Professional tennis is one of the few athletic games where individuals get to decide everything. In a one on one tennis match, there is truly nothing but pure competition between the competitors. Today we are looking into the wild world of women’s professional tennis in order to stack up the greatest to ever play the game. Listed below you’ll find 12 of the greatest women to ever play the game.
We’ll kick start our list with Justine Henin, the Belgium born pro who ruled the game through the early ’00s. Henin was physically tough and mentally sharp and she won a ton of matches despite being the smaller player on the court. Henin played well at the baseline and scored 7 Grand Slams throughout her career. She definitely earned more than a couple of gourmet fruit basket shipments.
Hingis went pro in 1994 at the age of 14 years old. Since then Hingis has gone on to earn over $20 million in her career. Hingis has won 5 Grand Slams and her career record of 548 – 133 is eye popping. Hingis would have been even higher on this list if she hadn’t been slowed down by ankle injuries in her early 20s.
You’re going to find that Australia is pretty well represented on our list. Goolagong was overlooked in her heyday due to the rise of Chris Evertt and Martin Navratilova, but she’s still a top 10 player of all time. Goolagong won 7 Grand Slam Single titles and she was a dominant force in the sport from 1968 to 1983. Goolagong won 68 total career titles, earning $1.4 million along the way. Goolagong was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1988. Goolagong kept her body healthy and her total cholesterol down by committing to a strict physical regime.
Sharapova probably has the most crossover appeal on our list in terms of out-of-sports awareness. Still, Sharapova is one of the greatest to ever play the game. Sharapova has won everything that can be won in tennis and she has done it in style. Sharapova went professional back in 2001 at the tender age of 14 years old and she has been unstoppable ever since.
Monica Seles went pro in 1989 and she would go on to play for almost 20 total years. Along the way Seles would turn into one of the biggest ‘what could have been’ stories in the world of professional sports. Seles was a top tier rival to Steffi Graff and she was consistently able to get the upper hand. Sele’s career was sidelined temporarily when a crazed fan of Graff stabbed Seles in 1993. Seles was never the same player again though she did come back and win an Australian Open in 1996. What could have been in her career if the injury hadn’t happened? What differences would Graff’s career have seen?
Billy Jean King
We’re flipping it a little bit old school with Billy Jean King. King went pro in 1968 at the age of 25 and she would go on to compete until 1983, winning 12 Grand Slams along the way. King made it to the Hall of Fame in 1987. She will be remembered most for her hard changing style and her physical ground game that would go on to rule Wimbledon. Chris Evert arrived and took over for King during the last legs of her career. King won almost $2 million throughout her span on the court.
Venus Williams is tennis royalty in her own right even if you exclude her rivalry with her sister, Serena. Venus Williams made it to professional tennis before her sister and they have both had storied careers. Venus Williams has 7 Grand Slam Singles to her name and she’s earned over $32 million in her career. The most interesting aspect of Venus’ career is that she could make a case for the top spot on this list — if it weren’t for her sister. Serena and Venus have gone head to head over the same titles, thus cannibalizing each others numbers.
Court went pro in 1960 and quickly turned into the next big thing in tennis. Court was from Australia and she would go on to play for 17 years. Court has 24 Grand Slam Single titles to her name and some would argue that she is the best of all time. Still, Court finds her way into our top 5 though her career earnings of $500,000 look paltry in comparison to the next few players.
Evert brought grace to the tennis court but she never traded it out for power at the serving line. Evert was the face of pro tennis during her prime years before she retired in 1989. Evert won 18 Grand Slam Singles titles in her career before going into the Hall of Fame in 1995. Evert was revered for her two handed backhand and her nimble work along the baseline. Is Evert a Top 5 player of all time, yes. Could you make a case for Evert being one of the best of all time? Absolutely. For now, however, she’s going to stick to #4 on our list. The next couple of players are unimpeachable.
Before Serena and Venus there was Martina Navratilova. Navrtilova changed the physical nature of professional tennis when she went pro in 1975 and the Czech native would go 19 years of domination. Navratilova would win 167 titles in her career, including 18 Grand Slam singles. Navratilova went into the Hall of Fame back in 2000. She also beat breast cancer along the way.
Here we are at the top two, the best of the best. Steffi Graf and our #1 could be switched around in quite a few lists but this is how they fell for us. Graf landed in the Hall of Fame back in 2004 after a 17 year span from 1982 to 1999. Graf was almost unbeatable during her heyday and she put several players out of the game due to her domination. Graf won 22 Grand Slam Singles titles and a whole lot of money throughout her career. This wonder woman is married to the tennis legend himself, Andre Agassi, for over ten years now and the couple have two kids together.
We’re not sure that there has ever been an athlete who single handedly changed the complexion of their sport like Serena Williams. Williams has dominated at every level of professional tennis and she has 71 career titles to her name, over 22 Grand Slam Single Titles, and a heck of a sister to compete with. Serena has earned over $77 million so far and she is still playing, having gone pro in 1995.