3. Martina N.
10. Martina H.
I'm 59 yo. Been watching pro tennis since 1972 -- Chrissie at the U.S. Open. What I'm trying to do here is imagine a counter-factual scenario in which these women could play each other. That's why, e.g., Chrissie, pin-point precise as her groundies were, doesn't actually play with Naomi or Bianca, the two best players in the game right now. That's what I think -- that founders-generation wouldn't be able to stay on the same court with the game-post-Williams sisters. However, with proper supply of a big racquet and training, I'd love to see how the quartet of Navratilova/Steffi/Seles/Henin would do.
Oh, and I never saw Margaret Court play (but I've heard her commentate -- which was ugly enough). And Maria does not convince me that Meldonium isn't the reason she took the last of her majors -- the French she stole from Halep. Halep would be an interesting prospect for this list if she had that third major.
At last! Someone else who realises that "all time" doesn't start at 1980 or 1990. Connolly is also in my wider group, at least, as is Maria Bueno. I would also include Wills, Lottie Dodd and Dorothea Chambers to join Lenglen from "long ago." I really can't understand people who omit a player who lost one singles match in her Grand Slam CAREER, finishing with an unbeaten streak of 179 matches, and was never beaten in doubles. Can you seriously imagine that happening today?I'll go with:
1. Steffi Graf
2. Serena Williams
3. Martina Navratilova
4. Suzanne Lenglen
5. Margaret Court
6. Chris Evert
7. Billie Jean King
8. Maureen Connolly
9. Monica Seles
10. Justine Henin
Great thread. I put both Seles and Connolly in my list simply because of the unknown - both had incredible achievements up to the age of 19 when both had their careers derailed - Seles had 8 Grand Slams by then and Connolly 9. Helen Wills also could be in there no question but I chose Lenglen over her because I felt her remarkable athletisism could translate into any era. I'm sure there are plenty of other incredible players that haven't been mentioned yet.
And yet you left out Suzanne Lenglen? How is that possible?1) Steffi Graf
2) Serena Williams
3) Martina Navratilova
4) Chris Evert
5) Margaret Court
6) Billie Jean King
7) Maureen Connolly
8) Helen Wills Moody
9) Monica Seles
10) Venus Williams
Decided to include some VERY OLD SCHOOL players because their achievements matter too...had Henin at #10, changed my mind after considering doubles achievements...PS: I haven't seen any other list beforehand...
Steffi still belongs at #1...she achieved the calendar golden slam which I predict will NEVER BE ACHIEVED AGAIN!!!...Serena's one slam more is not enough to overtake that...
Um...the Australian and US Opens didn't exist when Lenglen was playing, so it was a bit hard for her to win them! 😂 Like I wrote, she lost just ONE match between Wimbledon and the two French Opens in which she played - and she slaughtered Helen Wills Moody the only time they met.LOL...i'm funny that's why...Suzanne Lenglen only won 8 slams...Moody has 19 and Conolly has a calendar slam in 1953....that was my original thinking...
Well...one match is hardly a very good indication...Having said that I have no idea where to put Lenglen...YIKES...Um...the Australian and US Opens didn't exist when Lenglen was playing, so it was a bit hard for her to win them! 😂 Like I wrote, she lost just ONE match between Wimbledon and the two French Opens in which she played - and she slaughtered Helen Wills Moody the only time they met.
I know, but her results speak for themselves. Besides, enough film of her remains for you to see just how amazing a player she actually was.REALLY????...#1....in all seriousness, her achievements are hard to measure since it was soooo long ago
It began as the Australasian Championships, restricted to players from Australia and New Zealand, and was even held twice in New Zealand (1906 and 1912). The ILTF didn't designate the tournament as a major tournament until 1924, and it was renamed the Australian Championships in 1927. It didn't become the Australian Open until 1969. The section from Wikipedia regarding travel, which is pretty obvious when you think about it, reads:...btw, Australian Open did exist...it was founded in 1905.
