Top 6 Best Tennis Serve And Volley Players of All Time

Top 6 Best Tennis Serve And Volley Players of All Time

One of the tactics tennis players use to try and win matches is known as the serve and volley technique. The basic premise is that after a player serves, they immediately rush to the net to try and volley the return. Over the years, there have been lots of successful players who used the serve and volley technique quite a bit. The top six serve and volley players are discussed below.  

Which Tennis Players Are the Best at Serving and Volleying?

It should be noted that this list was made by considering both the success of the player and how often they used the serve and volley technique, not just who was the best at serve and volleying.

  1. Pete Sampras
  2. Margaret Court
  3. John McEnroe
  4. Martina Navratilova
  5. Billie Jean King
  6. Stefan Edberg

1. Pete Sampras

  • Seven-time Wimbledon champion
  • Five-time US Open champion
  • Two-time Australian Open champion

One of the greatest tennis players ever, regardless of strategy, Pete Sampras is the number one player on this list. Sampras won 14 Grand Slam singles titles throughout his career, which was the most in history at the time of his retirement. He has since been passed by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer, but his greatness is nonetheless still appreciated. Specifically, Sampras won seven Wimbledons (1993-1995, 1997-2000), five US Opens (1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002), and two Australian Opens (1994 and 1997).

Not surprisingly, Sampras had a lot of great tennis skills, but his powerful serve and excellent volleying techniques were major keys to his success. Sampras was not as much of a serve and volley player early in his career, but he quickly grew to love the technique, and especially used it at Wimbledon, winning seven titles in an eight-year stretch. Clearly, Sampras is one of the best players of all time, and the serve and volley skills he possessed were a major reason why.

2. Margaret Court

  • 11-time Australian Open champion
  • Five-time French Open champion
  • Five-time US Open champion
  • Three-time Wimbledon champion

Undoubtedly the greatest female player ever to use the serve and volley, and arguably the greatest overall player ever, Margaret Court is the number two ranked player on this list. Court’s 24 Grand Slam titles are the most ever male or female, and 11 of her 24 singles titles came at her native Australian Open (1960-1966, 1969-1971, 1973), in addition to five at both the French (1962, 1964, 1969, 1970, 1974) and US Open (1962, 1965, 1969, 1970, 1974), and three Wimbledons (1963, 1965, 1970).

Over the course of her career, Court had a record of 1,180 match wins against only 107 losses, a winning percentage of over 92. Those 1,180 wins are also the most ever for a male or female tennis player. Experts say Margaret’s combination of the serve and volley technique (which was mostly foreign to the women’s game at the time) and her incredible endurance allowed her to have the success that she did, and she is in the conversation for greatest tennis player of all-time.

3. Martina Navratilova

  • Nine-time Wimbledon champion
  • Four-time US Open champion
  • Three-time Australian Open champion
  • Two-time French Open champion

Another great female serve and volley player, and another one of the overall greatest female players ever, Martina Navratilova comes in at number three on this list. Martina’s 18 Grand Slam titles rank her tied for fifth on the all-time list, behind fellow greats Margaret Court, Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, and Helen Wills. Half of her major victories were at Wimbledon (1978, 1979, 1982-1987, 1990), along with four US Opens (1983, 1984, 1986, 1987), three Australian Opens (1981, 1983, 1985), and two French Opens (1982 and 1984).

She had her most impressive year in 1983, when her overall match record for the season was an astonishing 86 wins against only one loss. Perhaps even more unbelievable, in 2004, at the age of 47, she became the oldest player in the Open Era, male or female, to win a singles match. Martina’s combination of the serve and volley style and her soft hands allowed her to have all of this success, and she is certainly in the conversation for greatest female tennis player ever. 

4. John McEnroe

  • Four-time US Open champion
  • Three-time Wimbledon champion

Known today for his work as a broadcaster for ESPN’s coverage of tennis, John McEnroe was once a tennis great himself, and he comes in at number four on this list. McEnroe is the winner of seven Grand Slam singles championships, three straight at the US Open from 1979-1981 and one more in 1984, along with three Wimbledons championships in 1981, 1983, and 1984.  McEnroe also made four other Grand Slam finals at the French Open in 1984, the US Open in 1985, and Wimbledon in 1980 and 1982.

In 1984, McEnroe had his best year when he nearly matched Navratilova’s 1983 season, winning 82 matches and losing just three times.  While it did not lead to as much success as the three previous players, many people argue McEnroe had the greatest serve and volley in tennis history.  His lefty serve (which he hid so well thanks to the extreme contortion of his body) and his volley skills both made him one of the most difficult players for anybody to go up against during his time. 

5. Billie Jean King

  • Six-time Wimbledon champion
  • Four-time US Open champion
  • 1972 French Open champion
  • 1968 Australian Open champion

Well known for her activism off the court, Billie Jean King was also an all-time great on the court, and she ranks number five on this list. King took home 12 Grand Slam singles titles, six at Wimbledon (1966-1968, 1972, 1973, 1975), four at the US Open (1967, 1971, 1974, 1974), the 1968 Australian Open, and the 1972 French Open. She also had a great amount of success playing doubles, winning 11 mixed doubles Grand Slams and 11 women’s doubles Grand Slams.

