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Who are the best women tennis players of all time?
Mar 22, 2022, 4:43:00 AM

Who are the best women tennis players of all time?

Women’s tennis has produced some fantastic and talented players over the years that deserve the spotlight. Their greatness has been seen in the WTA Tour. These are the players who are recognised as the world’s top stars.

The WTA Tour is the biggest tennis entity for women in the world. This is important because the event usually contains the best players in the world who usually make it to the upper echelon of the women tennis players ranking. The Tour runs for the entire year and it concludes with the WTA Finals in December of every year.

How the WTA Tour rankings work

The WTA Tour rankings are based on the players’ performance during a year. The points are taken from their performance in the events that they have played throughout the year with the Grand Slams serving as the biggest events. Grand Slams like the US Open and Wimbledon are the most meaningful events in the Tour and you can see that with how dramatically it can shift when certain players have good performances there. Events like Indian Wells and the Madrid Open are important too because they can have a big impact on the points even if they’re not as big as the Slams.

Just take a look at how Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez became top-ranked players after their run to the finals of the 2021 US Open. Emma was the higher-ranked out of the two players because she was the one who won.

While performing at Slams is huge, consistency across many tournaments is rewarded in the WTA rankings. People should look at the past tournaments and not just one big event because that can skew people into believing that a certain player is world-class when they only had a magical run in one event. With that, let’s dive into the top women tennis players ever.

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Serena Williams (1999-)


When it comes to larger than life figures, Serena Williams has to be the number one name for people in the tennis world. Alongside her sister, Venus Williams, Serena managed to grow to the top level. The Williams sisters became the best women tennis players in the world as they used power and athleticism to overcome the opposition. 

The younger Williams sister has been the most prolific tennis athlete over the past two decades. This is headlined by her 23 Grand Slam singles titles which are just one short of Margaret Court’s record of 24 titles. 

She has been ranked as the number one player in the WTA Tour for 319 weeks. This includes a record of 186 consecutive weeks at the top of the list which she holds alongside Steffi Graf who we will talk about later as well.

Serena’s dominance was a game-changer

What separates Serena from the rest of the tennis scene is her otherworldly ability to control her athleticism. She worked hard to have one of the strongest bodies in the tennis world. Despite some people doubting if she will benefit from her physique, she managed to play the usual speedy style and back up her claim as a powerful player. 

Pure dominance is one of the best descriptions of what Serena did in her career. However, the longevity of that dominance is probably the most impressive part of her storied career. She started her pro career in the late 1990s but she is still playing well into the 2020s. That is a huge accomplishment and it’s a testament to how well she took care of her body over the years.

The 2007 Aussie Open is a good summary of what Serena can do. She is one of the strongest players in tennis history and her athleticism and cardio were amplified in this tourney as she beat Maria Sharapova in a gruelling series.

When it comes to the greatest of all-time debate, it is hard not to include Serena there because she has been stellar since she debuted and her performance has been great well into her 40s as well. 

Steffi Graf (1982-1999)


As previously noted, Steffi Graf was the only player who holds the 186-week record consecutive number one placements in the WTA Tour rankings along with Serena. Graf is the record-holder for most weeks at the top of the rankings at a whopping 377 total weeks. This is the longest period at the top of the rankings for any tennis player whether they’re male or female. 

Graf’s playstyle was highlighted by many strengths which further strengthened her legacy as an all-rounder. While she can be called a jack of all trades, she was elite in most areas but her two primary assets were her footwork and a powerful forehand drive. Graf was an aggressive baseline player and she used her supreme athleticism to dominate the scene from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. 

Cementing the modern playstyle

Her playstyle laid the groundwork for the modern style of baseline play. Most players love to use this system which can be connected to how Graf showed the potential of this playstyle as she dominated. 

After the 1990s ended, a group of tennis experts worked with the Associated Press to assess that Graf was the best female tennis player at the time. That kind of distinction is important to know because people do hold Graf in high regard even if she has been retired for more than two decades.

Her top-tier performance is also noteworthy because she was always rock-solid on all surfaces. That is a tough task because the consistency between surfaces is hard to achieve. Graf made it look easy as she worked hard behind the scenes to keep his high-level play up no matter what conditions she was playing under.

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Martina Navratilova (1974-1992)


While most surface-level fans won’t know Martina Navratilova, she was a dominant force between the 1970s and 1980s. She is widely considered to be one of the best players of all time which is largely due to her consistent success over those two decades. This is mostly rooted in her playstyle as she used an attacking serve and volley. 

Martina managed to innovate a playstyle using that athleticism as she used an attacking style that kept her opponents on their toes. That was a good sign that she would be a star player because she imposed her will on the opponents while also innovating her playstyle to her best level possible. 

Martina changed the game

Martina is credited for changing the game because she was stellar in all formats of tennis. She was also strong in doubles and mixed doubles alongside her singles excellence. That was the main point behind the debate between her and Graf before because the latter was seen as the better singles player. 

The Czech star was a left-handed player which was a jarring matchup for any player. Her serve and volley skills were innovative because she managed to get an advantage over any player. Her focus on excellent fitness and conditioning was huge for the tennis world because most players followed in her footsteps with her treatment for her athletic body.

