Nadal, Williams, Djokovic, Federer: Ranking the greatest tennis players of all-time

Tennis players

Over the years, tennis fans have marvelled at a number of outstanding individual players. 

Amid all the talented stars to conquer the tennis circuit, there has long been a debate surrounding which player is the best to ever grace the court.

So, in honour of this year’s Wimbledon, which has just got underway, we thought now was as good a time as any to settle the greatest of all time debate once and for all. 

With so many exceptional players to pick from, we’ve devised a Tiermaker to separate the greats from the GOAT. 

How will it work? 

Our list comprises 20 players in total, separated across five categories. 

Both male and female players have been included, though there is no attempt to compare each women’s achievements with the respective men in the list. 

As a result, we’ve chosen one man and one woman in our top category, in order to crown both the greatest male star and the best female player of all time. 

It’s also worth clarifying that as much we’re confident in our ranking here, this is purely subjective and there may well be some of you who disagree with our list. 

But enough rambling. Check out our list below and decide for yourselves: 

Tennis players tiermaker

Unfulfilled potential 

Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors

It’s important to stress that every tennis star featured on this list is among the best to ever play the game, but in the case of this category, these players may well consider themselves unfortunate not to have won more. 

Connors won more overall titles than any man in the Open era, but as everyone knows, it’s all about the Grand Slams. While the American did win eight majors in total, he could easily have had more. 

The same is true of Lendl, who was world number one for 270 weeks during the 1980s but won just eight of his 19 Grand Slam finals. 

Meanwhile, Hingis and Seles were both dominant at the start of their careers and won multiple major titles as teenagers. 

Yet, Hingis was hampered by off-field problems and injuries and Seles was infamously stabbed on court and never fully recovered. 

Hingis

Hall of Famer

Venus Williams, Justine Henin, Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg 

Borg’s dominance in the late 1970s was nothing short of extraordinary. The Swedish star won five Wimbledon titles in a row, including an epic against John McEnroe in 1980. However, he did ultimately fail to win both the Australian and the US Open. 

Agassi had no such problems though –– completing the career Grand Slam and winning more than $31 million (£25.2m) in prize money across his career. In total, the American won eight Slams and a gold medal in the singles at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. 

Henin came agonisingly close to completing the career Grand Slam herself but lost in two Wimbledon finals. Nonetheless, the Belgian was perhaps the finest women’s player to ever grace a clay court and won four Roland-Garros titles in five years. 

Similarly, Venus Williams also excelled on one particular surface –– winning five Wimbledon titles during the 2000s. 

Venus Williams

Tennis icon 

Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Pete Sampras, Rod Laver, John McEnroe

Jean King was an exceptional tennis player in her own right, winning 12 Grand Slam singles titles. Yet, the American is best renowned for her activism and being a pioneer for equality and social justice. 

Both Navratilova and Evert won 18 major singles titles and hold multiple records between them. The former won 59 Grand Slams across singles and doubles, while Evert is the only player to win a major 13 years in a row. 

For a long-time, Sampras held the record for most major titles won by a male player with 14, until the big three came along. Regardless, he is more than just a Hall of Famer and often had the edge on long-term rival Agassi. 

Pete Sampras

McEnroe enjoyed a thrilling rivalry with Connors and though he won fewer titles than his compatriot, his memorable on-court outburst give him iconic status. 

Laver’s 198 singles titles are the most in tennis history and he is the only player to win the Golden Slam twice during his career. While his success came mostly in the amateur era, his dominance still deserves to be celebrated. 

Generational talent 

Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Margaret Court 

Court has held the record for most major titles won by a female since 1973 and claimed 24 in total. 

Williams has been in hot pursuit of that record for some time, but remains one short of the Australian. 

The 40-year-old is also the all-time leader in prize money for female players, having won almost $100m during her career so far. 

Federer was regarded as the GOAT of men’s tennis for a while, but injuries in recent years have prevented him from adding to his 20 Grand Slam titles. 

Djokovic is level with the Swiss star on 20 major victories and came close to winning the Golden Slam in 2021. While the Serbian has not enjoyed a successful year so far, he is the heavy favourite to claim a seventh Wimbledon title. 

Serena WIlliams

The GOAT

Rafael Nadal, Steffi Graf

Nadal looked like he might never win a Slam again last year, but his comeback this year has been nothing short of remarkable. 

The Spaniard recovered from two sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in an epic Australian Open final, while he cruised to victory at Roland-Garros to claim his 14th French Open title. 

Nadal now has 22 major wins overall –– two more than both Federer and Djokovic. 

Rafael Nadal: How much did he earn from French Open win?

Graf, on the other hand, has fewer majors than Court and Williams, but is the only female player to have won the Golden Slam in the Open era. 

The German was ranked number one for a record 377 weeks and achieved almost all of her success within the space of a decade. 

Had she not retired at the age of just 30, there is no telling how many titles she may have won.

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