Greatest U.S. Men's Tennis Players of All Time
Americans used to rule the world in men's tennis. For over a century, no country dominated Grand Slams like the United States. Every generation produced great tennis stars, dating all the way back to the 1890s.
But something happened in the last 20 years. The Americans have fallen off the map. No American has won a Grand Slam singles title in men's tennis since 2003, when Andre Agassi won the French Open to complete a career Grand Slam and Andy Roddick won his lone Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open.
Will Americans ever rise to the top of men's tennis again? Only time will tell, but until, then we have history to guide us. These are the greatest American men's tennis players of all time.
30. Johan Kriek
Born: April 5, 1958 (Pongola, South Africa)
Career: 17 years (1978-94)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — Australian Open (1981, 1982)
Bottom line: Technically, only one of Johan Kriek's Grand Slam single titles go on the books under the U.S. tally. He was a citizen of South Africa when he won the Australian Open in 1981, then became an American citizen before he repeated as champion in 1982.
Kriek had 14 career singles titles but never made it to a Grand Slam final again after 1982, making it to the French Open semifinals in 1986.
Kriek's real impact on the world goes far beyond the tennis court. In 2005, he founded the nonprofit Global Water Foundation in order to get clean water to the neediest communities in the world.
29. Michael Chang
Born: Feb. 22, 1972 (Hoboken, New Jersey)
Career: 16 years (1988-2003)
Grand Slam titles: 1 — French Open (1989)
Bottom line: Michael Chang is still the youngest winner of a Grand Slam singles title in history, bringing home the 1989 French Open championship when he was just 17 years old.
Chang's career wasn't just a flash in the pan despite that being his only Grand slam title. He made it to Grand Slam singles finals three more times, once more at the French Open and once each at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open.
He also had one of the more baller shoe deals of any tennis player in history, inking a multimillion-dollar endorsement contract with Reebok to wear their Reebok Victory Pumps.
28. Alex Olmedo
Born: March 24, 1936 (Arequipa, Peru)
Died: Dec. 9, 2020 (age 84, Los Angeles, California)
Career: 18 years (1960-77)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — Australian Open (1959), Wimbledon (1959)
Bottom line: Alex Olmedo's inclusion on this list comes with a bit of an asterisk. He moved to the U.S. from Peru when he was young but didn't officially become a U.S. citizen until much later. He did, however, begin to compete for the U.S. in Davis Cup competitions in the late 1950s.
Olmedo played in all three of his Grand Slam singles finals in 1959, winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon but losing to Neal Fraser in the U.S. Open final.
Olmedo had one of the more interesting post-tennis careers on this list. He was the club pro at the Beverly Hills Hotel for more than 40 years, counting some of the biggest movie stars in the world among his students.
27. Maurice McLoughlin
Born: Jan. 7 1890 (Carson City, Nevada)
Died: Dec. 19, 1957, (age 67, Hermosa Beach, California)
Career: 8 years (1912-19)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — U.S. Open (1912, 1913)
Bottom line: There were a couple of firsts that defined Maurice McLoughlin's career. He was the first Grand Slam singles champion from west of the Rockies and the first American to make it to the Wimbledon finals.
McLoughlin won the U.S. Open in back-to-back years in 1912 and 1913 and won doubles titles at the U.S. Open three more times.
An interesting aside is McLoughlin's 1915 book on tennis, "Tennis As I Play It," was ghostwritten by Sinclair Lewis, one of the greatest novelists of all time.
26. Vic Seixas
Born: Aug. 30, 1923 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Career: 31 years (1940-70)
Grand Slam titles: 2 —Wimbledon (1953), U.S. Open (1954)
Bottom line: Like almost all of the elite athletes from the Greatest Generation, Vic Seixas took three years out of his prime to fight in World War II, where he was a pilot in the Army Air Corps.
After the war, Seixas returned and won his two Grand Slam titles in his 30s, winning Wimbledon in 1953 and the U.S. Open in 1954. He lost two more times in the U.S. Open finals and once in the French Open finals in 1953.
Seixas was possibly the most accomplished doubles player of all time. He won 15 Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.
