Selecting the top ten of anything can be a difficult and subjective task. There have been so many great women players over the last 50 years of the Open Era, and this doesn’t even take into consideration the great players from the early 20th century. Changes in fitness regimes, nutrition, and racket technology over the years have only served to complicate an already difficult task. As difficult as it was to choose the top ten all-time greatest male tennis players, the women’s top ten proved no easier.
After pouring through countless statistical records and my own personal memory banks, I have come up with a list of the best female tennis players during the Open Era of tennis—from 1968 to the present. I have actually included eleven players here, with two greats tied for the tenth position. Here they are.
10. Martina Hingis
- Born September 30, 1980
- Born in Kosice, Czechoslovakia
- Resides in Fuesisberg, Switzerland
- Turned Pro: 1994
- Retired: 2017
- Career prize money: $24,749,074
- 45 career titles
- 5 Grand Slam Singles Titles: 3 Australian Open, 1 Wimbledon, 1 US Open
With 5 Grand Slam singles titles and 209 weeks ranked number one in the world Martina Hingis makes a strong argument to be ranked in the top 10 all-time. Factor in her 13 Grand Slam Doubles titles, 7 Mixed Doubles titles, and her 2 Tour Finals titles and it’s hard to exclude the Swiss star. Her singles career was relatively short due to injuries and her first retirement came in 2003 at just 22 years of age. Certainly had she remained healthy she would have contended for many more Grand Slam singles titles. Martina was able to extend her tennis career by playing mostly doubles and had great sucess with 3 Grand Slam Doubles titles in 2017, her final year in competitive tennis.
10. Evonne Goolagong
- Born: July 31, 1951
- Born in 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.
9. Justine Henin
- Born: June 1, 1982
- Born in 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.
8. Venus Williams
- Born: June 17, 1980
- Born in Lynwood, California
- Resides: Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
- Turned pro: 1994
- Career prize money: $41,801,056
- 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 nine times with Serena winning seven 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 back to playing at a high level after suffering through years of knee and hip problems. She started the 2014 season ranked number 47 in the world, but has climbed back into the top ten, and is currently ranked number 5 in the world following her run to the 2017 Australian Open and Wimbledon final. A win at either of those Grand Slam events would have made for a fitting cap to a long and very successful career.
7. Billie Jean King
- Born: November 22, 1943
- Born in 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.
6. Monica Seles
- Born: December 2, 1973
- Born in 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.
5. Chris Evert
- Born: December 21, 1954
- Born in 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.