Tennis is a thrilling sport that has produced some of the finest athletes the world has ever seen. Today, we delve into the rich history of women’s tennis to celebrate the achievements and careers of the 15 greatest female tennis players of all time. This journey explores their impact on the sport, remarkable performances, and their influence beyond the court.
These sportswomen have not only demonstrated exceptional skill and prowess on the court but have also shown resilience, determination, and tenacity. They’ve broken records, shattered glass ceilings, and revolutionized the game. Read on to discover more about these awe-inspiring women and their monumental contributions to tennis.
1. Serena Williams
Serena Williams, arguably the most dominant player in the history of women’s tennis, boasted an impressive 23 Grand Slam titles and held the world No. 1 spot in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings for 319 weeks in total. Serena’s powerful game, characterized by her robust serves and aggressive groundstrokes, has left an indelible mark on the sport.
Off the court, Serena has been a potent advocate for women’s rights and equality, often using her platform to address social and racial injustices. Serena’s relentless pursuit of success and her continuous fight for equality is as inspirational as her remarkable performances on the court.
2. Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf, a German-born tennis prodigy, dominated women’s tennis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With 22 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, Graf held the world No. 1 spot for a record 377 weeks, the longest in tennis history. She also holds the distinction of being the only player to have won each Grand Slam at least four times.
Beyond her remarkable records, Graf’s distinctive forehand and footwork have been a subject of admiration. She has also been recognized for her sportsmanship and philanthropy, contributing to her stature as an icon of the sport.
3. Martina Navratilova
Czech-American player Martina Navratilova was one of the most dominant forces in women’s tennis in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. Navratilova’s accomplishments include an astonishing 18 Grand Slam singles titles, and 31 Grand Slam doubles titles, which cemented her reputation as one of the greatest players of her generation.
Known for her aggressive serve-and-volley game and remarkable endurance, Navratilova was also a trailblazer off the court. She was one of the first openly gay athlete, using her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and equality in sports.
4. Margaret Court
Australian tennis player Margaret Court’s monumental career saw her win a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles. Spanning the amateur and Open Era, Court also achieved a remarkable “boxed set” of Grand Slam titles, winning every possible Grand Slam title – singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
Court’s impressive athleticism and her powerful serve-and-volley game won her fans worldwide. However, her views on LGBTQ+ issues have drawn criticism, underscoring the often complex legacy of athletes who have achieved significant milestones in their sports.
5. Chris Evert
Chris Evert, an American tennis player, was the world’s top player for seven years. With her 18 Grand Slam singles titles and a record seven French Open titles, Evert’s consistency and poise on the court were truly remarkable. Her win-loss record in singles matches of 90.05% remains the best in Open Era history.
Off the court, Evert has been instrumental in promoting tennis. Her sportsmanship, grace, and style, along with her fierce rivalries, particularly with Navratilova, brought women’s tennis to new heights of popularity and recognition.
6. Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King, an influential figure both on and off the court, won 12 Grand Slam singles titles during her illustrious career. However, she is best remembered for winning the “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs in 1973, a game that garnered significant media attention worldwide.
Off the court, King has been a tireless advocate for women’s rights and gender equality in sports. She co-founded the Women’s Tennis Association and has been instrumental in pushing for equal prize money for men and women. King’s contribution to tennis extends far beyond her impressive on-court accomplishments.
7. Monica Seles
Monica Seles, a former Yugoslav and American tennis player, dominated the early 1990s with her aggressive play and powerful two-handed forehand and backhand. Seles won nine Grand Slam titles before turning 20 and was the youngest-ever French Open champion at age 16.
Seles’s career was unfortunately marred by a horrific on-court attack in 1993. However, her comeback after the incident highlighted her resilience and determination, enhancing her legacy in the sport. Seles’s impact on the game, with her unique style of play and never-give-up attitude, remains inspirational to many.
