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Ranking the Ten Greatest Male Tennis Players of All Time

Tennis is an unequal game, meaning that every player on the tour is at some power level and there are players better than him or her and there are also players worse than him or her. Because of this, there are players that stand out in the crowd of professional tennis.

Today, we have names like Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic, Kevin Anderson, and of course, the dynamic duo of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. These are some of the best players in the world right now and their results have proved it.

But who are some of the best tennis players of all time? We’ve had countless legends throughout the years and today, I’m going to be ranking the ten greatest male tennis players of all time. This list will be ranked based off their achievements and what they brought to the game.

10. Stefan Edberg

Stefan Edberg
Stefan Edberg isn’t a player who you would usually consider to be in the top ten, considering that other players can put up better stats than him. There are many players who have better numbers and more Grand Slams than he does.

But Stefan Edberg reached his achievements through a style that not many could master: serve-and-volley. In fact, he’s won a total of nine Grand Slam titles, six in singles and three in doubles. Among that, he spent ten consecutive years in the top ten, with nine of those years being in the top five.

Of course, there have been players that have put up better numbers than this but there isn’t anyone on this list that is a specialist in both singles and doubles. Only Stefan Edberg is and we can thank his aggressive serve-and-volley style for this. He was one of the players who really revolutionized serve-and-volley tactics and made it as popular as it is today. He didn’t just have one of the most successful careers on the ATP Tour, he also did it in one of the most unorthodox ways.

Right now, he’s one of the only players to have made such a successful career using mainly serve-and-volley tactics. Of course, his success in doubles can be largely attributed to the fact that volleys are the most important piece to the game. But the fact that he was able to replicate the same success using a purely offensive game is extremely impressive considering that tennis has evolved into a game played from the baseline over the past few decades.

9. John McEnroe

John McEnroe
John McEnroe is known as the bad boy of tennis because he didn’t play by the rules. Anytime something controversial happened during the 1980s, it was usually because John McEnroe had something to do with it.

However, John McEnroe could back up his antics and he could back them up with a gritty playstyle that defied all the sophistication that tennis is known to have. He did whatever it took to win and he did it with his entire heart. (Of course, he didn’t play unfair and cheat out his opponents)

The thing that made John McEnroe strong was that he was good on any surface, be it hard court, grass court, or clay, he was proficient on them all. He wasn’t limited to one or two courts because he knew how to handle each surface as well as the other. Combine that with the fiery grit inside of him and a determined mindset to not lose, John McEnroe was virtually impossible to destroy. He’d fight to the end and make sure that his opponent would go down with him if need be.

During his career, John McEnroe won a total of 107 titles and seven Grand Slam titles, all in the singles bracket. But that isn’t what sets him apart. What sets him apart is that he came into the pro scene whenever the rivalries were at its highest. He was born into an era where names like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, and Ivan Lendl were present. Despite this, John McEnroe created a name for himself. He faced these legends without fear and the results showed.

Using careful shot selection and a beautiful volley technique, John McEnroe crafted some great highlights during his career. One of the most notable is the 1980 Wimbledon final in which John McEnroe challenged a peak level Bjorn Borg to a five set battle which Bjorn Borg barely took 8-6 in the fifth set.

Keep in mind, though, McEnroe had only been on the pro tour for two years while Bjorn Borg was on his seventh year and was having one of the best seasons he had experienced. What separates McEnroe from the rest of the players is that he didn’t fear anyone despite coming into the pro tour whenever it had some of the best names in the game.

Heck, Rod Laver was even around for a bit whenever McEnroe entered the professional scene. The thing is, though, McEnroe entered as a young amateur and quickly started playing like a veteran. Because of this, he completely deserves a spot on the list as he created some of the most memorable moments in tennis with timeless rivalries and unforgettable matches.

8. Bjorn Borg

Bjorn Borg
Bjorn Borg was something of an oddity to the realm of tennis. He was quiet and submissive off the court but on the court, he was dominant and extremely passionate for the game. But what he was most known for was his lack of emotion.

Don’t get me wrong. He cared for the game. He wouldn’t be on this list if he didn’t. But he showed no emotion when he was on the court. He never showed that he was happy and he never showed his frustration. One prime example of this is the 1980 Wimbledon final when Bjorn Borg was in a tiebreaker for the fourth set versus John McEnroe. Even Bjorn had five Championship points, he still ended up losing the tiebreaker by an extremely narrow margin of 16-18.

Any normal player would have shown some type of emotion after losing such a close tiebreaker that could have meant a Wimbledon title. But Bjorn showed nothing. After losing the set, he sat down with a blank face, nothing to be seen. This was what he was best known for, an emotionless tennis maestro who dominated the game from the baseline. During his ten years on tour, Bjorn Borg won a total of eleven grand slams with six of them coming from the French Open and the other five from Wimbledon.

