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Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Did anyone ever try to set this? Of course that can't be definitive and can change with the results in 2017 and beyond. But with a decent knowledge of womens tennis History, I tried to make a list, that must certainly have its subjective picks. What I suggest is that we all suggest a list but if you find this useless or silly, no problem, I may agree with you. I just want to challenge that idea I've got in mind for a while now. Hopefully, it could lead to passionate and instructive discussions and debates! So here's my list, and feel free to object! It can make me know more about champions I may underrate, and I can reconsider. Feel free to give your lists too.

I'm offering a (kind of) chronological list.

1. Maud Watson
2. Lottie Dod
3. Blanche Bingley Hillyard
4. Charlotte Cooper Sterry
5. Louisa Martin
6. Rose Payten
7. Muriel Robb
8. Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers
9. May Sutton Bundy
10. Dora Boothby
11. Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman
12. Ethel Thomson
13. Mary Kendall Browne
14. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory
15. Elizabeth Ryan
16. Suzanne Lenglen
17. Helen Wills Moody
18. Kitty McKane
19. Daphne Akhurst
20. Lili Alvarez
21. Cilly Aussem
22. Helen Jacobs
23. Joan Hartigan
24. Dorothy Round Little
25. Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling
26. Anita Lizana
27. Jadwiga Jedrzejowska
28. Alice Marble
29. Simonne Mathieu
30. Nancye Wynne
31. Sarah Palfrey
32. Pauline Betz
33. Margaret Osborne
34. Louise Brough
35. Doris Hart
36. Maureen Connolly
37. Shirley Fry
38. Althea Gibson
39. Angela Mortimer
40. Zsuzsa Körmöczy
41. Christine Truman
42. Maria Bueno
43. Darlene Hard
44. Margaret Smith Court
45. Lesley Turner
46. Ann Haydon Jones
47. Billie Jean Moffitt King
48. Françoise Durr
49. Nancy Richey
50. Evonne Goolagong Cawley
51. Virginia Wade
52. Chris Evert
53. Sue Barker
54. Mima Jausovec
55. Virginia Ruzici
56. Pam Shriver
57. Martina Navratilova
58. Tracy Austin
59. Wendy Turnbull
60. Andrea Jaeger
61. Helena Sukova
62. Hana Mandlikova
63. Steffi Graf
64. Gabriela Sabatini
65. Arantxa Sanchez
66. Monica Seles
67. Zina Garrison
68. Conchita Martinez
69. Martina Hingis
70. Jana Novotna
71. Iva Majoli
72. Lindsay Davenport
73. Mary Pierce
74. Venus Williams
75. Jennifer Capriati
76. Serena Williams
77. Justine Henin
78. Anastasia Myskina
79. Svetlana Kuznetsova
80. Elena Dementieva
81. Maria Sharapova
82. Kim Clijsters
83. Amélie Mauresmo
84. Ana Ivanovic
85. Jelena Jankovic
86. Dinara Safina
87. Vera Zvonareva
88. Caroline Wozniacki
89. Francesca Schiavone
90. Sam Stosur
91. Na Li
92. Victoria Azarenka
93. Petra Kvitova
94. Agnieszka Radwanska
95. Marion Bartoli
96. Simona Halep
97. Flavia Pennetta
98. Angelique Kerber
99. Garbine Muguruza

I leave the 100th pick to your suggestions (not chronological of course), as a matter of starting some discussions!

Which great champion does this list miss in your opinion? I know I must neglect a lot of them! And actually I could mention a lot of them! Feel free to ask me any question about my picks! I won't be defensive, I'm open to debates, as long as it's made friendly or respectfully. Maybe some of us could end to agree on a near-objective list? Or we may end to agree the list is impossible to make. At this stage, I have no idea.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
The 100th player I'll add will be Kerry Melville.

Debates could be made about

19th century: May Langrishe, Juliette Atkinson, ?

pre-first war era: Marguerite Broquedis, Toupie Lowther (colorful character!), ?

20's and 30's: Eileen Bennett, Phoebe Holcroft, Betty Nuthall, Peggy Scriven (won the French twice), Kay Stammers, Ora Mae Washington, ?

40's: maybe some underrated players overshadowed by the war? Raymonde Jones? Lolette Payot?

50's: Shirley Bloomer, Beverly Baker, Magda Rurac, ?

60's: Yola Ramirez, Karen Hantze (won Wimbledon), Rosie Casals, ?

