In the heat of the summer Grand Slam tennis season, let’s take some time to reflect on some of the greatest people to have ever picked up a tennis racquet. Hundreds of pro players fill up the endless brackets of ATP and WTA World Tours, and while many claim several minor tournaments, or even an occasional Major, there is certainly a great distinction between them and the upper elite of the sport, the legends whose greatness will persist for generations.
Here are 5 of those great players and their tremendous accomplishments.
1. Rafael Nadal –
His French Open legacy may be waning following his quarterfinal exit, but having accumulated 9 Roland Garros titles in the past decade (to go along with 5 other Grand Slams), the Spaniard has captured 14 Major titles and is tied with Pete Sampras for 2nd most all time! His physicality and powerful style of play is a delight to watch and should hopefully continue. At 29, he may just be able to nab a few more titles and take over the top spot.
2. Pete Sampras –
The most successful American man was Sampras, who ruled over tennis throughout the 90’s. His 14 titles included 7 at Wimbledon and 5 at the US Open. Throughout his legacy, he maintained a strong rivalry with Andre Agassi, besting his countryman with a 20-14 record in all competitions. Sampras had a great serve, but also a strong skill set all-around to become the man with the most Grand Slams up to that date. He may have claimed more titles, but chose to go out on top following a last title at the 2002 US Open. Perhaps he simply knew what was coming…
3. Roger Federer –
The tantalizing Swiss man picked up right where Sampras left off, and now holds more Grand Slam titles than any other man at 17. His most sensational period came during late 2005-2007, when he collected 8 of 10 Slams (his only losses occurred in the French Open final to Nadal). He is the complete player, making smart shots all over the court and playing with precision and comfort. It simply looks too easy when he plays. His reign at the top may be over given the rise of other top players like Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, but I wouldn’t bet against Federer snagging another Grand Slam title before it’s all said and done.
4. Steffi Graf –
The all time Grand Slam champion leader is a woman from Germany who won an astounding 22 titles. The only player to ever complete a Golden Slam (all 4 titles in one year), Graf ruled the late 80’s to early 90’s of women’s tennis. A great server, Graf also possessed a strong forehand shot that won countless points and had incredible movement around the court. Retiring young at age 30, who knows what she could have accomplished had she continued.
5. Serena Williams –
Today’s American tennis hero has led a remarkable career, which has endured beyond perhaps any other. Her longevity has been marred by numerous injuries, but she seemingly returns stronger and more determined after each one. Her 20 titles are nearing the top of the list, and should she complete a Golden Slam of her own in 2015 (don’t jinx it!), she’d match Graf’s record. As of this writing she’s half way there! At 33 and to be playing at this level (ranked #1) is simply ridiculous. Her strength and power sets her apart from competitors and she’ll likely go down as one of the greatest tennis players ever. The only question that remains now is can she beat Graf’s Grand Slam tally?
6. Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova –
During the 70’s and 80’s, these two American women ruled the sport and collected 18 titles apiece! At the time this was greater than any other and due to their strong rivalry and collective list of accolades, I felt it worthy to put them together. Though Navratilova led their meetings 43-37, the margin was slim and each was a legend in her own right. Though their shared Grand Slam title count has since been surpassed, during their time the feat was monumental and certainly will keep them in the record books for time to come!
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