25. Andy Roddick
Andy Roddick first came up as a youth prodigy. Hailing from Texas, Roddick was ranked as the No. 1 junior player in the world before breaking through professionally. By age 21, Roddick had a spell in which he was the No. 1 professional men’s player. This didn’t last very long — as Roddick was beset by some inconsistency. Though his powerful serve and athletic ability made him a very talented player, Roddick only came away with one Grand Slam title throughout his career. Thus, it limits his ceiling as it pertains to this piece.
24. Jim Courier
Prior to Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras making waves, Courier carried the torch — along with Michael Chang — as one of the better American tennis players during the late ’80s/early ’90s. A winner of four Grand Slams, Courier won an impressive 506 matches during his professional career. He even held his own against the best competition — as Courier finished with winning percentages north of .500 in head-to-head matchups against the likes of Agassi, Stefan Edberg, Thomas Muster, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe.
Image Sources: Elsa/Getty Images, Clive Brunskill /Allsport
23. Don Budge
Budge was a transcendent player for his time. The Californian really became the first big-name professional tennis player. Plying his trade from the late ’30s into the mid-’50s, Budge racked up plenty of accolades. He became the first player in tennis history to win all four of the major Grand Slam tournaments in the same calendar year. Budge performed with immense versatility — as he could beat you on any playing surface. However, his claim to fame (without question) was his prowess on the backhand. Budge won 10 major Grand Slam events throughout his career. Sadly, he passed away in 2000 at the age of 84.
Image Sources: Bettman/Getty Images
22. Guillermo Vilas
The Argentine athlete was a bundle of energy out on the court. Whether it be his colorful outfits or electric personality, Vilas developed into a very popular player. Vilas offered tremendous stamina during matches — particularly during his dominance on clay courts. He was almost rhythmic with his movements. There was never a sense of stress when watching Vilas play. Instead, he approached the game positively and energetically. Vilas won four Grand Slam titles and 62 total ATP titles during his lengthy career.
Image Source: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
21. Gustavo Kuerten
Similarly to Vilas, Gustavo Kuerten is one of the best tennis players to ever hail from South America. The Brazilian endeared himself to fans everywhere with a true passion for the game. His heavy-handed returns offered a considerable amount of topspin. Kuerten also had an underrated serve which proved to be crucial in big matches. The 41-year-old won the French Open on three separate occasions — and was also named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2012.
Image Source: Antonio RIBEIRO/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images
20. Michael Chang
Despite registering at only 5-foot-9, Michael Chang made up for his lack of ideal size with quickness, mental acuity, competitiveness, and supreme technicality. Oftentimes, Chang would simply outwork opponents. His desire to win was second-to-none. Whether it was playing with a proverbial chip on the shoulder or not, Chang was determined to put the opponent in as difficult a spot as possible. The California native won an astounding 34 singles titles throughout his career.
Image Source: Dimitri Iundt/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
19. Andy Murray
Andy Murray is one of Great Britain’s best tennis exports. The lanky athlete suffered the misfortune of competing in the same era as Federer, Djokovic, and Nadal. With that said, there was a moment in which Murray was the No. 1 ranked player in the world. A winner of three Grand Slam titles, Murray excelled in systematically breaking down opponents with a defensive mindset. He’s also excellent in changing speeds — whether that be from the forehand or the backhand.
Image Source: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
18. Mats Wilander
Swedish player Mats Wilander is one of the greatest tennis athletes to hail from Scandinavia. His versatility as a player directly correlates with winning Grand Slam championships (seven total) on three of the major playing surfaces (clay, hard court, grass). The only player who’s also won at least two Grand Slams on three different surfaces is Nadal. Wilander wasn’t exceptional in one specific category. Rather, he had a very solid overall game. This included court awareness and above-average footwork.
Image Source: Steve Powell/Getty Images
17. Stefan Edberg
Stefan Edberg had a very successful run throughout the ’80s and ’90s. From an accomplishment standpoint, Edberg reached the finals for all four of the Grand Slam competitions — a feat very few can claim. He ultimately won six Grand Slam championships throughout his career. As a player, Edberg is known for slowing down his serve — and thus having the ability to charge the net without being caught flat-footed. This speaks to Edberg’s inventiveness stylistically, but also his headiness as an athlete.