70's: Olga Morozova, ?

80's: ?

90's: Mary Joe Fernandez, ?

21st century: basically those who reached a slam final - Cibulkova, Errani, Safarova, etc

47,658 Posts
How are you so knowledgable about tennis history and yet remain so clueless about the actual sport itself? I don't get it.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
May I start to explain one of my most surprising picks: Rose Payten. She's an Australian player of the first decade of the 20th century, who dominated the Australian competition with a dominance rarely seen. We've seen such dominance with May Sutton and Suzanne Lenglen, when you look at the matches and the scores (6-0 6-0 on average). Papers of the time wrote they were curious to see how she would fare against the top players of the day, all based in the UK (Cooper, Bingley, Austin, Jackson). It never happened. Payten's health was fragile and she stopped to compete quite soon. So there's a question mark, and my pick wants to call on that. :)

67,363 Posts
I'd add Rosemary Casals to the list.
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Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
I'd add Rosemary Casals to the list.
Oh yes, I'm fond of that player's style. Maybe we should underline her importance in the emergence of the WTA, the Virginia Slims circuit, etc.

I welcome that call! :yeah:

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Some thoughts: of course an all time list must take in consideration the evolution of tennis. We have no videos of the level of the players from the 19th century, can only get an idea from the papers of the time commenting the matches. One thing's for certain: there were competitions spreading all over UK, and some players who were unbeatable, the first of them being Maud Watson (undefeated during five years). What we call a champion. In the 19th century, checking all the results of the tournaments that were posted in Blast from the Past, we observe five great champions winning most of what they play, and giving tight matches each time they face: Watson, Dod, Bingley, Cooper and Martin. Dod being the prodigy of the bunch, and Bingley an institution, so to speak (did a lot for Wimbledon with her husband George Hillyard, who was even the umpire of all the Wimbledon womens finals until the 20's). Those five figures cannot be overlooked. That's for a chronological start of a crazy All Time Top 100.

The case of Louisa Martin: never won Wimbledon (tried late, but failed against Cooper), yet was among the best players of her era. Why? Because she was Irish, and the Irish Championships, that she won numerous times, was as prestigious as Wimbledon (if not more) in the first two decades of tennis. Actually, one has to be reminded that womens tennis was born in Ireland (at least the first female competitions), and the Irish Championships preceeded Wimbledon by a few years.

Also, it seems the Wimbledon draws were more selective or elitist than several UK tournaments, since they were more small, and the biggest draws you could find in the 19th century were Newcastle, Eastbourne, etc. That said, small or big draws, the winners didn't change, and the Wimbledon winners were really the best players of the era, with the exception of Lena Rice (also Irish), a total mystery since she reached the Wimbledon final twice (and winning the one who had a draw of four players! - in 1890) but played very few tournaments. Probably a case of gifted player who didn't care much about making a career (because, well, you couldn't make a professional career).

On the other hand, the case of Muriel Robb deserves more attention: despite being erratic, she truly was among the best players of her time for a short while, from 1899 to 1902. Her Wimbledon win wasn't a fluke (defeated future GOAT Dorothea Douglass on the way to her final against Cooper, that had to be played twice over two days because of the rain), she was definitely dangerous and, as witnessed and reported by many (including her opponents), a woman hitting the ball as hard as any man. It seems she had serious health problems and died at 28 years old...

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #8
Douglass and Sutton made the first big rivalry of womens tennis, Sutton the first player to challenge the UK champions. At 17 years old, won everything on the US West coast, went to Philadelphia 3 years later to win the US championships, crossed the Atlantic to play in UK the year after, won everything there, including Wimbledon with a victory over the UK Queen: Dorothea Douglass. Went back the next year but lost to Douglass, went back the next year and won again. Both players set the bar for the whole pre-war era. Until came Lenglen after the war. Meanwhile, a few players were able to challenge Sutton in the US: Hazel Hotchkiss and Molla Bjurstedt. Boothby couldn't challenge Douglass at her best, but was a sure second - dominated 1909 convincingly in the absence of Douglass. Other talented player was Ethel Thomson, who was also a badminton champion. Mary Browne played a lot of exhibitions with Bjurstedt during the war. Their H2H went in favour of Browne, which is valuable. Elizabeth Ryan, better as a double player than single, who never managed to win a slam in singles (was close in 1926 vs Bjurstedt in a match that is considered legendary), but was regularly in the slams SF, always stopped by Lenglen or Wills. Solid top 3 much above the rest of the competition, and able to disturb Lenglen at times (especially once at Wimbledon), to me it's hard to oppose to her Top 100 entry, but that remains debatable. If anything I think she was still a stronger top player than Boothby and Thomson, and even than Mary Browne.