King was Margaret Court’s main rival, and together, the two helped to introduce the serve and volley technique into the women’s game. Prior to the two of them, no women used the serve and volley technique much at all. While she did not possess a very powerful serve, since she was only five feet, four inches, she was able to place her serves accurately and use her superior volleying skills to her advantage. These allowed King to become one of the greatest female players of all time.

6. Stefan Edberg

  • Two-time US Open champion
  • Two-time Australian Open champion
  • Two-time Wimbledon champion

Another outstanding serve and volley player, Stefan Edberg rounds out this list at number six. Stefan is the winner of six Grand Slams, winning the US Open back-to-back in 1991 and 1992, Wimbledon in 1988 and 1990, and the Australian Open in 1985 and 1987. He also managed to make the French Open final and the Wimbledon final in 1989, in addition to three more Australian Open finals (1990, 1992, 1993).

What made Edberg’s serve and volley style unique compared to fellow competitors like John McEnroe was that, rather than a big serve or top-notch forehand, his serve befuddled opponents thanks to its excessive amount of spin. Since this slowed down the speed of the ball, Edberg was able to approach the net easier and be in a better position to finish off the volley. While his forehand likely held him back from winning even more majors, Edberg’s serve and volley game is up there with any player ever.

Honorable Mentions

Rod Laver

  • Three-time Australian Open champion
  • Two-time French Open champion
  • Four-time Wimbledon champion
  • Two-time US Open champion

Rod Laver was a pro tennis player for 24 years, and in that time, he managed to rank number one in the world for seven straight years, from 1964-1970. Laver is known for winning two calendar Grand Slams (when a pro player wins all four of the Grand Slam Tournaments in a single year), achieving the feat as an amateur in 1962 and again in 1969. Laver is one of only two male tennis players to achieve the calendar Grand Slam, alongside Don Budge, and he is the only one to have done it twice.

As a serve and volley player, Laver was known for his all-around strengths. A player who was steady in his presence at the baseline, Laver was aggressive with his groundstrokes, close-up shots, forehands, and backhands. His skill at firing off aggressive shots earned him the nickname “the Rockhampton Rocket,” after his home city of Rockhampton, Australia.

Pancho Gonzales

  • Two-time US Open champion

Richard “Pancho” Gonzales was a dominant serve and volley player with a massive frame and a blazing serve. Playing before the Open Era, he won the 1948 and 1949 US Opens. After turning pro, Gonzales was ranked number one in the world for eight years in the 1950s and early 60s, consistently controlling the men’s pro tour during that time.

Gonzales was 6’3” inches tall and over 180 pounds, enabling his incredible 112.88 mph serve, which is a record for fastest in the wooden racket era. After entering professional competition, Gonzales won the US Pro Tennis Championships eight times and the Wembley Pro Championships four times. He also reached the finals of the French Pro Championship twice. Gonzales was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968.

Jack Kramer

  • 1947 Wimbledon champion
  • Two-time US Open champion

Jack Kramer was a great serve and volley player known for a giant serve and hard-hitting forehand. An advocate for the transition to the Open Era, and one of the founders of the ATP, Kramer was the first top-tier player to entirely adopt a serve and volley style of play.

Kramer’s massive, 6’2” physique contributed to his ability to smash blazing serves and charge the court for a volley. Kramer played before the Open Era and won the US Open in 1946 and 1947, as well as Wimbledon in 1947, before turning pro in 1948. After going pro, Kramer won the 1948 US Pro Tennis Championships and the 1949 Wembley Pro Championships. He also made it to the final in the French Pro Championship.

Here is a list of other great serve and volley players:

  • Boris Becker
  • Pat Cash
  • Ivan Dodig
  • Gigi Fernandez
  • Tim Henman
  • John Isner
  • Goran Ivanisevic
  • Kathy Jordan
  • Jan Kodes
  • Richard Krajicek
  • Michael Llorda
  • John Newcombe
  • Yannick Noah
  • Jana Novotna
  • Patrick Rafter
  • Pam Shriver
  • Michael Stich
  • Taylor Townsend


Which men’s tennis player is the best ever at serving and volleying?

While it is a close call between John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg, McEnroe gets the edge as the best ever at serve and volleying, thanks to his slight advantage in Grand Slam victories (seven to Edberg’s six). McEnroe had the more powerful serve, which consistently frustrated his opponents, although the excessive spin on Edberg’s serve was not easy to deal with. Either player has a great case for the best serve and volley player of all time, but John McEnroe is the winner, according to this list.

Which women’s tennis player is the best ever at serving and volleying?

Margaret Court is clearly the best female serve and volley player ever, and arguably the greatest all-around player ever. Court’s 24 major victories are the most of any player ever, male or female, one ahead of Serena Williams’ 23. Court helped to bring the serve and volley tactic into the women’s game, and she truly is a pioneer in the sport.

What is serve and volleying in tennis?

Serve and volleying is a strategy players use in tennis, which involves immediately rushing to the net after they serve and trying to win the point quickly by getting an easy volley winner. The strategy is often most successful with players who serve the fastest, as those serves are the hardest to get good returns on when they are well-placed. That being said, Stefan Edberg and Billie Jean King showed that one does not have to be a big server to be successful at serving and volleying.