Tennis is an incredible sport to play or watch as a spectator. Of course, pro tennis players make the game look easy, but anyone who’s ever played tennis knows that tennis is far from easy. Speaking of tennis pros, who are the best men’s tennis players of all time?
Tennis can be a brutal sport to play. From searing summer temperatures on the court to a demanding global tournament schedule, the best men’s tennis players of all time just find a way to make it work, and excel at the sport in the process. And according to a recent study, tennis players put their bodies through more than we’ve probably ever imagined.
Researchers from the Radiological Society of North America found that racket sports, such as tennis and racquetball, have the worst impact on your knees and joints. The research team discovered that these types of racket sports accelerate knee joint degeneration more than other sports or other forms of exercise. Don’t let that stop you from playing that next round of tennis or racquetball with friends, though.
A study by researchers in Japan found that playing golf or tennis, especially during middle age, can help prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. The results of this research found that simply exercising, in any form, can help lower the risk of developing these conditions by more than 25 percent. Meanwhile, researchers also found that the social aspects of these sports and activities are greatly beneficial to your overall brain health. So, to recap, actively playing tennis is great for your brain but not so beneficial for your knees and joints.
Playing tennis with friends aside, when it comes to watching professional tennis matches on TV or in person, many spectators are put off by the loud ‘grunting’ or ‘shrieking’ noises that players exhibit as they hit the ball. The good news for betting fans, a tennis player’s grunts can accurately predict who will win the match. Researchers from the University of Sussex found that tennis players release grunts on a higher pitch during matches they lost compared to the grunts given off in their victories.
So, who has gone down in tennis history? StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 expert sports and tennis websites in an effort to find the best men’s tennis players of all time. Our list is comprised of the five most recommended athletes from across these sites. As always, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
The List: Best Men’s Tennis Players of All Time, Per Experts
1. Novak Djokovic
Topping the list of the best men’s tennis players of all time is Novak Djokovic. The Serbian-born Djokovic appeared on every list we referenced, all 10, and sat in the top spot across nearly half of the sites we consulted. Djokovic is still an active player, and the experts say, he has more left in the tank and his days of winning aren’t over.
“At 35 years of age and in the late prime years of his career, Djokovic certainly has the potential to win more Grand Slam titles. With 22 Grand Slam titles already under his belt, he is tied with Rafael Nadal. And with a record 376 weeks ranked as number one, it’s hard not to give Djokovic serious consideration as the greatest of all time,” writes How They Play.
Djokovic has a complete game, too. His striking and accuracy make Djokovic one of the most dominant tennis players to ever step on the court. “He’s been virtually unbeatable in his prime and has amassed more than 87 titles in his career. Known for his precision, stamina, and relentless determination, Djokovic’s playing style is a combination of power and finesse, making him a formidable opponent on the court,” adds Wolfgang Sport.
And his rivalries with the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have made for some of the most captivating tennis matches in the history of the sport. Still, Djokovic didn’t really start winning big until later in his career. “Sure, Djokovic has always been a world-class player, but by his 28th birthday, he had only won 7 Grand Slam titles. After that? 13 Grand Slam titles in six years. Djokovic has completely dominated the Grand Slam tournaments in the last couple of years,” explains Sports Khabri.
2. Roger Federer
Hailing from Switzerland, Roger Federer makes a strong case for the top spot on this list as he appeared on every site we referenced and, as you can imagine, he took the top spot on several occasions. Despite narrowly being beaten out by Djokovic, Roger Federer is an obvious choice as one of the best men’s tennis players of all time.
“As a tennis fan, you will struggle to find an excellent all-arounder in the men’s tennis world than Roger Federer. He is a Swiss professional tennis player who is ranked as Number One in the entire world. Under his name, he has 101 tennis titles and a total of 20 grand slams,” explains Love Tennis Blog.
To be fair, some of the sites we referenced are citing stats from the point in time in which the article was published. Since then, Federer has added to his totals. “He has won a staggering 103 singles titles, the second most in the Open Era behind Jimmy Connors, including a record 20 Grand Slams (alongside Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) and a record six ATP Tour Finals titles. In 2017 he won a record eighth Wimbledon title and also shares the record for most US Open Titles (5) with Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors,” adds Tennis Creative.
Federer isn’t finished just yet and he’s still an active player in tournaments and Grand Slams. Federer’s greatness on the court matches the type of person he is off of it. “[Federer] has proven his talent for over 20 years and is still competing at the very highest level. Federer is joint top as the player with [the] most Grand Slam titles in the world (20) and is second behind Djokovic in most weeks spent at the World No.1 spot. Federer is a great role model on and off the field, an inspiration to all kids growing up, and an incredible athlete who will go down in history as one of the greatest sportsmen of all time,” adds Sports Khabri.