Before Roger Federer came around, Borg was the only player to win five consecutive Wimbledon titles and during the Modern Era, he was the first player to reach double digit Grand Slam titles. Unfortunately, Bjorn Borg retired at the age of twenty-six, largely due to media pressure and consistent expectations to succeed.

Had he not retired, Bjorn Borg would definitely be a top five player of all time and maybe even a top three. Unfortunately, his future had he not retired will always remain uncertain. If he had continued his professional career, Bjorn might have even had a shot at breaking twenty Grand Slam titles.

7. Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi
The only player who’s anywhere near the same energy as John McEnroe is Andre Agassi. Andre Agassi was considered a type of rebel during his professional career. He went against dress norms and dressed however he wanted, even wearing jean shorts for a match at one point.

However, Andre’s path to success was not as easy as the others on this list. Even though he managed to reach the world number three spot two years after entering the professional scene, Andre Agassi did not win his first Grand Slam title till the 1991 Wimbledon finals in which he barely defeated Goran Ivanišević in a five set thriller.

After this, Andre Agassi started one of the most dominant runs tennis has ever seen. He would become the first player to ever win four Australian Open titles during his career before being one-upped by Novak Djokovic. Alongside that, he would also go on to win one French Open final against Andrei Medvedev in a five set brawl-fest and would also add two US Open titles. This meant that he was one of the five players to complete the Career Grand Slam.

He also set many precedents during his time on the court. He’s been regarded as the best service returner in the history of tennis—though Novak Djokovic could challenge that one—and he’s also been known as one of the biggest superstars of the sporting world.

In fact, many contribute Andre Agassi’s flashy style and rebellious antics to the rise of tennis in the 1990s. Had it not been for Andre’s plethora of titles and achievements as well as his charismatic personality, tennis might have gone down the drain.

6. Jimmy Connors

Jimmy Connors
This is one of the biggest legends of the modern era and one whose name will not be forgotten. Jimmy Connors was perhaps one of the most ecstatic players to ever play the game, holding a passion that you won’t see in most players.

He was the first player to hold the number one spot in the world for a consecutive 160 weeks and had one of the most dominating runs in the 1970s when tennis was at its peak level. During his time, he was the only player who wasn’t afraid to get into it against McEnroe and of course this led to some pretty heated moments.

But the thing was, he could back it up just like McEnroe could. With an extremely high desire to win and some of the best athleticism in the game, Jimmy Connors was a one-man machine that completely dominated the 1970s of the modern era. In 1974 alone, Jimmy Connors had a 99-4 record, meaning that he would win about 96% of his matches that year. He also had a shot at completing a “Grand Slam” in which he would have won all four Grand Slams in a single year.

After all, he had won the US Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon tournament. Had it not been for a ban on playing in the French Open in 1974 due to his association with World Team Tennis, Jimmy Connors might’ve had a shot at completing the Grand Slam sweep which would’ve cemented him in history alongside Rod Laver and Don Budge.

However, the fact that Jimmy Connors effortlessly dominated the 1970s, losing only eighteen matches throughout 1970-1980 at Grand Slam events. Had Jimmy Connors been able to replicate this dominance for the 1980s, there’s a good chance he could have been a top three player on this list.

5. Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras
After Stefan Edberg, tennis slowly transitioned from serving and volleying to a primarily baseline-oriented game. The few players who used a mainly serve-and-volley technique did not get very far except for one player. Pete Sampras.

Pete Sampras proved to the world that the serve-and-volley technique wasn’t dead just yet. Using his huge serve and his speed, Pete Sampras dominated both the service games and the net. Virtually no one could beat him from net and because of this, Pete Sampras was a very offensive player.

This playstyle helped him create a legacy that no one would forget. Throughout his time, he managed to win fourteen Grand Slam titles with half of them coming from Wimbledon. At one point, he almost managed to win Wimbledon eight times in a row but a quarterfinal upset to Richard Krajicek in 1996 ended that possibility.

Nevertheless, Pete Sampras still boasted insane numbers. He held a 90% win rate on the grass courts, an 88.75% win rate at the US Open, and an 83% win rate at the Australian Open. The numbers don’t lie. Pete Sampras deserves to be one of the greats. During his time of dominance, it seemed like no one could return his serve consistently, except for Andre Agassi who was his main rival. It was simply too fast. Combine that with a mind of steel and you have Pete Sampras, a fourteen-time Grand Slam champion and a consecutive six-year number one.

That’s right. Pete Sampras ended the year as the world number one for six straight years. During his time on tour, he produced some of the greatest battles known to tennis, especially with his main nemesis Andre Agassi. Furthermore, Pete Sampras is one of the only tennis players to end his career on a high note by finishing it off with a 2002 US Open title where he beat long-time rival and friend, Andre Agassi. Sampras’s career defied expectations.