25. Dick Savitt
Born: March 4, 1927 (Bayonne, New Jersey)
Career: 9 years (1944-52)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — Australian Open (1951), Wimbledon (1951)
Bottom line: What ended Dick Savitt's career one year after he won the Australian Open and Wimbledon in 1951? The answer is a harsh truth — anti-Semitism.
He was the best player in the United States at that point, but Davis Cup captain Frank Shields decided to leave Savitt off the roster, using all of his power and several anti-Savitt speeches to keep him off the team.
Savitt went into the business world after he decided to leave tennis, working for Lehman Brothers and opening a business in Louisiana. His career is still a dark chapter in tennis history. It goes without saying he should have been treated much better.
24. Budge Patty
Born: Feb. 11, 1924 (Fort Smith, Arkansas)
Career: 21 years (1940-60)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — French Open (1950), Wimbledon (1950)
Bottom line: Arkansas native Budge Patty played the bulk of his career following World War II and saw his biggest success in his late 20s.
In 1950, Patty accomplished a rare feat that's only been accomplished by two other Americans, winning the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back.
For some reason, Patty's success didn't translate to the U.S. Open, where he never advanced past the quarterfinals.
Patty, 97, has lived in Switzerland with his wife for several decades.
23. Don McNeill
Born: April 30, 1918 (Chickasha, Oklahoma)
Died: Nov. 28, 1996, (age 78, Vero Beach, Florida)
Career: 13 years (1938-50)
Grand Slam titles: 2 —French Open (1939), U.S. Open (1940)
Bottom line: Don McNeill was only the second American to win the French Open, then won the U.S. Open in 1940. His career was heavily sidelined by World War II, where he was part of the Greatest Generation.
Upon returning from the war, McNeill's career largely took a backseat to his business interests. He only played in a Grand Slam final one more time, losing in the 1946 doubles final at the U.S. Open.
22. Jack Kramer
Born: Aug. 1, 1921 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Died: Sept. 12, 2009 (age 88, Bel Air, California)
Career: 8 years (1947-54)
Grand Slam singles titles: 3 — U.S. Open (1946, 1947), Wimbledon (1947)
Bottom line: Few players in tennis history did as much to push the sport forward as Jack Kramer, who relentlessly promoted the sport in the 1950s and 1960s following his three Grand Slam singles titles in the late 1940s.
Kramer was a huge proponent of the Open Era in tennis — where amateurs and professionals could play in the same tournaments — and helped it come to be.
Kramer was also incredibly humble. Despite having one of the best serve and forehand games of all time, he always chose to talk about other players and how great their shots were.
21. Bobby Riggs
Born: Feb. 25, 1918 (Los Angeles, California)
Died: Oct. 25, 1995 (age 77, Encinitas, California)
Career: 19 years (1941-59)
Grand Slam singles titles: 3 — Wimbledon (1939), U.S. Open (1939, 1941)
Bottom line: There were tennis players that had much more vaunted careers than Bobby Riggs, but few can say they achieved the level of fame he did in his lifetime.
And what's the point of being a professional athlete if you can't be super famous?
Riggs' fame started with him winning Wimbledon in 1939 and the U.S. Open in 1939 and 1941 but grew to unbelievable levels by his reputation as a hustler and a gambler. He reportedly won the equivalent of $2 million by betting on himself to win the singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon in 1939. Riggs also lost in the French Open finals once.
His most famous turn was "The Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, when he challenged and lost to female star Billie Jean King.
20. Ellsworth Vines
Born: Sept. 28, 1911 (Los Angeles, California)
Died: Oct. 25, 1995 ( age 82, La Quinta, California)
Career: 7 years (1934-40)
Grand Slam singles titles: 3 —U.S. Open (1931, 1932), Wimbledon (1932)
Bottom line: Ellsworth Vines had such a powerful serve that in the 1932 Wimbledon final, runner-up Bunny Austin claimed after that match that he couldn't even see the ball most of the time.
Vines also won a pair of U.S. Open championships in 1931 and 1932, with the first coming when he was just 19 years old.
Vines is one of the greatest all-around athletes in tennis history. In one of the more interesting career arcs in sports history, he switched careers and won three times as a golfer on the PGA Tour following his tennis career.
