Top 10 Best Tennis Players of All Time

Best Tennis Players of All Time

Tennis players are some of the most fierce competitors in all sports. Alone on the court against their opponent, they battle in solitude, drawing strength only from within. Throughout tennis’ long and storied history, a few players have risen to the top, drawing recognition as the greatest to ever play the game. Here is a list of the top ten best tennis players of all time, followed by a few honorable mentions.


Who are the best tennis players of all time?

  1. Roger Federer
  2. Serena Williams
  3. Rafael Nadal
  4. Steffi Graf
  5. Novac Djokovic
  6. Margaret Court
  7. Rod Laver
  8. Pete Sampras
  9. Björn Borg
  10. Andre Agassi

1. Roger Federer

  • 20 Grand Slam titles
  • 103 ATP titles
  • 6-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal in doubles

One of the greatest tennis players of the modern era, Roger Federer was the first of the “Big 3” to rise to prominence. He has won an astounding 103 ATP Tour titles, second only to Jimmy Connors. Federer won Wimbledon a record-setting eight times, and was the first man in history to win 20 Grand Slams.

Federer seemed destined for greatness, even at a young age. Growing up in Basel, Switzerland, he started playing tennis at age eight and became the nation’s junior champion at 14. In 1998, Federer won the Wimbledon junior championship, as well as the Orange Bowl junior tournament in Miami. That same year, he joined the ATP Tour; within three seasons, Federer had his first Grand Slam title, winning Wimbledon in 2003 at age 21. 

At the 2009 French Open, Federer completed his career Grand Slam. Although his major titles record has been surpassed by Nadal, Federer has continued to adapt his style of play, staying competitive today, even in the face of challengers such as Novac Djokovic and Andy Murray

2. Serena Williams

  • 23 Grand Slam titles
  • 73 ATP titles
  • 5-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 2012 London Olympics gold

Serena Williams, one of the greatest women’s players of all time, defined tennis throughout the 2000s and 2010s and inspired a generation of girls to play sports. Her 23 Grand Slam wins is second most of all time. Williams has also won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, all with her sister, Venus, as a partner.

Growing up in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Williams started playing tennis at age four, alongside Venus. The sisters were coached by their parents, Oracene Price and Richard Williams.

Serena Williams turned pro at 16, and was ranked inside the top 20 by the next season. Her first Grand Slam title came at age 18, when she won the 1999 US Open. 

Williams has proven to be a versatile competitor on all surfaces, winning each Grand Slam at least three times, in addition to a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Dominance on the court has contributed to her financial success: Serena Williams is the highest-earning woman athlete of all time.

3. Rafael Nadal

  • 22 Grand Slam titles
  • 92 ATP titles
  • 2-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 2008 Beijing Olympics gold

Rafael Nadal, known as the “King of Clay” for his likely untouchable record of 14 French Open titles, is the second member of the “Big 3” on this list. Recently eclipsing the other members of the trio in major titles with his 22nd Grand Slam win at the 2022 French Open, Nadal has the potential to be the greatest tennis player of all time.

Nadal grew up in Mallorca, Spain, learning to play on the clay surfaces which would become his trademark. He won the Spanish and European junior championships before turning pro at age 15. 

He defeated a top-ranked Andy Roddick while guiding Spain to a 2004 Davis Cup win. Then, in 2005 Nadal won the French Open after qualifying for the tournament for the first time, marking his first Grand Slam victory.

Thus began a streak of dominance for Nadal, as he won at least one Grand Slam every year for ten years straight between 2005 and 2014, which is a record for the longest Grand Slam streak in tennis history. After being sidelined by injuries for a few years, Nadal has returned to form in the 2020s, adapting his game to excel on surfaces other than clay and playing among the best in the world.

4. Steffi Graf

  • 22 Grand Slam titles
  • 107 ATP titles
  • 5-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 1988 Seoul Olympics gold medal

Easily one of the best women’s tennis players of all time, Steffi Graf dominated the game in the 1980s and 90s. She has 22 Grand Slam titles, and is the only player in history to have accomplished a “Golden Slam” by winning all four major titles plus an Olympic gold medal in singles in just one year. Graf is also the only player to have won each of the Grand Slam tournaments at least four times, which is a testament to her dominance and versatility.

Steffi Graf grew up in Mannheim, West Germany. She started playing tennis at age four with the help of her father, who served as her coach. After winning the European Junior Championships in 1982, Graf turned pro at age 13.

