10 Greatest American Tennis Players Of The Open Era
No country has produced as many world number one players on the ATP or WTA tours as America, by a long way. Throughout the history of tennis the US has produced fine players and always welcomed the best performers to its shores for the US Open. But which Americans can truly claim to be the best of their kin? Here are the 10 greatest US tennis players of the Open Era.
10. Lindsay Davenport
A winner of three of the four Grand Slams in both singles and doubles (winning six titles in all) and an Olympic gold medal in 1996 is some haul for the powerful Californian Lindsay Davenport. Davenport shares an incredible record with Serena Williams and Steffi Graf by winning three different Grand Slam titles without losing a set. A stat which really proves how dominant she was at her peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A total of 98 weeks at WTA number one leaves her eighth on the all-time list and only behind two other Americans – both of whom will feature shortly.
9. Jim Courier
Almost forgotten because of the achievements of his countrymen at a similar time, but Jim Courier was the best player on the planet for a time at the start of the 1990s and deserves recognition as such. Courier won the French Open in 1991 at just 20-years-old and within two years he had won again in Paris and had picked up two Australian Open titles as well. By the end of 1993 he had reached the final of all four Grand Slams and remains the youngest man to do so at 22 years and 11 months. Remarkably Courier never reached another Grand Slam final despite these incredible early performances, not even reaching a semi-final after 1995. He won five Masters Series titles, all these came from 1991-93 as well. It was a short time at the top, but an incredibly successful one.
8. John McEnroe
With his fiery rants why he is best remembered by many, it is easy to forget that John McEnroe was one of the finest American exponents of tennis in history. McEnroe was nearly unbeatable at the US Open during his pomp, winning the title at Flushing Meadows in 1979, ’80, ’81 and ’84. During that time he also won three Wimbledon titles and managed a run to the final of the French Open and one semi-final appearance in Melbourne. Remarkably, McEnroe spent 170 weeks as world number one, sixth on the all-time list, despite winning less Grand Slams than a number of players below him on that list. Bit that shows just how impressive he was during his relatively short time at the top.
7. Billie Jean King
With three of her 12 Grand Slam titles coming before the Open Era officially started we can only give Billie Jean King credit for nine of them here, but that is still a superb return from an excellent career. King still won all four Grand Slams in the Open Era and an incredible 17 Grand Slam titles across doubles and mixed doubles. Having first entered a Grand Slam in 1959 she was still good enough to reach the semi-final of Wimbledon in 1983 at 39-years-old. It was the grass courts in London she loved most, reaching the quarter-finals there an incredible 20 times.
6. Venus Williams
Unfortunately living in the shadow of her younger sister for much of her career, but seven Grand Slam titles of her own is still an absolutely sensational achievement, even if it is not the best in her family. All her Grand Slam wins came at Wimbledon (5) and the US Open (2) and after she won both tournaments in 2000 and 2001 it looked like she could rack up a huge amount of titles over the next decade or so. Three more Wimbledons were to come, but reaching the final of the Australian Open as recently as 2017 is testament to her longevity near the top of the sport.
5. Andre Agassi
One of only nine men to spend 100 weeks as world number one and one of only 13 to win eight or more Grand Slams – Andre Agassi was a serious threat from the late ‘80s to the early 00s and won have won a lot more if it weren’t for a man yet to appear on this list. It wasn’t an immediate impact from ‘The Punisher’ as he won his first Grand Slam at his 15h attempt – Wimbledon 1992. However, he would go on to win all four Grand Slam titles and an Olympic gold medal in 1996, solidifying his status as an all-time great. If it wasn’t for injury, drug and marital problems it could have been a lot more major titles for Agassi, but he is still one of the very best the US has produced nonetheless.
4. Jimmy Connors
Despite spending an enormous 268 weeks as world number one, Jimmy Connors never quite dominated the male game, but he achieved a huge amount of success nonetheless. Connors has eight Grand Slam titles to his name, five coming at the US Open, two at Wimbledon and one in Australia. Seen as his first three Grand Slams all came in 1974, it is something of a surprise that he only managed five more until the final victory in 1983. It was this lack of sustained success that has kept him from the very top of this list, but he is still a great of the game in general and certainly of the US game.
3. Chris Evert
Evert burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old in 1974, winning the French Open and Wimbledon, 12 years later she was still lifting Grand Slam trophies as she picked up her seventh title in Paris. It was a stunning return of 18 Grand Slams for the Florida-native, winning each one at least twice and also picking up three Grand Slam doubles titles along the way. She spent 260 weeks as world number one, first claiming top spot in 1975 when she had won four Grand Slam titles in just two years. Her year end ranking from 1972 to 1988 never dropped below third, which is an incredible achievement in consistency.
2. Pete Sampras
The dominant force in the male game throughout 1990s, ‘Pistol Pete’ secured his spot as the top American male ever with 14 Grand Slam titles between 1990 and 2002. Sampras was especially emphatic on the grass courts of Wimbledon as he won seven titles from 1993 to 2000, only failing to win the 1996 tournament in that time. Elsewhere, he won five US Open titles and two in Australia – surprisingly never even reaching the French Open final. However, despite that failure in Paris he was such an irresistible force elsewhere he spent 286 weeks as world number one, second only to Roger Federer. His number of Grand Slam titles has only been bettered by Federer and Rafa Nadal. A true legend of the game.
1. Serena Williams
The greatest female player of all time and undoubtedly the best American tennis player of them all, Serena Williams thoroughly deserves her place at the top of this list. Serena has won 23 Grand Slam titles, comfortably more than any other American, and only one behind the overall record held by Margaret Court. She is third on the all-time list for weeks at number one in the WTA rankings (319) and joint top for consecutive weeks (186). Her longevity at the top of the game is astounding, winning her first Grand Slam at the 1999 US Open and her most recent at the 2017 Australian Open. Williams has cemented her place at the very pinnacle of the sport and there is no reason why she cannot further improve her legacy in the final years of her immense career.
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