For many, tennis is the world’s most popular game. Indeed, there’s something to be said about that feeling of contentment when lobbing a ball, alone or with others. Anyone can enjoy this low-impact and non-contact sport for life, either on a tennis field or against the wall.
However, only a select few have used tennis to push the mental and physical boundaries of the human body to its extremes. These tennis greats continue spellbinding us with their performances even today—winning a plethora of trophies along the way. However, choosing the best tennis players of all time is no simple task since they are separated only by the most minuscule of differences at the top level. Do we only consider the number of trophies won? Or compare all famous tennis players of the modern age?
Well, we’re up for the challenge! Here’s our list of the greatest tennis players of all time who have raised quite a racket throughout the game’s history.
The Best Tennis Players of All Time
Boris Becker—Net Worth of $15 Million
Born in Leimen, Germany on November 22, 1967, Boris Franz Becker started conquering the tennis world from an early age. Becker turned professional and won his first doubles title in Munich in 1984. The following year saw the redheaded “Der Bomber”—aptly named for his fast and precise serves—win his first-ever major title on Wimbledon grass.
The Boris Becker Wimbledon win launched this cocky teenager to the tennis stratosphere with a boom. At the time, Becker was the youngest player ever to win the oldest tennis tournament in the world—an incomparable achievement for an unseeded player ranked 20th on the ATP list.
He won 49 singles titles, 15 doubles titles, and over $25 million in winnings throughout his career. Besides his 6 Grand Slam titles—three at Wimbledon, two Australian Opens and a US Open— ”Baron von Slam” also won three year-end championships and a doubles Olympic gold medal in 1992 in Barcelona. He was deservedly inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Boris Becker vs Pete Sampras rivalry
Boris Becker and Pete Sampras went head-to-head a total of 19 times, with Pistol Pete winning the majority (12). The best matchup these two tennis greats offered was the finals of the 1996 ATP Tour World Championships in Hanover, Germany, in which Sampras managed to outlast a very determined Becker.
Boris Becker as a coach to Djokovic
Between 2013 and 2016, Boris Becker helped an already great Novak Djokovic take his game to another level. Under Becker’s leadership, Djokovic won 6 Grand Slams—holding all four major titles at one point.
Andy Murray—Net Worth of $165 Million
Sir Andrew Barron Murray started playing tennis three years after his 15 May 1987 birth in Glasgow, Scotland— and by the time he was 8 years old, he even played against adults.
Despite the prominence of his contemporaries, such as Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal, Andy Murray still managed to win 46 ATP singles titles (14 ATP Masters titles). Thus far, his cupboard includes three Grand Slam titles. In addition to the two Andy Murray Wimbledon wins, he also snagged the title at the US Open in 2012 from Novak Djokovic.
The ATP placed Andy Murray at ranking spot No. 1 for 41 consecutive weeks in 2016, and so far, he has earned almost $62 million in prize money. Furthermore, Murray is the only tennis player in the game history to win two Olympic Games gold medals in singles.
Andy Murray is regarded as a national hero by his fellow Brits since he has restored Great Britain’s prominence on the tennis court—becoming the first Brit to win at Wimbledon since Fred Perry’s win in 1936.
Andy Murray vs Novak Djokovic
Born a week apart, Murray and Djokovic are undoubtedly two of the greatest tennis players of all time. The friendship and rivalry between these two tennis greats started as early as their junior camp days when Murray won the first-ever match they played against each other.
Since then, their mutual competition has fueled their careers to the point where they splintered from the rest of the pack by 2010 and joined Federer and Nadal in the “Big Four” of modern tennis. They played each other 36 times—19 of which were finals. Until today, Djokovic has won 25 times (11 finals), taking the commanding lead after Murray’s Wimbledon Championship win in 2013.
Murray met Djokovic in seven Grand Slam finals. While Novak won the 2011 Australia Open in straight sets, Andy struck back the following year at the US Open—defeating Djokovic after five exhausting hours to win his inaugural Grand Slam title. Of their remaining five Grand Slam final matchups, Murray managed to win only one, at Wimbledon in 2013 in straight sets.