19. Bill Johnston
Born: Nov. 2, 1894 (San Francisco, California)
Died: May 1, 1946, (age 51, San Francisco, California)
Career: 16 years (1913-28)
Grand Slam singles titles: 3 —U.S. Open (1915, 1919), Wimbledon (1923)
Bottom line: Bill Johnston developed his tennis game due to a natural disaster. The San Francisco native was able to play the sport almost every day as a youth following the closure of schools in the city after the 1906 earthquake.
Johnston was the best player in the world in the late 1910s and early 1920s, winning the U.S. Open twice and Wimbledon once, but saw his career take a backseat to Bill Tilden starting in the early 1920s.
How much did Tilden dominate Johnston? Johnston lost in the U.S. Open finals a record six times, with five of those losses coming to Tilden.
18. Malcolm Whitman
Born: March 15, 1877 (New York, New York)
Died: Dec. 28, 1932 (age 55, New York, New York)
Career: 20 years (1896-1917)
Grand Slam singles titles: 3 — U.S. Open (1898, 1899, 1900)
Bottom line: Malcolm Whitman won three consecutive U.S. Open championships from 1898 to 1900 after becoming a national tennis star during his time at Harvard, where he also earned a law degree.
Whitman's career was a testament to the time. He helped the U.S. to Davis Cup victories in 1900 and 1902 but retired from the game by the age of 25.
Whitman's life after tennis was tinged with tragedy. His first wife died after the birth of their second child in 1909, then his 16-year-old daughter died of pneumonia in 1931. Whitman committed suicide by jumping off an apartment building in New York City in 1932 following a nervous breakdown.
17. Oliver Campbell
Born: Feb. 25, 1871 (Brooklyn, New York)
Died: July 11, 1953, (age 82, Campbellton, New Brunswick, Canada)
Career: 7 years (1886-92)
Grand Slam singles titles: 3 —U.S. Open (1890, 1891, 1892)
Bottom line: Brooklyn native Oliver Campbell won the first of three consecutive U.S. Open titles in 1890, when he was just 19 years old, and his record as the youngest winner of the tournament stood for 100 years until Pete Sampras broke Campbell's record in 1990.
Like all the other players of his era, travel across the Atlantic Ocean was difficult, and he only played in Wimbledon once, in 1892, following his third consecutive U.S. Open championship.
16. Frank Parker
Born: Jan. 31, 1916 (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Died: July 24, 1997, (age 81, San Diego, California)
Career: 23 years (1949-71)
Grand Slam singles titles: 4 —U.S. Open (1944, 1945), French Open (1948, 1949)
Bottom line: Milwaukee native Frank Parker was a tennis star in his childhood, winning his first national championship when he was just 12 years old.
Known for his stoic, unemotional demeanor on the court, Parker won back-to-back U.S. Open championships in 1944 and 1945, then won back-to-back French Open championships in 1948 and 1949. He also played in the U.S. Open finals two more times and lost.
Parker's place in history is largely lost because he wasn't the charismatic star that some others of his era were.
15. Stan Smith
Born: Dec. 14, 1946 (Pasadena, California)
Career: 17 years (1969-85)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — U.S. Open (1971), Wimbledon (1972)
Bottom line: It's easy to forget Stan Smith won two Grand Slam singles titles in the early 1970s. His name is synonymous to non-tennis fans with one of the more popular editions of sneakers ever made by Adidas.
But Smith, a Pasadena native, played in three Grand Slam singles finals in 1971 and 1972, and was a five-set loss to John Newcombe in the 1971 Wimbledon finals from going 3-0.
But really, those sneakers are fresh … to … death. My goodness.
14. Andy Roddick
Born: Aug. 30, 1982 (Omaha, Nebraska)
Career: 13 years (2000-12)
Grand Slam titles: 1 — U.S. Open (2003)
Bottom line: Don't feel bad for Andy Roddick and his 1-4 record in Grand Slam singles finals. His only win came in the 2003 U.S. Open.
Roddick, a Nebraska native, earned over $20 million just from tournament winnings alone and more than double that in endorsements. He also had a rocket launcher for a serve, hitting a U.S. Open record 152 miles per hour on two separate occasions.
Roddick had the misfortune of playing in the same era as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, who gobbled up almost every Grand Slam title for most of the 13 years Roddick was a pro.
