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Top 10 Greatest Women's Tennis Players of All Time

Updated on January 29, 2017

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: $34,153,187
  • 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 currently attempting a comeback on tour after suffering through two 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 for the first time since 2010 and is currently ranked number 11 in the world following her run to the 2017 Australian Open final.


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 the only women 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: $85,461,761
  • 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?

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© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 25 hours ago from Massachusetts

      Steffi Graf, Germany.

      Martina Navratilova, Czech.

      Margaret Court, Australia.

      Monica Sles, Yugoslavia.

      Evonne Goolagong, Australia.

      Justine Henin, Belgium.

      Really?

    • profile image

      nil 35 hours ago

      bias list....only americans wow...

    • profile image

      Ishaan 8 days ago

      Federer is the best on this earth beware here comes federer beat nadal 6263

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      Karin 2 weeks ago

      Where is Martina Hingis, the Swiss who is one of the greatest and most influential players of all time, After all, she was No. 1 for a period of time.

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      adriana 3 weeks ago

      were's Dominika

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      Yats 3 weeks ago

      Where is Martina Hingis? former World No.1 she suppose to be here.

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      Tom Stewart 1 7 weeks ago

      Serena Williams is the best player of All Time, and what we can talk about is : who is the second player after Serena Williams. It is not fair it is even shameful to define Steffi Graf as the best player or even as one of the Top 5. And i think you know why, because we all know the history. Steffi Graf dominated the tennis from 1987 to 1990 , she was Number One from 17. August 1987 to 11. March 1991 exactly 186 weeks till she was thrust out of thron by Monica Seles who dominated the women's tennis three years from May 1990 to 30.April 1993 she won 8 Grand Slams in this time and won the most of important tournaments in this three years and she was officially Number 1 from the 11th March 1991.

      That means Steffi Graf was turned off three years, she could only won on grass, she won Wimbledon ( 1991 and 1992 ) that only what Steffi Graf could win in this 3 years. Monica Seles was the top women's player heading into 1993, having won the French Open three consecutive years and both the US Open and Australian Open in consecutive years.

      US Open ( 1991 , 1992 )

      French Open ( 1990 , 1991 , 1992 )

      Australian Open ( 1991 , 1992 , 1993 )

      In January 1993, Seles defeated Graf in the final of the Australian Open, which to date was her third win in four Grand Slam finals against Graf. With eight Grand Slam singles titles before her 20th birthday on December 2, 1993, Seles holds the record for most Grand Slam singles titles won as a teenager in the Open Era. She then won the Virginia Slims of Chicago.

      It was strong dominance of Monica Seles that's why she has been stabbed with a boning knife in Germany by a German Man, a fan of Steffi Graf.

      On April 30 during a quarterfinal match with Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg in which Seles was leading 6–4, 4–3, Günter Parche, a fan of Steffi Graf, ran from the middle of the crowd to the edge of the court during a break between games and stabbed Seles with a boning knife between her shoulder blades, she was quickly rushed to a hospital. A few weeks later Steffi Graf took over the lead again. Exactly the way what the Attacker Günter Parcher said : I did that to eliminate Monica Seles from Tennis Courts and Steffi Graf to become Number 1 again, and it was the only way that Steffi became Number 1 again after 3 years.

      Monica Seles did not return to competitive tennis for more than two years, and could never be in top form again. In the runup to her comeback in August 1995 , then WTA president Martina Navratilova proposed that Seles be reinstated alongside Steffi Graf as joint number one , Steffi Graf opposed the additional proposal that Seles' co-ranking not be determined by the minimum participation of 12 tournaments a year required of everyone else. Graf felt that would give Seles an advantage in the rankings.

      German authorities were quick to rule the Attack out, describing her attacker as confused and possibly mentally disturbed. Parche was charged following the incident, but was not jailed because he was found to be psychologically abnormal, and was instead sentenced to two years' probation and psychological treatment.

      Now to all who say Steffi Graf the best and don't mention all this facts I said it's cheap and shameful. What is the difference between you and Günter Parcher if you celebrate Steffi Graf as The Best in tennis (history) you know what history i mean. Maybe you consider Günter Parcher to be a hero.

      Steffi Graf is a very good Tennis player and one of best Players in the history.

      But Monica Seles is better than Steffi Graf and dominated over 3 years till she stabbed. This the reality and Steffi Graf her self noticed that. That's why I respect her. And I tell this history to Steffi Graf's fans who don't know it or don't want to mention it.

      The statistics are like this:

      Before the Knife's stabbing against Monica Seles on 30 April 1993 Steffi Graf was ranked No.1 for 186 weeks.

      She won 11 Grand Slams

      And if we add 3 Wimbledon winning after the attack because she was the strongest on grass even in the time Monica Seles it will be 14

      All the other records are after the elimination of Monica Seles. (she won other 8 Grand Slams to be 22 Grand Slams and ranked No.1 for other 191 weeks to be 377 weeks )

      Serena Williams won 23 Grand Slams and ranked No.one 310 weeks, of it 186 consecutive.

      Martina Navratilova won 18 Grand Slams and ranked No.1. 331 weeks

      Chris Evert won 18 Grand Slams and ranked No.1 260 weeks.

      Monica Seles won 9 Grand Slams and ranked No.1. 178 weeks and all that actually in only three years and she was Teenager (under 20 ) Respect for you Monica.

      Steffi Graf actually with the attack against Monica Seles had 14 Grand Slams and ranked No.1. 186 weeks.

