My All-Time Top Ten Greatest Tennis Players (Men)

Finding the greatest tennis players of all-time is a little more tricky than it first appears. One can look at the number of Grand Slams won. This gives a reasonable idea for amateur times although in the early days there wasn’t much competition from overseas in the various championships. However, for the top men before the Open era (which began in 1968) the issue is complicated by many top amateurs turning professional and then not competing in the Grand Slams.

To try an give an idea of who was the best player experts have tried to assess the relative merits of pro and amateurs in each year and decided on a number one player. Here is a list of those players. An A after the name indicates an Amateur and a P is a professional. Where more than one name is given for a year the players are ranked equal first.

1877 Spencer Gore A. (GB)
1878 Frank Hadow A. (GB)
1879 John Hartley A. (GB)
1880 John Hartley A. (GB)
1881 William Renshaw A. (GB)
1882 William Renshaw A. (GB)
1883 William Renshaw A. (GB)
1884 William Renshaw A. (GB)
1885 William Renshaw A. (GB)
1886 William Renshaw A. (GB)
1887 Ernest Renshaw A. (GB)
1888 Ernest Renshaw A. (GB)
1889 Willoughby Hamilton A. (IRL)
1890 Willoughby Hamilton A. (IRL)
1891 Ernest Lewis A. (GB)
Wilfred Baddeley A. (GB)
Joshua Pim A. (IRL)
1892 Ernest Renshaw A. (GB)
1893 Joshua Pim A. (IRL)
1894 Joshua Pim A. (IRL)
1895 Joshua Pim A. (IRL)
1896 Wilfred Baddeley A. (GB)
1897 Reggie Doherty A. (GB) – Wilberforce Eaves A. (GB)
Robert Wrenn A. (USA)
1898 Reggie Doherty A. (GB)
1899 Reggie Doherty A. (GB)
1900 Reggie Doherty A. (GB)
1901 Reggie Doherty A. (GB)
Arthur Gore A. (GB)
William Larned A. (USA)
1902 Reggie Doherty A. (GB)
Lawrence Doherty A. (GB)
William Larned A. (USA)
1903 Laurence Doherty A. (GB)
1904 Laurence Doherty A. (GB)
1905 Laurence Doherty A. (GB)
1906 Laurence Doherty A. (GB)
1907 Norman Brookes A. (Aus)
1908 William Larned A. (USA)
1909 William Larned A. (USA)
1910 William Larned A. (USA)
1911 Norman Brookes A. (Aus)
1912 Anthony Wilding A. (NZ)
1913 Tony Wilding A. (NZ)
1914 Maurice McLoughlin A. (USA)
1915 to 1918 World War I, no world rankings
1919 Gerald Patterson A. (Aus.)
Bill Johnston A. (USA)
1920 Bill Tilden A. (USA)
1921 Bill Tilden A. (USA)
1922 Bill Johnston A. (USA)
1923 Bill Tilden A. (USA)
1924 Bill Tilden A. (USA)
1925 Bill Tilden A. (USA)
1926 René Lacoste A. (Fr.)
1927 René Lacoste A. (Fr.)
1928 Henri Cochet A. (Fr.)
1929 Henri Cochet A. (Fr.)
1930 Henri Cochet A. (Fr.)
1931 Bill Tilden P. (USA)
1932 Ellsworth Vines A. (USA)
1933 Jack Crawford A. (Aus.)
1934 Fred Perry A. (GB)
1935 Fred Perry A. (GB)
Ellsworth Vines P. (USA)
1936 Fred Perry A. (GB)
Ellsworth Vines P. (USA)
1937 Fred Perry P. (GB)
Ellsworth Vines P. (USA)
Don Budge A. (USA)
1938 Don Budge A. (USA)  Completed the Grand Slam
1939 Don Budge P. (USA)
1940 Don Budge P. (USA)
1941 Fred Perry P. (GB)
Bobby Riggs A. (USA)
1942 Don Budge P. (USA)
1943 Bobby Riggs P. (USA)
1944 Bobby Riggs P. (USA)
1945 Bobby Riggs P. (USA)
1946 Bobby Riggs P. (USA)
1947 Bobby Riggs P. (USA)
Jack Kramer A. (USA)
1948 Jack Kramer P. (USA)
1949 Jack Kramer P. (USA)
1950 Jack Kramer P. (USA)
Pancho Segura P. (Ecuador/USA)
1951 Jack Kramer P. (USA)
1952 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA) – Pancho Segura P. (Ecuador/USA)
1953 Jack Kramer P. (USA)
1954 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
1955 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
1956 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
1957 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
1958 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
1959 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
1960 Pancho Gonzales P. (USA)
Ken Rosewall P. (Aus.)
1961 Ken Rosewall P. (Aus.)
1962 Ken Rosewall P. (Aus.) Rod Laver Completed the Grand Slam for Amateurs
1963 Ken Rosewall P. (Aus.)
1964 Ken Rosewall P. (Aus.)
Rod Laver P. (Aus.)
1965 Rod Laver P. (Aus.)
1966 Rod Laver P. (Aus.)
1967 Rod Laver P. (Aus.)
1968 Rod Laver P. (Aus.)
1969 Rod Laver P. (Aus.)  Completed the Grand Slam
1970 Rod Laver P. (Aus.)
Ken Rosewall P. (Aus.)
John Newcombe P. (Aus.)
1971 Stan Smith A. (USA)
John Newcombe P. (Aus.)
1972 Stan Smith A/P. (USA)
1973 Ilie Nastase P. (Rom.)
1974 Jimmy Connors P. (USA)
1975 Arthur Ashe P. (USA)
1976 Jimmy Connors P. (USA)
1977 Björn Borg P. (Swe.)
Guillermo Vilas P. (Arg.)
1978 Björn Borg P. (Swe.)
1979 Björn Borg P. (Swe.)
1980 Björn Borg P. (Swe.)
1981 John McEnroe P. (USA)
1982 Jimmy Connors P. (USA)
1983 John McEnroe P. (USA)
1984 John McEnroe P. (USA)
1985 Ivan Lendl P. (Cze.)
1986 Ivan Lendl P. (Cze.)
1987 Ivan Lendl P. (Cze.)
1988 Mats Wilander P. (Swe.)
1989 Boris Becker P. (Ger.)
1990 Stefan Edberg P. (Swe.)
1991 Stefan Edberg P. (Sweden)
1992 Jim Courier P. (U.S.)
1993 Pete Sampras P. (U.S.)
1994 Pete Sampras P. (U.S.)
1995 Pete Sampras P. (U.S.)
1996 Pete Sampras P. (U.S.)
1997 Pete Sampras P. (U.S.)
1998 Pete Sampras P. (U.S.)
1999 Andre Agassi P. (U.S.)
2000 Gustavo Kuerten P. (Brazil)
2001 Lleyton Hewitt P. (Australia)
2002 Lleyton Hewitt P. (Australia)
2003 Andy Roddick P. (U.S.)
2004 Roger Federer P. (Switzerland)
2005 Roger Federer P. (Switzerland)
2006 Roger Federer P. (Switzerland)
2007 Roger Federer P. (Switzerland)
2008 Rafael Nadal P. (Spain)
2009 Roger Federer P. (Switzerland)
2010 Rafael Nadal P. (Spain)
2011 Novak Djokovic P. (Serbia)
2012 Novak Djokovic P. (Serbia)
   Top Players 
 
