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Top 10 Greatest Men's Tennis Players of All Time

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. 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’s total of 14. 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 recent 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.

5. 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 is a top five all-time.

4. Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic | Source
  • Born: May 22, 1987
    Belgrade, Yugoslavia
  • 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 the best player in the world at the moment and deserving of a top five all-time. With his 2016 French Open title Djokovic has become the eight man to secure a career Grand Slam. His stunning loss at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey ended his Grand Slam title streak but look for Novak to bounce back in 2017.

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 four position. The likeable Djokovic certainly has the potential to rise further.

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
  • 88 career titles
  • 17 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 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 17 Grand Slam titles speak for themselves, and even at the age of 34, he is still capable of winning another title. 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 18-year career is a testament to his conditioning and ability. In my book, Roget Federer is 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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Comments 109 comments

parcino liao 2 weeks ago

no.1 is no adoubtly...


廖茂奇 2 weeks ago

當講中文的人都投給Roger Federer時,還有誰會說他是第1的......


Panzo 5 weeks ago

McEnroe was better than Connors and overpassed Borg....


Grang5 5 weeks ago

McEnroe was better than Connors and Lendl. He won 3 on 4 gran slam matches with Borg and became n.1. Lendl never won Wimbledon. If you are not able to in Wimbledon you can't stay in the top 10. Connors??? C'mon, McEnroe was much better than him. Look at their head to head


Dave 5 weeks ago

completely wrong list, McEnroe only 10? Connors so high? You're joking


OLSEN 6 weeks ago

NADAL IS NO1 BECAUSE AGAINS FEDERER THE BEST PLAUER OF ALL TIME HE HAS WON 23 TO 11.HE HAS HAD A LOT OF INJURED DURAND HIS CARIERRE THESE IS THE REASONS SOMEONE DAUGHT THAT HE IS NO1.BUT NADAL IS THE BEST OF ALL TIME.THE LION


TennisFan2016 7 weeks ago

Novak is not the GOAT yet, needs to build up his GS record. By this I mean the real test is take away his strongest GS (AO) and he has only 6 titles from the other three Slams. If he can win three of the 4 majors a minimum of 4 times then we can start to talk of him as the GOAT because that is exactly what Federer has done. Nadal is also not the GOAT despite his record against RF. He has only dominated 1 Slam and if you take this away then he has a combined total of 5 titles from the other three majors. He is definitely the greatest clay court player of all time though. End of the day Federer is in the box seat but The Djoker has time on his side.


TATHYA 8 weeks ago

I haven't seen Rod play so can't say him to be the greatest. Same is for Bjorn Berg and Boris Becker whereas Ivan does deserve a position in the TOP 10. In my list, due to the epic battles with Pete, even Agassi makes the cut. Pete, being invincible on grass with his serve, certainly makes the cut. Due to two consecutive GOLD in olympics and three but only 3 Grand Slams to his name, Murray features in the list.

No doubt Federer, Rafa and Djoko come in as TOP 3.

BUT WHAT ABOUT RANKINGS?

10. BORIS BECKER

9. ANDY MURRAY

8.IVAN LENDL

7. ANDRE AGASSI

6.BJORN BORG

5. ROD LAVER makkes the cut into top 5 as at that time there was no advanced tech. as well as they had to play from wooden racquets.

4. PETE SAMPRAS was very good on grass but his dominance was not greater than Federer. As both clashed on grass , I chose Nadal and Djoker ahead of Pete.

3. NOVAK DJOKOVIC is third due to his invincibility on Hard Court. the most easy surface due to its constant bounce, spin and speed. He is also 3rd as although he has been winning majors and ATP 1000 Masters in presence of the likes of Nadal and Roger, most of them have come when Nadal was injury prone while age was perhaps the reason Federer failed.

2. RAFAEL NADAL is undoubtedly the best on CLAY. With nine French Opens consecutively to his name and his dominance on Federer, he is arguabely better than Novak. Last 2 French opens were bad for him since he was injury prone. An olympic Gold further cements him on the podium. Well he is also my favourite.

1. ROGER FEDERER Ah! the greatest! On grass, even his 85% is unbeatable. AN ALLROUND PLAYER, he is the one to beat at his best. The next 2017 season might be his last. He might go for 2018 too. I would love him stretch his Gs record to 20. Let me tell you, he is unarguably the most adaptable player performing on the most difficut surface, GRASS.


Tathya 8 weeks ago

I have never seen Rod PLAY AND SO CAN'T regard himthe best. Rafa must certainly move to no. 3 or 4 based on Rod Laver's play. I REGARD HIM TO BE GREATER THAN DJOKO. Keeping in mind the fact that Djokovic has been performing greatly but only in the past 3 years when Rafael Nadal has been injury prone and age has overcome Federer who certainly deserves to be no. 1 of all time.

