1. Justine Henin

Justine Henin
Justine Henin

Born: June 1, 1982

Liege, Belgium

Resides: Brussels, Belgium

Turned pro: 1999

Retired: 2008, 2011

Career prize money: $20,863,335

50 career titles

7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 Australian, 4 French, 2 US Open

Known for her mental and physical toughness, Justine Henin was one of the most athletic women to ever play the game. Despite her small stature, she packed a powerful punch and played a complete game that included a powerful serve and a forehand shot that she hit with both power and accuracy. Known as one of the best volleyers in the game, Henin was as comfortable at the net as from the baseline.

In 2003, she achieved the number one ranking in the world, having won both the French Open and the US Open. In 2004, Henin won the Gold Medal at the Athens Olympics to go along with her first Australian Open title. She won seven Grand Slam titles in her career but retired abruptly in 2008 citing burnout from over twenty years of competitive tennis. A brief comeback in 2010 was short lived, and she retired for good in early 2011.

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3. Venus Williams

Venus Williams
Venus Williams

Born: June 17, 1980

Lynwood, California

Resides: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Turned pro: 1994

Career prize money: $32,638,857

49 career titles

7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 5 Wimbledon, 2 US Open

Current active player

If not for having to compete against her sister, Serena, Venus Williams may very well have had many more Grand Slam titles to her name. The sisters have gone head-to-head in a Grand Slam final eight times with Serena winning six of those matches.

While Venus’s career has been fraught with injuries, there is no doubt that in the early 2000s she was the woman to beat on tour. Between 2000 and 2001, Venus captured four of her seven Grand Slam victories. In 2002, she finally attained the number one ranking in the world, a spot she would capture on three separate occasions. Wimbledon has been Venus’s favorite court as she has won five titles there, the last coming in 2008.

Venus is currently attempting a comeback on tour after suffering through two years of knee and hip problems. She started the 2014 season ranked number 47 in the world but climbed back into the top twenty for the first time since 2010 and finished 2014 ranked number 18 in the world.

4. Evonne Goolagong

Evonne Goolagong
Evonne Goolagong

Born: July 31, 1951

Griffith, New South Wales, Australia

Resides: Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia

Turned pro: 1968

Retired: 1983

Career prize money: $1,399,431

68 career titles

7 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 1 French, 2 Wimbledon

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1988

Often overlooked because she played during the Chris Everett and Martina Navratilova era, Goolagong was the epitome of grace and beauty on the court. Despite playing during one of the most competitive periods in women’s tennis, Goolagong was still able to win seven Grand Slam titles and in 1976 was ranked number one in the world.

She has the distinction of being the only mother since before World War I to have won Wimbledon, having won the title in 1980 after giving birth to her daughter in 1977.

The only Grand Slam title to elude her was the US Open, where she reached the finals in four consecutive years, 1973-1976.

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6. Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King

Born: November 22, 1943

Long Beach, California

Resides: Chicago and New York

Turned pro: 1968

Retired: 1983

Career prize money: $1,966,487

129 career titles

12 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 Australian, 1 French, 6 Wimbledon, 4 US Open

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1987

Who can forget the weird and wacky battle of the sexes between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973? Not only did King dispose of Mr. Riggs in short order but she also dominated women’s tennis from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s.

Her hard-charging aggressive style of play was in sharp contrast to the stately ground game of Chris Evert who came along in 1972 to challenge King as the queen of women’s tennis. Nevertheless, King owned Wimbledon from 1966 to 1975, when she won the title six times.

7. Monica Seles

Monica Seles
Monica Seles

Born: December 2, 1973

Novi Sad, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia

Resides: Sarasota, Florida

Turned pro: 1989

Retired: 2008

Career prize money: $14,891,762

53 career titles

9 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 3 French, 2 US Open

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2009

Were it not for the unfortunate on-court attack and stabbing by a deranged fan in 1993, Monica Seles would certainly have gone on to win more Grand Slam titles. Her epic battles with Steffi Graf were classics, and we the fans were deprived of some great matches because of one fan’s sick obsession.

While Monica did return to tennis two years after the incident, she was never quite the same. To her credit, she did go on to win the 1996 Australian Open, her only post-attack Grand Slam victory. Monica continued to play until 2003 and officially retired in 2008.

There is no doubt that Monica Seles was the most dominant player from 1990 to 1992. During this time, she won seven of her nine Grand Slam Titles and in 1991 was the top-ranked woman in the world.

