Tennis is more than just a sport; it’s a spectacle of skill, strategy, and sheer willpower. The court becomes an arena where legends are made, and when it comes to female athletes, the game has never been more exciting. In this article, we’ll delve into the lives and achievements of the 15 best female tennis players of all time and introduce you to the top 5 reigning queens of the court.
Best 15 Female Tennis Players of All Time
From seasoned veterans to rising stars, the women’s tennis circuit is brimming with extraordinary talent. These best 15 female tennis players of all time have set high standards for the sport.
1. Serena Williams
Serena Williams is a phenomenon who transcends the sport. Her 23 Grand Slam singles titles are just the tip of the iceberg. She exemplifies tenacity from her first Grand Slam win at just 17 to her resilience in returning time and again after injuries and childbirth. Her renowned rivalry with her sister, Venus, adds another layer to her extraordinary career. Off the court, she’s a businesswoman, fashion icon, and advocate for racial and gender equality. Simply put, she has redefined what it means to be a female athlete in the modern era.
- Serena has a renowned rivalry with her sister, Venus Williams, with the two facing each other in multiple Grand Slam finals.
- She won her first Grand Slam at the US Open in 1999 at just 17 years old.
- Serena also has a successful fashion line and has shown her collections at major fashion weeks.
2. Margaret Court
Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles has yet to be surpassed, making her an enduring icon in tennis history. She was the first woman to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era, setting the standard for professional tennis. As one of the best female tennis players, her legacy extends beyond the court, with a show court named in her honor at Melbourne Park and her post-tennis career as a Christian minister.
- Margaret Court is now a Christian minister in Perth, Australia.
- She was the first woman during the Open Era to win a Grand Slam, achieving this in 1970.
- Court has been recognized with a show court named in her honor at Melbourne Park, the venue of the Australian Open.
3. Steffi Graf
The only player to achieve a Golden Slam, Steffi Graf’s name is synonymous with greatness. Her 377 weeks at World No. 1 and 22 Grand Slam titles reveal a career of unparalleled consistency and success. With a game that adapted to all surfaces and footwork honed by ballet training, Graf transcended the sport. Her marriage to Andre Agassi adds a unique romantic dimension to her legacy.
- Married to former World No. 1 men’s tennis player Andre Agassi.
- She won her first Grand Slam title at just 17, clinching the French Open in 1987.
- Graf was known for her footwork, which she attributed to ballet training in her youth.
4. Helen Wills Moody
Helen Wills Moody dominated the tennis world at a time when opportunities for women in sports were limited. Her unbroken seven-year winning streak and 19 Grand Slam titles underscore her mastery. Known as “Little Miss Poker Face,” her intense focus on the court became her trademark. Moody was also an accomplished artist and writer, making her a true Renaissance woman.
- She maintained an impressive winning streak, going unbeaten in singles matches for over seven years.
- Helen was also an accomplished artist and writer.
- She’s often remembered for her intense concentration on the court, earning her the nickname “Little Miss Poker Face.”
5. Martina Navratilova
With a record 31 Grand Slam doubles titles and 18 singles titles, Martina Navratilova is one of the most versatile and dominant players in tennis history. Her intense rivalry with Chris Evert is legendary, adding a dramatic flair to her career. As an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights and a defector from Czechoslovakia, Navratilova has made waves both on and off the court.
- Martina’s intense rivalry with Chris Evert is one of the most renowned in tennis history.
- She defected from Czechoslovakia in 1975 to seek U.S. citizenship.
- Off the court, Navratilova is an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights.
6. Billie Jean King
Beyond her 12 Grand Slam singles titles, Billie Jean King’s influence is monumental. Her “Battle of the Sexes” victory over Bobby Riggs shattered gender barriers in sports. As the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and the Women’s Sports Foundation, King has tirelessly advocated for gender equality. Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 cements her status as a civil rights icon. It is clear why she is regarded as one of the best female tennis players.