8. Venus Williams
Venus Williams, older sister to Serena Williams, has won seven Grand Slam singles titles during her illustrious career. Known for her powerful serves and aggressive net play, Venus has also won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with Serena, highlighting the siblings’ dominance in the sport.
Off the court, Venus has been a vocal advocate for gender equality, most notably pushing for and achieving equal prize money for men and women at Wimbledon and the French Open. Her immense talent, coupled with her advocacy, has firmly etched her name among the greats of the game.
9. Martina Hingis
Swiss tennis sensation Martina Hingis shot to fame in the late 1990s with her impressive gameplay. Hingis won five Grand Slam singles titles and held the world No. 1 ranking for a total of 209 weeks, becoming the youngest-ever world No. 1 at the age of 16.
Hingis’s game was characterized by her exceptional court vision, tactical play, and tennis intelligence rather than power. After retiring from singles due to injuries, she successfully transitioned into a doubles specialist, further showcasing her versatility and talent.
10. Justine Henin
Justine Henin, a Belgian tennis player, was known for her all-court game and particularly her powerful one-handed backhand, a rarity in the women’s game. Henin’s career includes seven Grand Slam singles titles, and she spent a total of 117 weeks as the world No. 1.
Despite her relatively small stature, Henin’s exceptional technique and mental toughness allowed her to compete with more powerful players. Her career was marked by several memorable matches that displayed her tenacity, resilience, and exceptional skill set.
11. Lindsay Davenport
American tennis player Lindsay Davenport held the world No. 1 ranking for a total of 98 weeks. With her powerful baseline game and potent serve, Davenport won three Grand Slam singles titles and an Olympic gold medal.
Despite fierce competition, Davenport maintained a consistent presence at the top of women’s tennis for over a decade. Her sportsmanship, humble demeanor, and commitment to the game were equally admired, making her one of the beloved figures in the sport.
12. Maria Sharapova
Russian-born Maria Sharapova achieved immense success in her career, including five Grand Slam singles titles. Known for her powerful groundstrokes and mental toughness, Sharapova reached the world No. 1 spot five times in her career.
Off the court, Sharapova has been a successful businesswoman, further showcasing her versatility. While her career was marked by controversy, including a doping scandal, Sharapova’s on-court achievements and her fighting spirit are an integral part of her legacy.
13. Arantxa Sánchez Vicario
Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, a Spanish tennis player, was one of the top players in the 1990s. She won four Grand Slam singles titles and held the world No. 1 ranking for a total of 12 weeks.
Known for her tenacity and fighting spirit, Sánchez Vicario was often referred to as the “Barcelona Bumblebee.” Her epic matches and relentless determination on the court earned her a special place in the hearts of tennis fans worldwide.
14. Evonne Goolagong Cawley
Evonne Goolagong Cawley, an Australian tennis player, won seven Grand Slam singles titles during her career. She was known for her graceful movement and versatile game, earning her the world’s No. 1 ranking in 1976.
Goolagong Cawley’s impact extends beyond her on-court achievements. As an Indigenous Australian, she broke barriers and inspired generations of Indigenous athletes to pursue their dreams in a range of sports, including tennis.
15. Kim Clijsters
Belgian player Kim Clijsters was known for her powerful groundstrokes and remarkable athleticism. Clijsters won four Grand Slam singles titles and spent 20 weeks as the world No. 1 in her career.
Notably, Clijsters made a successful comeback to tennis after becoming a mother, a feat that added a new dimension to her legacy. Her affable personality and sportsmanship endeared her to fans globally, making her one of the most popular figures in the sport.
These 15 women have not only displayed extraordinary talent and skill on the tennis court, but they’ve also played vital roles in advancing the sport of tennis. They’ve broken records, pushed boundaries, and inspired countless individuals worldwide. As we honor their contributions and achievements, we look forward to witnessing the future generations they’ve inspired to follow in their formidable footsteps.
Now, before you go, If you are a beginner at tennis and want to understand the tennis glossary, worry not! We’ve got you covered.