77° Good Morning
77° Good Morning

Top 10 men's tennis players of all time

Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates winning a point

Roger Federer of Switzerland celebrates winning a point in his semifinal match against Andy Murray of Great Britain during day eleven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2015 in London, England. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Julian Finney

1. Roger Federer

Grand Slam titles: 17

Overall titles: 87

If a player's place in history were to be judged solely on the beauty of their play, Roger Federer would be hands down No. 1. But judged solely on accomplishment, Federer is also hands down No. 1. With 17 major singles titles and still a threat to win more at age 34, Federer has proven he can win on all surfaces against all opponents, and do so with unparalleled grace. Federer once held the No. 1 world ranking for 237 weeks consecutively and for a total of 302 weeks, both records in the Open Era (since 1968). His ability to glide across the court, his whipped one-hand backhand and his mastery of all facets of the game carried him to the very top.

2. Rafael Nadal

Grand Slam titles: 14

Overall titles: 67

If Roger Federer is tennis' beauty, Rafael Nadal is its beast. Nadal's physical and guttural style of play is almost the polar opposite of Federer's, but there is no doubt it is also superbly effective, especially on the clay. Nine of Nadal's Grand Slam titles have come on the red clay of Roland Garros at the French Open, a record achievement never likely to be duplicated. You might even say that Nadal could be No. 1 all-time, considering his record against Federer. Nadal has been Federer's nemesis with an overall 23-10 record against him that includes 9-2 in Grand Slams.

3. Pete Sampras

Grand Slam titles: 14

Overall titles: 64

His serve was so lethal, they called him "Pistol Pete." But its sheer power brings to mind the word "bazooka." Sampras used that serve, which he often backed up by coming to net, to storm through the 1990s. He announced himself early, winning the 1990 U.S. Open at the age of 19. That was the first of his 14 Grand Slam titles that included a record seven of them at Wimbledon, where his serve-and-volley game worked to perfection. He was also extremely aggressive from the baseline, where from both sides he was capable of hitting rockets down the line. He went out in style, winning the 2002 U.S. Open title by defeating longtime rival Andre Agassi.

4. Rod Laver

Grand Slam titles: 11

Overall titles: 52

The man of the Popeye left forearm was an explosive package of power and style in a 5-8 frame. That forearm was measured at 12 inches full circumference, and did Rod Laver ever know how to use it. The lefthanded Australian had the ability to wait until the last microsecond before hitting a shot, leaving his opponents off-balance. He was the No. 1 player of the 1960s, his career beginning before the Open Era, and while the ATP credits him with 52 official victories, the figure by some accounts is as much as 200. Laver won the calendar year Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and 1969.

5. Roy Emerson

Grand Slam titles: 12

Overall titles: 15

Roy Emerson is often the forgotten great. The Australian's career began just before Rod Laver's and he won all of his Grand Slam titles before the start of the Open Era. Those 12 titles, including six Australian Opens, stood as the record until Pete Sampras won his 13th title at Wimbledon in 2000. They were also won under amateur status. The ATP gives him credit for 15 official victories, but again, that figure is likely to be well more than 100. Emerson was at home on every surface, but in his day of the late '50s to the early '70s, championship tennis was played primarily on grass or clay. Known as "Emmo," his reputation for physical fitness meant he could beat opponents by outlasting them.

6. Bjorn Borg

Grand Slam titles: 11

Overall titles: 64

The Silent Swede was a teenage sensation in the 1970s and is credited with helping propel the popularity of the game. He didn't say much, but spoke loudly with his racket and his 11 Grand Slam titles came on opposing surfaces: six on Wimbledon's grass and five on the French Open's clay. He lost four finals at the U.S. Open, and because the Australian Open was such a long trip and often was at the end of the season in his day, he played in it only once. One statistic really stands out -- the age of his retirement: 26. He tried a couple of comebacks with little success, but he had already made a major mark.

7. Andre Agassi

Grand Slam titles: 8

Overall titles: 60

No doubt that Andre Agassi was tennis' rock star. He had a certain cocky attitude, a certain look to his game and a certain look to his tennis clothing that made him sort of a rebel. But he could also play the game, and his return of serve was regarded as the best ever. He was the first male player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments on three different surfaces (grass, hard court and clay). Once married to actress Brooke Shields, maybe his greatest accomplishment was marrying all-time great Steffi Graf.

8. Jimmy Connors

Grand Slam titles: 8

Overall titles: 109

When it came to dogged determination, no one could top Jimmy Connors. For all his titles, his run to the semifinals at the 1991 U.S. Open was one of the outstanding achievements in the game. On his 39th birthday, he defeated Aaron Krickstein in a match that lasted 4 hours, 41 minutes. He was beaten in the semis by Jim Courier, but described that tournament as "the greatest 11 days of my tennis career." Connors was brash and bold, in contrast to a playing style that was subtle and cunning. He held the No. 1 ranking for 160 weeks from 1974-77.

9. Ivan Lendl

Grand Slam titles: 8

Overall titles: 94

Fans at the U.S. Open saw a lot of Ivan Lendl in the 1980s when he appeared in eight consecutive U.S. Open finals, winning three of them. Newsday's Joe Gergen once described him as the "Argyle Menace" for his rather offbeat tennis shirts and his brooding presence. The Czech player launched rockets from his forehand, his trademark shot, particularly on the run. Of the four Grand Slams, he failed to win only at Wimbledon. He once skipped the tournament, saying he was allergic to grass, but he was an avid golfer.

10. John McEnroe

Grand Slam titles: 7

Overall titles: 71

John McEnroe has been such an omnipresent television commentator for more than two decades, it might be possible to forget how good he was on the court. He was the consummate serve-and-volley player. He had a disguised service motion -- his back would be turned almost completely toward the baseline -- that perplexed opponents, as did his complete net coverage and his ability to play any sort of volley. His volatile nature, his famous disputes with umpires, earned him the nickname "McEnrow" from the British press.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Top Photos & Videos