As promised when I did my ranking of the best male tennis players of all time now it is the women’s turn. Here are my picks for the 10 greatest female tennis players of all time:
10 – Martina Hingis
Like when I chose Andre Agassiz at #10 on the men’s list, I had to snub some pretty good women in favor of The Swiss Miss. Fans of Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, and Maria Sharapova all could mount strong cases to see their favorite star placed ahead of Hingis. Fair enough. These lists are made to create arguments. Here are mine:
At just 16 years of age, Hingis became the youngest player in history to win a Grand Slam singles title, capturing the Australian Open title. She went on to become the youngest to achieve the number one ranking that same year. She won five singles Grand Slam titles, and an additional nine Doubles slam titles. All this, plus 209 weeks at number one (fourth all-time) despite the fact that she took a long hiatus from the game (injuries and a temporary retirement) in the prime of her career.
9 – Evonne Goolagong
Not only one of the best tennis players of all time, but one of the best names in the sport as well. She was a seven-time singles Grand Slam titles, and made a Grand Slam singles final on 18 different occasions. Like Ivan Lendl with Wimbledon, and Pete Sampras with the French Open, Goolagong never could prevail at the U.S. Open. If she’d captured just one in the four tries she had, she might have moved a spot or two higher up this list.
8 – Venus Williams
If her incredibly talented sibling Serena had been a few years younger there is a good chance that Venus would have at least a few more singles Grand Slam titles under her belt. As it is, seven (including five Wimbledon crowns) isn’t too shabby. Though Serena stood in her way in singles play, Venus was more than happy to have her baby sister at her side when playing doubles. The two have teamed up for 13 Grand Slam doubles championships to date.
7 – Billie Jean King
A 12-time Grand Slam winner, Billie Jean King was not only one of the most dominant women to ever pick up a tennis racquet, but also one of the greatest champions for her gender as well. She made the world stand up and take notice in 1973 when she defeated Bobby Rigs in the Battle of the Sexes.
As successful as she was as a singles player she was even more dominant in doubles. It total between doubles and mixed doubles she won an astounding 27 Grand Slam titles to go along with her dozen singles crowns.
6 – Monica Seles
Some might be shocked to find Seles ahead of King on this list. Monica’s resume pales in comparison to King’s. However, if a crazed fan hadn’t stabbed her during a match with Magdalena Maleeva derailing her tennis career, she might have gone on to become possibly the greatest female tennis player of all time. Yes, she had that much potential. As it was she won nine Grand Slam singles titles, dethroned Graf for the number one ranking, holding it for 113 weeks, and in an incredible span of dominance went 55-1 at Grand Slam events between 1990-92.
5 – Chris Evert
Though not nearly as flashy as some of the other women on this list, Chris Evert was incredibly consistent, pounding away at the baseline and winning tournament after tournament despite facing stiff competition throughout her career. That amazing consistency saw her reach the semi-finals of the first 34 Slams she played in, and winning 18 Grand Slam singles titles throughout her career.
4 – Margaret Court
With 24 Grand Slam singles titles and an additional 38 Slam championships between doubles and mixed doubles, it is pretty easy to see why Margaret Court made a high spot on this list. Yes, some of those titles were before the Open Era, and 11 of her singles crown came at the Australian Open, where competition generally wasn’t as stiff, but that is still one hell of a lot of Slams. Perhaps her most noted accomplishment came in 1970 when she became the first woman in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams in a single year.
3 – Serena Williams
Though some might be shocked to find her ahead of tennis legends like Evert and Court, after watching her destroy the field at the 2013 French Open en route to her 16th Gramd Slam singles title I just couldn’t justify ranking her any lower. Amazingly, despite the fact that she is now 31 – relatively old as tennis players go – she actually seems seems to be widening the gap between her and her peers. If she can defy Father Time for a few more years look for her to claim not only the all-time Grand Slam singles record, but also top spot on this list as well.
2 – Martina Navratilova
The battle for the number one spot on this list was virtually too close to call, and I’m sure many will decry my ultimate decision. Sorry Martina fans, your girl didn’t quite make the top. That said, she certainly has the credentials to give credence to any argument to the contrary. With 1,442 career wins, 59 total Grand Slam titles including 18 singles crowns and 167 titles overall, she is truly a legend of the sport, and arguably the woman whose name is most recognizable among tennis fans even three decades after the prime of her remarkable career.
1 – Steffi Graf
Eking out the narrowest of victories this German star’s resume borders on the ridiculous. No one in the history of the sport, either male or female, spent more weeks holding the number one ranking than Graf’s 337. She won 22 Grand Slam singles titles. Most of her rivals struggled at one or more of the Slams, but Graf was equally dominant on any surface, winning at least four times at each of tennis’s biggest events. No, she might not have won quite as many Slams had Monica Seles not been stabbed during her prime, yet at the time of the incident Graf actually had a winning record against Seles, so Seles might not have made the dent in Steffi’s success that some claim she would have. Oh, and she also won the Calendar Year Grand Slam in 1988, making her the only woman besides Margaret Court to achieve the feat in the Open Era.