Image Source: Clive Brunskill/ALLSPORT
16. John Newcombe
John Newcombe dominated play predominantly throughout the ’70s. The Australian was a fantastic athlete. His short-area quickness enabled him to gobble up shots from anywhere on the court. Additionally, Newcombe was skilled enough to attain glory as both a singles and doubles player. He won 17 doubles titles and seven singles titles. Throughout his career, Newcombe also won 74.1 percent of his singles matches (536 wins in total). Without question, Newcombe was one of the better players of the past generation.
Image Source: S&G/PA Images via Getty Images
15. Arthur Ashe
Arthur Ashe was a highly respected figure. As a tennis player, Ashe became the first man of African descent to win the singles championships at the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. Ashe was excellent in keeping the ball low once careening over the net. He also excelled in lobbing the ball to the back touchline. Outside of tennis, Ashe championed the cause for HIV and AIDS research. He created a foundation to further educate those about the perils of the disease. Sadly, Ashe passed away in 1993 at the age of 49.
Image Source: Getty Images North America
14. Boris Becker
German player Boris Becker played the game with considerable amounts of power. This included heavy-handed serves as well as forehand volleys during the run of play. Becker also endeared himself to fans across the globe for his passionate yet sometimes volatile personality on the court. When angered or frustrated, Becker’s rackets almost always bore the brunt of these outbursts (via being smashed into oblivion). A former world No. 1 player, Becker won nearly 77 percent of his individual matches. He still holds the record for being the youngest player to ever win the title at Wimbledon (17 years old).
Image Source: Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
13. Roy Emerson
Roy Emerson may be the best player you’ve never heard of. Hailing from Australia, Emerson was exceptional as a doubles player initially. This then evolved into a proclivity for the singles game. In total, Emerson came away with 16 doubles titles and 12 singles titles. The most impressive facet of Emerson’s illustrious career is the fact that he’s the only player in the sport’s history to have won all four Grand Slam championships in both doubles and singles play. Emerson’s adaptability on all surfaces led to his mass success. He prided himself on possessing tremendous endurance. This would then allow for him to simply out-work opponents en route to victories.
Image Source: Getty Images
12. Ken Rosewall
Ken Rosewall didn’t win the highest amount of Grand Slam titles. However, one must appreciate the level with which he played. No other player has made as many major finals appearances (35) as Rosewall. The Australian dynamo was a true anomaly to the game — largely based upon his smaller stature (5-foot-7). Rosewall’s smaller frame enabled him to cover ground more quickly when compared to some of the bigger competitors. His volley skills were great — as was his backhand. Rosewall’s fantastically productive career spanned nearly 25 years.
Image Source: George Salpigtidis/Getty Images
11. Ivan Lendl
Ivan Lendl wasn’t flashy — nor was he particularly well liked by the causal fan. Instead, he was workmanlike in his approach. Lendl experimented with different rackets based upon the situation/balls being used. He also was a pioneer in clean eating and weight lifting. Lendl was well conditioned to out-work any and all opponents. He came away with eight major championships during his career. This included captivating rivalries with the likes of Wilander and John McEnroe. Since retiring, Lendl has become a personal coach to Andy Murray.
Image Source: Georges De Keerle/Getty Images
10. Pancho Gonzales
A fiery personality, Richard ‘Pancho’ Gonzales channeled this energy into becoming an elite player. The native of Los Angeles impressed many with his collective athletic ability. Gonzales could unleash a thunderous serve with the greatest of ease. He covered a ton of ground with his mobility, and played the game with an obvious edge. This sort of outward passion soon developed into a relentless, and in some cases angry mindset. Over the course of his career (1949-74), Gonzales won an eye-popping 111 career titles (including four major titles). Gonzales passed away in 1995. He was 67 years of age.
Image Source: Peter King/Fox Photos/Getty Images
9. Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors played the game as if it were a matter of life and death. Somewhat arrogant, Connors’ brash personality manifested it in the way that he played. He was aggressive in charging the net. Connors also wasn’t shy about unleashing flamethrower-like serves and forehands. His two-handed backhand in particular has blossomed into a tactic employed by many professionals in the current era. Connors also developed a wicked topspin lob. Over the course of his career, Connors won 1,256 matches, eight major titles, and 109 total titles. This sort of track record surely earns him a spot within the top-10.
Image Source: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT
8. Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi was a part of the ‘Golden Age’ of American tennis players. Whether it be his long cascading locks or jean shorts, Agassi quickly made himself a highly popular figure within the tennis world. Agassi was scientific in his tinkering on the court. A first serve may be exceptionally fast — whereas the second serve could feature a ridiculous amount of revolutions. Agassi was one of — if not the best — at returning serves. His aggressiveness with the baseline was noteworthy, and translated to eight Grand Slam titles and one Olympic gold medal.
