Rafael Nadal continued his incredible tennis legacy by winning yet another French Open this month. It was his 14th title at Roland Garros alone.
‘Who has won the most Grand Slam titles’ has become the benchmark for measuring tennis greatness, and Nadal’s achievements certainly cement him among the finest players of all time.
Just where does he stand on the list of Open Era Grand Slam winners, though? Who has won the most?
Margaret Court and Bjorn Borg – 11
If we are talking about the ‘most Grand Slam titles’ ever, then Margaret Court gets the nod. More than half of those titles were won before the Open Era, though, when professional players were not permitted to compete in them.
However, the Australian was a powerhouse in the Open Era, too, even reaching a Wimbledon final whilst pregnant in 1971.
Bjorn Borg is perhaps the ultimate ‘burn bright, retired young’ sports star in history. The Swede walked away from tennis at just 26, but he still had time to leave his mark.
Borg only actually won two of the four Grand Slam tournaments, but he won them an awful lot. His 11 majors include six French Open titles and five successive Wimbledon crowns. His record could have been even better, but he lost another five finals, including four at the US Open.
Pete Sampras – 14
You’ve got to give Pete Sampras his due. The American was not always the most popular among fans given his often robotic demeanour and the fact he denied Andre Agassi the career most wanted him to have, but boy could that man win Grand Slan titles. By the time Sampras was done, many considered his tally of 14 to be unassailable in the men’s game. Obviously Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have proven that folly, but the fact the perception existed is testament to the scale of what Sampras achieved.
Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert – 18
When people say the Nadal/Djokovic/Federer era is unprecedented in tennis, politely remind them about Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. For years Navratilova and Evert did battle on the tennis court, completely dominating the WTA at that time and sharing 36 Grand Slam titles evenly between them. The shared 324 titles between them in total – and that’s just the ones they won in the singles.
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic – 20
There is probably a big asterisk next to Djokovic’s name here, as you get the feeling he is far from done yet. As things stand, Djokovic and Federer are currently tied on 20 and that’s a number that was once considered absolutely unthinkable. At 40 years old, Roger Federer’s Grand Slam winning days are almost certainly behind him, but expect to see Djokovic move further up the list in the coming months.
Steffi Graf and Rafael Nadal – 22
If you are searching for some perspective about what Rafael Nadal has achieved, then consider this: If the French Open was the only Grand Slam Nadal had ever played, he would have still won as many majors as the great Pete Sampras.
The fact Nadal has achieved this while battling Federer and Djokovic only makes it even more remarkable. Should his foot hold out for a couple more years you’d have to back him to at least emulate Serena Williams’ number of career Grand Slam titles.
Steffi Graf, meanwhile, was as dominant as they come back in the late 80s and 90s. She was probably lacking in truly great rivals, if truth be told, especially after what happened to Monica Seles, but that shouldn’t detract from her legacy. Graf is the only singles player to win the ‘Golden Slam’ of all four majors and an Olympic gold medal in the same year, which is truly astonishing.
Serena Williams – 23
It’s ironic that we have grown obsessed about whether or not Serena Williams will break the all-time record held by Margaret Court when she already has the one that matters the most – the Open Era record.
Every time Williams plays a major, which is rare these days, the narrative always centers around her ‘quest to equal Margaret Court’s record’ of 24 career Grand Slam titles, but it shouldn’t be. Serena Williams already stands above the rest, although Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will definitely now be targeting her.
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