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Top 10 Greatest Men's Tennis Players of All Time

Updated on February 8, 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

I grew up playing tennis in the 1970s, which was a great time for the sport of tennis. It was then that tennis really became more of a mainstream sport than a sport for the privileged, especially here in the United States. With the likes of Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Chris Evert, and others, there were plenty of personalities to fuel the rivalries that took place on and off the court. Since that time, many great players have come and gone. Because it is difficult to compare players of different eras in any sport due to technology changes and higher fitness standards, selecting a greatest player ever can be a difficult and very subjective task.

Despite the challenge, here is my list of the 10 greatest male tennis players of all-time.

10. Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi | Source
  • Born: April 29, 1970
    Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Resides: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Turned pro: 1986
  • Retired: 2006
  • Career prize money: $31,152,975
  • 60 career titles
  • 8 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 1 French, 2 US Open, 1 Wimbledon
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2011

Who can forget the young, brash, long-haired Andre Agassi when he first arrived on the tennis scene in the late 1980s? I have to admit that at first I was put off by his seemingly "rock star" looks and attitude. But something happened along the way, and by the time he finished his 20-year career, I was not only a fan but I had also come to respect him as a great player and spokesman for the game. With those killer ground strokes and returns of serve, no top-10 list would be complete without Andre Agassi.

Off the court, Agassi has proven to be a champion as well. There may be no athlete out there who does more for their community than Agassi and his wife, tennis legend Steffi Graf.

9. John McEnroe

John McEnroe
John McEnroe | Source
  • Born: February 16, 1959
    Wiesbaden, West Germany
  • Resides: New York City
  • Turned pro: 1978
  • Retired: 1992
  • Career prize money: $12,547,797
  • 71 career titles
  • 7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 Wimbledon, 4 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1999

John McEnroe: What do we do about Johnny Mac? Well, for starters we include him on our list of all-time greats. When it came to hard courts, fast surfaces, and creative shot-making, there may have been no one better.

His fiery attitude and occasional bad-boy behavior made tennis fans either hate him or love him. Underneath was a highly competitive athlete who hated to lose and sometimes let his emotions get the best of him.

Who can forget his epic battles with rival Jimmy Connors and his five-set loss to Bjorn Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon final, one of the greatest matches in Wimbledon history?

8. Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors | Source
  • Born: September 2, 1952
    East St. Louis, Illinois
  • Resides: Santa Barbara, CA
  • Turned pro: 1972
  • Retired: 1996
  • Career prize money: $8,641,040
  • 109 career titles
  • 8 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 Australian, 2 Wimbledon, 5 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1998

No one dominated tennis more during the mid-1970s than Jimmy Connors. In 1974 alone, Connors had a staggering 99-4 record and won the three Grand Slam tournaments that he entered. Connors was banned from playing in the French Open in 1974 due to his association with World Team Tennis, and this prevented him from a possible Grand Slam sweep. Despite peaking in the 1970s, Connors had a long and impressive tennis career, retiring in 1996. Connors still holds the record for ATP tour titles with 109.

7. Ivan Lendl

Ivan Lendl
Ivan Lendl | Source
  • Born: March 7, 1960
    Ostrava, Czechoslovakia
  • Resides: Goshen, Connecticut
  • Turned pro: 1978
  • Retired: 1994
  • Career prize money: $21,262,417
  • 94 career titles
  • 8 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 Australian, 3 French, 3 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2001

The quiet and stoic Czech with the big serve was the most dominant player of the 1980s. Lendl wore down his opponents with his powerful ground strokes, topspin forehand and incredible level of conditioning. He was the world’s top-ranked player for four years and held the number one ranking in the world for 270 weeks, a record in that day. In contrast to many of his more outspoken peers, Lendl was known for letting his game do his talking.

6. Bjorn Borg

Bjorn Borg
Bjorn Borg | Source
  • Born: June 6, 1956
    Sodertalje, Stockholm County, Sweden
  • Resides: Stockholm, Sweden
  • Turned pro: 1973
  • Retired: 1983
  • Career prize money: $3,655,751
  • 64 career titles
  • 11 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 6 French, 5 Wimbledon
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1987

What was not to love about the long-haired, blonde Swede with the killer ground game? With ice water in his veins, the quiet Borg dominated tennis in the late 1970s and had some memorable matches with the likes of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Borg dominated Wimbledon, winning the title five consecutive years from 1976 to 1980.

Despite his relatively brief career (he retired in 1983 at the age of 26), Borg won 11 Grand Slam titles, all at Wimbledon and the French Open. Borg was the first player of the modern era to win more than 10 majors. In my book Bjorn Borg could have been a top five all-time had he continued to play and not retired while seemingly in the prime of his career.

5. Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic | Source
  • Born: May 22, 1987
    Belgrade, Serbia
  • Resides: Monte Carlo, Monaco
  • Turned pro: 2003
  • Career prize money: $106,188,878
  • 66 career titles
  • 12 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 6 Australian, 3 Wimbledon, 2 US Open, 1 French Open
  • Current active player

Placing Novak Djokovic on this list was an easy decision, but where to place him was not. At 29 years of age and in the prime of his career, Djokovic has the potential to win many more Grand Slam titles. By the time his career is finished, he could very well find himself among the top few players of all-time. But, in the highly competitive world of tennis, he could also succumb to injury and miss out on some of his best years, so the jury is still out on his place in tennis history. Based on his body of work to date he has certainly made the case that he is deserving of a top five all-time. With his 2016 French Open title Djokovic become the eight man to secure a career Grand Slam. His stunning loss at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey ended his Grand Slam winning streak at four and 2017 did not start well for Novak with his stunning second round loss at the Australian Open. He needs to bounce back in a big way going forward in 2017 to convince his fans that his time at the top has not come to en end.

With twleve Grand Slam titles now secured, including the 2016 Australian Open and French Open, and at just 29 years of age, Novak deserves to be elevated to the number five position. The likeable Djokovic certainly has the potential to rise further.

4. Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal | Source
  • Born: June 3, 1986
    Manacor, Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
  • Resides: Manacor, Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
  • Turned pro: 2001
  • Career prize money: $78,688,782
  • 69 career titles
  • 14 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 Australian, 9 French, 2 US Open, 2 Wimbledon
  • Current active player

Were it not for the recurring tendinitis in his knees, Rafael Nadal may well have a few more Grand Slam titles to his already impressive resume. At 30 years of age, the fiery Spaniard, known as Rafa and “The King of Clay,” already has 14 Grand Slam titles and certainly has the potential to surpass Pete Sampras. Rafael is regarded as the greatest clay court player of all-time, although fans of Bjorn Borg may dispute this claim. His record 9th French Open title (2014) certainly makes it difficult to imagine anyone being better on clay.

Unfortunately for Rafa staying healthy has been a problem and his setback at the 2016 French Open (wrist injury) caused him to withdraw from Wimbledon and have a subpar performance at the US Open. Rafael finished the 2016 season failing to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam event for the first time since 2004. Now healthy, his epic final against Roger Federer at the 2017 Australian Open offers hope that 2017 will be the comeback year for the Spaniard.

3. Rod Laver

Rod Laver
Rod Laver | Source
  • Born: August 8, 1938
    Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia
  • Resides: Carlsbad, California
  • Turned pro: 1962
  • Retired 1979
  • Career prize money: $1,565,413
  • 200 career titles
  • 11 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 Australian, 2 French, 2 US Open, 4 Wimbledon
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1981

It’s difficult to assess how Rod Laver would have fared against the players of today, but I suspect the redheaded Aussie would have done just fine. It’s hard to argue with the “Rockets” record. He was ranked number one in the world for seven straight years (1964 – 1970) and has more career titles (200) than anyone in the history of the game.

He is the only player to have twice won the Grand Slam, doing it once as an amateur in 1962 and again as a pro in 1969. If Laver was not excluded from the Grand Slam tournaments during a five-year period in the mid-1960s, who knows how many he would have won. During this time period, the pre-open era, the Grand Slam tournaments were for amateurs only. The “open era” in tennis did not begin until 1968, when professionals were finally allowed to compete in the Grand Slam events. Given that Laver was ranked number one in the world during this five-year period, it’s likely he would have won many more Grand Slam titles.

2. Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras
Pete Sampras | Source
  • Born: August 12, 1971
    Potomac, Maryland
  • Resides: Lake Sherwood, California
  • Turned pro: 1988
  • Retired 2002
  • Career prize money: $43,280,489
  • 64 career titles
  • 14 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 Australian, 7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open
  • Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2007

If the likes of Roger Federer had not come along, Pete Sampras would certainly be the number one player of all-time. When Pete retired in 2002, he was considered to be the best player of all-time. He was number one in the world rankings for six consecutive years and his 14 Grand Slam titles was a record at the time. Who can forget his epic battles with Andre Agassi that made the 1990s a great decade for tennis? Pete went out on top when he won the 2002 US Open, his last Grand Slam tournament.

1. Roger Federer

Roger Federer
Roger Federer | Source
  • Born: August 8, 1981
    Basel, Switzerland
  • Resides: Wollerau, Switzerland and Dubai, UAE
  • Turned pro: 1998
  • Career prize money: $98,830,825
  • 89 career titles
  • 18 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 5 Australian, 1 French, 5 US Open, 7 Wimbledon
  • Current active player

It’s hard not to select Roger Federer as the greatest of all time. His record 18 Grand Slam titles speak for themselves, and even at the age of 35, he is still winning and competing at the highest levels. His 302 weeks ranked as number one in the world is an open-era record. From 2004 to 2008, Federer went 237 consecutive weeks being ranked number one in the world, a record that may never be surpassed. Even though younger players are now finding a way to beat Roger, his consistently high level of play over his almost 19-year career is a testament to his conditioning and ability. His epic 2017 Australian Open victory over Rafael Nadel proves without a doubt that Roger Federer is indeed the greatest of all-time.

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

See results

© 2013 Bill De Giulio

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    • profile image

      Elian 6 days ago

      Terrible selection. Pete Sampras better than Nadal? This is joke. Sampras had less littles than Nadal and never won the french. You should consider and update on this listing.

