“Who is the best tennis player of all time?” Ask that question to any tennis fan and you will be up for a long and hectic debate. It is extremely hard to rank players that had their prime in different eras, but there are some major things to consider before ranking the best tennis players of all time.
Some things that I have considered prior to making this list are Grand Slam wins, which era the players played in, and overall ranking throughout their whole career. So, without further ado, I present to you my top 20 best men’s tennis players of all time.
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#1 Roger Federer
The greatest tennis player of all time has to be none other than Roger Federer. He has proven his talent for over 20 years and is still competing at the very highest level. Federer is joint top as the player with most Grand Slam titles in the world (20) and is second behind Djokovic in most weeks spent at the World No.1 spot.
Federer is a great role model on and off the field, an inspiration to all kids growing up, and an incredible athlete who will go down in history as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.
#2 Novak Djokovic
The second greatest tennis player of all time has to be the Serbian, Novak Djokovic. He is a prime example of what a late-bloomer is. Sure, Djokovic has always been a world-class player, but by his 28th birthday, he had only won 7 Grand Slam titles. After that? 13 Grand Slam titles in six years.
Djokovic has completely dominated the Grand Slam tournaments in the last couple of years. If he surpasses Nadal and Federer in the Grand Slam title rankings, he has a legitimate claim to be called the greatest of all time. Djokovic already has the record for most weeks spent at the World No.1 spot and is most likely going to add many weeks to that before his retirement.
#3 Rafael Nadal
Third on the list, we have Rafael Nadal. It’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t be up here. Nadal has 20 Grand Slam titles to his name and will most likely add one or two more before retirement.
Nadal may not be the overall greatest tennis player of all time, but he is most definitely the best tennis player to ever step onto a clay court. With his unbelievable 13 French Open wins, it’s hard to argue about that statement.
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#4 Pete Sampras
Pete Sampras is the fourth greatest tennis player of all time for me. He dominated the tennis world during the 90s and was considered the greatest tennis player of all time when he retired in 2002. With a record-holding 14 Grand Slam titles, it was hard to disagree with that claim.
However, despite all those Grand Slam titles, Sampras never won a French Open title. He wasn’t the best clay-court player, but considering his seven Wimbledon, five US Open, and two Australian Open titles, he definitely deserves to be in fourth place on this list.
#5 Björn Borg
Many fans would argue whether or not Björn Borg deserves the fifth spot on this list, but for me he absolutely does. There is not a player in the world that has achieved the same things he has in the same time frame.
Borg was the youngest player of all time to win a Grand Slam title when he won the French Open in 1974 at the age of 17. After that, he won 10 more Grand Slam titles before retiring at the early age of 26.
No other player in the history of tennis has won more Grand Slam titles before 25 than Björn Borg. If he played on for 5-10 more years, he would probably have ended up being in the top three on this list.
#6 John McEnroe
American tennis legend John McEnroe was known for his volley artistry and his controversial on-court behaviour that, more often than not, landed him in trouble with the umpires and other connected tennis authorities. He is also known for his rivalry against Jimmy Connors and Björn Borg; the three used to continuously switch between the No. 1, 2, and 3 spots in the world rankings.
McEnroe’s controversial behaviour made tennis fans either hate or love him. He hated to lose and sometimes took things a little too far, but tennis would be boring without players showing emotions.
John McEnroe has seven Grand Slam titles to his name, and he’s highly rated on my list due to the impact he had on the sport, his entertainment factor, and the way he played the game.
#7 Andre Agassi
One of the most legendary players of all time, Andre Agassi is considered by many tennis fans the greatest tennis player of the 20th century. Agassi is an eight-time Grand Slam champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Back in the 90s, he was the first player to win four Australian Open titles, a record which was eventually surpassed by Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Andre Agassi was the first player in the history of tennis to win a Grand Slam title on three different surfaces (grass, clay, hard court).
Andre Agassi, or “The Punisher” — a nickname he had during his playing days, is not only one of the greatest tennis players of all time, but also one of the most respected ones.
#8 Rod Laver
Rod Laver is a player that many would consider as the greatest of all time. He won 11 Grand Slam titles and is the only player ever to win all the Grand Slams twice in the same calendar year.
Laver dominated the tennis world during the 60s and was ranked World No.1 between 1964 and 1970. With 184 singles titles to his name, he also holds the record for most titles won in the history of tennis. Back in the 60s and 70s, he was considered the best tennis player of all time.
#9 Boris Becker
German tennis legend Boris Becker is another former World No.1 player. He started off at the age of 17 as one of the most promising young talents in the history of tennis in 1984, and he showed that talent by winning six singles titles that year. The success didn’t end here, as only one year later, he won the Wimbledon, becoming the youngest player ever to win that title.
During his career, Becker won six Grand Slam titles — three Wimbledons, two Australian Opens, and one US Open. He was ranked No.1 in the world for a brief period during the 1991 season.
#10 Ivan Lendl
Ivan Lendl is mostly known today for being the coach of three-time Grand Slam winner Sir Andy Murray, but about 30 years ago, he had one of the most successful playing careers in the history of the sport.
Lendl was considered the greatest tennis player in the world during the late 80s. He held the World No.1 spot for over 270 weeks and was a dominant force in all Grand Slam tournaments during that time.
