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Top 10 Greatest Women's Tennis Players of All Time

Updated on July 15, 2017
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Bill has had a lifelong passion for the game of tennis from his days as a competitive youth player to now following the world's top players.

International Tennis Hall of Fame: Newport, RI

The International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum
The International Tennis Hall of Fame and Museum | Source

Selecting the top ten of anything can be a difficult and subjective task. As difficult as it was to choose the top ten all-time greatest male tennis players, the women's top ten proved no easier.

There have been so many great women players over the last 50 years, and this doesn't even take into consideration the great players from the early 20th century. Changes in fitness regimes, nutrition, and racket technology over the years have only served to complicate an already difficult task.

After pouring through countless statistical records and my own personal memory banks, I have come up with a list of the best female tennis players of all time. Here they are.

10. Justine Henin

Justin Henin
Justin Henin | Source
  • Born: June 1, 1982
    Liege, Belgium
  • Resides: Brussels, Belgium
  • Turned pro: 1999
  • Retired: 2008, 2011
  • Career prize money: $20,863,335
  • 50 career titles
  • 7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 Australian, 4 French, 2 US Open

Known for her mental and physical toughness, Justine Henin was one of the most athletic women to ever play the game. Despite her small stature, she packed a powerful punch and played a complete game that included a powerful serve and a forehand shot that she hit with both power and accuracy. Known as one of the best volleyers in the game, Henin was as comfortable at the net as from the baseline.

In 2003, she achieved the number one ranking in the world, having won both the French Open and the US Open. In 2004, Henin won the Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics to go along with her first Australian Open title. She won seven Grand Slam titles in her career but retired abruptly in 2008 citing burnout from over twenty years of competitive tennis. A brief comeback in 2010 was short lived, and she retired for good in early 2011.


9. Venus Williams

Venus Williams
Venus Williams | Source
  • Born: June 17, 1980
    Lynwood, California
  • Resides: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
  • Turned pro: 1994
  • Career prize money: $35,520,636
  • 49 career titles
  • 7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 5 Wimbledon, 2 US Open
  • Current active player

If not for having to compete against her sister Serena, Venus Williams may very well have had many more Grand Slam titles to her name. The sisters have gone head-to-head in a Grand Slam final eight times with Serena winning six of those matches.

While Venus’s career has been fraught with injuries, there is no doubt that in the early 2000s she was the woman to beat on tour. Between 2000 and 2001, Venus captured four of her seven Grand Slam victories. In 2002, she finally attained the number one ranking in the world, a spot she would capture on three separate occasions. Wimbledon has been Venus’s favorite court as she has won five titles there, the last coming in 2008.

Venus is back to playing at a high level after suffering through years of knee and hip problems. She started the 2014 season ranked number 47 in the world but has climbed back into the top twenty and is currently ranked number 9 in the world following her run to the 2017 Australian Open and Wimbledon final. A win at either of Grand Slam events would have made for a fitting cap to a long and very successful career.


8. Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong
Evonne Goolagong | Source
  • Born: July 31, 1951
    Griffith, New South Wales, Australia
  • Resides: Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia
  • Turned pro: 1968
  • Retired: 1983
  • Career prize money: $1,399,431
  • 68 career titles
  • 7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 1 French, 2 Wimbledon
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1988

Often overlooked because she played during the Chris Everett and Martina Navratilova era, Goolagong was the epitome of grace and beauty on the court. Despite playing during one of the most competitive periods in women’s tennis, Goolagong was still able to win seven Grand Slam titles and in 1976 was ranked number one in the world.

She has the distinction of being the only mother since before World War I to have won Wimbledon, having won the title in 1980 after giving birth to her daughter in 1977.

The only Grand Slam title to elude her was the US Open, where she reached the finals in four consecutive years, 1973-1976.


7. Billie Jean King

Source
  • Born: November 22, 1943
    Long Beach, California
  • Resides: Chicago and New York
  • Turned pro: 1968
  • Retired: 1983
  • Career prize money: $1,966,487
  • 129 career titles
  • 12 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 Australian, 1 French, 6 Wimbledon, 4 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1987

Who can forget the weird and wacky battle of the sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973? Not only did King dispose of Mr. Riggs in short order but she also dominated women’s tennis from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.