May I say I don't consider doubles careers for that top 100. I should have specified that. It's for singles only. For the only reason my knowledge of doubles careers is poor.

4,040 Posts
I'm not completely sure without some more thought who I'd replace them with, but I think at least parts of your list is too dependent on being a slam winner. Schiavone, as much as I love her, and as great as her two runs in Paris were, does not belong as one of the top 100 players of all times. I would argue neither does Pennetta. Certainly, I think a player like MJF deserves the nod for being a much more consistent contender.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
^yes, interesting point, the list is made of both kinds of players actually, those who weren't consistent enough (rarely in the top 10 during their career) but won a slam (the more it comes late, the more I find it remarkable, because to me the competition was tougher, or the level higher, and more physically challenging, in the last two decades), and those who didn't win a slam but were quite consistent (Jankovic, Safina, Wozniacki - all number one at some point - but also Radwanska and Halep - all still active except Safina). And yes, MJ Fernandez deserves to be discussed. She was consistent and reached three slam finals. Why would I keep Jaeger, Sukova, Garrison and not MJF? Each case is arguable.

The first condition I needed for any player to deserve an entry in this Top 100, is that she at least reached a slam final once. A player who never reached a slam final had no chance to make this top 100. It seemed like a reasonable starting point.

The most recent slam winners I didn't keep in the top 100 are Barbara Jordan and Chris O'Neil (AO winners in 79 and 78). Every slam winner since, has made it. It means to give value to a slam trophy. Iva Majoli, Anastasia Myskina, Francesca Schiavone, Sam Stosur, Marion Bartoli, Flavia Pennetta have been impressive in winning their trophy, they played a high level of tennis, as I recall, it's still fresh in my mind. Pennetta made regularly good runs at the USO, her chance to win once was real - all she needed actually, was something like Vinci defeating Serena. Schiavone also succeeded in reaching the French final twice, and I wouldn't say the draws in 2010 and 2011 were poor. To me they were highly competitive. The kind of champion that Schiavone represents, is the mental one, the one if given opportunity, will play her chances with all her heart and guts. To me it needs to be rewarded. :)
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Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
The case of some pre-Court Aussies: Daphne Akhurst, Joan Hartigan, Nancye Wynne. If those multiple Australian championships winners didn't dominate the field of their era like Court did in the 60's and 70's, they proved to be competitive with the best of them each time they toured the world. If none of them succeeded in winning one of the other slams, they reached the last stages (SF or final) defeating top players on the way. Feel free to check their results in detail: you have their slam runs in Blast from the Past or wikipedia, but also results per year in other majors of the time (like the German championships that Akhurst won in 1928). They're not in this all time list for their Australian trophies only, though it certainly weighs on their prestige retrospectively. That retrospective prestige is due: the history of tennis, men's and women's, grew in Australia as much as in Europe and the United States. To be competitive at the Australian championships meant something. And if 1934 Wimbledon winner Dorothy Round went to win the Australian in 1935, she was also defeated at Wimbledon the same year by Joan Hartigan (Australian winner in 33, 34 and 36). Funny fact: Nancye Wynne also went to defeat the Australian winner of 1938, Dodo Bundy, at the US championships SF to reach the final (losing to Alice Marble).

My case for Rose Payten being a bit too hazardable, she could be replaced with Mary Joe Fernandez or Rosie Casals.

Other replacements are possible and require closer examination (with criteria related to each era)

25,282 Posts
The case of some pre-Court Aussies: Daphne Akhurst, Joan Hartigan, Nancye Wynne. If those multiple Australian championships winners didn't dominate the field of their era like Court did in the 60's and 70's, they proved to be competitive with the best of them each time they toured the world.
Agreed Hugues-and especially so in the case of Nancye Wynne Bolton.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #13
These performance timelines from 1884-1977 and 1978-2017 on Wikipedia could be helpful to perfect our Top 100.

It's of course very slam biased, but still interesting. No need to say the slams became much more important from the 80's to now than what they've been before, so these performance timelines are much more helpful regarding the 1978-2017 part.