Image Source: Mike Powell/Getty Images
7. John McEnroe
Though John McEnroe is known by many for his on-court theatrics, he was also an exquisite tennis player. He played the game with an understated amount of grace. McEnroe’s touch was both silky and delicate. This was particularly the case when volleying the ball. McEnroe possessed the versatility to compete on any surface. Impressively enough, McEnroe won 77 singles titles and 78 doubles titles. This included seven singles Grand Slam championships (and nine more in doubles play). His rivalries with Connors and Bjorn Borg remain as high points over the last few decades.
Image Source: Bettman/Getty Images
6. Bjorn Borg
Bjorn Borg was a killer out on the court. His composed personality — coupled with his ‘cool’ persona — had many riding passionately on the Borg ‘hype train.’ Borg’s patented two-handed backhand had an immense amount of topspin. Duly, his long strides resulted in a clear covering of the entire court. In only 10 years, Borg had won 11 Grand Slam titles. Most impressive, Borg won 89.8 percent of his major matches. This included a 51-4 career record at Wimbledon, and a 49-2 standing in French Open matches. Borg shocked millions by retiring at the age of 26. Had he continued with his career, there’s a real chance Borg would’ve been the greatest tennis player of all-time.
Image Source: Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
5. Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is currently immersed in a period featuring some real heavyweights. He shouldn’t be overlooked in the slightest — as ‘The Joker’ has proven to be incredibly gifted in his own right. Within this era, Djokovic may have the best backhand of any player. He’s not a passive player — but rather one looking to increase the tempo. Djokovic’s aggressiveness only enhances his effectiveness on the court. For his career, Djokovic has 13 Grand Slam titles. The Serbian also has won 82.5 percent of his matches since becoming a professional.
Image Source: TPN/Getty Images
4. Pete Sampras
By all counts, Pete Sampras is the greatest American tennis player to ever live. He first turned pro as a 16-year-old prodigy. Competitors and fans of the sport were quick to witness Sampras’ whopping serve. He paired impressive power with the ability to crush opponents with slicing the ball or attacking corners towards the back baseline. Aside from 64 individual titles, Sampras also won an eye-popping 14 Grand Slam titles. However, the pinnacle of Sampras’ career came during his rivalry with Agassi. The two had a natural competition with one another — particularly since they were both American (and each world-class players). In his final match, Sampras defeated Agassi to win the 2002 US Open.
Image Source: MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images
3. Rafael Nadal
While we’ve seen some great rivalries throughout the annals of tennis, the one between Federer and Nadal is unparalleled. In any other era, Nadal would be considered the unquestioned G.O.A.T. In a sense, it’s akin to comparing Lionel Messi (Federer) to Cristiano Ronaldo (Nadal). With all of that said, Nadal has proven for over a decade to be a supremely gifted player. He resembles a thoroughbred with a lightning bolt of a left arm. Whether it’s serving the ball or pummeling a forehand, Nadal is immense. The Spaniard has 17 Grand Slam titles — and has won over 82 percent of his career matches. Interestingly enough, Nadal also has a winning match record (23-15) versus Federer. This includes being victorious in 13 of 15 matches played on clay.
Image Source: Luttiau Nicolas/Presse Sports via USA TODAY NETWORK
2. Rod Laver
Rod Laver is a living legend. Many do consider him to be the best ever — though we have him slightly below the top spot. Over the course of his career, Laver won 200 individual tournaments. For six years, he was ranked as the No. 1 player in the entire world. The Australian was only 5-foot-8. However, his game was clinical. Laver resembled a craftsman carving a Bernini-esque sculpture out of marble. Technically sound and ruthless in execution, Laver was a true giant within the sport’s history.
Image Source: AFP/AFP/Getty Images
1. Roger Federer
Federer is class personified on the court. Never has the game seen a more well-rounded player in all aspects of the sport. Federer is competitive, athletic, skilled, and has the mental framework to seemingly never get rattled. Individual aspects of his game — such as his footwork — truly makes him a dynamic player. The Swiss international has a record 20 Grand Slam titles. At one point, Federer held onto the world’s No. 1 spot for nearly five consecutive years. He is unquestionably the best tennis player of all-time.
Image Source: Luttiau Nicolas/Presse Sports via USA TODAY NETWORK