      After this facts numbers

      1. Serena Williams

      2. Martina Navratilova

      3. Chris Evert

      4. Monica Seles*

      5. Margaret Court

      6. Steffi Graf

      7. Billie Jean King

      8. Evonne Goolagong

      9. Venus Williams

      10. Justine Hennin

      * I believe if Monica Seles had not been stabbed she would have had the best records ever. I must say that for justice.

    • profile image

      Angela 7 weeks ago

      Serena's game as you said stands through the test of time...nuf said

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      Devang Pandya 7 weeks ago

      Of course, Steffi. Always we should not only compare No 22 or 23. Because Steffi is calendar year Golden Slam. She managed highest ranking week. Even 2nd number should be goiven to Martina Navrotilova and then Serena

      Even Steffi and Martina both have faced tough competition even than today.

    • profile image

      Missaka S 7 weeks ago

      Martina Navratilova is the greatest womens tennis player of all time. Serena might might have a claim as the greatest singles champion if she passes Margret Court. but she cannot compare to to Martina Navratilova overall titles in singles,doubles, mixed double combined. 18 GS singles titles,8 year end singles titles 41 GS doubles titles, 11 Year end final doubles titles.

    • profile image

      jon nicholes 7 weeks ago

      Why do the current players have to b the greatest.....if u were to measure greatness by career titles (which u should ) then fed and serena arnt even close yet ....stats dont lie...its impossible to compare champs from different eras but if u look who was unstoppable for the longest period of time .

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      Obo 7 weeks ago

      Serena Williams......Number 1.

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      Tony 7 weeks ago

      Hope now there are no doubts who the greatest tennis player of all time is ........fed always was

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      WhtTheHLL 7 weeks ago

      How in the world can anyone argue this. Serena is the best by a LARGE gap. I'm a tennis fan and had Martina #1 for years for her accomplishments and domination. But let's be real she would get crushed in straight sets by Serena. And so would Everet. Graf couldn't even dominate an OLD Martina so that debate ends there. At NO Point in their careers did any of those women's tennis game look ANYTHING like Serena. And don't give me Serena has no competition. HELLO....she makes them look that way. Half of the women on this list never faced 123mph serve for a whole match or ever. Their first serve was sub 100. That is a second serve from Serena. And we won't speak of ground strokes and foot speed.

      Comparing these athletes is rediculous. Kinda like comparing Jerry West to Michael Jordan. Jerry was great but he is NO Jordan. Just not the same athlete or game. The only thing they have in common is the sport. What would Cam Newton look like playing in place of Johnny Unitis. JU was great IN HIS TIME. Put him in today's game and he is Tony Romo at best, probably more like Fitzpatrick. The women on tour now are bigger, faster, and stronger than EVER before. They just have the misfortune of playing vs Serena. And to add to this Monica Seles injury stuff, she was BETTER than Graf but injuries matter. If Venus didn't have an auto immune disorder Serena wouldn't have as many titles either. But she does so Serena didn't have to face probably the second best athlete to ever play tennis that often. But when she did she was 6-2 in majors. Nuff said. When it comes to tennis there's Serena then the field.

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      BoondockSaint 8 weeks ago

      It's hard to say that Serena isn't the best of all time. But we'll never know where Monica Seles would have placed on this list had it not been for her being stabbed on court. And for that matter where Graf would have ended up. Seles was 19 when she had her career basically ended by an on court attempted murder. And she was dominating everyone in her path, including Graf. She was the most dominant player I've ever seen besides Serena...and she was just entering her prime. I suspect she would be leading the list of grand slam titles (even over Serena) right now had this not happened. And of course Graf would be toward the bottom of the top 10, if that. Its not like she broke her ankle...she was stabbed on court by a fan of her biggest rival, and he never went to prison for it. It ended the career of possibly the greatest tennis player of all time. This is one of the great sports tragedies that rarely gets talked about.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Congratulations to Serena Williams on winning the 2017 Australian Open and securing her 23rd Grand Slam singles title. She's had an amazing career, and it continues!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 8 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jabu. She's had an amazing run, and as you said, it continues. No disrespect to Steffi Graf, she had an amazing career, but there can be no denying now that Serena reigns supreme.

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      Jabu 8 weeks ago

      DONE!!! #23 in the bag & GOAT ASSURED!!!!

      We can close this debate now and move on to other things. No disrespect to either Steffi or Margaret but this debate just lost meaning with #23!

      I like the fact that this ultimate goal was achieved playing against older Sister Venus. I can imagine them dreaming as little children all those years back promising each other that they will make history! That they will help each other soar through the stratosphere. What a moment for SW to get to do as they promised playing against VW!

      I petty some poor young lady watching this out there and promising herself that she too will get there. That she will be the one to break #23! As it turns out this record applies to both ladies & gents in fact. We will be watching the next generations of tennis players attempting this record for the next 50 years( maybe even a 100)!!!

      Scary thing is Serena' record is still likely to move up by a GS or 2! #25 has a nice ring to it.

      Big ups to VW for such an amazing effort at almost 37!!! GS Finals used to be the domain of 18yrs olds! Amazing achievement indeed.

    • profile image

      Emma 8 weeks ago

      Today Serena put this debate to rest by winning the 23rd Slam.

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      John Smith 8 weeks ago

      Steffi Graf a lot of respect for her, but not even close to Serena Williams...please be fair

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