Björn Borg—Net Worth of $40 Million
No list of the best tennis players in history would be complete without Björn Rune Borg—a former No. 1 tennis player born on 6 June 1956 in Stockholm, Sweden.
The long-blonde-haired Swede with a killer ground game and ice water in his veins dominated the world of tennis in the late 1970s, winning almost $3.7 million throughout his brief career. Before Bjorn Borg announced his retirement at the early age of 26, he became the first Open Era player to win 11 Grand Slam singles titles—six at Roland Garros and five at Wimbledon. Borg also appeared and lost in four US Open finals. In addition to his 11 major wins, Borg won 16 Grand Prix Super Series titles and three year-end championship titles, setting numerous records that still stand to this day.
Nevertheless, Bjorn Borg is still considered one of the best male tennis players of all time since he accomplished several feats, such as winning the French Open–Wimbledon double three consecutive times. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the only players who have secured this double since. Even modern pundits consider Borg one of the game’s greats who excelled in everything from defence to footwork and mental strength.
Bjorn Borg vs John McEnroe
Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe had one of the most iconic rivalries in tennis history, which culminated in their legendary match at the 1980 Wimbledon finals. Between 1978 and 1981, these two famous tennis players met a total of 22 times (14 on the regular tour), and they remained evenly matched until Borg’s withdrawal from the sport. Their on-court rivalry was described as “Fire and Ice” because of their contrasting styles and temperaments.
Bjorn Borg’s company
Björn Borg founded his own sportswear brand in 1984. His company creates apparel for a physically active clientele, such as bags, footwear, fragrances, and glasses. Although, the brand is best known for its Björn Borg underwear for men and women.
John McEnroe—Net Worth of $100 Million
The game’s most provocative player in history is perhaps John McEnroe—born on February 16, 1959, in Wiesbaden, West Germany to American parents. However, before McEnroe was lobbying harsh words with the public and the sport’s authority figures, he was mastering the nuances of the game by playing junior tournaments when he was nine years old.
Ever since McEnroe won the mixed doubles title at Roland Garros with Mary Carillo, his career—akin to his temper—exploded and netted him over $12.5 million in prize money. John McEnroe had conquered a total of seven Grand Slam finals—four on home soil at the US Open and three on the grass at Wimbledon. He also won nine major titles in doubles for men. By the end of his professional career, his trophy cabinet included an impressive number of 155 titles (77 singles and 78 doubles). The number of trophies won, his 1984 singles match record of 82 wins and three losses, and his 15 year-end tournament wins are three impressive tennis records that are yet to be broken.
Any list of the best tennis players of all time that includes bad boy Johnny lists creative shot-making and volleying skills as his best game qualities. His larger-than-life personality, controversial behaviour, and occasional fiery attitude made fans either love or hate him. After spending a remarkable 170 weeks as the No. 1 of tennis, you’d argue he has earned the right to vent a little steam on the court.
John McEnroe’s rivals
Who can forget the epic games between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, or the ones against Jimmy Connors? Johnny Mac was the man who ended Bjorn Borg’s Wimbledon run and denied him the opportunity to win at the US Open that same year. Many would also argue that McEnroe was a crucial factor in Borg’s decision to retire.
Pete Sampras—Net Worth of $150 Million
Petros “Pete” Sampras was born on August 12,1971 in Washington, D.C., U.S. Despite starting his professional career at 16 with a loss and a rank No. 893, he would end the year ranked as the world No. 97.
Pistol Pete was on his way to becoming one of the best male players of all time after winning his first Grand Slam at the US Open in September 1990, finishing the year at No. 5. Until his final professional match—a win at the 2002 US Open finals—Sampras triumphed a total of 14 times in Grand Slam finals. He won seven times at Wimbledon, five US Opens and two Australian Opens.