13. Robert Wrenn
Born: Sept. 20, 1873 (Highland Park, Illinois)
Died: Nov. 21, 1925, (age 52, New York, New York)
Career: 12 years (1892-1903)
Grand Slam singles titles: 4 — U.S. Open (1893, 1894, 1896, 1897)
Bottom line: Four-time U.S. Open singles champion Robert Wrenn may be the best athlete in U.S. men's tennis history. He was a star in football, hockey and baseball at Harvard, where he was best known for being the team's quarterback.
Wrenn won the U.S. Open four times in a five-year stretch, and also fought in two different wars — with Teddy Roosevelt as part of the "Rough Riders" in the Spanish-American War, where he caught yellow fever, and in World War I, flying airplanes.
He also beat a murder rap in 1914, when he ran over and killed St. Mary's Church organist Herbert Loveday, but authorities declined to press charges.
12. William Larned
Born: Dec. 30, 1872 (Summit, New Jersey)
Died: Dec. 16, 1926 (age 53, New York, New York)
Career: 22 years (1890-1911)
Grand Slam singles titles: 7 — U.S. Open (1901, 1902, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1910, 1911)
Bottom line: Playing at the turn of the century, New Jersey native won all seven of his Grand Slam titles in the U.S. Open and never participated in the French Open or Australian Open.
Larned only played in Wimbledon twice, losing in 1896 and 1905 in the quarterfinals and is one of the more tragic tales in tennis history.
Larned served in the Spanish-American War in 1898, under Teddy Roosevelt as part of the "Rough Riders" and caught rheumatism in Cuba. It deteriorated his health slowly for the rest of his life, rendering him partially paralyzed in his late 40s.
Depressed by his condition and inability to lead life how he wanted, Larned committed suicide in 1926, at 53 years old.
11. Richard Sears
Born: Oct. 26, 1861 (Boston, Massachusetts)
Died: April 8, 1943 (age 81, Boston, Massachusetts)
Grand Slam singles titles: 7 —U.S. Open (1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1887)
Bottom line: Richard Sears is one of two players, along with William Larned, who was raised on the East Coast and won seven U.S. Open titles around the turn of the century.
Sears, a Boston native, actually won all seven of his U.S. Open titles in consecutive years, from 1881 to 1887, with the first coming while he was 19 years old and a student at Harvard.
One thing that needs to be pointed out is Sears only actually played a full tournament once, in 1881, because at that time the previous year's champion earned an automatic spot in the next year's finals.
10. Jim Courier
Born: Aug. 17, 1970 (Sanford, Florida)
Career: 13 years (1988-2000)
Grand Slam singles titles: 4 — French Open (1991, 1992), Australian Open (1992, 1993)
Bottom line: Is Jim Courier the most underrated American tennis player of all time? It's definitely possible, with a career that got lost in the wash of the rise of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and the tail end of the careers of John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors.
That's too bad because Courier was a great player.
Courier won all four of his Grand Slam singles titles in a three-year stretch from 1991 to 1993, winning back-to-back at both the French Open and Australian Open.
Courier came close to winning a career Grand Slam in that stretch, losing in the U.S. Open finals in 1991 and Wimbledon finals in 1993.
9. Tony Trabert
Born: Aug. 16, 1930 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Died: Feb. 3, 2021, (age 90, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida)
Career: 9 years (1955-63)
Grand Slam singles titles: 5 —French Open (1954, 1955), Wimbledon (1955), U.S. Open (1953, 1955)
Bottom line: Cincinnati native Tony Trabert was a renaissance man in the 1950s — a standout basketball player and NCAA tennis champion at the University of Cincinnati who became one of the world's finest tennis players.
What's amazing about Trabert's five Grand Slam singles titles is they all came in the first three years of his career. He missed a career Grand Slam by never winning the Australian Open, where the closest he came was losing in the 1955 semifinals.
After Trabert won the French Open in 1955, another American wouldn't win a singles title at Roland Garros until Michael Chang in 1989.
