The best tennis players of all time have all contributed a lot to the game. In their own unique way, each player on this list has impacted the game of tennis in some way, shape, or form. Whether it was from their accomplishments or what they did for the game, this list is compiled of the best players in the game’s history.
Originating in the 1870s, tennis has been one of the most popular international sports over the last decade. In fact, the sport has over one billion worldwide fans!
The various reasons for the popularity of tennis is another conversation. However, it often comes down to the players themselves.
Players made it on this list for different reasons. Some had great success throughout their careers and their numbers can’t be ignored. Others may have had less success, but contributed to the game in other impactful ways.
No matter how these players ended up on this list, they are all on here for the same general reason. That is, they brought people together to make tennis the fun, enjoyable game it is today. These players have laid the foundation that future generations can build off to ensure that tennis remains great for generations to come.
One unique thing about this list is that it includes both men and women. Although men and women compete separately in tennis, the game’s rules are the same, and both work a similar schedule. On top of this, the money for male and female tournaments are usually even. Therefore, tennis is one of the most equal sports among men and women on the planet, especially in earnings.
This allows us to compare men and women and therefore create a list that includes both genders.
- Career Record: 332-7
- Majors: French Open (2X), Wimbledon (6X)
Suzanne Lenglen was perhaps the most dominant tennis player in the early 20th century. In her 12 year career, Lenglen managed to win 34 different tournaments including eight major tournaments.
Lenglen’s six Wimbledon championships are 9th most all-time between men’s and women’s individual winners.
Even more impressively, Lenglen accomplished all that she did throughout her career while accumulating only seven total losses, including a streak of 179 straight wins to end her career.
In addition to her other success, Lenglen also won an Olympic gold medal in 1920.
Lenglen also had intense rivalries with Elizabeth Ryan and Molla Mallory. These rivalries were great for the game of tennis as they added another layer of entertainment to it.
Sadly, Lenglen’s career was cut short in 1938 by her sudden diagnosis and death from leukemia and pernicious anemia. Although her career was shortened by World War I and her death, Lenglen made the most of the time she had and proved her worth on this list.
- Career Record: 608-239
- Majors: Australian Open (1X), French Open (1X), Wimbledon (3X), U.S. Open (3X)
Fred Perry is arguably the best British tennis player of all time. In fact, it wasn’t until 77 years after Perry’s three consecutive Wimbledon championships that another British lad, Andy Murray, was able to claim a Wimbledon title.
Perry was also the first male tennis player ever to achieve a career grand slam, meaning he won singles titles in each of the four majors at some point throughout his career.
Perry’s relentless-competitiveness brought a whole new style of play to the game. Although his edgy playstyle wasn’t beloved in the days he played, it has grown in popularity and is very prevalent in today’s age of tennis.
Perry’s terrific career was rewarded in 1975 when he was named the first international inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
- Career Record: 713-214
- Majors: Australian Open (2X), Wimbledon (3X), U.S. Open (1X)
Boris Becker had a reckless style of play that gave him the edge over players. He had no concern over getting beat and bruised up just to make a heroic dive and save the ball. Becker’s style of play allowed him to have a lot of success in his career, including winning his first individual major championship as a 17-year-old.
Also, his 713 career wins are the 13th most of any male in the Open Era.
His success in 1989, which included winning both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, was enough to get Becker voted Player of the Year by The Association of Tennis Professionals. Of course, we know them better as the ATP and The International Tennis Federation (ITF).
Becker’s willingness to put his body on the line along with his success and accomplishments throughout his career make him more than worthy of being on this list.
- Career Record: 1,085-337
- Majors: Australian Open (1X), Wimbledon (1X), U.S. Open (1X)
Arthur Ashe was a trailblazer for African American athletes. Beginning his professional career in 1963, Ashe was one of the first African Americans to play tennis at the professional level. His courage paved the way for other African American players like Serena Williams to follow in his footsteps.
In fact, Ashe is still the only black man to have won singles championships at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, or the Australian Open.
Ashe’s career success included over 1,000 wins with a 76.3 win percentage, in addition to winning three out of the four major tournaments.
All of this success led to his induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1985.
Ashe’s career was cut short due to cardiovascular issues in his heart that led to multiple surgeries and eventually his death in 1993, at just 49 years old.
- Career Record:1,655-627
- Majors: Australian Open (4X), French Open (2X), U.S. Open (2X)
Ken Rosewall had a very long, successful professional career that spanned over four decades. Over his 25-year professional career, Rosewell managed to make 16 individual major finals appearances, going 8-8 in those matches.