- Founder of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
- She was one of the original nine women who broke away from the traditional tennis establishment to form their own tennis circuit in 1970.
- King was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
7. Chris Evert
Chris Evert’s 18 Grand Slam titles and 1,000+ match wins set her apart as one of the game’s greats. Known for her poise and two-handed backhand, she was virtually unbeatable on clay, with a winning percentage of over 94%. Her storied rivalry with Martina Navratilova captivated fans for over a decade. Post-retirement, her insights as a sports analyst have kept her deeply involved in the tennis world.
- Chris has a storied rivalry with Martina Navratilova; they met 80 times on the court.
- She was known for her poise on the court and her signature two-handed backhand.
- Evert has remained involved in tennis, providing insightful commentary as a sports analyst.
8. Monica Seles
Monica Seles burst onto the scene as the youngest-ever French Open champion and dominated the early ’90s. Her career took a tragic turn when she was attacked on court, but her subsequent comeback showed her resilience. Seles was a trailblazer in women’s tennis, known for her grunting and groundbreaking two-handed forehand and backhand..
- Monica became the youngest-ever champion of the French Open at age 16.
- She became a U.S. citizen in 1994.
- Seles returned to professional tennis after a two-year hiatus following a shocking on-court attack.
9. Maria Bueno
Maria Bueno was the epitome of elegance and grace on the tennis court. As the first South American woman to win a Grand Slam, she opened doors for future generations of Latin American athletes. Her volleying technique and style, often designed by couturier Ted Tinling, made her a fan favorite.
- She was known for her stylish attire on the court, often designed by couturier Ted Tinling.
- Bueno was widely recognized for her graceful volleying technique.
- She remains the most successful South American female tennis player in history.
10. Evonne Goolagong Cawley
Evonne Goolagong’s graceful play and versatility made her a star, but it’s her life story that makes her unforgettable. She broke racial barriers as one of the first Indigenous Australians to achieve international fame in sports. Her 1980 Wimbledon win as a mother adds another layer to her impressive career.
- Evonne was the first mother since Dorothea Lambert Chambers in 1914 to win Wimbledon, achieving this in 1980.
- She is of Aboriginal descent and has been a great inspiration to Indigenous athletes in Australia.
- Cawley was known for her graceful and fluid playing style.
11. Lindsay Davenport
Known for her powerful groundstrokes and sportsmanship, Lindsay Davenport held the World No. 1 spot for 98 weeks. Her post-retirement involvement as a tennis commentator has allowed her to share her deep understanding of the game, making her a constant presence in the sport.
- Davenport made a successful transition to doubles later in her career.
- She has been an active tennis commentator post-retirement.
- Lindsay was known for her powerful and accurate groundstrokes.
12. Kim Clijsters
Kim Clijsters is the embodiment of resilience. She retired young, returned to win a Grand Slam as a wildcard, and even held the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles. Her athletic slides and powerful game are etched in tennis history, but her comeback after motherhood truly sets her apart.
- Clijsters temporarily retired in 2007, only to make a successful comeback in 2009 and win the US Open as a wildcard.
- She’s known for her athleticism and split slides on the court, especially on hard courts.
- Kim is one of the few players to have held the No. 1 spot in both singles and doubles simultaneously.
13. Justine Henin
Justine Henin’s tactical brilliance and one-handed backhand make her stand out in the annals of tennis. Her seven Grand Slam titles, especially her dominance on clay, prove her mettle. Retiring early but making a brief, impactful comeback, Henin’s career was as compelling as it was successful.
- Henin retired relatively early at age 25 but made a brief comeback before retiring again.
- She’s considered one of the best ever on clay, with four French Open titles to her name.
- Justine was known for her strong mental game and her single-handed backhand, a rarity in the women’s game.
14. Venus Williams
Venus Williams changed the game with her power and athleticism, setting the stage for a new era of women’s tennis. Her advocacy for gender equality leaves a lasting legacy, particularly in prize money. Off the court, she’s an entrepreneur, proving her versatility and influence reach far beyond tennis. Venus is widely regarded as one of the best female tennis players.
