The Open Era has spanned more than 50 years and given us some amazing games and tournaments. Selecting the five best female players of all time is no easy feat, but we think this list takes into account both career titles and talent to give you the ultimate top five.
1. Serena Williams
Serena is one of the most successful tennis players of all time, regardless of gender. It is hard to believe that she, and her sister, turned pro in the mid-nineties – she has been a dominant force in professional tennis for a quarter of a century.
Many players wane over time, sometimes quite quickly, but Serena has managed to stay at the top of her game for decades. Her strong and powerful serve has helped her to win more than 70 titles, including 23 Grand Slams in Singles.
2. Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova seemed like the only name in female professional tennis throughout the 1970s and 80s. Her professionalism and dedication to the sport helped her to achieve a record 167 titles, including nearly 60 Grand Slams.
She also holds the record for Wimbledon titles, with nine wins, and has succeeded when competing in doubles where she won 31 Grand Slams and also 10 Grand Slams in mixed doubles. She later went on to play a string of entertaining exhibition matches, including a legendary game in 2001 between her and Monica Seles at a well-known casino where she performed push-ups for the crowd before the game!
3. Steffi Graf
Steffi was lauded for her ability to play on all surfaces and win. She holds the record for staying world number one in the rankings, whether male or female, at 377 consecutive weeks – more than seven years!
From the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties, there was arguably no better female professional than Steffi and, when she retired in 1999, she was still ranked number three in the world. 1988 was possibly her most successful season when she topped off winning all four major Grand Slams with winning Olympic Gold in Seoul.
4. Martina Hingis
Simply going by the numbers doesn’t do Martina Hingis justice. She turned pro in one of the most competitive eras of female tennis, with Steffi Graf dominating and new talents like the Williams sisters emerging. Managing to win five Grand Slams in this era is quite impressive.
Devastating injuries cut this extremely talented player’s career short, having to retire at singles tennis at just 22 years of age. If she had been able to continue her career into her twenties, there is no doubt that she would have won many more titles and Grand Slams, and provided both of the Williams sisters with a worthy adversary in the 2000s. She was able to continue playing professionally at doubles tennis and won three Grand Slam doubles titles in 2017 before retiring completely.
5. Billie Jean King
No list of top female tennis players is complete without mentioning Billie Jean King. Her aggressive and hard-charging playing style yielded more than 120 titles in her career, including 12 Grand Slams.
Her greatest decade of playing is arguably between 1965 and 1975 when King was the queen of Wimbledon, winning the title there seven times.
Any list of top five players is going to cause some controversy and discussion, but no one can argue that Serena Williams should top any list of great players. Her record, and her talent, speak for themselves.