1. Justine Henin
Born: June 1, 1982
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.
3. Venus Williams
Born: June 17, 1980
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
Born: July 31, 1951
Griffith, New South Wales, Australia
Resides: Noosa Heads, Queensland, Australia
Turned pro: 1968
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.
6. Billie Jean King
Born: November 22, 1943
Long Beach, California
Resides: Chicago and New York
Turned pro: 1968
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
Born: December 2, 1973
Novi Sad, SR Serbia, SFR Yugoslavia
Resides: Sarasota, Florida
Turned pro: 1989
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.
9. Margaret Court
Born: July 16, 1942
Albury, New South Wales, Australia
Resides: Perth, Western Australia
Turned pro: 1960
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
Born: December 21, 1954
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Resides: Boca Raton, Florida
Turned pro: 1972
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.
12. Martina Navratilova
Born: October 18, 1956
Resides: Sarasota, Florida
Turned pro: 1975
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
Born: September 26, 1981
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.
15. Steffi Graf
Born: June 14, 1969
Mannheim, Baden-Wurttemberg, West Germany
Resides: Las Vegas, Nevada
Turned pro: 1982
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.