He went in with a playstyle not meant for that era and used it to completely flip the tables on itself. He set a legacy so great that many argued he was the best of all time whenever he retired—and some still do to this day. There’s no doubt that Pete deserves a spot on this list of all time greats.

4. Rod Laver

Rod Laver
During the 1960s, tennis wasn’t known for its power or its excitement. It was instead known for its accuracy and control. Sweet spots on the racquets were much smaller and thus, mistakes had much smaller margins.

That being said, it can be arguably said that tennis was much harder back in the day with every shot having to be near perfect in order for it to go over the net at a desirable pace. One man showed the true potential of tennis during this time. Rod Laver. Rod Laver was born into the professional scene whenever the tennis tour was split into professionals and amateurs. During this time, only amateurs were allowed to compete in established tournaments while professionals played in a more independent system.

However, despite this separation, Rod Laver still managed to craft one of the greatest legacies of all time. He played in both the amateur and professional scene and whenever the two merged together to create the open era, Rod Laver set a record that hasn’t been broken to this day. He’s the only player to have ever completed a “Grand Slam” sweep twice. That means he was able to win all four major grand slams in one year twice. No other player has done that to this day so that should go to show how strong of a player he was during his time on the professional scene.

Furthermore, he’s the only player to ever win two hundred career titles in the history of the game. But what’s even more impressive is that he was able to achieve a large amount of his success during his short time in the open era. He was near thirty whenever the Open Era began but despite this, he still managed to create some of the greatest stories to the tennis world—one of them being his second sweep of all four Grand Slams at an age where most players would consider retirement.

Rod Laver achieved so much within a short period of time, winning a total of eleven Grand Slam titles and two hundred titles in his career. If he was a player in today’s age with his caliber in skill, I would say without a doubt that he would definitely be a top three contender. Why do I not put him higher up? The fact of the matter is that Rod Laver came in at an awkward stage of professional tennis when things were messy. Had it not been for this, Laver would definitely be higher on the ladder.

3. Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic
There are three periods in tennis where the professional scene was at its toughest. The first one was whenever McEnroe, Connors, and Borg were around. The second one was whenever Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras created a timeless rivalry that made tennis a top three sport in America.

Then, there’s the third and arguably toughest period of tennis. This is the era whenever Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, and Lleyton Hewitt were around. Perhaps the thing that made this period of time so challenging was that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal literally dominated the tour, winning a majority of the season’s tournaments. This meant that players had to evolve and become better than they ever were. Those who failed to do so became irrelevant to the tennis scene but those who found a way out soon made a name for themselves.

Novak Djokovic was born in the middle of this period of time and despite the great opposition, he still managed to become one of the all time greats. Currently holding fourteen Grand Slam titles, Novak Djokovic looks on track to win many more and this is a very strong possibility right now. As I’ve said before, Novak came in at a time whenever the tennis world was obsessed with the Rafa versus Roger trend. This was a never-ending battle where Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer brawled it out every time they played. And anyone who was in their way was taken down with ease.

Except Djokovic. The first time Djokovic met against Roger Federer, the two went three sets with Federer eventually pulling it out. Keep in mind, this was whenever Djokovic was eighteen and Roger was around the age of twenty-five. Djokovic would then go on to upset Roger Federer at the U.S. Open four years later in five sets. After this, the rivalry was no longer Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal. It was now Novak Djokovic versus the entire world.

At his peak, it seemed like no one could beat him. His return game rivals that of Andre Agassi and his speed is some of the best in the entire history of tennis. Djokovic is a peak professional player that shows why tennis is such a beautiful sport. With many years left in him and a miracle comeback after a shaky 2017 year, Djokovic is only making his story better and better. He’s already won fourteen Grand Slams and had near experiences with completing the “Grand Slam” sweep in 2011 and 2015.

Heck, he wont the Nitto ATP Finals four times in a row from 2012 to 2015. There’s never been a player that has set this type of dominance in a period of time. Only Jimmy Connors can account to this type of dominating season but the difference is that Jimmy Connors’ dominance was only huge in 1974 while Djokovic’s still lasts to this day.

2. Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal
Known as the bull, Rafael Nadal brought something to the table that defines textbook tennis: an extremely strong set of fundamental skills and an unbreaking will to win. Combine that with his humble nature contrasted with his ferocious cheers on the court and you have a one-of-a-kind player.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s set a precedent for future Spaniards to come and like Novak Djokovic, he isn’t done just yet. The Spaniard bull first came out with a strong appearance against the then dominant Roger Federer at the Miami Open Round of 32 which he won in straight sets—even more impressive at the age of seventeen compared to Roger’s twenty-three years of age.