While the 1960s was Rosewall’s prime, the Australian maintained success beyond just that decade. In fact, he managed to stay ranked in the top 20 from 1957-1977.
Another thing to note with Rosewall’s long career is championships. His first championship was in 1953 as an 18-year-old, and his last was in 1974—a 19-year gap between his first and last.
In 1971, Rosewall made history when he rumbled through the Australian without losing a set en route to a title, making him the first male to ever do so.
The dominance that Rosewall displayed over the course of his 25-year career is proof that he is one of the greatest tennis players of all-time.
- Career Record: 595-122
- Majors: Australian Open (4X), French Open (3X), U.S. Open (2X)
Our first female on this list is Monica Seles. Seles’s grunt (which measured the same decibel level as a police whistle), intimidated opponents along with her terrific gameplay.
Started her career as just a 15-year-old, Seles had a lot of success in her first four years as a professional. In fact, she won eight of her nine career grand slam championships before she turned 20. Seles was simply unstoppable on the court.
Unfortunately, Seles’s career was halted after she was stabbed by a fan. This caused her to have to take some time away from the game. After a two year hiatus, Seles returned to tennis, but was never able to fully recover and was only able to win one grand slam title after the injury.
Had Seles not been stabbed, many believe she could’ve been one of the best tennis players ever. Even so, she had enough success to be inducted into The International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2009.
- Career Record: 1,325-380
- Majors: Australian Open (6X), French Open (2X), Wimbledon (2X), U.S. Open (2X)
Growing up on a dairy farm in Australia, Roy Emerson was training for tennis his entire life without even knowing it. Emerson’s morning chore was to milk the cows. This allowed him to build wrist and forearm strength that came in pretty handy later in life during his tennis career.
Emerson made the most of his strength.
He dominated the 1960s, winning all 12 of his grand slam championships between 1961 and 1967.
In fact, Emerson was the first male to win 12 or more grand slam championships. This record stood until 2000. Emerson currently ranks fifth all-time in career grand slam victories. He also had a streak of 10 straight grand slam finals victories, which is still a record.
Emerson’s domination of the 1960s along with other smaller accomplishments throughout his career earns Roy Emerson a spot on this list.
- Career Record: 1,068-242
- Majors: Australian Open (2X), French Open (3X), U.S. Open (3X)
Ivan Lendl was out on a mission when he played tennis. He kept his emotions in check and he only cared about one thing: winning.
Winning is something Lendl experienced a fair amount of in his 16-year professional career. He won eight grand slam championships as well as numerous other international tournaments. Also, Lendl made the finals of the U.S. Open eight-straight years from 1982-1989.
Beyond just his accomplishments, Lendl did a lot for the game. His success came from his forehand with topspin; a unique stroke that no player had ever done before.
Lendl’s success along with his innovation proves that he was one of the best tennis players of all-time. The impact he has had on the game has lasted much longer than just the time he played, as he changed the way the game was played.
- Career Record: 1,425-372
- Majors: Wimbledon (3X), U.S. Open (7X)
Bill Tilden was the most dominant tennis player in the 1920s. In that decade, he made it to 13 grand slam event finals, while winning nine championships.
Tilden especially experienced a lot of success in the U.S. Open in the 1920s. He won the tournament a record seven times throughout his career, including six straight times from 1920-1925.
After reaching the finals in 1929, he became the first player to ever reach the finals at any single grand slam event 10 or more times. This remained a record until 2017 when Roger Federer made his eleventh Wimbledon finals appearance.
Tilden was also the first American to win a Wimbledon title in 1920 when he defeated Gerald Patterson. His dominance of the 1920s, along with the other success he had in his career, shows that he is one of the best tennis players of all-time.
- Career Record: 1,274-282
- Majors: Australian Open (1X), Wimbledon (2X), U.S. Open (5X)
Jimmy Connors brought a whole new level of competitiveness to the game of tennis when he turned pro in 1972. His desire to win drove his unapologetic attitude on the court. This fierce competitiveness is what Jimmy Connors thrived on.
Love him or hate him, everyone can respect Connor’s ability. His left-handed stroke provided him with a lot of success throughout his career. This including his fabulous 1974 campaign that saw him win three out of the four grand slam championships.
On top of this, from 1974-1978, Connors was ranked No. 1 for 160 straight weeks.
Also, Connors won 109 championships throughout his career along with 1,274 wins. Both of these still remain Open Era records.
Connor’s desire to win along with his success makes Jimmy Connors one of the best tennis players of all time.