Pete can always be remembered as a great player of grass, thus is deservant to number 2.

according to me,

1. FEDERER cause of his all round game

2. PETE cause of his dominance on GRASS

3. NADAL cause he is invincible on clay

4. DJOKO BECAUSE HE HAS MADE FAME IN PRESENCE OF NADAL AND FEDERER ON HARD COURTS.

5. Rod Laver or andre agassi or BJORN BORG, on views of people

ONE NAME MISSING IN THE LIST IS THAT OF BORIS BECKER


Stan 2 months ago

we can't blink went facts are seen. Djoko is well getting there to the top of the list, while Rafa regardless how many slams his gonna end up with he shall never top the list the only record he has is on federer nor dout he has his number on him. Roger is by far the GOAT!!!!


Joaquin 2 months ago

In my opinion, Rod Laver is the greatest tennis player in history

1) He won :

11 GS sinles titles , twice all 4 in same year ( 1962 and 1969 )

6 GS doubles titles

3 GS mixed doubles titles

That makes 20 GS titles overall

2) Before the Open Era he was not allowed to play GS titles ( that was 6 years, 1963 - 1968 )

If we consider that he won all 4 GS titles on his last year as "amateur" ( 1962 ) and again

the year the Open Era started, had he played the GS during those 6 years, an educated

guess of 2 GS per year would total 12 , plus the 11 add up to 23.... unbeatable

You can play with other more conservative guesses, but I think that the number would still

exceed Roger's 17 ;

3) As you mention, the 200 won matches record exceeds by far Connors 109

It is true that tennis was very different by then , played with heavy small head wooden racquets, which made almost impossible to win points hitting from the baseline so that you had to come to the net to do so and tennis had a lot more finesse ( drops , lobs, non poer continental or eastern grip shots ) than today's slugfest

Further, Laver is the only 1960's player that you included ( and number 3 ) in a list that includes players from the 70 's and so on

Having said that, and excluding Laver, my vote goes to Federer due to his modern era record, complete and elegant game; however his black spot is that the only RG that he won , was because Nadal was not in the final

Records aside, Djokovic and Federer can dispute my selection , because aside similar achievements , they also won all 4 tournaments , beating Federer ( past his prime ) have very complete although different games ( net play excluded, since it is non existent today , having Llodra and Stepanek been the last to play it ) are mentally very strong , powerful and consistent, being their main difference Nadal' s spin versus Djokovic flat strokes

Last but not least, and respecting his great pkay, based mainly on power, I don't think Sampras could be rated Nr 1 before the appearance of Federer , because he never won RG, which requires finesse, pacience and stamina, atributes that were not outstanding in Pete's game as were his serve and power


Iggy 2 months ago

Novak should be #3 and if he reaches & surpasses 14 GS, he should move up to #1. Sure, Roger has 17 but 12 out of those 17 were against the likes of Roddick, Hewitt ..etc. Meaning until Nadal & eventually Djokovic came along, he had no real competition. Just my $0.02


Justine 2 months ago

No way Ivan lendl over Connors, McEnroe or Agassi he sucked and tanked matches.


Alex 2 months ago

Whoa whoa. You have to be as objective as possible when making this kind of list, man.

1. Nadal is at least 2. He is probably the greatest gladiator the sport has ever seen. I think Federer's place at 1 here is right, but then again, can you honestly say that Nadal is not a better player given how much he has dominated Federer? After all, the better player wins. It's a complex topic and only time will tell.

2. Djokovic...maybe 4, but maybe 3. His 2014-2015 record is great, but that came at a time when Nadal was at his lowest ever and we have to remember that Federer is in his mid-30s. I'm sorry, but it's all about the level you play against. His 2011 season was certainly his most extraordinary season. Does he have the potential to be the greatest? Yes. But racking up titles when there is no one else playing their best tennis doesn't make you the greatest.

3. Are modern players better? I don't know, but I think they are greater. Tennis is becoming increasingly physical and more demanding when it comes to consistency and discipline. Modern players have to do more, be more, fight more.

4. The guy who said Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Sampras, Laver is pretty spot on.


nbh 2 months ago

Nadal and Djokovic should be higher. The level they, as well as murray and federer, have played over the years is the best tennis ever. I think the top 5 should go, federer, nadal, djokovic, sampras, laver


sdf 3 months ago

nadal number 2. are u kidding me with that5 rank??


Omg1 3 months ago

Andy murray consider how many semi finals he has played also


Matthew 4 months ago

Del Porto should be there because he beat Djokovic today


nani 4 months ago

FedEx is always best


Jai 4 months ago

Federer has got only $98,000 worth of prize money? I think u made a mistake. Other than that great article!


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