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Who are the best tennis players to become world no. 1?
Dec 8, 2021, 4:05:00 AM

Who are the best tennis players to become world no. 1?

The world no. 1 is the most coveted spot in the ATP Tour. It is easy to expect that the contending players in the world will strive for the top spot, but only a few have what it takes to be the best of the best.

Every tennis era has its highs and lows thanks to the long stretch of games played every year. It is a mainstream sport and there are a lot of players who have risen to prominence with the hopes of at least getting a chance to become the world no. 1.

It is hard to compare players from different eras, and the standard of the world no. 1 has evolved from time to time. Still, being inside the top 10 is a huge feat for any player in the ATP Tour, but it all boils down to answering the question ‘who is the best player in the world?’.

As the world no. 1, players would reign supreme. Those who became the world no. 1 had the chance to be the voice of the sport and they are also seen as the role model who would be the face of tennis for years to come.

Here are some of the best players who reached the world no. 1 spot:

Roger Federer 

Without a doubt, every tennis fan would know him as the ‘man of tennis’ since he is one of the best players to hold the top spot. Even before the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal took over, the Swiss star was already on the prowl and chasing glory in the sport.

From 2004 to 2008, the star spent 237 weeks at the top spot, which is a record that took some years before being broken by Novak last March 2021. Federer is also the first player to reach 20 Grand Slam titles and he has been at his best for most of his twenty-year run in tennis.

For many years, it was easy to pick the Swiss star as the greatest of all time. His success made him an icon in the sport and he was at a high level for some time before his injuries soon took him down.

Players never found a way to beat him at his prime. Injuries may have forced him to skip 2020 and a good portion of the 2021 season, but fans still hope to see more from him in the next few years - unless he retires.

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Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is the reigning world no. 1 and is in the late prime years of his career. His rise to dominance was just a few years behind the Big Three of this era, but he sure did make up for lost time with his big games.

He still has the potential to win more Grand Slam titles, and he may sit at the top for the next few years as long as he stays healthy. The Serbian star has a lot of titles under his belt and his reign at the top spot will be the legacy that he will leave behind as he adds more weeks to that tally.

Novak’s dominance in the 2021 season made him a pick to stay at the top spot. He has gone through a lot of tough battles in his career, but his success continues which is a huge reason to consider him as one of the best players to reach and hold the world no. 1.

Novak has a record of winning multiple Majors titles on all surfaces, and his head to head games against both Federer and Nadal proves that he also deserves more credit as the reigning world no. 1.

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Rafael Nadal 

If it wasn’t for his knee and wrist injuries, Rafael Nadal would have been winning a few more Grand Slams to add to his tally. At the age of 35, Rafa has pulled off a total of 20 Grand Slam titles and he still has what it takes to get back to the top of his game soon.

The fiery Spaniard star built a reputation in his tennis games. He is known as ‘The King of Clay’ and is also praised for being one of the best clay-court players of all time. His best plays have been a strong show for most fans which made him an icon in the sport as he became world no. 1 in 2008.

Nadal has already proved his worth and he deserves to be seen as one of the best players in the world. He has a strong case when it comes to the GOAT talks, and that says a lot about his legacy as a star who showed that he can go against the best of them all.

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Pete Sampras

While Pete has only won three out of the four Grand Slam events in his career, it is still hard to judge his place in the ATP Tour as he proved to be a versatile player on all fronts. He is a great player on hard courts and grass surfaces and still pushed to take the lead as the world no. 1 in 1993.

When Pete retired in 2002, he was still seen as the best player of all-time, but there were so many disputes for his claim as well. He was at the top of the ATP Tour for six years in a row and his 14 Grand Slam titles were a top record at the time.

His battles against Andre Agassi were a delight to watch and it shocked the world at every turn. The only downside is that he may have a tough time claiming the GOAT title since there are better players who reached the world no. 1 with a stronger resume as well.

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Rod Laver

Rod Laver is one of the top players who made history in the top spot thanks to his run from 1964-1970. He reigned supreme at the world no. 1 and has 200 more career titles than anyone in the history of the game with 200 trophies.

Laver is also the only player to have won the Grand Slam twice, doing it as an amateur in 1962 and as a pro in 1969. Fans believe that Rod could have won more titles in his career if he was in the modern era, but no one can deny the fact that he is still one of the top players who could go up well against the top players in the current ATP Tour.

Who knows, Laver’s success could have been maximised if he was allowed to play in both the pre-open era and go for more Grand Slams as well. Fans may never know his full potential on the court.

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Words: Paul Daniel Flores

Image: PA