In his relatively short but exceptional career, Pete “the Pistol” collected 64 singles titles and almost $43.3 million in winnings. His famed Pete Sampras serve also helped him secure a record of six consecutive year-end No. 1 rankings—holding that position for 286 weeks. In 2007, Sampras was rightfully immortalized in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Pistol Pete excelled at playing a fast serve-and-volley game on grass courts, and he’s still lauded as the top grass-court tennis player of all time. However, without the Roland Garros title, the Pete Sampras Grand Slam record was not impossible to beat.
Pete Sampras vs Roger Federer: Who would win if both were at their best?
When discussing the tennis GOAT, we must surely include both Sampras and Federer since they managed to elevate the game to a whole different level. The only professional matchup of these two tennis giants was during the round of 16 at Wimbledon in 2001—which The Swiss won in five sets. However, while Federer was at the dawn of his illustrious career, Sampras was about to retire the following year.
Therefore, experts and fans can’t help but imagine how a Sampras vs Federer matchup would play out if they played each other in their prime. Federer would probably edge out Sampras on clay, but he would have a difficult time against his fast and powerful serve on grass. However, we reckon they would be evenly matched on hard surfaces. What do you think?
Pete Sampras vs Andre Agassi
Hailed as one of the longest and greatest tennis rivalries of modern times, the Sampras vs Agassi matchups awed the tennis public for 13 years. One hailed as the best server, the other one as the best serve-returner, they met a total of 34 times—with Sampras coming ahead on 20 of those occasions. Furthermore, Pistol Pete managed to win four of their five Grand Slam finals.
Andre Agassi—Net Worth of $175 Million
Another superstar featured on our list of best tennis players in history is U.S.-born Andre Kirk Agassi. In 1983, a 13-year old Agassi left his birth city—Las Vegas—to devote his life to tennis at Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Academy in Florida. Agassi’s 20-year-long career ended with an impressive collection of 60 singles titles and over $31 million in prize money—including eight Grand Slam finals wins and a 1996 Olympic gold medal.
The Las Vegas Kid is the first tennis player to achieve a Career Grand Slam after Rod Laver in the 60s, meaning Andre Agassi has won Grand Slams at every venue and on every type of surface. Agassi started his Grand Slam run at Wimbledon in 1992, before winning two US Opens, four Australian Opens and one Rolland Garros.
To this day, “The Punisher” (a nickname given him by his peers since he systematically broke down his opponents) remains the only tennis player in history to achieve a Career Super Slam-winning every Grand Slam title, an Olympic gold medal and a year-end championship.
Andre Agassi vs James Blake at the 2005 US Open
One of the best matches of recent tennis history took place in the quarterfinals of the 2005 US Open between Andre Agassi and James Blake. The 35-year-old Agassi did not start well, losing the first two sets to the ten years younger Blake. However, what ensued was one of the best comebacks in tennis history. The Punisher found the strength to strike back after a break in the third set, forcing a deciding fifth set. At 1:15 a.m, Agassi ended this exciting match with a forehand winner, proclaiming that tennis was the ultimate winner, not him.
Serena Williams—Net Worth of $225 Million
When completing a list of the all-time tennis greats, one should seriously consider including Serena Williams as well. Despite her gender, Serena Jameka Williams—born on September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan—possesses the skills necessary to compete with even the best male tennis players. So far, the WTA has ranked her as the No. 1 for a total of 319 weeks—the third-highest tally, behind Graf and Navratilova.
Deservedly hailed as one of the best female tennis players of all time to grace the court, Serena revolutionized women’s tennis with her powerful serve, serve return and strong groundstrokes. She even managed to serve an impressive number of 102 aces at Wimbledon in 2012, more than any male player managed to do. Serena Williams is currently the highest-earning female athlete of all time, with winnings nearing $94.5 million.
Serena Williams titles
Since turning professional in 1995, Momma Smash has won a record number of 23 Grand Slam singles titles in the Open Era. Her first Grand Slam singles triumph was the 1999 US Open win against Hingis. Moreover, together with her sister Venus, she also won the doubles title at the same tournament. Counting her doubles (14) and mixed doubles (2) titles, Serena has won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles. Serena Williams is an Australian Open record holder with seven wins and also shares a record of most wins at the US Open with Chris Evert.
