Germany has a rich history in the sport of tennis, tracing its roots back to the late 19th century when the game was introduced by English expatriates. Over the years, the sport has flourished and become a core part of the German sporting culture with over 5 million regular players in the country.
The success of German tennis is a testament to the country’s great training infrastructure, rigorous selection processes, and a deep-rooted love for the game. In this article, we will take a closer look at the greatest German tennis players of all time, exploring their journeys, their remarkable achievements, and the enduring legacy they have left on the sport.
Boris Becker, born in Leimen, West Germany, in 1967, has a remarkable list of achievements that have cemented his position as one of Germany’s finest tennis players. Bursting onto the international scene at just 17, Becker became the youngest-ever winner of the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1985, a record he still holds. He then went on to defend the title the very next year. Incredible!
Over his career, Becker won six Grand Slam singles titles – two Australian Opens, one US Open, and three Wimbledon titles. He was also ranked World No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) for a total of 12 weeks.
His remarkable agility and powerful serve-and-volley game won him 49 singles titles in total during his career. Boris is considered an integral part of the “power game” in modern tennis, with his aggressive style of play which used to intimidate and literally blow his opponents off the court.
It is hard to underestimate the effect Boris had not only on tennis but as a national hero in Germany having won Wimbledon. Success at an early age was hard to deal with and Boris has had well-documented issues off the court in recent years. He still remains a superstar in our eyes.
Tommy Haas, born in Hamburg, Germany in 1978, is another highly celebrated name in German tennis. His illustrious career spans over two decades, marked by exceptional resilience and comebacks. Probably most famous for his wonderful single handed backhand, Haas has claimed 15 singles titles, with his highest ranking as World No. 2 in May 2002. Haas never managed to win a Grand Slam, but he was a consistent performer at the big events reaching the semifinals four times, at the Australian Open in 1999 and 2002, Wimbledon in 2009, and the US Open in 2007.
However, Haas’s career wasn’t without challenges—his progress was frequently interrupted by injuries, but his fighting spirit saw him return to the tour each time, earning him the ATP Comeback Player of the Year award twice. Haas is ambidextrous, which gave him a unique edge on court.
Since retiring in 2018, Haas has been serving as the tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. Despite leaving professional play, his influence on the sport and his commitment to tennis remain unswerving and he still plays a pretty mean game these days also!
Michael Stich, a native of Pinneberg, Germany, made a remarkable impact on the world of tennis during his professional career from 1988 to 1997. Known for his powerful serve and volley game, Stich won 18 ATP singles titles, including a memorable victory at Wimbledon in 1991. His game was very suited to grass and in 1991 he was unstoppable.
He also achieved success in doubles, partnering with John McEnroe to claim the Wimbledon title in 1992. He reached a career-high ranking of World No. 2 in 1993. Interestingly, he is one of the few players who managed to win Grand Slam titles in both singles and doubles.
He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2018, underscoring his significant contributions to the sport. Currently, Stich commits his time to philanthropic efforts. He founded the Michael Stich Foundation in 1994, which aims to support children affected by HIV and AIDS, and to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in sports.
Gottfried von Cramm
Gottfried von Cramm, hailing from Germany, was one of the most notable tennis players of the pre-World War II era. Known for his finesse and sportsmanship, von Cramm won two French Open singles titles in 1934 and 1936. He also led Germany to its first-ever Davis Cup victory in 1933. A fascinating fact about von Cramm is that he played a historic match against Don Budge in the 1937 Davis Cup, which is often heralded as one of the greatest matches in tennis history, despite him losing it.
Post-retirement, von Cramm’s influence on the sport didn’t diminish. He served as a mentor to many younger players and was instrumental in rebuilding German tennis post World War II.
Alex Zverev, formally known as Alexander Zverev Jr., is a contemporary tennis powerhouse hailing from Germany. Turning pro in 2013, Zverev has since accumulated 15 ATP titles, including the coveted ATP Finals trophy in 2018 where he triumphed over Novak Djokovic in straight sets.
His highest singles rank is World No. 2, a position he first achieved in 2022. Zverev’s play style is characterized by his aggressive baseline play, powerful serve, and excellent mobility despite his height. Some comment that Zverev is yet to reach his full potential, especially in the Grand Slams where some have questioned his temperament. In recent years he has been blighted by injuries and we hope that he is through those now.
An interesting fact about Zverev is that he is part of a select group of players who have beaten the ‘Big 3’ (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic) in Masters 1000 events. Off the court, Zverev is known for his close-knit relationship with his family; his elder brother, Mischa Zverev, was also a professional tennis player.