25,282 Posts
Those timelines are useful as they also include World Hard Court results and the Olympics from the 1910s and 1920s.

Those were big events until they all more or less folded after 1924.

For example: to me Marguerite Broquedis was the world #1 or #2 at the least for 1912 for instance.

The World Hard Court Championships morphed into the French Open in 1925 after the Paris Olympics of 1924.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
I've come up with a new list. Feel free to object. :eek:h:

1. Maud Watson
2. Blanche Bingley Hillyard
3. Lottie Dod
4. Louisa Martin
5. Charlotte Cooper Sterry
6. Dorothea Douglass Lambert Chambers
7. May Sutton Bundy
8. Elizabeth Ryan
9. Suzanne Lenglen
10. Molla Bjurstedt Mallory
11. Kitty McKane
12. Helen Wills Moody
13. Simonne Mathieu
14. Lili Alvarez
15. Cilly Aussem
16. Helen Jacobs
17. Peggy Scriven
18. Dorothy Round Little
19. Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling
20. Alice Marble
21. Sarah Palfrey
22. Jadwiga Jedrzejowska
23. Anita Lizana
24. Pauline Betz
25. Margaret Osborne
26. Doris Hart
27. Shirley Fry
28. Louise Brough
29. Zsuzsa Körmöczy
30. Maureen Connolly
31. Angela Mortimer
32. Althea Gibson
33. Darlene Hard
34. Christine Truman
35. Ann Haydon Jones
36. Maria Bueno
37. Lesley Turner
38. Nancy Richey
39. Margaret Smith Court
40. Billie Jean Moffitt King
41. Françoise Durr
42. Rosie Casals
43. Virginia Wade
44. Evonne Goolagong Cawley
45. Chris Evert
46. Martina Navratilova
47. Sue Barker
48. Virginia Ruzici
49. Mima Jausovec
50. Tracy Austin
51. Wendy Turnbull
52. Pam Shriver
53. Hana Mandlikova
54. Andrea Jaeger
55. Zina Garrison
56. Helena Sukova
57. Gabriela Sabatini
58. Steffi Graf
59. Mary Joe Fernandez
60. Arantxa Sanchez
61. Jana Novotna
62. Monica Seles
63. Conchita Martinez
64. Jennifer Capriati
65. Mary Pierce
66. Lindsay Davenport
67. Iva Majoli
68. Martina Hingis
69. Venus Williams
70. Amélie Mauresmo
71. Serena Williams
72. Elena Dementieva
73. Justine Henin
74. Francesca Schiavone
75. Kim Clijsters
76. Anastasia Myskina
77. Vera Zvonareva
78. Svetlana Kuznetsova
79. Maria Sharapova
80. Ana Ivanovic
81. Dinara Safina
82. Jelena Jankovic
83. Na Li
84. Marion Bartoli
85. Lucie Safarova
86. Flavia Pennetta
87. Agnieszka Radwanska
88. Sabine Lisicki
89. Victoria Azarenka
90. Dominika Cibulkova
91. Sam Stosur
92. Caroline Wozniacki
93. Petra Kvitova
94. Angelique Kerber
95. Sara Errani
96. Roberta Vinci
97. Eugenie Bouchard
98. Simona Halep
99. Garbine Muguruza
100. Karolina Pliskova

In bold: players still active in singles.

This new list emphasizes the probability for active players to improve over their results. It's a list that will evolve with future results anyway.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Maybe we should suggest a Top 200? Let's start to set another list for that.

1. Muriel Robb
2. Ethel Thomson Larcombe
3. Dora Boothby
4. Hazel Hotchkiss Wightman
5. Marguerite Broquedis
6. Mary Kendall Browne
7. Daphne Akhurst
8. Kea Bouman
9. Eileen Bennett
10. Phoebe Holcroft Watson
11. Betty Nuthall
12. Joan Hartigan
13. Kay Stammers
14. Nancye Wynne Bolton
15. Nelly Adamson Landry
16. Dorothy Head
17. Patricia Canning
18. Beverly Baker
19. Angela Buxton
20. Shirley Bloomer
21. Sandra Reynolds
22. Vera Sukova
23. Yola Ramirez
24. Karen Hantze
25. Judy Tegart
26. Carole Caldwell
27. Helen Gourlay
28. Kerry Melville
29. Helga Niessen
30. Olga Morozova
31. Betty Stove
32. Sylvia Hanika
33. Kathy Jordan
34. Natasha Zvereva
35. Anke Huber
36. Nathalie Tauziat

64 others to be added. The first condition is a slam final BUT we could complete such list to salute the remarkable consistency of players like Claudia Kohde-Kilsch and Manuela Maleeva. Kohde-Kilsch reached 4 slam SF and 5 slam QF. Manuela Maleeva reached 2 slam SF and 11 slam QF. You may say (the debate is endless) it was more easy in their days than now, but it's still remarkable.

