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10 best men's tennis players of all time

Newsday's Jeff Williams ranks the 10 best men's tennis players of all time.

See Williams' 10 best women's tennis players of all time.

10. JOHN MCENROE

Grand Slam titles: 7 Overall titles: 71 John
Credit: Getty Images / John Kelly

Grand Slam titles: 7

Overall titles: 71

John McEnroe has been such an omnipresent television commentator for more than two decades, it might be possible to forget how good he was on the court. He was the consummate serve-and-volley player. He had a disguised service motion -- his back would be turned almost completely toward the baseline -- that perplexed opponents, as did his complete net coverage and his ability to play any sort of volley. His volatile nature, his famous disputes with umpires, earned him the nickname "McEnrow" from the British press.

9. IVAN LENDL

Grand Slam titles: 8 Overall titles: 94 Fans
Credit: Getty Images

Grand Slam titles: 8

Overall titles: 94

Fans at the U.S. Open saw a lot of Ivan Lendl in the 1980s when he appeared in eight consecutive U.S. Open finals, winning three of them. Newsday's Joe Gergen once described him as the "Argyle Menace" for his rather offbeat tennis shirts and his brooding presence. The Czech player launched rockets from his forehand, his trademark shot, particularly on the run. Of the four Grand Slams, he failed to win only at Wimbledon. He once skipped the tournament, saying he was allergic to grass, but he was an avid golfer.

8. JIMMY CONNORS

Grand Slam titles: 8 Overall titles: 109 When
Credit: AP

Grand Slam titles: 8

Overall titles: 109

When it came to dogged determination, no one could top Jimmy Connors. For all his titles, his run to the semifinals at the 1991 U.S. Open was one of the outstanding achievements in the game. On his 39th birthday, he defeated Aaron Krickstein in a match that lasted 4 hours, 41 minutes. He was beaten in the semis by Jim Courier, but described that tournament as "the greatest 11 days of my tennis career." Connors was brash and bold, in contrast to a playing style that was subtle and cunning. He held the No. 1 ranking for 160 weeks from 1974-77.

7. ANDRE AGASSI

Grand Slam titles: 8 Overall titles: 60 No
Credit: Getty Images / Brad Barket

Grand Slam titles: 8

Overall titles: 60

No doubt that Andre Agassi was tennis' rock star. He had a certain cocky attitude, a certain look to his game and a certain look to his tennis clothing that made him sort of a rebel. But he could also play the game, and his return of serve was regarded as the best ever. He was the first male player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments on three different surfaces (grass, hard court and clay). Once married to actress Brooke Shields, maybe his greatest accomplishment was marrying all-time great Steffi Graf.

6. BJORN BORG

Grand Slam titles: 11 Overall titles: 64 The
Credit: Allsport UK

Grand Slam titles: 11

Overall titles: 64

The Silent Swede was a teenage sensation in the 1970s and is credited with helping propel the popularity of the game. Bjorn Borg didn't say much, but spoke loudly with his racket and his 11 Grand Slam titles came on opposing surfaces: six on Wimbledon's grass and five on the French Open's clay. He lost four finals at the U.S. Open, and because the Australian Open was such a long trip and often was at the end of the season in his day, he played in it only once. One statistic really stands out -- the age of his retirement: 26. He tried a couple of comebacks with little success, but he had already made a major mark.

5. NOVAK DJOKOVIC

Grand Slams: 17 Overall titles: 80 Novak Djokovic
Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Grand Slams: 17
Overall titles: 80
Novak Djokovic has thrust himself into the upper echelon of the sport and is now third on the list of Grand Slam winners with 17. Eight of those Grand Slam wins have come in the Australian Open, where he won to start the 2020 year. Djokovic is the greatest defensive player of all-time. He not only gets to every ball and gets every ball back, he also has the uncanny ability to turn defense into offense with a single shot. He has won all nine ATP Masters titles twice, the only player to do so, and is the all-time leading money winner with $143 million.

4. ROD LAVER

Grand Slam titles: 11 Overall titles: 52 The
Credit: Getty Images

Grand Slam titles: 11

Overall titles: 52

The man of the Popeye left forearm was an explosive package of power and style in a 5-8 frame. That forearm was measured at 12 inches full circumference, and did Rod Laver ever know how to use it. The lefthanded Australian had the ability to wait until the last microsecond before hitting a shot, leaving his opponents off-balance. He was the No. 1 player of the 1960s, his career beginning before the Open Era, and while the ATP credits him with 52 official victories, the figure by some accounts is as much as 200. Laver won the calendar year Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and 1969.

3. PETE SAMPRAS

Grand Slam titles: 14 Overall titles: 64 His
Credit: AP

Grand Slam titles: 14

Overall titles: 64

His serve was so lethal, they called him "Pistol Pete." But its sheer power brings to mind the word "bazooka." Sampras used that serve, which he often backed up by coming to net, to storm through the 1990s. He announced himself early, winning the 1990 U.S. Open at the age of 19. That was the first of his 14 Grand Slam titles that included a record seven of them at Wimbledon, where his serve-and-volley game worked to perfection. He was also extremely aggressive from the baseline, where from both sides he was capable of hitting rockets down the line. He went out in style, winning the 2002 U.S. Open title by defeating longtime rival Andre Agassi.

2. RAFAEL NADAL

Grand Slam titles: 19 Overall titles: 85 If
Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Grand Slam titles: 19
Overall titles: 85
If Roger Federer is tennis' beauty, Rafael Nadal is its beast. Nadal's physical and guttural style of play is almost the polar opposite of Federer's, but there is no doubt it is also superbly effective, especially on the clay. Twelve of Nadal's Grand Slam titles have come on the red clay of Roland Garros at the French Open, a record achievement never to be duplicated. You might even say that Nadal could be No. 1 all-time, considering his record against Federer. Nadal has been Federer's nemesis with an overall 24-16 record against him that includes 11-3 in Grand Slams.

1. ROGER FEDERER

Grand Slam titles: 20 Overall titles: 103 If
Credit: Getty Images / Glyn Kirk

Grand Slam titles: 20

Overall titles: 103

If a player's place in history were to be judged solely on the beauty of their play, Roger Federer would be hands down No. 1. But judged solely on accomplishment, Federer also is hands down No. 1. His 20 major singles titles are still the best, though he hasn't won one since 2018. Federer has proven he can win on all surfaces against all opponents and do so with unparalleled grace. Federer once held the No. 1 world ranking for 237 weeks consecutively and for a total of 302 weeks, both records in the Open Era (since 1968). At age 39 with a balky knee that has kept him out this season, time is running out on the all-time best.

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