When you think of women’s tennis who do you think of first? Do you think of Maria Sharapova, Simona Halep, Steffi Graf, Billie Jean King or the Williams sisters? and who is the greatest player of all time? This is a question that will never be answered and sports fans will have their own views on what the greatest means. If we are going to talk about great female tennis players I think we have to start with ranking and reaching the pinnacle of tennis, becoming world no.1. Below is a list of players that have been ranked world number one for the most amount of time.
- Steffi Graf – 377 weeks
- Martina Navratilova – 332 weeks
- Serena Williams – 319 weeks
- Chris Evert – 260 weeks
- Martina Hingis – 209 weeks
- Monica Seles – 178 weeks
- Ashleigh Barty – 121 weeks
- Justine Henin – 117 weeks
- Lindsay Davenport – 98 weeks
- Iga Swietek – 75 weeks
- Caroline Wozniacki – 71 weeks
- Angelique Kerber – 34 weeks
- Tracy Austin – 21 weeks
This list includes some of the greatest female tennis players in history, with Steffi Graf topping the charts as the player to have held the No. 1 position for the most number of weeks. These players have all achieved incredible success on the court, and have showcased their talent, skill, and dedication at the highest level of the sport. While these women are the pinnacle of female tennis players, we will not discuss all of them. I wanted to share some of the women I grew up watching, some of the women who inspired me to play tennis at the level I did.
Let’s talk about some of the most inspiring and influential women in sports history, starting off with our generation’s very own greatest of all time. Serena Williams.
To start off I think we have to talk about one of the best tennis players of all time Serena Williams. Born in 1981, Serena is an American tennis player who has been dominating the sport since the late 90s, and just announced her retirement in 2023 having had a unique tennis career. With a record 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, including seven Australian Open championships, seven Wimbledon championships, and six US Open championships, Serena has cemented her place in tennis history.
She not only dominated the singles matches she also has 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, four Olympic gold medals, and her record breaking 319 total weeks as the world’s number one player. She is a force to be reckoned with, dominating the sport for over two decades. But it’s not just her impressive record that sets her apart. Serena’s powerful serves, style of play, and fierce groundstrokes have left her opponents quaking in their sneakers for over two decades. In fact, she holds the record for the fastest serve ever recorded in women’s tennis, clocking in at 128.6 mph. And her mental toughness is unmatched, as demonstrated by her incredible comeback from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism and subsequent complications in 2011.
Off the court, Serena is just as impressive, using her platform to advocate for gender and racial equality, as well as raising awareness for health issues affecting women.
If we mention Serena Williams we have to mention Venus Williams, the older sister of Serena Williams. Born in 1980, Venus has won a total of seven Grand Slam singles titles, including five Wimbledon titles and two U.S. Open titles. as well as her sister she has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, and four Olympic gold medals.
She has also been ranked as the world’s number one player in both singles and doubles in the open era. But her impact on the sport goes far beyond her on-court accomplishments. Along with her sister Serena, Venus has been a vocal advocate for racial and gender equality in tennis and in society as a whole. And her work off the court includes founding the EleVen clothing line and partnering with the Women’s Tennis Association and UNESCO to promote gender equality in education
Another player who is often mentioned in discussions about the greatest female tennis players of all time is Steffi Graf. Born in Germany in 1969, Graf dominated the women’s game in the late 80s and early 90s, winning a total of 22 Grand Slam singles titles, including four Australian Open titles, six French Open titles, seven Wimbledon titles, and five US Open titles. She also had 107 career single titles, and 186 weeks as the world’s number one player, she’s a true legend. Not to mention that Steffi Graf is the only tennis player who has won the “Golden Slam.” The Golden Slam is when a player wins all four Grand Slam tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open) and an Olympic gold medal in the same calendar year.
Steffi Graf achieved this amazing feat in 1988, winning all five events in both singles and doubles competitions. It is a rare and extraordinary accomplishment, and Graf is the only professional tennis player to have ever achieved it. But her greatness doesn’t stop there. Graf is also an advocate for children’s rights and education, and she’s founded her own charity to help kids around the world. Plus, she’s married to Andre Agassi – talk about a power couple! Stefi’s grace, skill, and off-court achievements make her a true inspiration to us all. If you’re looking for one of the best female tennis players of all time look no further.
Martina Navratilova is another tennis legend who is often mentioned in discussions about the greatest female players of all time. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1956, Navratilova won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles titles, including three Australian Open titles, two French Open titles (Roland Garros) , nine Wimbledon titles, and four US Open titles.
She did not just dominate as a single 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, she’s one of the most accomplished tennis players of all time. And let’s not forget her 332 weeks as the world’s number one player – now that’s impressive! But it wasn’t just her impressive record that set Navratilova apart. She was known for her incredible athleticism and speed on the court, as well as her all-around game, which included a big serve and volley. And her longevity in the sport was remarkable, as she continued to play at a high level well into her 30s.
Martina’s greatness did not stop on the court she was a legend off the court as well. She’s also an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and has been a pioneer for equality in the sport of tennis. She’s even got her own tennis academy to help the next generation of players hone their skills. With her impressive record on the court and her off-court activism, Martina Navratilova is a true inspiration to us all.
Billie Jean King
Speaking of Billie Jean King, she is another trailblazer in the world of tennis who deserves a spot on this list. Born in California in 1943, King won a total of 39 Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles over the course of her career. She was a dominant force and was former world no. one, five times But it was her off-court activism that truly set her apart. She’s a pioneer for gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights, and she founded the Women’s Tennis Association to help elevate women’s tennis to the top tier of professional sports.
