Quite A Racket: The 9 Greatest American Tennis Stars Of All Time

A wacky President, the American Dream, and absolutely top class tennis players. These are all things for which the United States are known. Okay, maybe the last one is a bit of a stretch but read on to see why this should be a universal fact.

The land of opportunity has provided the platform for star players, both male and female, to elevate themselves unto cult status. Now, the nine very best that America has to offer are compiled below and the best indication of the nation’s quality stems from those who did not make it onto the list just as much as those who do.

9. John McEnroe

One of the best known names the sport has ever thrust upon our eyes – and ears. And yes, we can be serious that McEnroe only just creeps onto this list despite amassing seven Grand Slam titles across his career.

With a rivalry against fellow stars Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors (more on that later), McEnroe’s tally of 77 tournament wins an 81.58 win percentage is not to be sniffed at, while the German-born player’s antics on the court mean his name is synonymous even with younger viewers of the sport. This is after all, an entertainment business as well as results driven, and McEnroe was a star on both counts.

8. Venus Williams

Forever in the shadow of her more successful sister Serena, Venus Williams’ career would be looked on with much more envy by her fellow pros was it not for her sibling, while injuries have also hampered her on-court progress.

Seven Grand Slams, four of which came in 2000 and 2001 at the peak of her game and five on her favoured grass court at Wimbledon make Venus one of the planet’s greats, but her determination is what lifts the 37-year-old above McEnroe. Knee and hip complaints saw Venus nearly out of the top 50 in 2014 but she has since recovered to reach world number nine thanks to losing appearances in the 2017 Australian Open and Wimbledon finals.

7. Jimmy Connors

Record breaker and record holder are two terms which best describe Connors’ astounding career and make a mockery of the fact he could not elevate himself further up this list. Listing off his achievements of 109 Open Era titles with an unrivaled 1,256 match wins from an equally unchallenged 1,535 matches played says everything about Connors.

Not only was he a man with immense talent for the sport he clearly loved, but his passion for the game made him a fan favourite, while his versatility in being the only man to win the US Open on all of grass, clay and court is unmatched. He may only be the seventh greatest American player, but those records may never be broken. That is incredible testament to the man.

6. Billie Jean King

129 career titles. 12 Grand Slam titles, including six Wimbledon victories and four at the US Open and an inductee to the Tennis Hall of Fame four years after retiring, in 1987. All stellar achievements for one of the most recognisable personalities who has ever picked up a racket.

But King deserves a crown for what she did for the women’s game, as without her 1973 Battle of the Sexes victory over a then-55-year-old Bobby Riggs, we may not be heralding the female players on this list in quite the same way. Dispatching Riggs in three sets marked a milestone for the women’s game, allowing people to realise the quality on offer. That is worth a spot on this list just as much as a ton-plus of silverware.

5. Andre Agassi

Not only did Agassi win eight Grand Slams in his glorious career, he is one of a handful of players to hold all four titles at the same time. As if that achievement was not enough, Agassi also boasts an Olympic gold medal as well as nearly two full years as the world’s number one player.

With tennis suffering a dip in popularity in the 1990s, Agassi helped to revive the sport with his charismatic and unorthodox approach, both on and off the court, while having the nickname ‘The Punisher’ tells you everything about what a fabulous player Agassi was to watch. Plus, a marriage to fellow tennis star Steffi Graf means he could help produce another superstar, and that’s got to be worth a few extra points, right?

4. Don Budge

One of the least familiar names to many reading this, but Budge’s contribution to the sport should never be overlooked. Born in 1915, Budge was one of the first global superstars in any game, winning all four Grand Slams in a single calendar year, the only male American to do so.

His career was relatively short, but he wasted no time in becoming an American great and had he played for the same number of years as those above him on this list, he surely would have won even more trophies and accolades. Condensed into a few years, Budge is perhaps the most successful player of all time, but the Second World War came calling, and as such, Don could not budge into our top three.

3.Chris Evert

Taking the bronze medal is a woman who is much more used to winning gold. 18 Grand Slam titles from a record 34 finals signals just how much dominance Evert asserted in a golden age of women’s tennis in the late 1970s and 80s. A winner of every major on at least two occasions, Evert’s rivalry with the emerging Martina Navratilova remains to this day one of the greatest head-to-heads the sport has ever witnessed.

Friends off the court and doubles partners on it, Evert held a 30-18 win record over her rival until a number of meetings later in Evert’s career saw the final balance swing just in Navratilova’s favour but that pales into insignificance when taking into consideration Evert ended seven years as world number one and had a career win percentage of 89.96. Outstanding.

2. Pete Sampras

Remember our number four and five picks, Budge and Agassi? If their achievements seemed splendid, and they were, take into consideration that Sampras’ 14 Grand Slams are as many as the pair won between them. The only thing preventing Sampras from topping this list is his inability to win the French Open. That one gap on his trophy shelf is small fry compared to what he did win, which was pretty much everything else.

‘Pistol Pete’, famed for his devastating serve, was world number one for 286 weeks and was year-ending top man for six years straight up until 1998. With 64 career titles, seven Wimbledons in eight years and a career win percentage of 77.43, it seems unfathomable to think that a man with such dominance couldn’t be the best American player of all time. He is though, the greatest male player to hail from the US.

1.Serena Williams

Who else? Serena Williams bears all the hallmarks of legendary status. Success. Check. Personality. Check. Longevity. Check. You name it, Serena has it and then some. Along with sister Venus, the Williams’ have dominated tennis since the turn of the millennium and it is this particular sibling who has dominated the most.

With an Open Era record 23 Grand Slam Singles titles in addition to 14 major Doubles trophies and being the best in the world at the age of 35 is testament to absolutely everything Serena has achieved. What’s more, there’s no sign of anyone being able to overtake her crown, either on the court or on this list. While Billie Jean King forged a milestone in women’s tennis, Williams has carved it into something else entirely, often being lauded as one of the greatest athletes of all time, and rightly so. Serena is the GOAT.

Start the discussion

to comment