The first port of call for looking at the greatest women players is to look at the singles Grand Slam titles. Here is a table showing the players with the most titles.
|Rank||Player||Total||Australian Open||French Open||Wimbledon||US Open|
|4||Helen Wills Moody||19||0||4||8||7|
|7||Billie Jean King||12||1||1||6||4|
|=||Molla Bjurstedt Mallory||8||0||0||0||8|
|12||Dorothea Lambert Chambers||7||0||0||7||0|
|17||Blanche Bingley Hillyard||6||0||0||6||0|
|=||Nancye Wynne Bolton||6||6||0||0||0|
Official world rankings began in 1975. For the players since then the most weeks at number one have been
Steffi Graf 377
Martina Navratilova 332
Serena Williams 319
Chris Evert 260
Martina Hingis 209
Monica Seles 178
Justine Henin 117
Lindsay Davenport 98
Since 1921 the number one woman player for each year has been chosen by different experts. The number of years at number one for the top players are (in some years two or more players were tied as number one. I have also listed the years when a player was undisputed number one and combined that with tied years scoring 1/2 to give a score): Women’s tennis didn’t have a professional tour like the men in the years before Open tennis in 1968 so Grand Slam titles correspond more with years at number one.
|Player||Yrs at No.1||Undisputed||Score|
|Helen Wills Moody||9||9|
|Billie Jean King||6||3||4.5|
I think that the Grand Slam totals is the best way of comparing the players. The earliest names on the list certainly had less competition and could win the Slams more easily but on the other hand they tended to travel less and competed in fewer tournaments which reduces their totals. The one player at the very top of the list who I think has a slightly flattering total is Margaret Court. She won a huge number of Australian titles (her home tournament) and many of these were against relatively weak fields because the top players from the northern hemisphere didn’t compete. Factoring this in would put her at around 18 or 19 in total in my estimation.
My top ten follows the Grand Slam totals fairly closely. The top two are Serena Williams and Steffi Graf but in which order is tricky. Steffi has the edge in number one rankings but Serena does in Grand Slams. My feeling is that Serena’s lengthy era has been a slightly more competitive one with various multiple champions at different times. Steffi’s greatest rival was Monica Seles whose career at the very top was cut short. After that she didn’t have many great champions at their peak for long-term rivalries. This just tips my choice towards Serena as number one.
The next four are closely matched. Wills-Moody, Navratilova, Evert and Court could be placed in any order. Navratilova and Evert were great rivals and must have taken a number of Slams off the other which would have put them on a higher total. For this reason I would have them as three and four on my list with Martina just ahead as she was number one for longer. Wills-Moody was hugely dominant but there were some other very good players around so I put her just ahead of Court.
Billie-Jean King is clearly next but then it is harder for the final three places in my top ten. Connolly and Seles had relatively short careers at the top but won many titles in that time. Lenglen changed women’s tennis just after World War One and didn’t compete in two of the Grand Slams which reduces her total. It’s very tricky but I go with Seles then Connolly and Lenglen.
So my top ten is:
5.Helen Wills Moody
7.Billie Jean King