So far I only rank the lists chronologically. I think it's important to keep chronology in mind. Eras were different, we always need to keep them in mind.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
Since the criteria of this top 100 is mostly slam centered (I keep an eye on the world ranking of each player, though), let's remind a few facts.

The four slams: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open were definitely fixed as they are in 1988. All with draws of 128, and cast of best players of the world.

The French, Wimbledon and the US Open were already fixed as such since 1983, but not the Australian. The Australian made admirable efforts to join the big four from 1983 to 1988. From 1983 to 1985, still had a draw of 64 players, but then improved vastly in 1987, changing the date from December to January, with a draw of 96 players for its last year on grass, before locating for good in (what is now called) Melbourne Park in 1988 on a new surface, Rebound Ace. Only change since then was replacing Rebound Ace for Plexicushion in 2008.

US Open is played on DecoTurf since its location to Flushing Meadow in 1978. From 1921 to 1977, it was played at Forest Hills on grass, except for 1975 to 1977, that was played on green clay.

Wimbledon and the French, on the other hand, always were specifically related to grass and clay respectively. It's part of their trademark, and soul.

Wimbledon always was the most prestigious of the four, but there was a short time the draws were bigger at the US Open, in 1981 and 1982. The US had 128 players in those years whereas Wimbledon was keeping it to the traditional 96. Tradition is a big thing at Wimbledon, and part of its greatness. Draw of 96 players was its rule - and never changed - from 1946 to 1982. And it used to be much bigger than the US and French Open until 1975. From 1976 to 1980, the US joined Wimbledon with a draw of 96 players. The French joins them with the same draw of 96 in 1981 and 1982. From 1969 to 1980, the French had a draw of 64 players (suddenly decreased after 1968, and I suspect it was a consequence of the 1968 riots). But from 1958 to 1968, the French had often a bigger draw than the US Open, except from 1962 to 1964. The French even had a draw of 98 players in 1965. But the French wasn't famous for its perfect organization - maybe you could say it was part of its charm. Beyond organizations, the magic was still happening on the courts, even nightmares ended to be memorable - tell me about magic! :lol:

The players were infuriating, but they kept coming back.

Wimbledon was still the first event to have a draw of 128 players in 1934. But it was 96 from 1929 to 1939 already. In those years, the average for the US Open was 60, 50 for the French, 30 for the Australian. It's in 1928 that the French was set to Roland-Garros. In 1927 that seeds took place at Wimbledon (with a draw of 80, which was a record).

It's in 1922 that the challenge round was abolished at Wimbledon. Before that, the title holder only had to play one match to keep it... That abolishment was done earlier at the US, in 1919. Before 1921, the womens US Championships were played at Philadelphia on grass.

Premium Member
39,263 Posts
Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Still on the slam centered subject: which are the players who reached slam quarters (or beyond) the most?

1. Chris Evert (54) 1971-89
2. Martina Navratilova (52) 1973-94
3. Serena Williams (47) 1999-2017
4. Margaret Court (43) 1960-75
5. Doris Hart (42) 1942-55
6. Steffi Graf (42) 1985-99
7. Billie Jean King (40) 1962-83
8. Venus Williams (37) 1997-2017
9. Arantxa Sanchez (35) 1987-2000
10. Lindsay Davenport (31) 1994-2006
11. Monica Seles (31) 1989-2002
12. Helen Jacobs (31) 1927-41
13. Ann Haydon Jones (30) 1957-69
14. Louise Brough (30) 1942-59
15. Maria Bueno (29) 1958-68
16. Gabriela Sabatini (28) 1985-95

From that list, Evert, Navratilova, Serena, Court and Graf are the only ones who have a higher number of trophy wins over their number of finals, SF or QF reaches. Exception made of Evert who has same number of wins and SF (18).

So here are your *goats*. ;)
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