Lendl achieved a total of eight Grand Slam titles during his career — two Australian Opens, three French Opens, and three US Opens.
#11 Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors is considered by many as one of the greatest of all time. Back in his day, he held the record for most weeks spent at the World No.1 spot with an impressive 268 weeks. That record is today held by Roger Federer (310 weeks).
Jimmy is one of the few players who have won three Grand Slams in one calendar year (he didn’t participate in the fourth one). He had one of the longest careers at the professional level in the history of tennis and retired at the age of 43.
#12 Stefan Edberg
Former World No.1 Stefan Edberg was one of the most successful tennis players during the 90s. After he won the Wimbledon title in 1990, he claimed the No.1 spot for the first time in his career which he held for over 70 weeks. Edberg is, to this date, the only player to win all the four Junior Grand Slams in one calendar year (1983).
Edberg broke the record of most consecutive Grand Slam appearances (54) in the late 90s, which was eventually broken by Wayne Ferreira. During his career, Edberg won six Grand Slam titles — two at Wimbledon, two at the US Open, and two at the Australian Open.
#13 Roy Emerson
Arguably the best tennis player before the Open Era. Roy Emerson had his prime in the 60s and was ranked No.1 in the world during the 1964-65 season. No one was near his level back then.
Emerson managed to win a total of 12 Grand Slam titles during his career, which was the record for many years before the 21st-century era with “the Big 3” began.
Emerson is not only known for being one of the most successful tennis players of all time but also for his 30-year long career. He retired at the age of 47, which would be pretty much impossible in today’s tennis world.
#14 Sir Andy Murray
Sir Andy Murray, just like Stan Wawrinka, is a victim of having been born in the wrong era. Despite being in the shadow of “the big 3” during most of his career, there is no other player that has been as competitive against them as Sir Andy himself. For several years when he was in his prime, there were arguments that “the big 3” should be renamed “the big 4” to include Sir Andy.
Murray was actually the World No.1 for half a year during the 2016-2017 season, which wasn’t an easy task with Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer playing alongside him. He has an impressive three Grand Slam titles to his name, but that number could be bigger, given Murray has lost eight Grand Slam finals so far in his career.
Winning 3 out of 11 Grand Slam finals is one of the worst results in the history of tennis, but it really shows how consistent Sir Andy Murray has been at the top, despite “only” winning three Grand Slam titles.
#15 Mats Wilander
Arguably the most talented tennis player born in the 20th century. Mats Wilander was only 17 years old when he won his first French Open title in 1982 and is to this day the youngest player ever to win a Grand Slam. That is not his only Grand Slam record, though, as he also holds the record for most Grand Slam titles won before turning 20 (four).
Wilander wasn’t able to keep that good streak going throughout his whole career, but he still managed to win another three Grand Slams before retiring at the age of 32. He was ranked World No.1 during the 1988-89 season and was considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time back in the 90s.
#16 John Newcombe
John Newcombe is one of the few players to have attained the World No.1 ranking in both the singles and doubles categories. He won a total of six Grand Slam singles titles and 17 doubles titles (a former world record).
Newcombe was known for his speed, his deadly forehand, and his serve. He was also known for being at his best in the most important matches. Case in point, he played ten Wimbledon finals in his career and only lost one of them.
Newcombe was also one of the most consistent players in the world, being ranked inside the Top 10 for over ten consecutive years (1965-1975). His successful career has gone down in history as one of the greatest of all time.
#17 Jim Courier
Former World No.1 Jim Courier was one of the best tennis players in the 90s. He spent an impressive 58 weeks at the No.1 spot during the 1994-95 season and won a total of four Grand Slam titles, including two Roland Garros and two Australian Open titles.
Courier is one of the best players to have ever played on hard court, but to claim a higher spot than 17th on this list, he needed a better overall game that worked on all surfaces; he wasn’t able to get the same results during the clay and grass seasons.
#18 Guillermo Vilas
Guillermo Vilas was one of the most dominating players during the serve and volley era in the 70s and 80s. He was the first-ever South American to ever win a Grand Slam title, and by the time he retired, he had scraped up four Grand Slam titles.
Vilas holds several different world records, including a 46-match winning streak from 1977. He also holds the record for most singles titles won in one single season, with 16 ATP titles which he won during the 1977 season.
#19 Stan Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka has, during his whole career, been in the shadow of his compatriot, Roger Federer. If Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer didn’t exist, Wawrinka would have added many more Grand Slams to his current tally of three.
To win three Grand Slam titles in the toughest era of all time shows the greatness of Wawrinka, and no one can say that he doesn’t deserve a spot on this list. For over 15 years, Stan has consistently been one of the most competitive players on tour and one of few that can beat “the big 3”. Known for his one-handed backhand, it’s always entertaining to watch “Stan the Man” play tennis.
#20 Nick Kyrgios
The last spot on my list goes to one of my personal favourites — the charismatic 26-year-old from Australia, Nick Kyrgios. The Australian is well known for his temper on the court and his cheeky underarm serves. His temperament is the only thing keeping him from becoming the best in the world, which is something he will undoubtedly improve with age.
Kyrgios has one of the best services in tennis right now, which is also backed up by his immense forehands and quick movement on the court.
Kyrgios has six career titles so far, and his best world ranking has been 6th as well. With the right amount of determination, I feel he will improve much more in the coming years and, in time, rank higher on this list.