Total World Number One Years
8 years Pancho Gonzales 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960
7 years William Renshaw 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1889
Bill Tilden 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1931
Rod Laver 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970
6 years Reggie Doherty 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902
Jack Kramer 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953
Ken Rosewall 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1970
Pete Sampras 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
5 years Joshua Pim 1890, 1891, 1893, 1894, 1895
William Larned 1901, 1902, 1908, 1909, 1910
Lawrence Doherty 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906
Fred Perry 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1941
Don Budge 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942
Roger Federer 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
4 years Wilfred Baddeley 1891, 1892, 1895, 1896
Ellsworth Vines 1932, 1935, 1936, 1937
Bobby Riggs 1941, 1943-1945, 1946, 1947
Björn Borg 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
3 years Ernest Renshaw 1887, 1888, 1892
Anthony Wilding 1911, 1912, 1913
Henri Cochet 1928, 1929, 1930
Jimmy Connors 1974, 1976, 1982
John McEnroe 1981, 1983, 1984
Ivan Lendl 1985, 1986, 1987

Most Grand Slam Singles Titles

Total Australian French Wimbledon US Open
Roger Federer 17 4 1 7 5
Pete Sampras 14 2 0 7 5
Roy Emerson 12 6 2 2 2
Rafael Nadal 12 1 8 2 1
Rod Laver 11 3 2 4 2
Björn Borg 11 0 6 5 0
Bill Tilden 10 0 0 3 7
Fred Perry 8 1 1 3 3
Ken Rosewall 8 4 2 0 2
Jimmy Connors 8 1 0 2 5
Ivan Lendl 8 2 3 0 3
Andre Agassi 8 4 1 1 2
Richard Sears 7 0 0 0 7
William Renshaw 7 0 0 7 0
William Larned 7 0 0 0 7
René Lacoste 7 0 3 2 2
Henri Cochet 7 0 4 2 1
John Newcombe 7 2 0 3 2
John McEnroe 7 0 0 3 4
Mats Wilander 7 3 3 0 1

The complete list of Grand Slam Winners

The ATP rankings began in 1973. The World Number Ones with the most weeks at number one are:

Player and weeks
Roger Federer 302
Pete Sampras 286
Ivan Lendl 270
Jimmy Connors 268
John McEnroe 170
Björn Borg 109
Rafael Nadal 102
Andre Agassi 101
Novak Djokovic 91
Lleyton Hewitt 80

 

My choice of the Top Ten greatest tennis players based on amateur and professional performances is:

10. Ivan Lendl (Czech/USA)

9. Fred Perry (GB)

8. Bjorn Borg (Sweden)

7. Bill Tilden (USA)

6. Rafael Nadal (Spain)

5. Pancho Gonzales (USA) – Only won two Grand Slams but turned pro early and was the outstanding player of the 1950s in either the amateur or pro game.

4. Ken Rosewall (Australia) – winner of 8 Grand Slams over a 19 year span from 1953 to 1972. He turned pro and was the top pro player of the early 1960s.

3. Pete Sampras (USA) – winner of 14 Grand Slams between 1990 and 2002 including 7 Wimbledon titles and 5 US Opens.

2. Rod Laver (Australia) – won 6 Grand Slams as an Amateur and later 5 in the Open era including two Grand Slams. Turned pro after his first Grand Slam and was the best player (pro or amateur) of the mid-sixties.

1. Roger Federer (Switzerland) – winner of 17 Grand Slams since 2003, including 7 Wimbeldon titles and 5 US Opens.

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