Margaret Court (1960-1976)


In terms of long-term success, Margaret Court is considered by many tennis experts as the most consistent player. She is also seen as one of the iconic tennis players who focused on her longevity. Her health and consistent performance level are commendable because she set the standard for athletes to take care of their bodies.

In terms of her playstyle, Court’s best asset was her long reach. She managed to add a dimension to the tennis world with her volleys. With her height and reach advantage, she managed to become a formidable player. For a player at her height of five foot nine, she was a tall player in her era. She was a mobile player for her size which was overwhelming for her opponents. 

Court’s focus on fitness

Court managed to reach that level because of her unique fitness training. She was dubbed the Aussie Amazon during her career because she did weights, circuit training, and even ran up and down along sandy hillsides. 

She was relatively injury-free during her career. It also helped that she was a conservative player because she controlled the court with her style. Playing in front of the net was beneficial for her because she conserved her health with a smart playstyle rather than relying on sheer athleticism. 

Court is one of the most consistent and winningest players of all time. She is the record-holder for the most Slam wins of all time with 24 under her belt. With her training regimen, it’s clear why she managed to keep winning after almost two decades. 

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Monica Seles (1990-2003)


Regarded as one of the most talented tennis players of all time, Monica Seles was a big name during her career. She won nine Slams during her career and eight of them were won when she was only a teenager. She was primed to have one of the best careers of all time but unfortunately, she was heavily injured due to a knife incident during a match in Hamburg back in 1993. 

That incident was the main reason why Seles couldn’t play for two years which hurt the momentum she built in the years before. Seles was primed to become the best player of all time but the injuries and effects that the incident brought were too much for her for a long time. She managed to come back to the sport and she managed to win another Slam. 

Seles’ impact

Her playstyle was mostly the modern style now that was influenced by Graf. However, Seles loved to use a double-handed technique with her forehand hits. She used to hit it flat when she used her backhand. Despite those two unique shots, Seles always hit the ball with the power which makes for a strong signature move paired with the uniqueness and unpredictability of the shots.

Before the incident, Seles was a passionate player who was always loud during her matches. Her loud grunting was a part of her game even though she was always criticised for doing so. However, after the incident, she was a much more subdued player and she let her playstyle be the loud part of her game. This has inspired many players after her like the Williams sisters, Maria Sharapova, and Victoria Azarenka who all play with similar energy.

Billie Jean King (1959-1990)


As one of the most recognisable names in tennis history, Billie Jean King is one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. She is also one of the biggest icons of women’s sports ever because she has been a well-known advocate of gender equality. In terms of her play on the court, King was a consistent star for a long time as she managed to win 12 Slams in her career. 

As a short player at only 5’4, King was at a disadvantage almost every game. However, she still managed to beat players who were way taller than her. That was an amazing achievement because tennis players rely on their big strides and powerful hits to keep up with their opponents who are similarly tall and powerful. 

King turned herself from an underdog to a favourite

Due to her stature, many tennis experts and other players underestimated her. However, when she played, King consistently trounced her opponents no matter what surface. She was an aggressive and hard-hitting net-runner during her career which favoured her because she can use her nimbleness to catch her opponents off guard.

She was also an extremely motivated player as she always wanted to prove doubters wrong. King said, ‘I'm a perfectionist much more than I'm a super competitor, and there's a big difference there. I've been painted as a person who only competes... But most of all, I get off on hitting a shot correctly. Any woman who wants to achieve anything has to be aggressive and tough, but the press never sees us as multidimensional. They don't see the emotions, the downs’.

Due to her determination to prove everyone wrong, King became one of the best players in the world. She also has a case for being one of the top women's tennis players of all time due to her impact on the game with her aggression back in the 1960s when most players were more conservative and defensive.

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Venus Williams (1994-)


Alongside Serena, Venus was the better player earlier in their careers. She was a part of the movement towards power and athleticism alongside her sister. Venus was one of the most talented and powerful players to play tennis because she used her superior genetics properly. Not only did she have power, but she was also a graceful player who knew how to play soft hits and smart placements. 

She has seven Slams in her career but she also has four gold medals from the Summer Games with three in the doubles format while the other is in the singles format. Venus is a fantastic player who knew how to control the court using her athleticism as she chased the ball no matter where it went. 

The all-court style

Venus managed to control the court on her own as she mixed her speed and power with a tactical mind. She was mostly an attacker because that favours her style of going 100% on every ball. She can hit a winning hit from any position which makes her such a scary matchup. In terms of surfaces, Venus preferred grass, hard, and carpet courts.

Tennis is blessed with superstars

Tennis history is filled with great women and hopefully, more people will watch their matches, especially since some new stars have become top-tier choices for people’s sports betting pleasure. You should expect more names to breach this special list with the likes of Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka, and many more set to join in the future. 

There are more top women tennis players out there in the world, all they need to have is the opportunity to show what they have worked for. Hopefully, the WTA Tour can continue to produce such talents so the sport can appeal to new audiences.

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Words: Cholo Martin

Image: Alamy