She won her first Grand Slam at the 1987 French Open, defeating the dominant Martina Navratilova. The next year, she won her first calendar-year Grand Slam, becoming the third woman in history to do so. When Graf retired at age 30, she was hailed by stars around the sport as the greatest women’s player of all time.

5. Novac Djokovic

  • 20 Grand Slam titles
  • 87 ATP titles
  • 5-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze

Novac Djokovic is one of the most dominant tennis players in the modern era. The youngest of the “Big 3,” with 20 Grand Slam titles to his name, Djokovic is poised to surpass the other two members and become the greatest of all time. In fact, Djokovic possesses a winning record over both Nadal and Federer.

His career totals of 373 weeks ranked at number one, and seven years ended at number one, both represent records for most of all time.

Djokovic was born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia, where he began playing tennis at age four. At 13, he was sent to Germany to train. There he became Europe’s top-ranked junior player.

After turning pro at 18, Djokovic won his first Grand Slam five years later at the 2008 Australian Open. That year he also took bronze in the Beijing Olympics. 

Over the course of his career, Djokovic has won eight more Australian Open championships, setting the record for most of all time, with nine titles. He has also seen success at the other major tournaments, becoming only the third person ever to achieve a double career Grand Slam, alongside Rod Laver and Roy Emerson. 

6. Margaret Court

  • 24 Grand Slam titles
  • 192 ATP titles
  • 64 combined Grand Slam titles (singles, doubles, and mixed doubles)
  • 91% Open Era singles winning percentage (668 matches)

One of the best tennis players of all time, Margaret Court dominated women’s tennis at the dawn of the Open Era. Her 24 Grand Slam singles titles represent the record for most of all time, as does Court’s combined total of 64 titles among singles, doubles, and mixed doubles championships.

Court’s singles win rate of over 91 percent during the Open Era is also a record for the highest of all time, and one that is unlikely to be broken.

Court grew up in Albury, New South Wales, Australia, and started playing tennis at age eight. She earned her first major title at age 18, when she won the 1960 Australian Championships. Court then successfully defended her title for the next six years.

In addition to her superlative singles play, Court was a fearsome doubles partner. At five different Grand Slam tournaments, she achieved tennis’ triple crown–winning the title in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.

After retiring in 1977, Margaret Court was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1979. She is widely recognized as one of the greatest ever to play the game.

7. Rod Laver

  • 11 Grand Slam titles
  • 198 ATP titles
  • 1970 ATP Tour Finals champion
  • Namesake of Laver Cup and Rod Laver Arena

Rod Laver was one of the best tennis players of the 1960s. His total of 198 ATP titles remains a practically insurmountable record in the modern era, and Laver is the only player in history to complete a calendar Grand Slam twice (in 1962 and 1969).

Laver was born and raised in Rockhampton, in Queensland, Australia. After leaving school as a teenager to devote his life to tennis, Laver was coached in Queensland by Charlie Hollis and by Davis Cup championship captain Harry Hopman, who gave Davis his nickname, “Rocket.”

In 1957, Laver won both the Australian and US junior championships. Then, in 1959 he made it to all three Wimbledon finals, winning the title in mixed doubles with partner Darlene Hard

The first Grand Slam title for Laver came the following year, when he won the 1960 Australian Championships. In 1962 he won all four major tournaments, becoming the first man to achieve a calendar-year Grand Slam since Don Budge in 1938. 

As a result of tournament regulations at the time, Laver was barred from Grand Slams between 1963 and 1967 because he had turned pro. Once the rules changed, he earned his second calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969, cementing Laver as one of the greatest of all time. 

8. Pete Sampras

  • 14 Grand Slam titles
  • 64 ATP titles
  • 5-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 2-time Grand Slam Cup champion

Pete Sampras was the most dominant tennis player of the 1990s. At the time of his retirement in 2002, many considered him the greatest of all time. Sampras was the first person during the Open Era to reach 14 Grand Slam titles, a record which seemed incredible until the “Big 3” and Serena Williams came along to shatter it.

Born in Washington D.C., Sampras started playing tennis at age 11, after his family moved to Palos Verdes, California. There he received coaching from amateur tennis player Peter Fischer, who helped Sampras refine his style of play into a serve and volley game.

Sampras turned pro in 1988. Two years later, he defeated a heavily favored Andre Agassi in the final of the 1990 US Open at age 19.