- Career Record: 569-278
- Majors: Australian Open (1X), French Open (1X), Wimbledon (2X), U.S. Open (2X)
Although only winning six grand slam championships throughout his career, Don Budge had a two-year run where he was nearly unstoppable. Between 1937 and 1938, Budge won six of eight possible grand slams.
In 1937, Budge became the first player to ever achieve a single-season grand slam, in which he won all four grand slam tournaments in one calendar year. He still remains the only player to ever achieve that feat.
Using his wicked backhand shot, Budge was able to play shot for shot with just about any player who lined up on the other side of the net. Budge’s backhand and career were rewarded in 1964, with his introduction into The International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Budge also had success after his run of dominance but was never quite able to bring home another grand slam trophy. With the dominance that he displayed in 1937 and 1938, along with other successes he had in his career, he is one of the best tennis players of all time.
- Career Record: 870-274
- Majors: Australian Open (4X), French Open (1X), Wimbledon (1X), U.S. Open (2X)
Andre Agassi was a terrific player who helped revive tennis, giving it that extra spark to bring it where it is today. His great forehand shot along with confidence and entertaining gameplay allowed Agassi to take tennis to new levels of entertainment.
Agassi also had plenty of individual success throughout his career.
In fact, he was the first male to win four Australian Open titles, was an eight-time grand slam winner, and a 15-time finalist. He’s the only player to ever achieve the Career Super Slam too. He accomplished this by winning the Career Grand Slam, Olympic Gold Medal, and the ATP World Championships.
Andre Agassi is exactly what you want from a professional tennis player: good and entertaining. Because of how Agassi attained both of these things throughout his career, he set the bar for what it means to be a tennis player.
That being said, Agassi is one of the best tennis players of all time. Between his accomplishments and what he did for the game, he surely deserves to be on this list.
- Career Record: 881-198
- Majors: Wimbledon (3X), U.S. Open (4X)
John McEnroe relied a lot less on his power like other players, deciding to rely mostly on pure skill. His soft stroke along with his accuracy made him tough to match. However, his confrontational attitude showed just how much passion he had for the game. In the end, this is what McEnroe is known for more than anything else in his career.
This passion for the game led to McEnroe accomplishing some great feats throughout his career, however. For instance, in 1984, McEnroe had a singles match record of 83-4. To this day, it is still the best single-season win rate in the Open Era.
He also won three ITF World Championships and was named ATP Player of the Year three times as well.
McEnroe’s success is undeniable. Although he only won seven Grand Slams in his career, he had plenty of international success to make up for it. Therefore, all of this helps make him one of the best tennis players of all time.
Billie Jean King
- Career Record: 695-155
- Majors: Australian Open (1X), French Open (1X), Wimbledon (6X), U.S. Open (4X)
Billie Jean King opened a lot of doors for every woman that came after her. She won 12 grand slam titles, was the first tennis player ever to be named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, and defeated male tennis player Bobby Riggs in a match.
King’s win over Riggs did a lot for women. It proved that women can compete against and beat men in sports. This was a monumental feat at the time and even today was a huge breakthrough for women.
King’s impact on the sports world is forever lasting. Her win over Riggs made a big statement for women’s rights and made people take women seriously. This along with the rest of her terrific career is honored in history as the site of the U.S. Open as “The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center” was renamed after her.
This likely helped tennis make the decision to make sure money is even between the men and women throughout all tournaments.
In addition to her win over Riggs, King experienced other successes throughout her career. This includes having an 89% winning percentage in 1971, and an overall career winning percentage of 80%.
King is undoubtedly among the best tennis players of all time.
- Career Record: 1,309-146
- Majors: Australian Open (2X), French Open (7X), Wimbledon (3X), U.S. Open (6X)
Chris Evert was one of the most composed tennis players of all time. She could stay calm in big moments, never letting her emotions get the best of her. This was important as she played in many big moments throughout her career.
Her 34 grand slam finals appearances are the most of any woman. Meanwhile, her 18 career grand slam victories rank fifth among women. Simply put, Evert is no stranger to the big stage.
Another fact to highlight, Evert’s career win percentage of 89.97% is the best of any player, man or woman, in the Open Era.
On clay courts, Evert was nearly unbeatable. She had a career record of 382-22 on clay, which is a 94.55% win percentage. To this day, that remains a WTA record.
Evert’s success on the court makes her one of the best tennis players of all time as well as one of the winningest.