- Venus has been a strong advocate for gender equality in sports, particularly in her push for equal prize money at Wimbledon.
- She has her own fashion line called EleVen.
- Venus holds the record for fastest serve in three of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
15. Hana Mandlikova
Hana Mandlikova was versatile, excelling on all surfaces and winning four Grand Slam titles. Her coaching of future Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna adds a layer to her tennis legacy. Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994, Mandlikova’s influence is still felt in the sport.
- Mandlikova was known for her versatility, having won Grand Slam titles on three different surfaces.
- After retiring, she went on to coach future Grand Slam champion Jana Novotna.
- She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994.
Best 10 Current Female Tennis Players
As the sport of tennis continues to evolve, the list of the top 10 current female tennis players showcases the dynamic blend of skill, resilience, and innovation defining the game today.
1. Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty has taken the tennis world by storm, becoming a dominant force on all surfaces. With a game that combines tactical brilliance, a deft touch at the net, and a powerful serve, she’s proven capable of winning on any stage. Barty’s accolades extend beyond her Grand Slam titles; she’s been awarded the WTA Player of the Year and has also won the prestigious WTA Finals.
- Known for her all-court game and impressive slice backhand.
- Was a successful junior cricketer before focusing solely on tennis.
- Has won multiple WTA titles across different surfaces.
2. Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka is a player who has transcended tennis. Her powerful game and strategic intelligence have won her multiple Grand Slam titles, but her activism and grace under pressure have elevated her to icon status. She’s used her platform to speak on important social justice issues and has become a global ambassador for the sport.
- Known for her powerful serve that often exceeds 120 mph.
- Became the highest-earning female athlete in 2020, overtaking Serena Williams.
- Osaka was born in Japan but raised in the U.S., making her a compelling international story.
- She’s been nominated for numerous awards for her activism, including Time’s list of the 100 most influential people.
3. Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek has quickly risen to stardom, and her multiple Grand Slam titles in 2022 and 2023 indicate she’s not slowing down. Her game, a combination of power and finesse, is perfectly suited to clay but also adaptable to other surfaces. What sets her apart, however, is her mental toughness and strategic mindset, often attributed to her focus on sports psychology. Though new on the block, Iga is sure to go down as one of the best female tennis players of all time.
- Became the youngest woman to win the French Open since Monica Seles.
- Has quickly risen through the WTA rankings, breaking into the Top 10.
- Has held the world #1 title.
- Known for her aggressive baseline game and excellent topspin forehand.
- Became the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
4. Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka’s 2023 Grand Slam win solidified her status as one of the game’s top competitors. Her aggressive, fearless style of play, featuring a powerful serve and blistering groundstrokes, has made her a fan favorite. Her game has shown marked improvement in recent years, particularly her net play and strategic choices.
- Became the highest-ranked Belarusian female player, reaching the Top 5.
- Known for her aggressive baseline rallies and intimidating serve.
- Has multiple WTA titles, including both singles and doubles.
- Earned the nickname “The Tiger” for her ferocious competitiveness.
5. Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina’s surge to the top tiers of women’s tennis has been nothing short of remarkable. Her performance in the 2023 Grand Slam shows she’s ready to compete at the highest levels. With a game built around a solid baseline strategy and a powerful serve, Rybakina has the tools to challenge the best in the world.
- Reached multiple WTA finals at a young age, showcasing her potential.
- Represents Kazakhstan, a nation not traditionally known for tennis.
- Known for her poise under pressure and effective use of the slice.
- Has a rapidly rising fan base, making her one of the sport’s emerging stars.
6. Serena Williams
Serena Williams remains a colossus in the tennis world, even as new talents emerge. With 23 Grand Slam singles titles to her name, she’s a living legend whose impact on the sport is immeasurable. What sets her apart is her ability to continually evolve her game, showcasing not just power but also tactical brilliance. While her singles career has waned slightly, her influence as a mentor to the younger generation and her activism off the court continues to make headlines.