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9. Margaret Court

Margaret Court
Margaret Court

Born: July 16, 1942

Albury, New South Wales, Australia

Resides: Perth, Western Australia

Turned pro: 1960

Retired: 1977

Career prize money approximately: $500,000

192 career titles

24 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 11 Australian, 5 French, 3 Wimbledon, 5 US Open

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1979

There are many experts out there who feel that Margaret Court is the best player of all time. With a record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, it’s hard to argue. Add in her 19 doubles and 19 mixed doubles titles and Court has a record 62 Major titles to her credit.

She was the first woman in the open era to win the singles Grand Slam in 1970, and she is the only women to have won a Grand Slam in mixed doubles, which she did twice. Undoubtedly the best player in the 1960s to early 1970s, Court was the first woman to incorporate weights and fitness training into her routine. The result was a long and injury-free career.

10. Chris Evert

Chris Evert
Chris Evert

Born: December 21, 1954

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Resides: Boca Raton, Florida

Turned pro: 1972

Retired: 1989

Career prize money: $8,895,195

157 career titles

18 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 Australian, 7 French, 3 Wimbledon, 6 US Open

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 1995

Was there ever a player more graceful on the court than Chris Evert? She was a machine from the baseline, and with that two-handed backhand shot, she dominated women’s tennis from the mid-1970s into the early 1980s. Evert still holds the record for reaching the most Grand Slam singles finals with 34, and she managed to win 18 of them including every major at least twice. When Martina Navratilova came along in the late 1970s, it provided fans with a great on-court rivalry. Evert was the year-ending number one player in the world for seven years and had a career winning percentage in singles matches of over 90 percent.

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12. Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova

Born: October 18, 1956

Prague, Czechoslovakia

Resides: Sarasota, Florida

Turned pro: 1975

Retired: 1994

Career prize money: $21,626,089

167 career titles

18 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 Australian, 2 French, 9 Wimbledon, 4 US Open

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2000

One of the toughest competitors to ever grace the court, Martina Navratilova dominated women’s tennis from the late 1970s through a good portion of the 1980s. Known for her extreme physical conditioning, Martina brought the big serve and volley back to the women’s game.

She holds the open era record for career titles with 167 and has 59 total Grand Slam titles including singles, doubles, and mixed doubles. Martina also holds the record for career Wimbledon titles with an amazing nine championships. She will be remembered as one of the greatest doubles players ever, having won 31 grand Slam Doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles titles.

13. Serena Williams

Serena Williams
Serena Williams

Born: September 26, 1981

Saginaw, Michigan

Resides: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Turned pro: 1995

Career prize money: $77,564,981

70 career titles

21 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 6 Australian, 3 French, 6 Wimbledon, 6 US Open

Current active player

 

One of the strongest and most powerful women to ever play the game, Serena Williams has certainly left her mark on tennis. Together, Serena and her sister, Venus, have been a dominant force in women’s tennis since the late 1990s. Together, they have won 13 Grand Slam Doubles titles. With 20 Grand Slam Singles titles, Serena gets the edge over her sister.

At the age of 33, Serena regained the number one ranking in the world, a distinction that she first achieved back in 2002. Serena’s game has certainly withstood the test of time and competition. Her Grand Slam titles have come over a 16-year period starting in 1999, with her latest victory coming at the 2015 Wimbledon. Williams is certainly on a roll at the moment, having achieved the “Serena Slam” and she is now on the verge of a Grand Slam, winning all four majors in the same calendar year.

With her play over the last three years and her 2015 Australian, French Open, and Wimbledon titles, Serena appears to be getting better with age. I have elevated her all-time ranking to the number two spot. If she’s able to keep her game at this high level, there is certainly the opportunity to overtake Steffi Graf for the number one spot.

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15. Steffi Graf

Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf

Born: June 14, 1969

Mannheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, West Germany

Resides: Las Vegas, Nevada

Turned pro: 1982

Retired: 1999

Career prize money: $21,891,306

107 career titles

22 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 Australian, 6 French, 7 Wimbledon, 5 US Open

Inducted into Tennis Hall of Fame: 2004

While some may argue that the top spot belongs to Martina Navratilova or Serena Williams, for me it goes to Steffi Graff. Able to win on all surfaces, Graff was a model of consistency throughout her 17-year career. Her record 377 weeks ranked as number one in the world is a record for any player, male or female. In 1988, Graff became the first player to achieve what is regarded as the calendar year Golden Slam by winning all four majors plus the Olympic Gold Medal in the same year, a remarkable feat.

From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, there was no one better, and when she retired in 1999, she was still ranked number three in the world. For me, the choice is a clear one: Steffi Graf is the best women’s tennis player of all-time.

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