The US National Championship (NOT the US Open) began in 1881, and catered only for men. The first women's event was held in 1887. However, these were originally only for members of clubs affiliated to the USNLTA. The ILTF didn't designate the tournament as a major tournament until 1924, just like the Australian Open, and it wasn't named the US Open until 1968, when professional players were first allowed to compete.US Open existed too...it was founded in 1881
I wrote an (excellent) post that vaguely explained Lenglen's achievements aeons ago that I can't find, but the way I'd qualify her is: in the earliest years of tennis, very few players played multiple majors in a year. The Australian was inaccessible, the French was limited to just French players, and so unless a French player also played Wimbledon (sometimes happened) or a British/American played the US Open/Wimbledon (also rare), you just didn't get much crossover. Lenglen was the first to win two majors in the same year, and she did more than that.REALLY????...#1....in all seriousness, her achievements are hard to measure since it was soooo long ago...btw, Australian Open did exist...it was founded in 1905. US Open existed too...it was founded in 1881
Suzanne Lenglen - first to win more than one major in a year, first true star
Helen Wills-Moody - the first clear-cut GOAT, and first to win three majors in a year
Althea Gibson - tennis moves away from the country club - tennis for everyone
Maria Bueno - first great not from a major hosting country - tennis goes global
Billie Jean King - the game becomes a sport, with a star who understands the politics of women's sports
Evonne Goolagong - tennis moves out of the country club and becomes a sport for the people
Chris Evert - tennis-as-sport gets a superstar who becomes a GOAT contender in singles
Martina Navratilova - the superstar gets a rival who becomes an all-around GOAT contender
Steffi Graf - tennis gets a GOAT contender singles who doesn't give a toss about the public side
Serena Williams - tennis gets a GOAT contender who moves the sport into the 21st century
The hardest ones to skip were Maureen Connolly, Margaret Court, Monica Seles, and Venus Williams.
I decided Connolly was simply too brief a career to include and while she was the first to win 'the slam', a 25 player draw (I don't even understand how that works!) in Australia takes some of the shine off of it.
I decided that Court's contribution to the professionalism and athleticism of the sport were also pioneered by BJK and accelerated by Navratilova, and while she was the first to win 'the slam' when there were some serious contenders at Australian Opens, the 1970 event featured a 43 player draw, less than 5 of whom were non-Australian
The ones who I see the most sense in 'bumping' are Gibson, Bueno, and Goolagong, but they each did very specific if related things to make the sport truly international and for-all, and to remove them in favor of players more accomplished on-court, but less significance off-court, would be a disservice.
As much as I'd like to remove Graf from the list for either Seles or Venus Williams, I think she marked a significant turning point for the sport: the top player no longer has to care about the sport in a macro way, and can focus, in a micro-sense, on her own success. Graf paved the way for a lot of things we see today, from the early-era Williams sisters playing limited calendars and choosing what they wanted to play, to hell with the tour, to Maria Sharapova being a stone-cold ice monster, etc.
Nah, we count that as a loss. We live by "Justine Henin is a coward", and Lenglen gets no benefit of the doubt just because Molla Mallory was tanning her hide that day.The ILTF didn't designate the tournament as a major tournament until 1924, just like the Australian Open, and it wasn't named the US Open until 1968, when professional players were first allowed to compete.
Lenglen competed just once, in 1921, and her second round loss to Molla Mallory was the only time she was beaten after the First World War. She didn't actually lose it - she retired ill after the first game of the second set after Mallory took the first.
That's a superb summation. Obviously you've quoted them in date order, but Lenglen's feat of winning 287 matches out of 288 (and retiring ill in the other), against the very best that the world had to offer (because she played against the best American players as well as the best Europeans) stands out for me - irrespective of styles or equipment.We had a thread vaguely about this same topic during the offseason [edit: sorry, it got bumped during the offseason, it was started back in 2002 in WTAWorld days] -https://www.tennisforum.com/threads/the-history-of-womens-tennis-in-ten-names.47393/
I wrote an (excellent) post that vaguely explained Lenglen's achievements aeons ago that I can't find, but the way I'd qualify her is: in the earliest years of tennis, very few players played multiple majors in a year. The Australian was inaccessible, the French was limited to just French players, and so unless a French player also played Wimbledon (sometimes happened) or a British/American played the US Open/Wimbledon (also rare), you just didn't get much crossover. Lenglen was the first to win two majors in the same year, and she did more than that.
What Suzanne Lenglen did in 1925, winning the French Open and Wimbledon, in singles, doubles, and mixed back-to-back in roughly 5 weeks time, was turn tennis from a pastime into a sporting phenomenon. Tennis, and sport, became something women could do, with a genuine desire to win. Yes, it was a thing only rich people could do (there was still no money in sport for women) but she was the original tomboy as manic pixie dream girl with the skills to back it up.
I think ranking the greats is impossible, because until the 80s, the majors weren't all equal. But it's pretty straightforward, in my mind, to figure out who mattered in the sport's early days and who didn't. Hence, my list....