Winning four Olympic gold medals is another crucial milestone in Serena’s career. She has managed to acquire three gold medals in doubles (with her sister Venus in 2000, 2008, and 2012) and one in singles (at the 2012 London Olympics). She remains the only player in the game’s history to win a Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles.
ReRe hits with precision and power, and her powerful serve is still helping her rack up titles on the tennis court. Her current singles titles tally stands at 73. Keep track of her career to see her winning some more.
Serena Williams rivals
No matter where they played, the Serena Williams vs Maria Sharapova match yielded drama. The two stars met 22 times on the court, with Serena winning 20 of the matches. Yet, despite Serena’s dominance, their matchups always aroused the interest of the public and the media due to their similarly aggressive playing styles and personal clashes.
A much more even rivalry is the one Serena has with her sister Venus. Since 1998, the two have played each other 31 times, with Serena winning 19 of the matches. Furthermore, the sisters have gone head-to-head in nine Grand Slam finals, with Serena winning seven of the titles.
Novak Djokovic—Net Worth of $220 Million
The current No. 1 tennis player—Novak Djokovic—was born on 22 May 1987 in Belgrade, Serbia. Choosing him for our list of best tennis players of all time was a no brainer since he is still breaking records with each passing day. His ongoing 327-week record as the ATP No. 1 might never be broken since the only one close to overtaking him is Federer, who is nearing the end of his career.
Novak’s love for the game was nurtured by his parents, who gave him a mini racket and a foam ball before sending him to a tennis camp at 4 years of age. After spending the following ten years at various other tennis camps and academies, Djokovic started his international career as early as 14, winning multiple singles, doubles, and team tournaments.
Novak Djokovic titles
As of today, Djokovic has won a total of 85 ATP singles titles, including 20 Grand Slams is tied at the top with Rafa and Roger. After winning his first Grand Slam at the 2008 Australia Open, Djokovic joined Nadal and Federer to form the “Big Three” of modern tennis. Since then, he has won a record number of nine Australian Opens, six at Wimbledon, three at the US Open, and two French Opens—the only player of the Open Era to win a double Career Grand Slam.
In addition to his major titles, Nole also holds a joint record with Nadal of 36 Masters wins. Moreover, he is the only player in the game’s history to win all nine Masters titles—a feat he has accomplished twice already. He has conquered the ATP Finals as well, meaning he is also the only tenniser to win all the notable titles on the ATP Tour. By now, his career wins have netted him almost $150 million.
So, do all of Novak’s achievements lend him the credibility to be declared the tennis GOAT? Right now, this coveted title is contested by both Federer and Nadal as well. However, Nole’s form does not seem to be declining anytime soon. So, keep an eye out on this one, as he’s still making history.
Novak Djokovic rivals
Rafael Nadal vs Novak Djokovic is one of the all-time greatest rivalries on the tennis court. At the 2011 Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic defeated Nadal in a major tournament for the first time in his career. Thus far, they have played each other 58 times—an Open Era record for head-to-head matches between male players—and “The Djoker” leads 30–28. The two tennis titans share the record for the longest Grand Slams singles finals of the Open Era, with 5 hours and 53 minutes played in the 2012 Australian Open final.
Novak Djokovic vs Roger Federer is considered one of the best hard-court rivalries in the history of tennis. They have met 50 times during their careers, 38 of which took place on hard surfaces. While Federer dominated the early years of their rivalry, Djokovic has taken control since tying 22–22 in 2015. As of now, Djokovic has won 27 of their 50 matchups. Since 2007 they have played 17 Grand Slam matches—5 finals and 11 semifinals. Novak Djokovic is the only player who has won against Federer at all four Grand Slams. Likewise, Federer is also the only man who has defeated Djokovic in all four major tournaments.
