Making any kind of good top ten list is an impossible job. Depending on the topic, it can be more or less difficult, but in sport, there is one thing that makes it even more difficult. And it’s not just because this is highly subjective. The sports themselves change a lot, and it is not easy to predict if a player from the past would adapt well to the current conditions in the game, and vice versa.
Same goes for tennis. In the past several years it has evolved greatly. Just the racket technology has brought enormous changes. But the biggest changes are coming from the fitness standards of today. A couple of years ago, Novak Djokovic was the third player on the ATP. He would win just about anyone, and lose against Federer and Nadal repeatedly. So, he changed his diet and worked on his fitness level and it brought results. In 2011 he won 70 matches, lost only six, had 43-match winning streak, won 10 tournaments, three Grand Slams, beat Nadal six times in finals, climbed to the number one position… It was just one brutal season for him. And mostly thanks to his improved fitness levels. This urged others to do the same and brought the whole game to a new level.
So, the game has changed for the better and any list of the best would have to include several modern players. So here is the list now. As the game progresses it is bound to change, so we would like to see your predictions and opinions about the list.
1. Roger Federer
This is what most people agree on. He is probably the best all-round player ever. The Swiss player came on top in 2004 and he has been there most of the time since then. He won 17 Grand Slams, and he is the guy that has been no.1 for the longest and still counting. Several times he has been taken down by younger players, and thought to be done, but he would always climb up to the top, where he is now. Still, Djokovic will be number one from next week, which means that the battle continues.
2. Pete Sampras
Holder of many records, and many more broken by Federer, won Grand Slam 14 times. He was very dominant in the 1990s, and just like Federer, he kept his cool on and off the court. Serve and forehand were his strongest weapons, and, although many of his opponents knew what he would do, there was not much they could do to stop him.
3. Rod Laver
This man won 11 Grand Slams, and 2-time winner of all four Grand Slams in the same year. How big he was maybe we can see from the fact that the main venue in Melbourne Park complex is named after him.
4. Rafael Nadal
The reason why some people would doubt Federer’s title of the best is this guy. Probably the best clay court player of all time actually leads in head to head wins against Federer. The people who don’t like him claim that most of his success comes from his strength, but his technique is at an amazingly high level also. He has been known to return even the most difficult balls, and with such accuracy and force that many considered them sheer luck. Still, when someone does this so many times, it isn’t really luck, is it?
5. Bjorn Borg
11 Grand Slam wins and he never competed at the Australian Open, and never won the US Open. But the reason for this would have to be the fact that he retired at the age of 25, shocking the whole world. Many experts believe that the tennis world didn’t see the best of him.
6. Andre Agassi
He definitely deserves to be on the list, and he would probably be even higher up there if he wasn’t playing at the time of Sampras. In five finals played against him, he won just one. Despite this misfortune, he managed to win all four Grand Slams, thus showing that he could play really well on any surface.
7. Jimmy Connors
He was the No. 1 for 160 consecutive weeks, and 268 altogether and he won the most tournaments in history stopping at the number of 109, so he just had to be on the list.
8. John McEnroe
The American is one of the best known tennis players in history. But, most people remember him from his angry outbursts and fiery attitude, even though his ability was amazing. His rivalries with Connors, Lendl and Borg brought us some of the best matches in history.
9. Ivan Lendl
He held No. 1 position for 270 weeks in total and was a constant headache for the greats such as McEnroe and Connors. He never managed to win Wimbledon, despite playing the finals twice. He played in 19 Grand Slam finals and won eight of them.
Now, choosing the next one was especially difficult. It is the last on the list, meaning that all the others who deserve to be mentioned as being in the very top will be left behind. No, it’s not Mats Wilander, as amazing as he was; not even Lleyton Hewitt or Boris Becker. All of them were just amazing, but number 10 has to be…
10. Novak Djokovic
To be honest, if we were talking about the best players at this moment, he would be in top three, if not even the first. Still, this is a list of the best ones in history, and it takes long time to pass to get up there. Djokovic keeps moving the boundaries of the game further, and we can safely assume that if he continues to do so in the next few years he will be a lot higher up there. His brutally dominant 2011 season showed us what he can do even when dealing with the likes of Federer, Nadal and Murray, and his young career is the only reason why he is only No 10.