- Career Record: 593-56
- Majors: Australian Open (11X), French Open (5X), Wimbledon (3X), U.S. Open (5X)
Now we come to perhaps the most dominant women’s tennis player of all time, Margaret Court. Court’s last name says it all, she was born to play tennis.
Her 24 Grand Slam Championships are the most of any tennis player in history. In fact, she won four more Grand Slam titles in her career than any male in tennis history.
In 1973, Court won her eleventh Australian Open. This gave her the record for the most victories in one single grand slam event. The record managed to stand until 2019.
Court’s impressive dominance throughout her career was unlike anything the tennis world had ever seen before. Her dominance in the 1960s that saw her make the finals in over half of the Grand Slam tournaments she played. This is a ridiculous feat that will probably never be repeated.
With a dominant career like Court’s, it’s obvious that she is one of the best tennis players of all time.
- Career Record: 644-135
- Majors: French Open (6X)
Bjorn Borg was a Sweedish sensation in tennis throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. He won 11 Grand Slam titles in his time as a professional, including four-straight French Open Championships & five-straight Wimbledon Championships.
Perhaps most impressively, he accomplished all of that while only playing professionally for 10 years. He began his career as a 15-year-old and retired at the young age of 26. It is said that he left the game due to burning out from all the attention.
By relying on his steady forehand stroke and powerful backhand shot, Borg made the most of his time as a professional.
Another thing to note is that Borg was the first player in the Open Era to accumulate 11 Grand Slam singles titles. He was also the first tennis player ever to earn over one million dollars in total winnings within a single season.
Had Bjorn played longer, he might have become the best tennis player of all time. Nevertheless, he had a great career and is deserving of this spot on our list.
- Career Record: 1,473-407
- Majors: Australian Open (3X), French Open (2X), Wimbledon (4X), U.S. Open (2X)
Rod Laver was one of the most dominant tennis players of all time as he ruled the 1960s. In that decade, Laver won every one of his 11 career Grand Slam Championships, becoming the first tennis player ever to achieve two career Grand Slams. Not to mention, Laver was also the #1 ranked tennis player in the world from 1964-1970.
Laver also experienced a lot of international success. He won the Pro Slam title eight times and led his home country Australia to five Davis Cup Championships.
After his retirement, Laver was honored when the Laver Cup tournament and Rod Laver Arena were named after him. He was also inducted into The International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1981.
Lavar’s success is simply amazing, so it is not hard to see why people respect him so much. He is certainly one of the greatest to ever play the game, for sure.
- Career Record: 1,442-219
- Majors: Australian Open (3X), French Open (2X), Wimbledon (9X), U.S. Open (4X)
Martina Navratilova was a late bloomer. As a 25-year-old, she had only won three Grand Slams. While she wasn’t bad, it didn’t seem as though she would become anything special.
Well, she proved all the doubters wrong when she went on to capture 19 total Grand Slams throughout her career, including a ladies record of nine Wimbledon Championships.
In addition, her 32 career finals appearances rank third all time.
Her career was so impressive that she was actually inducted into The International Tennis Hall of Fame a full six years before she actually retired. Speaking of retirement, Navratilova didn’t retire until she was 49 years old.
Another impressive note is that Navratilova still holds the record for the longest win streak in the Open Era with 74 straight match wins.
Navratilova possesses perhaps the best stats of any man or woman tennis player ever. Therefore, she is one of the best tennis players of all time and certainly deserves the respect she has seen.
- Career Record: 762-222
- Majors: Australian Open (2X), Wimbledon (7X), U.S. Open (5X)
Pete Sampras relied on his swift one-handed backhand along with his great serving power to blow past the competition.
His accomplishments speak for themselves. Sampras was ranked number one in the world for 286 consecutive weeks, which is the second-longest out of any other tennis player in history. Also, he ended the year ranked No.1 six years in a row from 1993 to 1998.
His 14 Grand Slam victories throughout his career rank fourth all-time among all males. Meanwhile, his seven Wimbledon titles record is currently tied for second all-time among males.
Sampras did most of his damage in the 1990s. During the decade he won 12 Grand Slam titles. The closest person to him in the decade was Andre Agassi, who only won five in the decade.
Simply put, Pete Sampras is one of the best tennis players of all time. He dominated his era and his laundry list of awards and records are nearly unmatched.
- Career Record: 900-115
- Majors: Australian Open (4X), French Open (6X), Wimbledon (7X), U.S. Open (5X)
Steffi Graf dominated the 1980s and 1990s and was very instrumental in making tennis a popular sport in her home country, Germany.
Her accomplishments in her career are simply amazing and she has surely left her mark as one of the best tennis players of all time.
