Without doubt tennis’ Open era has produced some incredible champions since its inception, but who from the women’s game ranks among the 10 best tennis players of all time?
*When there’s so little between so much of the talent on this list, getting it 100% correct is a real mission so please let us know what your top 10 looks like!
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Here’s a countdown of the 10 best tennis players in the history of the women’s game…
10. Justine Henin
Known for her mental and physical toughness, Justine Henin was one of the most athletic women to ever play the game. Despite her small stature, she packed a powerful punch and played a complete game that included a powerful serve and a forehand shot that she hit with both power and accuracy.
In 2003, she achieved the number one ranking in the world, having won both the French Open and the US Open. In 2004, Henin won the Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics to go along with her first Australian Open title.
She won seven Grand Slam titles in her career but retired abruptly in 2008 citing burnout from over twenty years of competitive tennis. A brief comeback in 2010 was short lived, and she retired for good in early 2011.
9. Venus Williams
If not for having to compete against her sister Serena, Venus Williams may very well have had many more Grand Slam titles to her name. The sisters have gone head-to-head in a Grand Slam final eight times with Serena winning six of those matches.
While Venus’s career has been fraught with injuries, there is no doubt that in the early 2000s she was the woman to beat on tour. Between 2000 and 2001, Venus captured four of her seven Grand Slam victories. In 2002, she finally attained the number one ranking in the world, a spot she would capture on three separate occasions.
Venus is back to playing at a high level, climbing back into the top twenty in the world following her run to the 2017 Australian Open and Wimbledon final.
8. Evonne Goolagong
Often overlooked because she played during the Chris Everett and Martina Navratilova era, Goolagong was the epitome of grace and beauty on the court. Despite playing during one of the most competitive periods in women’s tennis, Goolagong was still able to win seven Grand Slam titles and in 1976 was ranked number one in the world.
She has the distinction of being the only mother since before World War I to have won Wimbledon, having won the title in 1980 after giving birth to her daughter in 1977.
The only Grand Slam title to elude her was the US Open, where she reached the finals in four consecutive years, 1973-1976.
7. Monica Seles
Her career took an unfortunate turn when a crazed fan stabbed her during a match in April 1993, which led to a two-year playing hiatus. She went on to win the 1996 Australian Open but never returned to the level of her previous success.
Chirs Evert once said Seles would have won six or eight more majors were it not for her bizarre injury.
6. Margaret Court
It’s not easy to identify the career zenith of a player who won a record 24 Grand Slam singles championships and another 40 in doubles. But even in that context, the streak Court enjoyed from January 1969 to January 1971 is extraordinary.
She won eight of the nine Grand Slam singles titles during that span, including six in a row. Court was also the first female player to complete the women’s Grand Slam of the Open era.
5. Billie Jean King
Riggs had repeatedly disparaged female tennis players and boasted that, even at age 55, he could beat King. Instead, King beat Riggs in straight sets to earn a $100,000 payday that was witnessed by an estimated 50 million television viewers.
Much more impressive, however, are her record 20 Wimbledon championships — six in singles, 10 in doubles and four in mixed doubles.
4. Chris Evert
As a teenager, Evert proved her upset of 24-time Slam winner Margaret Court in 1970 was no fluke when she tore to the 1971 US Open finals opposite Billie Jean King at age 16 to become an overnight sensation.
The newspapers called Evert “Chris America,” and King proclaimed “She’s the one!” who would replace her atop women’s tennis and take it to new heights. Probably one of the mentally toughest players in tennis history, Evert would remain at the top of the women’s game for many years.
3. Martina Navratilova
She didn’t feel she’d reach her potential if she stayed behind the Iron Curtain and allowed the Czech Federation to decide where and when she could play.
Once in the U.S., Navratilova whipped herself into top shape and put together nearly invincible seasons of 90-3, 86-1, 78-2 and 89-3 from 1982 to ’86. She finished with 18 Grand Slam singles titles, same as her great rival, Chris Evert.
Navratilova’s 167 singles titles and 177 doubles titles are both records.
2. Steffi Graf
Tremendous foot speed and probably the best mover with the best footwork of that generation, Graf was at her best in big matches.
Bud Collins called her Fraulein Forehand for a reason, it was a huge weapon for her. The serve was solid, and she had a reliable backhand, but her movement is what put her above the rest.
With 22 Grand Slam titles, including all four majors plus an Olympic gold in 1988 – a feat which has never been recreated, Graf is certainly one of the best tennis players to have graced the women’s game.
1. Serena Williams
Serena’s first Grand Slam win against Venus at the 2002 French Open – her first win in four matches against Venus at a major – launched her on the path to 22 more major titles and a 17-11 head-to-head mark over Venus.
Serena now trails only Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24. To this day, she and Venus still dislike playing each other.
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