Her hard-charging aggressive style of play was in sharp contrast to the stately ground game of Chris Evert who came along in 1972 to challenge King as the queen of women’s tennis. Nevertheless, King owned Wimbledon from 1966 to 1975, when she won the title six times.


6. Monica Seles

Monica Seles
Monica Seles | Source
  • Born: December 2, 1973
    Novi Sad, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
  • Resides: Sarasota, Florida
  • Turned pro: 1989
  • Retired: 2008
  • Career prize money: $14,891,762
  • 53 career titles
  • 9 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 3 French, 2 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2009

Were it not for the unfortunate on-court attack and stabbing by a deranged fan in 1993, Monica Seles would certainly have gone on to win more Grand Slam titles. Her epic battles with Steffi Graf were classics, and we the fans were deprived of some great matches because of one fan's sick obsession.

While Monica did return to tennis two years after the incident, she was never quite the same. To her credit, she did go on to win the 1996 Australian Open, her only post-attack Grand Slam victory. Monica continued to play until 2003 and officially retired in 2008.

There is no doubt that Monica Seles was the most dominant player from 1990 to 1992. During this time, she won seven of her nine Grand Slam Titles and in 1991 was the top-ranked woman in the world.


5. Margaret Court

Margaret Court
Margaret Court | Source
  • Born: July 16, 1942
    Albury, New South Wales, Australia
  • Resides: Perth, Western Australia
  • Turned pro: 1960
  • Retired: 1977
  • Career prize money approximately: $500,000
  • 192 career titles
  • 24 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 11 Australian, 5 French, 3 Wimbledon, 5 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1979

There are many experts out there who feel that Margaret Court is the best player of all time. With a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, it’s hard to argue. Add in her 19 doubles and 19 mixed doubles titles and Court has a record 62 Major titles to her credit.

She was the first woman in the open era to win the singles Grand Slam in 1970, and she is one of only two women (Daniela Hantuchova being the other) to have won a Grand Slam in mixed doubles, which she did twice. Undoubtedly the best player in the 1960s to early 1970s, Court was the first woman to incorporate weights and fitness training into her routine. The result was a long and injury-free career.


4. Chris Evert

Chris Evert
Chris Evert | Source
  • Born: December 21, 1954
    Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  • Resides: Boca Raton, Florida
  • Turned pro: 1972
  • Retired: 1989
  • Career prize money: $8,895,195
  • 157 career titles
  • 18 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 Australian, 7 French, 3 Wimbledon, 6 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1995

Was there ever a player more graceful on the court than Chris Evert? She was a machine from the baseline, and with that two-handed backhand shot, she dominated women’s tennis from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s. Evert still holds the record for reaching the most Grand Slam singles finals with 34, and she managed to win 18 of them including every major at least twice. When Martina Navratilova came along in the late 1970s, it provided fans with a great on-court rivalry. Evert was the year-ending number one player in the world for seven years and had a career winning percentage in singles matches of over 90 percent.


3. Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova | Source
  • Born: October 18, 1956
    Prague, Czechoslovakia
  • Resides: Sarasota, Florida
  • Turned pro: 1975
  • Retired: 1994
  • Career prize money: $21,626,089
  • 167 career titles
  • 18 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 Australian, 2 French, 9 Wimbledon, 4 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2000

One of the toughest competitors to ever grace the court, Martina Navratilova dominated women’s tennis from the late 1970s through a good portion of the 1980s. Known for her extreme physical conditioning, Martina brought the big serve and volley back to the women’s game.

She holds the open era record for career titles with 167 and has 59 total Grand Slam titles including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Martina also holds the record for career Wimbledon titles with an amazing nine championships. She will be remembered as one of the greatest doubles players ever, having won 31 grand Slam Doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles.


2. Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf | Source
  • Born: June 14, 1969
    Mannheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, West Germany
  • Resides: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Turned pro: 1982
  • Retired: 1999
  • Career prize money: $21,891,306
  • 107 career titles
  • 22 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 6 French, 7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2004

Able to win on all surfaces, Graff was a model of consistency throughout her 17-year career. Her record 377 weeks ranked as number one in the world is a record for any player, male or female. In 1988, Graff became the first player to achieve what is regarded as the calendar year Golden Slam by winning all four majors plus the Olympic Gold Medal in the same year, a remarkable feat.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, there was no one better than Graf, and when she retired in 1999, she was still ranked number three in the world. Were it not for the long and storied career of Serena Williams the case would be made for Graf as the greatest of all-time. While many will continue to debate Steffi versus Serena as the greatest female player of all-time they were both incredible players who dominated their era and advanced women's tennis.