Rafael Nadal—Net Worth of $200 Million
The second “Big Three” player to be considered for the lofty position of the top tennis player of all time is Rafael Nadal Parera—born on June 3, 1986, in Manacor, Mallorca, Spain. Nadal was introduced to the world of tennis by his uncle Toni, who has remained his coach for most of his professional career. With his coach’s help early in his career and his unrelenting will to give everything he has from start to finish, Rafa made tennis history by reaching No. 2 in the world at only 19 years of age. Rafael Nadal won a French Open, six Masters and 9 other titles by this point.
Rafael Nadal titles
El Nino has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles (a record shared with Federer and Djokovic), with most of them (13) on clay at Roland Garros. His other major titles include four US Opens, two Wimbledons and one Australia Open. After winning the 2008 Olympic gold medal and the 2010 US Open, Rafael Nadal has joined Agassi as one of only two male players to earn the coveted Career Golden Slam. After his 2008 win at Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal became the No. 1 male tennis player on the ATP rankings, and he’s out to reclaim his spot and surpass Federer in major wins.
Besides his impressive tally of major wins, Nadal has also won 36 Masters 1000 singles titles (a joint record with Djokovic), 26 of which were acquired on clay. In fact, 62 of his 88 singles titles were clay-conquered, earning him the moniker “The King of Clay”. As of today, his total winnings are nearly $125 million, and his career singles record is 1027–208. He is yet to stop.
Rafael Nadal vs Roger Federer
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have a modern-day rivalry equaling the best in the game’s history. These two fantastic players are regularly included in any list of the greatest tennis players of all time. Therefore, anytime they go against each other, the public delights in the spectacle they provide.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have played 40 times against each other, with Nadal leading 24–16 overall (14–10 in finals). The Grand Slam courts have seen these two tennis greats play each other a total of 14 times. Rafa holds the lead with 10–4, dominating on every surface except grass. Rafa and Roger are yet to meet at the US Open.
Roger Federer—Net Worth of $450 Million
Crowning our best tennis players in the history list is none other than Roger Federer. The oldest of the “Big Three” was born on 8 August 1981 in Basel, Switzerland, where he played various sports that significantly improved his hand-eye coordination, such as basketball and badminton. The Swiss Maestro started his rise to stardom as a competitor at the 1998 Wimbledon Junior championship, where he won both the singles and the doubles titles.
Federer entered the professional circuit in 1998—the same year he earned his No. 1 world ranking as a junior player. So who would have guessed that this teenager who has dropped out in the first round of his first tournament would go on to become the most eligible contender for the tennis GOAT title?
On his way to the top, King Roger has accrued a total of 20 Grand Slam wins; an impressive record shared with Nadal and Djokovic. He won most of his major titles on Wimbledon grass (8) and at hard courts (6 Australian Opens and 5 US Opens). The only time Roger Federer won the French Open was in 2009.
All in all, this gracious versatile player has won a total of 103 career singles titles and $130 million in winnings so far, and he needs six more to equal Jimmy Connors’ record of most titles won in the Open Era. In addition to his major titles, his splendid trophy cupboard also includes 28 Masters 1000 titles, six ATP Finals, and an Olympic gold in Beijing in 2020.
Roger Federer rivals
From Agassi and Murray to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, only a handful of the world’s tennis greats have managed to upset Federer’s game throughout his long career. He managed to dominate every rival that played against him except the other two members of the “Big Three”.
Who’s the King of the Court Then?
We’ve presented the tennis GOAT case for ten exceptional players in the paragraphs above. So, who is the top tennis player of all time then? Difficult to say, really. Many tennis experts believe that the number of titles and broken records alone is not enough to determine the greatest of all time. The period in which they played, or still play, should also be considered. For example, the current “Big Three” have pushed the sport’s boundaries further than anyone else in history. Would players the likes of Borg, McEnroe or Sampras be able to compete against them? Perhaps not, since tennis is a much more physically demanding sport nowadays. However, back in the day, very few could compete against the then legends as well.
What are your thoughts on the king among the best tennis players of all time? No matter, really. With the still-ongoing careers of the “Big Three”, that choice will ultimately boil down to either Federer, Nadal or Djokovic.