Agassi became a rival over the course of his career, but Sampras maintained the upper hand, winning 20 of the 34 matches they played.

Sampras added four more US Open wins to his trophy case, as well as seven titles at Wimbledon. He has two wins in the Australian Open, but never managed a title at the French Open.

9. Björn Borg

  • 11 Grand Slam titles
  • 66 ATP titles
  • 2-time ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 1976 WCT Finals champion

Swedish sensation Björn Borg electrified the professional tennis circuit in the late 1970s, providing a cerebral foil to the explosive John McEnroe. Winning five consecutive Wimbledon titles and four consecutive French Open titles, Borg became the first man in the Open Era to win 11 Grand Slams.

Growing up in Stockholm, Borg started playing tennis at an early age. By the time he was 13, Borg was the top-ranked Swedish junior player. At age 14, he turned pro and was selected as a member of Sweden’s Davis Cup team.

Borg’s early success continued, as he won the Italian Open at age 17 and the 1974 French Open at 18, which marked his first Grand Slam title. He successfully defended this title the following year, and during his career, Borg became known as unbeatable on the clay courts of Roland Garros

After a period of dominance, Borg retired at the young age of 26. His early retirement makes Borg’s records and titles that much more impressive.

10. Andre Agassi

  • 8 Grand Slam titles
  • 60 ATP titles
  • 1990 ATP Tour Finals champion
  • 1996 Atlanta Olympics gold

The only man to achieve a career Super Slam–the four major titles, a year-end championship, plus Olympic gold–Andre Agassi was one of the best tennis players of the 1990s. Known for his versatility on all court surfaces, Agassi was also recognized for the consistency and accuracy of his game, as well as his fierce rivalry with Pete Sampras.

Andre Agassi grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, the youngest child of professional boxer Mike Agassi. He committed himself to tennis at an early age, attending Nick Bollettieri's Tennis Academy in Florida at age 13, then dropping out of school the next year to devote his life to the sport.

Agassi won multiple USTA junior national championships before turning pro at age 16. He quickly found success on the pro tour, winning six tournaments in 1988. 

Agassi’s first Grand Slam title came at Wimbledon in 1992, when he defeated Goran Ivanišević in the final after taking down John McEnroe and Boris Becker in previous rounds. He then won the 1994 US Open and the 1995 Australian Open.

After going through personal struggles and mounting a comeback in the late 1990s, Agassi secured his place as one of the greats when he won the 1999 French Open, completing his career Grand Slam, Golden Slam, and Super Slam.

Honorable Mentions

  • Arthur Ashe
  • Boris Becker
  • Maureen Connolly Brinker
  • Don Budge
  • Evonne Goolagong Cawley
  • Jimmy Connors
  • Lindsay Davenport
  • Margaret Osborne DuPont
  • Stefan Edberg
  • Roy Emerson
  • Chris Evert
  • Justine Henin
  • Martina Hingis
  • Billie Jean King
  • Ivan Lendl
  • Suzanne Lenglen
  • John McEnroe
  • Helen Wills Moody
  • Martina Navratilova
  • Fred Perry
  • Ken Rosewell
  • Monica Seles
  • Maria Sharapova
  • Bill Tilden
  • Guillermo Vilas
  • Stan Wawrinka
  • Mats Wilander
  • Venus Williams

FAQ

Who is the best tennis player of all time?

Roger Federer is the best tennis player of all time. However, he is still playing and history continues to be written. Throughout his career, Federer has experienced fierce competition from the other two “Big 3” members, Rafael Nadal and Novac Djokovic.

The three have exchanged the number-one ranking often, and in recent years both Nadal and Djokovic have shown the potential to surpass Federer as the greatest of all time. For example, Nadal’s 2022 French Open win pushed him to the forefront, achieving his 22nd Grand Slam title, while Federer and Djokovic remain stuck at 20 titles apiece.

Who has won the most majors in tennis?

Margaret Court has won the most majors in tennis, with 24 Grand Slam singles titles between 1960 and 1973. She has also won the most majors across all disciplines, holding a combined total of 64 titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Although most of her titles came before the Open Era, Court accomplished an Open Era calendar-year Grand Slam in 1970.

Serena Williams has won the most majors during the Open Era, with 23 titles. Rafael Nadal holds the record for most majors wins by a man, with 22 Grand Slam victories.