Without doubt tennis’ Open era has produced some incredible champions since its inception, but who from the men’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 men’s game…
10. Ivan Lendl
Hailed as the player who changed the way professionals approached their diet, Ivan Lendl had a fruitful decade at the top which saw him collect at least one major per year between 1981 – 1991, winning 11 grand slams in total.
In a period where Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominated the men’s game, the Czech native managed to spend a total of 270 weeks as world No. 1 during his career, thus cementing his among the greatest tennis players ever to play the men’s game.
9. Andre Agassi
Victory at Wimbledon in 1992 would see him truly announce himself to the world as a 22-year-old Agassi overcame both Boris Becker and John McEnroe on his way to a five-set thriller with Goran Ivanisevic.
A great competitor, a great mover and a tremendously smart thinker – Andre Agassi belongs in the group of the greats.
8. Jimmy Connors
1974 will always be remembered among tennis fans as the year Jimmy Connors established his dominance of the men’s game. The American won three majors that year and could have made it a Grand Slam had he not been banned from playing the French Open for signing a contract with the World Team Tennis Circuit.
Nonetheless, 1974 would also mark the beginning of Connors’ consecutive 160-week reign as the No. 1 men’s player in the world, a record which would not be beaten until three decades later by one Roger Federer. Connors still holds the record for most men’s single titles, however, totalling 109 tournament wins in his career.
7. John McEnroe
Once ever so often a sport churns out a mercurial character that you can’t take your eyes off, and McEnroe was exactly that. With famed rivalries between himself and both Borg and Connors, McEnroe was the gift that kept on giving to tennis fans, but nothing can eclipse the sheer volume of success he amassed along the way.
To this day McEnroe holds the record for most men’s singles and doubles titles combined with an incredible 155 (77 singles, 72 doubles).
5. Bjorn Borg
Borg was a teenage prodigy who played Davis Cup at 15 and was barely 18 when he won his first French Open. But being ranked No. 1 wore greatly on him.
Borg’s career-defining moment came when John McEnroe passed the Swedish star for the No. 1 ranking by defeating him at the 1981 US Open. Borg made himself the biggest “What if?” in men’s tennis history by skipping the post-match news conference and leaving the stadium without showering, taking a car directly to JFK Airport and leaving town. He retired for the first time a few months later, with 11 Slam titles. He was only 26.
He retired for the first time a few months later, with 11 Slam titles. He was only 26, but to this day remains one of the greatest tennis players to grace the men’s game.
4. Pete Sampras
Sampras’ 2000 victory at Wimbledon arguably established him as the greatest male player of all time (until Roger Federer eclipsed him). Sampras dominated in an era when power serves were becoming the norm. What also separated him was his ability to play a chip-and-charge game and his athleticism.
Sampras was never as great from the baseline as Andre Agassi was, but he didn’t need to be. The American’s 14 major titles say it all.
4. Rod Laver
Laver straddled the move from the amateur to the Open (or professional) eras of tennis, therefore not only making him one of the greatest tennis players in history but also one of the most important.
Although Laver’s 200 singles titles are the most in tennis history, it was his ability to pull off a second calendar-year sweep of all four Grand Slam tournaments in 1969 – seven years after his first Slam sweep! – that will forever underscore his greatness.
3. Novak Djokovic
Djokovic’s victory over Federer in the 2014 Wimbledon final made him – not Rafael Nadal – the first man to defeat Federer at all four Grand Slams. Djokovic had also eclipsed what appeared to be a fading Nadal as the player with the best chance to beat Federer’s major record, but both Nadal and Federer have brought those ambitions to a halt as they’ve both seen a massive resurgence over the past few years.
It doesn’t hurt that Djokovic has a slight advantage in head-to-head matches against both Federer (23-22) and Nadal (25-23), and he certainly made hay while the sun shone in men’s tennis, and the youngest of the big 3 is still going strong with a Wimbledon title in 2019 and Australian Open title in 2020 bringing his tally to 17 grand slams.
2. Rafael Nadal
King of the clay with 13 French Open titles under his belt, and twenty grand slam titles in total, Rafa is one of the best tennis players of all time, never mind in the 21st century.
With a 23-16 career advantage (mostly on clay) over rival Roger Federer, the fiery Spaniard has been a force to be reckoned with since the mid-noughties. His US Open and French Open titles in 2019 and 2020 have him at 20 Grand Slams, equalling Federer’s record.
Nadal is renowned among tennis fans for his relentless work ethic and unparalleled mental strength, both of which were on full display when he overcame Federer in the final of Wimbledon in 2008. A five-set thriller spread over 4 hours and 48 minutes would ultimately see Nadal reign supreme in one of the greatest games ever witnessed. They were to repeat this epic duel at the 2019 Wimbledon semi finals which Federer winning.
1. Roger Federer
Sampras hadn’t lost at the All England Club in five years. Federer went on to cement his claim for the award of best tennis player to ever play the men’s game by passing Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam wins.
The Swiss star now owns 20 majors after he lifting both the Australian Open and Wimbledon (without dropping a single set) in 2017, and The Aus Open for the 6th time in 2018. He has also has 103 ATP titles (second only to Jimmy Connors record of 109 titles) and counting and held the world No. 1 ranking for 310 weeks, another record for the Open era. Arguable nobody through out the history of tennis has had more impact on the game than Roger Federer.
With the 2020 ATP World Tour and WTA tours suspended and the French Open and Wimbledon cancelled until 2021, the race to the top between the big 3 is on hold for now and Federer is the uncontested greatest of all time in mens tennis
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