    • profile image

      Suszie 6 days ago

      Roger Federer is 1000000000000 better than any tennis playert in the world and there is nothing to stop that!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • profile image

      Tomas 9 days ago

      The real and most fair list would be:

      1. Nadal

      2. Nole

      3. Federer

      4. Laver

      5. Sampras

      You should consider that Rafa and Nole are dominant in the toughest era ever. Federer did most of his success in period where there were no competition, playing matches with roddick, hewitt, ljubičić, nalbandian, safin - all these guys together have 3 grand slams.

    • profile image

      MAJEED 13 days ago

      Whom ever authored this is very silly.

      How can you put Pete Sampres a head of

      Nadal ,Rod laver, Novak Djocavic?.

      These guys all have one all surface and have made the final of French many times.

      Wher Sampres was not so great on the clay surface. I would put Nadal as Second, Rod 3rd, Novak fourth and Pete 5 th.

    • profile image

      Felipe 13 days ago

      Imagine these greats, at their peak, playing 3 tournaments in RR format (clay, hard, grass). Who would win?

      1. Borg

      2. Federer

      3. Nadal

      4. Laver

      5. Djokovic

    • profile image

      max 3 weeks ago

      I am a very proud Nole's fan. I am a bit disappointed of his current form,but not angry. Having better H2H vs Roger,Nadal and Andy - three greatest players to ever pick up a racket (Andy in return ), plus something which may never be achieved or in a half century ( 4 slams in a row though not a calendar slam ) makes it all staggering facts for Novak and places him among the very top echalon of all times !

    • profile image

      Robert Lincoln 3 weeks ago

      Laver`s record, especially being absent from Grand Slams for 5 years, cannot be argued against.

    • profile image

      Sam 4 weeks ago

      Novak is better than Nadal, why he has then way less Grand slams? and way less Grand Slam finals?

      Why is Sampras considered better than Nadal? Because he is American? Because having the same number of Gran Slams, he has way less total number of title and Rafa has in front of him during his whole carear Roger to play (Best player of all times), without Roger existing, Rafa could have like 25 Grand Slams.

    • profile image

      Mike 5 weeks ago

      How can Novak be at no 5 he should at no 3 at the moment, because he is way more better than nadal and sampras, i don't know what the future holds but he should be among the top 3 at the moment

    • profile image

      Steve 5 weeks ago

      Rod laver stands the test of time. Borg! is the Master of Clay with all due respect to Nadal. McEnroe, Connors, and Lendl as well as Agassi, Were present when the sport of tennis be came a nationalized celebrated individual sports accomplishment. No Team Just 1 on 1. The comes Pete...

      With that said Roger I will call the Dodger has stood the test of time. He currently should be listed as the best of all time.

      He will pull the cat out of the hat magic trick at least 2 more time just because he loves the game.

      lets remember that tennis is not at team sport! All of these great players have earned the right to be recognized as they fight to win as individuals.

      the game of tennis

    • profile image

      Commonsense 7 weeks ago

      Not having Fed 1, Rafa 2, Djoker 3 shows too much of ignoring facts/data. Rafa and Djoker will be vindicated by the time they retire. Mark my words. At this point, since the Big3 are still winning titles it's almost premature to view this list as if it really matters.

      Sampras: uggg...#2???? Oh no. He was a wimp during last 3-4 years or so...cherry picking tournys...only really trying hard at majors! Ugg.

    • profile image

      Delsym 7 weeks ago

      How anyone put Sampras as #2??? He was inept on clay - never even made it to French Open finals, often losing in early round matches. He would #6 in my book behind Djokavic, Borg, Laver, Nadal, and Fed

    • profile image

      ????????? 8 weeks ago

      the best is roger federer

    • profile image

      DR 8 weeks ago

      You don't mention Jack Kramer or Poncho Gonzales.

      Money and Slams not enough to judge as times change.

    • profile image

      Deja 8 weeks ago

      Even if I was not biased I could simply not deny the FedX of Tennis.. Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee... Move like a cat making it look sooooo..easy.

    • profile image

      Anonymous 2 months ago

      Why does it matter the way they are listed as long as all top 10 are on here. That's all that matters people

    • profile image

      manoj 2 months ago

      roger federer

    • profile image

      Dave 2 months ago

      Borg retired at 26, and never played in the Australian Open, as well as retired the year after he won the French. How many more of those would have he had won if he continued to play? Especially in a tournament that he had won the 5 previous years.

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      Michael 2 months ago

      Nadal is as of now, has not achieved to be called better than Sampras... just for the simple reason, he has only been ranked No.1 for only 141 weeks, no world tour final titles.. whereas Sampras has been No.1 for 286 weeks (more than twice the time of Nadal), won 5 Year-end championships, been year end No.1 for 6 times.

    • profile image

      David 2 months ago

      This post is totally subjective and probably biased. Rafa Nadal should be second. He has the same number of Grand Slams as Sampras, but he has two olimpic gold medals.

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