeks during her career, with 186 consecutive weeks, a record she shares with Serena Williams.

Stefi Graf is third all-time on the title leaderboard with 107 and has a singles career record of 900-115 for a win rate of 88.7%.

In addition to her gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, she earned a bronze in doubles that year. Then, in 1992 at the Barcelona Summer Olympics, she claimed silver in singles.

Although Stefi didn’t play doubles frequently, she has a women’s Grand Slam to her name, which she earned in 1988 alongside Gabriela Sabatini.

Stefi Graf retired from professional tennis in 1999 and earned her spot in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2004.

Honorable Mentions

As challenging as it is to make a list of the best female tennis players of all time, there has to be a cutoff, despite many other players’ significant achievements.

To that end, here are a few additional women that didn’t make the top ten, but we felt worth mentioning.

PlayerCountryPlaysBirthdayTurned ProRetiredYears ProPrize MoneyGrand SlamsAustralianFrenchWimbledonUS OpenTitlesOlympicsTotal Wks at #1WinsLossesWin %Hall of FameDbls TitlesDbls Grand SlamsDbls RecordDbls OlympicsDbls Highest Rank
Hellen Wills MoodyUnited StatesRight-handed/One-handed Backhand10/6/051919193819190487Gold3643983591.92%19599Gold1
Suzanne LenglenFranceRight-handed/One-handed Backhand5/24/189919268026083Gold312332797.94%1978748254-6Gold
Martina HingisCzechoslovakiaRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand9/30/801994201723$24,749,074530114320954813580.23%20136413490-110Silver1
Lindsay DavenportUnited StatesRight-handed/Two-handed Backhand6/8/761993201017$22,166,3383101155Gold9875319479.51%2014383387-1161
Maureen Connolly BrinkerUnited StatesRight-handed/One-handed Backhand9/17/3419559123315619682
Margaret Osborne DuPontUnited StatesRight-handed/One-handed Backhand3/4/1860213156196721

Closing Thoughts

Although it’s a challenging exercise to rank the best tennis players of all time, male or female, it’s a fun process that we’d encourage fans to consider and dig into to develop their opinions.

In the process, you learn a lot about our sport, especially if you’re younger and didn’t have the opportunity to witness players who are now retired or, in some cases, no longer living. Although it’s easy to get wrapped up in the accomplishments of current players, most will likely be impressed by what they learn and gain a deeper appreciation for the sport as a whole and the players that helped shape it.

If you’ve never considered who’s deserving as the greatest player of all time, we hope our list at least serves as a helpful starting point, including some of the things worth keeping in mind when making your list.

One thing is for sure, these types of lists will continue to change as new players emerge. Although it’s tough to imagine a player who will eclipse the big three on the men’s side or the top players on the women’s, one thing is for sure – it will happen. Given enough time, another player will come along that does what many now believe to be impossible.

Who’s on our list for the best male or female tennis players of all time? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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