In 1988, Graf became the only tennis player ever to accomplish the Golden Slam. She accomplished this by capturing all four Grand Slams as well as an Olympic Gold Medal.
Between 1988-1990, Graf was nearly perfect when she won 8 out of 9 Grand Slams she competed in. Another record she has is the most seasons with a perfect 100% win percentage, as she accomplished this feat three times.
Graf is also the only tennis player in history to win each Grand Slam event four or more times.
With all of these accomplishments, Steffi Graf has etched her place in tennis history as one of the best tennis players of all time.
- Career Record: 834-144
- Majors: Australian Open (7X), French Open (3X), Wimbledon (7X), U.S. Open (6X)
Serena Williams is, without a doubt, one of if not THE best female tennis player of all time.
Starting her career as just a 14-year-old in 1995, Williams has cruised past the competition en route to numerous accomplishments and records.
Williams is one of only two female tennis players to ever achieve the Super Slam, has won 23 Grand Slams throughout her career, and is the only tennis player to ever win 10 or more Grand Slams in two separate decades.
In her 25th year of professional tennis, Williams is still playing at a high level. In fact, she is currently the ninth-ranked player in the world by the WTA.
Serena has played tennis at a high level for over two decades. Her amazing accomplishments have led to numerous records and the most amazing thing is, she isn’t done yet.
The future Hall of Famer is well-deserving of her rank as the number one female. She is also more than well-deserving of being known as one of the best tennis players of all time.
- Career Record: 990-200
- Majors: Australian Open (1X), French Open (12X), Wimbledon (2X), U.S. Open (4X)
Rafael Nadal holds numerous tennis records and is by far the best Spanish tennis player in history.
His 19 Grand Slam titles rank as second in history among males. However, his 12 French Open Championships gives Nadal the record for the most victories at one Grand Slam event ever.
Since he turned pro as a 15-year-old in 2001, Nadal has spent 209 weeks in total as the number one ranked male tennis player.
After starting off his Davis Cup career 0-1, he has won 29 straight singles matches at the event and has led Spain to five Davis Championships overall.
On top of this, Nadal is also one of two males in tennis history to achieve the singles Career Grand Slam.
With 990 career wins, he is only 10 away from becoming the fourth male tennis player in the Open Era to reach 1,000 career wins. Yet he’ll likely blow past this number before his career is up.
Nadal has had a great career and is one of the best tennis players of all time. At only 33-years-old, he still has a long career ahead of him. We may speak of him as the absolute best before he’s done.
- Career Record: 906-187
- Majors: Australian Open (8X), French Open (1X), Wimbledon (5X), U.S. Open (3X)
Novak Djokovic burst onto the scene in 2008 when he turned pro. In just his first year as a professional, Djokovic won the Australian Open. Within four years of turning pro, Djokovic had already accumulated four Grand Slam championships.
Djokovic’s 17 Grand Slams rank third all-time, and his 911 career wins rank sixth all-time. Meanwhile, his eight Australian Open victories rank as the most of any other male player in history.
In fact, Djokovic led the decade in the 2010s with 15 Grand Slams.
One major note is the financial success that Novak has seen in his career. “The Joker” has earned over $143 million throughout his career, making him the all-time leader in career earnings.
Djokovic’s accomplishments and records are undeniably amazing. Since he burst onto the scene, he was an instant success and has remained one of the best tennis players in the world the entire time. It is not hard to see why so many regard him as one of the best to ever pick up a racket.
- Career Record: 1,242-271
- Majors: Australian Open (6X), French Open (1X), Wimbledon (8X), U.S. Open (5X)
Roger Federer is simply amazing. His strong gameplay along with his will to win has led to numerous accomplishments and records.
To highlight that a bit, his 20 career Grand Slam Championships are a record among males. This alone should make people see him as great, but it is not even close to his only major accomplishment.
Federer has spent 310 weeks of his career as ATP’s number one ranked player, including a streak of 237 consecutive weeks, which is also a record. If that isn’t enough, from 2005-2007, Roger became the first male tennis player ever to reach the finals in 10 consecutive Grand Slam events.
In addition to this, Federer has qualified for the Olympic Games twice, winning gold in 2008 and Silver in 2012.
Federer also holds the record for most ATP singles titles with six and is one of two players ever to amass 1,200 wins in the Open Era. In fact, he currently ranks second all-time in wins, trailing the leader, Jimmy Connors, by only 32.
With a resume like Federer’s, it’s hard to argue against him as the best tennis player of all time.