3. Rafael Nadal
Like the first two tennis greats before him on this list, Nadal appeared on 100 percent of the lists we referenced and even took the top spot one time. The Spanish Nadal has been competing at tennis’s highest level for decades now and he’s considered an all-time tennis great.
“While Federer made history by becoming the first man ever to win 20 Grand Slam titles, Nadal did one better. At the Australian Open final on the 30th January 2022, over 5 sets – 5 hours and 24 minutes, Nadal beat Medvedev to become the greatest of all time with an unbelievable 21 Grand Slam singles titles,” exclaims Pledge Sports.
Nadal clearly gets some love from the critics. And as we explained earlier, Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer have been competing against one another at the highest level for most of this century. “One of the most successful teenagers in ATP tour history, Rafael Nadal reached the world no. 2 ranking at the age of just 19 after picking up 16 titles including his first French Open title in 2005. By 2008, Nadal had his hands on a fourth French Open title and clinched his first Wimbledon title when he dethroned Roger Federer in one of the greatest tennis matches in history,” adds Tennis Creative.
Nadal’s game offers an excellent combination of power and accuracy. But, Rafael Nadal’s game goes to another level when he plays on clay courts. “[Nadal’s] forehand is a weapon, hit with heavy topspin and at challenging angles, making it difficult for opponents to hit winners past him. He is also known for being one of the best at breaking serve, making it hard for opponents to hold onto their service games. Nadal can play on any surface but the Spanish powerhouse is a clay court specialist with a record 14 French Open titles,” writes Wolfgang Sport.
4. Rod Laver
Rod Laver isn’t as well known as some of the other names on the list for a few reasons but mostly because he played in the 1960s and the bulk of his career happened before the Open Era. Regardless of when he played, the Australian Rod Laver is one of the best men’s tennis champions of all time.
“Australian tennis legend Rod Laver was the king of tennis in the 1960s. Laver’s career unfortunately crossed over from the amateur to professional era, with the ‘Open-Era’ beginning in 1968. Regardless, he’s the only player in history to achieve the Calendar Grand Slam twice – doing so in both pre Open-Era and Open-Era. No male player has been able to achieve the feat since he last did it in 1969,” explains Wolfgang Sport.
Although Laver played in both eras, his greatness is still recognized by tennis enthusiasts around the world. Experts agree, Laver’s feats undeniably make him one of the greats. “It’s difficult to assess how Rod Laver would have fared against the players of today, but I suspect the redheaded Aussie would have done just fine. It’s hard to argue with the ‘Rockets’ record. He was ranked number one in the world for seven straight years (1964 – 1970), and he has more career titles (200) than anyone in the history of the game,” explains How They Play.
Laver is credited, in part, with modernizing the game of tennis with heavy spins and strategic volleys. Laver was an offensive force that completely dominated his competition. “The miniature left-hander from Rockhampton, Australia, did things never before seen with a racquet…but his sheer dominance over the entire field was brilliance on a level never seen again,” writes Bleacher Report.
5. Pete Sampras
Sampras is the only American player to make our list as he appeared on 100 percent of the lists we referenced and had an average position of fifth. Sampras completely dominated tennis during the 1990s before retiring just after the start of the new millennium.
“He dominated the tennis world during the 90s and was considered the greatest tennis player of all time when he retired in 2002. With a record-holding 14 Grand Slam titles, it was hard to disagree with that claim. However, despite all those Grand Slam titles, Sampras never won a French Open title,” explains Sports Khabri.
The French Open is definitely Pete Sampras’s Achilles heel. Regardless of those struggles, Sampras was consistently one of the top players in the world during his prime. “Surprisingly, Pete Sampras didn’t actually complete the Grand Slam set, with the French Open eluding him. However, he was dominant on the hard and grass courts, topping the world rankings for six years straight despite his clay struggles,” writes Give Me Sport.
Experts understand that despite those failures, Sampras’s impressive run at Wimbledon might not ever be duplicated. “Pete Sampras burst onto the scene in 1990, defeating Andre Agassi, Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe on his way to becoming the youngest man to win the U.S. Open. Sampras would go on to win 14 Grand Slams, including an impressive seven Wimbledon titles in eight years,” adds Sports Illustrated.
You Might Also Be Interested In:
- Best Men’s Golfers of All Time
- Best MLB Players of All Time
- Best Women’s Tennis Players of All Time
- Best Women’s Golfers of All Time
- Sports Illustrated
- Bleacher Report
- Tennis Creative
- Wolfgang Sport
- Love Tennis Blog
- Give Me Sport
- Sports Khabri
- Rookie Road
- Pledge Sports
- How They Play
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