After that, Rafael Nadal crafted a legacy that won’t be forgotten in the near future. He soon became the King of Clay and the one player keeping Roger Federer from completing the “Grand Slam” sweep. Whenever Rafael Nadal played clay, Roger Federer almost never beat him.

Of the fourteen times they met on the clay court, Roger Federer only beat him twice. To this day, Rafael Nadal is considered to be the greatest clay court player of all time and this is why we deem him one of the best players of all time. To get a good idea of how good he is on clay, you need to take a look at his win percentage. Since his start on the professional scene, Rafael Nadal holds a 92% win rate on this surface, losing only thirty six matches out of four hundred and fifty one matches on the clay court.

Furthermore, like many others on this list, Rafael Nadal nearly completed a Grand Slam sweep in 2010 where he won three of the four Grand Slam titles—Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and U.S. Open. However, he fell short in Australia. Nevertheless, Rafael Nadal will go down in history as one of the greatest of all time. He came into an era where Roger Federer dominated every aspect of tennis and gave him something to worry about. During this time, he became the king of one surface and even today, at the ripe age of thirty-two, he isn’t going to be giving that title up to anyone for the next few decades.

1. Roger Federer

Roger Federer
Nowadays, whenever the name Roger Federer pops up, a legacy of greatness is implied. He has many nicknames—King Roger, the Swiss Maestro, Federer Express—but one that has been arguably attached to his name is G.O.A.T. People today consider him to be the Greatest of All Time which is what the acronym G.O.A.T stands for. Why is this? Simply put, Roger Federer broke nearly every major record and set it with his own standards.

For one, throughout his entire career—which is still going—Roger Federer has spent 310 weeks at the number one spot. Of these 310 weeks, he spent 237 consecutive weeks at the number one spot, meaning for nearly four and a half years, Roger Federer dominated the entire tennis world. Currently, he holds the greatest number of Grand Slam titles won at twenty—eight Wimbledon titles, six Australian Opens, 5 US Open titles, and one Roland Garros title. Combine this with the fact that he also has ninety nine titles under his belt and you’ll see why no one in this era is anywhere close to taking on Roger Federer.

These are only the surface of his career achievements as he’s won Wimbledon a record number of times and he’s also won consecutive US Opens a record number of times. The fact of the matter is, Roger Federer dominated from the era of 2003 to 2012. During this time, the only two players that ever beat him at a Grand Slam were Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal, with most of Rafael Nadal’s victories coming from the clay court. Meanwhile, Juan Martin Del Potro only beat him once in a miracle run at the US Open finals that went five sets.

Furthermore, had it not been for Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer would have probably dominated all three court types: hard, grass, and clay. In 2004, 2006, and 2007, Roger Federer was one Grand Slam off of completing the “Grand Slam” sweep and each time, the Grand Slam he fell short at was the Roland Garros open. Other than that, he dominated, winning Wimbledon five times in a row—he almost made it seven years in a row had it not been for his grueling five set loss against Rafael Nadal in 2008. He’d then go on to win the US Open five times in a row around the same period of time where he was dominating Wimbledon.

Using a calculated court sense and precise backhand and forehand accuracy, Roger Federer was unbeatable from nearly every section of the court. This meant that his opponents had to find unorthodox ways to beat him and most of the time, they didn’t. To this day, his opponents still find it hard to beat him one-on-one even at Roger Federer’s ripe age of thirty-seven.

Even though he’s nearing the end of his career, Roger Federer has left us an unforgettable era—one in which he showed that anything is possible. Even though Rafael Nadal was the gatekeeper that held him from three possible “Grand Slam” sweeps and Novak Djokovic became a worthy adversary that challenged him from 2012 on, Roger Federer has left a story behind that makes every tennis player consider him a worthy title of the best player of all time.


Tennis is one of the most mentally-challenging sports in the industry. Because the player is their by himself, they have to deal with everything by themselves. Therefore, it can be tough to find greatness in this field. But some have and when they do find this greatness, they leave a legacy behind that leaves their fans in awe. There have been many that have done this before but some have done it better than other and some have done it so well that they’ve been considered as one of the greatest of all time.

Pete Sampras revolutionized and dominated tennis with a playstyle that was thought dead during his time on the court. Rod Laver broke records in the short time in which tennis was on a transition to the commercial scale. Andre Agassi and John McEnroe both brought something edgy to the game that made the audience love tennis even more while also creating their own personal records. Rafael Nadal not only became the king of clay but he also became known as the only man able to stop Roger Federer from complete dominance.

The list goes on. Each of the players on this list deserves to be here due to their own large number of achievements and what they’ve brought to the game. Together, they’ve evolved tennis into a sport that is no longer just about hitting the ball back and forth but also about the culture behind the game.

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