- Holds the Open Era record for Grand Slam singles titles.
- Has won Grand Slam titles across three different decades.
- Off the court, she’s an entrepreneur with investments in various sectors, including fashion and tech.
- Became a mother in 2017, adding another layer of inspiration to her story.
7. Ons Jabeur
Ons Jabeur has not only been making waves on the tennis court but is also breaking barriers. As the highest-ranked Arab woman in history, she represents a new frontier for tennis in the Middle East. Her crafty play, featuring a mix of spins and slices, has dazzled fans and disarmed opponents.
- Became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam.
- Known for her tactical ingenuity, often utilizing drop shots effectively.
- Has won multiple WTA titles, showcasing her ability to win at the highest levels.
- Off the court, she’s known for her humble and engaging personality, making her a fan favorite.
8. Cori “Coco” Gauff
Cori “Coco” Gauff is a prodigy who has quickly turned into a professional powerhouse. Her maturity, both on and off the court, belies her young age. Her 2022 Grand Slam final appearance is proof that she’s not just a future star but a current contender.
- Became the youngest player to reach the fourth round of Wimbledon in the Open Era.
- Known for her agility, quick reflexes, and strong baseline play.
- Off the court, she’s an advocate for social justice and has spoken out on various issues.
- Has already secured multiple WTA titles, setting the stage for a promising career.
9. Petra Kvitova
Petra Kvitova continues to be a stalwart of women’s tennis. Her elegant left-handed game, featuring one of the best serves in the business, has earned her multiple Grand Slam titles. Beyond her on-court achievements, her courageous comeback from a career-threatening knife attack has inspired millions. Her story and skills help her stand out as one of the best female tennis players.
- Two-time Wimbledon champion and a consistent performer across all Grand Slams.
- Known for her sportsmanship, having won the WTA Sportsmanship Award multiple times.
- Has been a key player for the Czech Republic in the Fed Cup, contributing to multiple titles.
- Her resilience and comeback story after the knife attack have made her an inspirational figure in sports.
10. Simona Halep
Simona Halep has been a fixture in the upper echelons of women’s tennis for several years. Her exceptional court coverage and counterpunching abilities make her a formidable opponent on all surfaces. She has multiple Grand Slam titles to her name and has spent significant time as World No. 1.
- Known for her agility and exceptional defensive skills, often turning defense into offense.
- Has been honored with the WTA’s Fan Favorite Singles Player award.
- Off the court, she’s involved in various philanthropic activities in her native Romania.
- Halep has been coached by multiple tennis legends, including Darren Cahill and Virginia Ruzici, adding a historical dimension to her career.
The Importance of Recognizing Female Athletes in Tennis
Tennis is a game that has broken barriers, empowered women, and inspired millions. Recognizing the best female tennis players is not just an exercise in nostalgia; it’s a testament to the enduring impact these athletes have had on sports and society at large.
Watch their matches, read their autobiographies, and share their stories. The more visibility these athletes get, the more they can inspire the next generation.
Find a Job in Tennis
As we’ve explored the achievements and unique attributes of the ‘Top 15 Female Tennis Players of All Time,’ as well as the ‘Top 10 Current Female Tennis Players,’ it’s evident that the world of tennis is rich with inspiring stories, groundbreaking achievements, and limitless potential. These athletes not only dazzle us with their prowess on the court but also serve as role models, advocates, and influencers off the court. If you’re inspired by these remarkable women and the wide world of sports, now is the perfect time to turn that passion into a profession. The sports industry offers many opportunities, from sports journalism and analytics to coaching and sports management. Don’t just be a spectator; be a part of the action. Start researching educational programs, internships, and tennis jobs that can set you on the path to a rewarding career in sports. Sign up for a free Jobs in Sports membership today!