1. Serena Williams

Serena Williams
Serena Williams | Source
  • Born: September 26, 1981
    Saginaw, Michigan
  • Resides: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
  • Turned pro: 1995
  • Career prize money: $84,463,131
  • 72 career titles
  • 23 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 7 Australian, 3 French, 7 Wimbledon, 6 US Open
  • Current active player

One of the strongest and most powerful women to ever play the game, Serena Williams has certainly left her mark on tennis. Together, Serena and her sister, Venus, have been a dominant force in women’s tennis since the late 1990s. Together, they have won 14 Grand Slam Doubles titles. With 23 Grand Slam Singles titles including the 2017 Australian Open, Serena now owns the open era record for Grand Slam singles titles by a tennis player, male or female.

At the age of 35, Serena has regained the number one ranking in the world, a distinction that she first achieved back in 2002. Serena’s game has certainly withstood the test of time and competition. Her Grand Slam titles have come over an 18-year period starting in 1999, with her latest victory coming at the 2017 Australian Open.

I believe the case can now be made to elevate Serena to the greatest female tennis player of all-time. Her high level of play over a very long career combined with her 23-6 record in Grand Slam finals certainly makes the case convincing. No disrespect to Steffi Graf but Serena now deserves the distinction as greatest of all-time.


Who do you think is the greatest women's tennis player of all-time?

See results

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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    • profile image

      Ali 2 days ago

      Monica Seles could have been the Greatest player provided she was not stabbed. Her stats prior To that stabbing event Clearly show how terrific a player she was.

      Then Martina Hingis proved Herself as Seles's successor with same kind of Records and performance. Both these ladies SURELY stand in TOP 5 greates female tennis players

    • profile image

      MIB 2 days ago

      Steffi had to face most the above-mentioned players at their peak and she doesn't have losing record against any of them while serena struggled against henin and clisters. i think steffi is not only the greatest tennis player of all time but she is the greatest sports woman of all time. In Pakistan when she was playing nobody knew what tennis was but they knew who steffi is and most of them watch matches just to watch her play.

    • profile image

      Gul 3 days ago

      MARTINA HINGIS's name should also be there. she was a phenomenon before Falling victim to injuries. One can always check the records and stats She has

    • profile image

      BD 9 days ago

      Margaret Court for No. 1:

      24 Masters (Including 12 Australioan Opens)

      Numbers don't lie!

    • profile image

      Mahboob 9 days ago

      Not sure how Serena comes ahead of Steffi for one more GS title, but being 2nd to almost every other stats. May be, Serena being a recent player has got more votes from the younger generation.

      Apart from all other stats, only fact that puts Steffi ahead for me is that she dominated the game in an era, when 3 of the other top 5 were active. Add to that Gabi Sabatini. To be honest, Serena has almost a free run in most part of her career & genetically she is much stronger, which kept her on top for such long period without any major rival, apart from her sis.

      To me, the toughest job in Tennis is to win both French & Wimbledon more times, because of the quick transition demanded in that short period - Steffi had 6 French, 7 All England & 5 US (Hard Court) title. And, she has the only unique Penta - the golden slam. From 1987 US to 1989 US, she won 8 GS & Olympic Gold, in a time when Martina still was dominant grass player, while Chris on clay. Barring one loss to Sanchez Vicario in 1989 (when she was suffering from upset stomach, and lost to fatigue more), she could have won 10 or 11 straight GS & an Olympic gold.

      Serena had to win a Grand Slam year, to be the no. 1.

      Steffi

      Serena

      Martina

      Chris

      Monica

      Is my top 5 & it probably won't change ever till my death (I am 44 now

    • profile image

      boby 12 days ago

      serena#williams

      i guessed the player on number 1 and i said serena

    • profile image

      ted munt 3 weeks ago

      Margaret court should have the number one ranking because she has won more grand slam titles than any other player in the historyof the game and has also won the calander grand slam.

