No matter what era it is or if it’s men or women, there are certain people who dominate in tennis for an extended period of time. Out of the many generations of women’s tennis, there have been a handful of names who have been so much better than the rest of the field that you expected them to win each tournament.
It’s hard to say which ones were the best of the best as they mainly come from different eras, but here are our picks for the five greatest women’s tennis players of all time. Before we begin the list, here are some of the women that just missed the cut: Billie Jean King, Venus Williams, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, and Kim Clijsters.
5. Margaret Court
The first player on the list is Margaret Court, an Australian player who would dominate when it came to her home country’s largest tournament. At the Australian Open Court won her first title in 1960, the same year she became a professional player. Court went on to win the Aussie Open a total of 11 times, four more than anybody else in tennis history.
Court was no slouch in the other grand slam events, either. She won Wimbledon three times while adding five titles each at the French Open and US Open. Court added a long list of titles as a doubles and mixed doubles player, including 12 combined at the Australian Open. While Court played in an easier era, she still proved that nobody was even close to her skill level at the time.
4. Chris Evert
Someone had to take the mantle from Margaret Court as the next best player in tennis, and that honor went to Chris Evert. Toward the end of Court’s career, Evert started to take off and won her first grand slam titles in 1974, just two years after turning pro. That year, Evert won the French Open and Wimbledon, which was just the start for her career.
Evert won a total of 18 grand slam events as a singles player and another two as a doubles player. Evert was certainly more in her element when playing solo, and she won a total of 157 professional tournaments. The 1995 International Tennis Hall of Fame inductee pulled home nearly $9 million in career winnings and her record of 34 grand slam finals appearances is top all time.
3. Steffi Graf
Evert played a good chunk of her career in the 1980s, and during that time she had competition from our next two players. The first of which is Steffi Graf, who was the young up-and-comer during the decade whereas Evert was the seasoned vet. The German-born Graf turned professional in 1982 and won her first grand slam title five years later at the French Open.
Graf would win 107 titles in total, good enough for third all-time. The former number-one player took home the championship at 22 different grand slam events and added a doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988. Graf isn’t in the top 10 of prize money due to the increase in payouts but was still able to take home $21.89 million.
2. Martina Navratilova
For many years, Martina Navratilova was considered the greatest player in women’s tennis history, and it’s easy to see why. After several years of grinding as a young professional, Navratilova won her first grand slam in 1978 at Wimbledon and set the record for most titles at the tournament with nine.
Navratilova would win nine more grand slams spread across the other three events, including four US Open championships. Navratilova won a total of 167 professional tournaments, setting the women’s record. Overall she won 1,442 professional matches and earned $21.6 million in prize money.
1. Serena Williams
It should come as no surprise that Serena Williams is the top player on the list as she dominated in the modern era when players from around the world were at a higher skill level thanks to being able to focus on tennis full-time. Williams made her professional debut in 1995 and was a force all the way up until her retirement in late 2022.
As a singles player, Williams won her first grand slam in 1999 by taking the US Open title, and she would go on to add multiple titles from every grand slam event along the way. Williams won a total of 23 grand slam titles, including seven each from Wimbledon and the Australian Open. Just to make things even more impressive, she added another 14 doubles grand slam titles and brought home a record $94.8 million in winnings.