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 best 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 best tennis players.
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, totaling 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).
6. 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 won three majors between them this season.
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, but at this point in time it seems “The Joker” won’t be having the last laugh over his rivals.
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 best tennis players tograce 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 speak volumes for his right be ranked among the best tennis players.
3. Rafael Nadal
With a 23-14 career advantage over rival Roger Federer and a 9-3 advantage in major championships, the fiery Spaniard has been a force to be reckoned with since the mid-noughties, winning 16 grand slams in his professional career.
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.
2. 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 best 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.
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 held the world No. 1 ranking for 302 weeks, another record for the Open era.
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