In today’s tennis landscape, we have names like Novak Djokovic and of course, the dynamic duo of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. These are some of the best players in the world right now and their results have proved it.
We’ve had countless legends throughout the years and today, I’m going to be listing 5 of the male tennis players that changed the game forever. This list will be ranked based on their achievements and what they brought to the game.
I want to be clear that while all 5 on the list are certainly in the conversation among the best 5 of all time, they likely wouldn’t make most top 5 lists. Definitely top 10, but a few on the list supply more than stats or wins. These players bring personality and they excite fans and tennis bettors alike.
1 – Roger Federer
Whenever the name Roger Federer comes up, a legacy of greatness is implied. Of all the nicknames he’s been given through the years, only one needs to apply: The G.O.A.T. Most insiders largely consider him to be the Greatest of All Time which is where G.O.A.T comes from. Why is this? Simply put, Roger Federer broke just about every major record and did so by his own style and standards.
Employing a calculated court awareness and precise shot accuracy, Roger Federer was unbeatable on nearly every inch of the court. This meant that his opponents had to find unorthodox ways to beat him and most of the time, they couldn’t. To this day, his opponents still find it hard to beat him one-on-one even at Roger Federer’s advanced age of 38. Dang kids.
Although he’s entered the twilight of his career, Roger Federer has gifted us an unforgettable era. One in which he showed you should believe in the impossible. You can’t quantify all the ways this legend changed the game.
In spite of Rafael Nadal being the gatekeeper that held him from three possible “Grand Slam” sweeps and Novak Djokovic proved a worthy rival that pushed him from 2012 on, Roger Federer has left a legacy behind that makes every tennis player consider him a worthy title of the best player to ever hit the court.
2 – Rafael Nadal
Known simply as the bull, Rafael Nadal brings something to the world that defines textbook tennis: an extremely strong set of fundamental skills and an unbreakable will to win. Combine that with his stoic nature contrasted by his ferocious style on the court and you have an absolutely legendary player.
As far as I’m concerned, he’s set a precedent for future Spaniards to come and like Novak Djokovic, he isn’t done just yet. The Spaniard Bull first came out with a stellar performance against the then dominant Roger Federer at the Miami Open Round of 32 which he won in straight sets, even more impressive at the age of seventeen compared to Roger’s twenty-three years of age.
After that, Rafael Nadal crafted a legacy that won’t be forgotten in the near future. He soon became the King of Clay and the one player who kept Roger Federer from completing the “Grand Slam” sweep. Whenever Rafael Nadal played on clay, Roger Federer could hardly ever beat him.
Additionally, like many others on this list, Rafael Nadal nearly completed a Grand Slam sweep in 2010 where he won three of the four Grand Slam titles; Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and U.S. Open. However, he fell short in Australia.
Nevertheless, Rafael Nadal will go down in history as one of the legends of the game. He came into an era where Roger Federer dominated every aspect of tennis and gave him a run for his money. During this time, he became the king of clay and he isn’t going to be giving that title up to anyone for the next few decades. So look to bet on Nadal at online sportsbooks if he is playing on clay.
3 – Novak Djokovic
There are three periods in tennis where the professional scene was at its toughest. The first one was whenever McEnroe, Connors, and Borg were around. The second one was whenever Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras created a timeless rivalry that made tennis a top 3 sport in America.
At his best, it seemed like no one could beat “Joker.” His return game rivals that of Andre Agassi and his speed is some of the best in the storied history of the game. With many years left in him and a miracle comeback after a shaky 2017 year, Djokovic is far from done writing his amazing story. He’s already won fourteen Grand Slams and had near misses completing the “Grand Slam” sweep in 2011 and 2015.
I mean, Joker won the Nitto ATP Finals four times in a row from 2012 to 2015. There’s never been a player that has set this type of dominance. Only Jimmy Connors can account for this type of dominating season but the glaring difference is that Jimmy Connors’ dominance lasted one season while Djokovic’s still lasts to this day.
4 – John McEnroe
John McEnroe is known as the bad boy of tennis because he played by his own rules. Anytime something controversial happened during the 1980s, it was usually because John McEnroe had something to do with it. Whether it was on the tennis court or not.
Fortunately, John McEnroe could back up his antics and he could back them up with a hardcore style that defied all the posh sophistication that tennis is known for. He did whatever it took to win and he did it with his entire being. Obviously, he did all of this fair and square.
The thing that made John McEnroe strong was that he was good on any surface, be it hard court, grass court, or clay, he was proficient on them all. He wasn’t limited to one or two courts because he knew how to handle each surface as well as the other. Combine that with the fire that still burns inside of him and a determined mindset to not lose, John McEnroe was virtually impossible to destroy.
During his career, John McEnroe won a total of 107 titles and seven Grand Slam titles, all in the singles bracket. But that isn’t what sets him apart. What sets him apart is that he came into the pro scene when storied rivalries were at their peak.
He was born into an era where names like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, and Ivan Lendl were present. Despite this, John McEnroe made a name for himself. He faced these legends without fear and the results showed.
What separates McEnroe from the rest of the players is that he didn’t fear anyone despite coming into the pro tour whenever it had some of the best names in the game. The man is legendary.
The thing that’s special about McEnroe is he entered as a young amateur and quickly started playing like a veteran. Because of this, he completely deserves a spot on the list as he created some of the most legendary moments in tennis with timeless rivalries and unforgettable matches.
5 – Andre Agassi
The only player who’s anywhere near the same energy as John McEnroe is Andre Agassi. Andre Agassi was considered a type of rebel during his professional career. He went against dress norms and dressed however he wanted, even wearing jean shorts for a match at one point.
However, Andre’s path to success was not as easy as the others on this list. Even though he managed to reach the world number three spot two years after entering the professional scene, Andre Agassi did not win his first Grand Slam title till the 1991 Wimbledon finals in which he barely defeated Goran Ivanišević in a five set thriller.
After this, Andre Agassi started one of the most dominant runs tennis has ever seen. He would become the first player to ever win four Australian Open titles during his career before being one-upped by Novak Djokovic. Alongside that, he would also go on to win one French Open final against Andrei Medvedev in a five set brawl-fest and would also add two US Open titles. This meant that he was one of the five players to complete the Career Grand Slam.
Tennis is one of the most mentally-challenging sports around. Because the player is there by himself, they have to deal with everything by themselves. Therefore, it can be tough to find greatness in this field. But some have and when they do find this greatness, they leave a legacy behind that leaves their fans in awe.
There have been many that have done this before but some have done it better than others and some have done it so well that they’ve been considered as legends that changed the game.
The list goes on. Each of the players on this list deserves to be here due to their own large number of achievements and what they’ve brought to the game. Together, they’ve evolved tennis into a sport that is no longer just about hitting the ball back and forth but also about the culture behind the game.