Steffi Graf is widely regarded as one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. Born in Mannheim, Germany, Graf turned professional in 1982 and dominated the sport for over a decade.
Her career is highlighted by 22 Grand Slam singles titles and an unprecedented Golden Slam in 1988, where she won all four Grand Slam tournaments and an Olympic gold medal in the same year, a feat never achieved by any other player.
Graf’s aggressive baseline play, with a powerful forehand, graceful backhand and accurate serve, was a significant factor in her success. On court Graff was the picture of calm, never seeming to get flustered. Her opponents never knew if she was tired, frustrated or angry.
Graf’s influence on tennis extends beyond her playing career. Her versatile play style and mental toughness set a new standard for the women’s game, and her sportsmanship and grace off the court have earned her admiration worldwide.
She has also committed herself to various philanthropic efforts post-retirement. In 1998, she founded “Children for Tomorrow”, a non-profit organization to support children who are victims of war or persecution. She is married to another tennis superstar, Andre Agassi and they can be seen from time to time at events. They are even playing pickleball together in an event this year.
Angelique Kerber, another exceptional talent from Germany, has made a significant impact on women’s tennis. Born on January 18, 1988, in Bremen, Kerber is a left-handed player known for her aggressive counter-punching game and remarkable defensive skills.
After turning professional in 2003, she has won three Grand Slam singles titles at the 2016 Australian Open, the 2016 US Open, and the 2018 Wimbledon Championships. She became the world No. 1 in women’s singles tennis in 2016, the year she dominated the court with her exceptional performances. In total Kerber has secured a total of 12 WTA singles titles.
Angelique has not competed since 2022, a combination of illness, injury and giving birth to her first child have kept her away from the court. We really hope to see more of her soon.
Off the court, Kerber is known for her down-to-earth personality and her dedication to the sport.
Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling
Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling, born on March 26, 1908 in Essen, Germany, was a prominent pre-war women’s tennis player. Known for her intense playing style and endurance on court, she was the three-time champion at the French Open, winning consecutively from 1935 to 1937.
Sperling also reached the finals of Wimbledon in 1931 but was defeated in a tightly contested match. Her career was marked by a fierce rivalry with Britain’s Dorothy Round, which made for many memorable matches.
In total, Sperling amassed an impressive 3 Grand Slam singles titles and reached a career-high ranking of World No. 2. After retiring from tennis, Sperling moved to the United States where she led a quiet life, leaving a legacy as one of the finest female players of her era.
Anke Huber, born on December 4, 1974, is a former professional tennis player from Germany. Known for her aggressive baseline play and powerful forehand, she turned pro in 1989 and quickly rose through the ranks.
Her career highlights include reaching the finals of the Australian Open in 1996 and clinching a career-high ranking of World No. 4 in 1996. Huber won a total of 12 WTA singles titles throughout her career, making her mark as one of Germany’s top players.
After retiring from professional tennis in 2001, Huber transitioned into a sports administration role. She has also served as the Tournament Director for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart since 2002, showcasing her continued dedication to the sport.
Cilly Aussem, born on January 4, 1909, in Cologne, Germany, was a notable figure in the world of pre-World War II women’s tennis. Aussem was renowned for her natural athleticism and elegant playing style, characterized by her strong forehand drive. She won two Grand Slam singles titles – the French Open and Wimbledon – both in 1931, making her the first German player to win Wimbledon.
Aussem’s highest global ranking was World No. 2, achieved in the same triumphant year. An interesting fact about Aussem is that she was coached by Bill Tilden, one of the greatest players of the 1920s, who significantly influenced her playing technique.
After retiring due to health issues, Aussem lived a reclusive life in Italy, passing away in 1963. Her impact on women’s tennis in Germany was significant, paving the way for future champions.
In conclusion, German tennis has been graced by a fantastic group of individuals who have left an indelible mark on the sport. The players in this list have set a high bar for upcoming talent. If we were to spotlight two players who have left an extraordinary legacy, it would be Boris Becker and Steffi Graf. Their astonishing achievements, coupled with their distinctive styles of play, have made them household names not only in Germany but across the globe. They have also transcended the sport of tennis becoming global superstars, something few manage to do.
As we look forward, the future of German tennis appears bright, teeming with young talent ready to follow in their predecessors’ footsteps. The stories of these players serve as inspiration, painting a picture of dedication, hard work, and the pursuit of excellence. We look forward to watching the future talent emerge.