    • profile image

      Andrew S 4 weeks ago

      While Serena has one more grand slam than Steffi she didn't win a Grand Slam and Steffi easily leads Serena on a number of major stats - total weeks at number 1 (377 v 319) and total number of titles (107 v 72). And Steffi did this in a shorter career.

    • profile image

      serve104 5 weeks ago

      When I make a mistake I admit it I was in error on one of my facts maureen connelly did die at an early age she was 34 however in 1954 a riding ac identify ended her tennis career she was only 20 at the time but she did win 8 majors and was the first to win the calendar grand slam I think she should of been on this list

    • profile image

      serve104 5 weeks ago

      About 15 years ago a writer from the toronto star posted his results of what he felt were the ten greatest women's players of all time were. I don't know what he based his research on but I think it's more reflective of the pre open and open era more so then your list this was his list

      1. Steffi graf

      2 Martina navratilova

      3 Suzanne lenghlin

      4 helen wills moody

      5 margaret court

      6 billie jean king

      7 Chris evert

      8 Maureen connelly

      9 Evonne goolagong

      10 Monica Seles

      Now this was before the careers of serena or henin and Venus so who knows where they would of placed

    • profile image

      serve104 5 weeks ago

      Suzanne lenghlin won 8 grand slam singles titles plus 4 world championships in the 1920s helen wills moody was a 19 time grand slam champion and was a world champion at the age of 15 during the 30s. Maureen connelly won 8 major titles and was the first woman to win the calendar grand slam she would of won a lot more had she not died at an early age. Doris hart won 7 majors and in 1951 was voted number 1. In 1950 wills moody was voted the greatest player of the half century lenghlin was voted second. Statistics aside I think room could of been made for 1 of these players to make the list

    • profile image

      serve104 5 weeks ago

      SuzanneSuzanne lenghlin won 8 grand slam singles titles including 4 world championships during the 1920s. Helen wills moody won 19 grand slam titles and at 15 was a world champion in the 30s. Maureen connelly won 8 majors and was the first women to win the calendar grand slam she would of won a lot more had she not died at a young age and Doris hart won 7 majors and voted number 1 in 1951. Wills moody was voted in 1950 as best player for first half century lenghlin was voted seconditions I think some room on your list could of been made for 1 of these players

    • profile image

      serve104 6 weeks ago

      I would agree with this list if it were a list of the greatest open era tennis players but as a list of the greatest of all time it's disrespectful to the history of the game. Not 1 single player from the pre open era made the list. Let's talk about lenglin, wills moody, Connolly and hart if you people took 2 seconds to review their careers I think you would agree they were better then henin, venus and seles. Shame on you

    • profile image

      sisisailberg 6 weeks ago

      Steffi is just the best female player off all time. that's fact! She is the only golden slam winner in the tennis history. And she never took any doping, what you can't really say abaout an other player here in this list. We all know whom I speak about.

    • profile image

      Almost 2 months ago

      Serena vs Federer would be nice

    • profile image

      Male 2 months ago

      Serena and Venus has to play at mens category. Their arms looks like male arms.

    • profile image

      Christopher 2 months ago

      Steffi's numbers are SUPERIOR and she won her 22 slams in many less attempts than Serena won her 23 and Steffi won many more tournaments period.....Steffi is #1 if anyone cares to look at that stats....Her numbers are INCREDIBLE!!!

    • profile image

      Alwin 2 months ago

      Seriously... this whole debate is a joke. Serena only has a better grand slam result, other than that Steffi is her superior. So what is this debate about? Tennis is more than only grand slams.

      For me its clear: they are the GOATS, but if I have to choose it will be Steffi. Her '87, '88 and '89 are amazing. Serena never had those kinda years. Steffi hardly lost a match.

      Besides all this: I do think Steffi had more competition. Since 2010 Serena wins everything by just being healthy / in shape. That's amazing and it should be respected,but honestly, she has no competition. They say Maria Sharapova.. the girl shakes when she plays Serena. No competition is not something you can blame Serena for, but I just think Graf had to conquer bigger tasks.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 3 months ago

      Jo Konya is the greates of all time

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 3 months ago from Massachusetts

      Steffi Graf, Germany.

      Martina Navratilova, Czech.

      Margaret Court, Australia.

      Monica Sles, Yugoslavia.

      Evonne Goolagong, Australia.

      Justine Henin, Belgium.

      Really?

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