And let’s not forget about her famous 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs a former men’s tennis player who had been making sexist comments about women’s tennis. The match was watched by an estimated 90 million people worldwide, and King emerged victorious, cementing her place as a feminist icon and inspiring countless young women to pursue their dreams.
We’ll talk about that a bit more later on, all you need to know for now is that Billie Jean King set the foundation for female tennis players. But King’s activism didn’t stop there. She was a vocal advocate for equal pay and opportunities for women in sports, and she founded the Women’s Tennis Association and co-founded World Team Tennis. Now that is what I would call a trailblazer and one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.
When talking about great female tennis players we cannot forget Margaret Court. First off, she’s won a whopping 24 Grand Slam singles titles (only matched by Novak Djokovic), which is more than any other tennis player, male or female. I mean, she’s basically the Serena Williams of the 60s and 70s. And she didn’t just dominate in singles, she also won 21 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles and 19 Grand Slam doubles titles. Margaret’s career spammed the amateur and professional era.
Since we’re taking it back to the good old days there is no way we can’t not mention Chris Evert. This gal was basically the queen of the court in the 70s and 80s. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and was ranked world No. 1 for a total of 260 weeks. But her accomplishments don’t stop there- she also won 3 doubles titles and an Olympic gold medal in 1988. If you think she was only a trailblazer on the court you thought wrong. Off the court she’s a total boss, she’s co-founded the Evert Tennis Academy and has been a commentator for ESPN. Plus, she’s got a heart of gold- she’s been involved with numerous charities, including the Special Olympics and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. So yeah, Chris Evert is a total superstar both on and off the court
Of course, we can’t talk about the greatest female tennis players of all time without mentioning their performances in the Olympics. Tennis has been an Olympic sport since 1896, but it wasn’t until 1988 that it was reintroduced as a medal sport. Since then, some of the greatest female tennis players of all time have competed for medals at the Olympics.
In terms of overall medal count, Venus and Serena Williams are tied for the most medals won by a female tennis player, with four each. Venus won gold in women’s singles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and gold in women’s doubles at the 2000, 2008, and 2012 Olympics. Serena won gold in women’s singles at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and gold in women’s doubles at the 2000, 2008, and 2012 Olympics.
Other notable Olympic performances by female tennis players include Steffi Graf’s gold medal in women’s singles at the 1988 Olympics, Martina Navratilova’s gold medal in women’s doubles at the 1984 Olympics, and Monica Puig’s gold medal in women’s singles at the 2016 Olympics, a historic victory for Puerto Rico.
While we can’t possibly cover every significant match played by the greatest female tennis players of all time, there are a few that stand out as particularly memorable.
One such match is the 2003 Wimbledon final between Serena Williams and her older sister Venus Williams. It was the fourth time the sisters had faced each other in a Grand Slam final, and it was a tense and emotional match. In the end, Serena emerged victorious, winning her second Wimbledon title and cementing her status as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time.
US Open 1991
Another memorable match is the 1991 US Open quarterfinal between Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati. Seles was ranked number one in the world at the time, and Capriati was just 15 years old. The match was a back-and-forth battle, with Capriati ultimately emerging victorious in a thrilling third-set tiebreaker. It was a moment that signaled the arrival of a new generation of young female tennis players.
Battle of the sexes 1973
Finally we cannot forget to mention the historic ”battle of the sexes” match. The Battle of the Sexes was one of the most iconic moments in sports history. It was a legendary tennis match between Billie Jean King, a 29-year-old top-ranked player, and Bobby Riggs, a 55-year-old former Wimbledon champion. The match took place on September 20, 1973, at the Houston Astrodome in front of a crowd of more than 30,000 people, millions of television viewers, and an entire nation that was eager to see the outcome of the epic battle.
The match was a response to Riggs’ claims that women’s tennis was inferior to men’s tennis and that even at his advanced age, he could beat any female player. Billie Jean, a fierce advocate for gender equality, saw this as an opportunity to prove him wrong and to elevate women’s tennis to the same level as men’s tennis.
The match itself was a spectacle unlike any other. Riggs arrived on the court in a rickshaw, accompanied by a group of female models, while Billie Jean entered with a serious look on her face, determined to win. The first set was close, with Riggs using his famous drop shot to great effect. But Billie Jean found her rhythm in the second set, and with her powerful serve and aggressive play, she won the match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.
The victory was a huge moment for women’s tennis and for gender equality in sports. It showed that women could compete at the highest level and that they deserved the same respect and recognition as men. Billie Jean became a hero to millions of women around the world, and her victory inspired a new generation of female athletes to fight for their rights and to pursue their dreams.
But the Battle of the Sexes was more than just a tennis match – it was a cultural moment that reflected the changing attitudes of the time. It was the height of the feminist movement, and women were pushing for greater equality in all aspects of their lives. The match was a symbol of that struggle, and it helped to galvanize support for the cause.
Today, the Battle of the Sexes remains a landmark moment in sports history and a testament to the power of determination and perseverance. It showed that with courage, hard work, and a little bit of luck, anything is possible. And it inspired a generation of women to dream big and to fight for their place in the world.
In conclusion, the greatest female tennis players of all time are not just incredible athletes, but they are also trailblazers and role models who have changed the face of the sport forever. From their powerful serves to their unbreakable spirits, these women have shown us what it means to be a champion both on and off the court. And with the current crop of talented female players, we can be sure that the future of tennis is in good hands. The women on tour today continue to push the limits of the game with their shot making and physicality.