8. Don Budge
Born: June 13, 1915 (Oakland, California)
Died: Jan. 26, 2000 (age 84, Scranton, Pennsylvania)
Career: 18 years (1938-55)
Grand Slam singles titles: 6 — Australian Open (1938), French Open (1938), Wimbledon (1937, 1938), U.S. Open (1937, 1938)
Bottom line: The son of former professional soccer player Jack Budge, Oakland native Don Budge's greatest career achievement was becoming the first player to win all four Grand Slam tournaments in a single season, which he did in 1938.
He set another record by becoming the only person to win a triple crown — singles, doubles and mixed doubles titles — in the same tournament.
Budge's career was a shooting star. He won all six of his Grand Slam titles in 1937 and 1938.
7. Arthur Ashe
Born: July 10, 1943 (Richmond, Virginia)
Died: Feb. 6, 1993, (age 49, New York, New York)
Career: 12 years (1969-80)
Grand Slam titles: 3 — U.S. Open (1968), Australian Open (1970), Wimbledon (1975)
Bottom line: Arthur Ashe's place in history goes beyond tennis. If you want evidence, just read his stunning memoir "Days of Grace," which he finished just weeks before his death.
What made Ashe special on the court was his play. He's still the only Black man to win Grand Slam singles titles at the U.S. Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon and one of just two Black men to win a Grand Slam singles title along with Yannick Noah, who won the French Open in 1983.
Ashe died in 1993 from HIV-related complications contracted through a blood transfusion during heart surgery. He was just 49 years old.
6. John McEnroe
Born: Feb. 16, 1959 (Wiesbaden, West Germany)
Career: 17 years (1978-94)
Grand Slam singles titles: 7 — U.S. Open (1979, 1980, 1981, 1984), Wimbledon (1981, 1983, 1984)
Bottom line: John McEnroe isn't just one of the most famous tennis players of all time. He's also one of the most famous professional athletes of all time.
McEnroe's fiery temper left a lasting impression on fans around the world, as did his talent, winning seven Grand Slam singles titles despite never winning a title at the Australian Open and French Open.
McEnroe's 155 combined singles and doubles titles are the most of any player in the Open Era, and he won nine Grand Slam doubles titles in his career.
5. Jimmy Connors
Born: Sept. 2, 1952 (Belleville, Illinois)
Career: 25 years (1972-96)
Grand Slam singles titles: 8 — Australian Open (1974), Wimbledon (1974, 1982), U.S. Open (1974, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1983)
Bottom line: One of the best-known tennis players of all time, Illinois native Jimmy Connors was never better than when he played in the U.S. Open, winning five of his eight Grand Slam singles titles there.
Connors missed a career Grand Slam by never winning the French Open, where he advanced to the semifinals on four occasions.
Perhaps the greatest moment of Connors career occurred at a Grand Slam event he didn't win, when he made it to the semifinals of the 1991 U.S. Open at 39 years old.
4. Bill Tilden
Born: Feb. 10, 1893 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Died: June 5, 1953, 60 years old (age 60, Los Angeles, California)
Career: 16 years (1931-46)
Grand Slam singles titles: 10 — Wimbledon (1920, 1921, 1930), U.S. Open (1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1929)
Bottom line: Bill Tilden was the first American to win Wimbledon in 1920 — the first of three Wimbledon titles.
Tilden held the record for the most Grand Slam finals appearances from 1929 until 2017, when Roger Federer made it to the Wimbledon finals for the 11th time. Tilden never won the French Open but made it to the finals there twice and never competed in the Australian Open.
Tilden wrote, produced and financed many Broadway plays and was blacklisted in his later years for being homosexual.
3. Andre Agassi
Born: April 29, 1970 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
Grand Slam singles titles: 8 — Australian Open (1995, 2000, 2001, 2003), French Open (1999), Wimbledon (1992), U.S. Open (1994, 1999)
Bottom line: Andre Agassi achieved a Career Grand Slam in 1999 by winning his only French Open title. He also is one of just four players to achieve a career Golden Slam — all four Grand Slam singles titles plus an Olympic gold medal — along with Rafael Nadal, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams.
Agassi is the last American to win the French Open, and his victory at the Australian Open in 2003 was the last time an American won a Grand Slam singles title.
Agassi has been married to women's tennis champion Graf since 2001 and authored one of the greatest sports autobiographies of all time with "Open: An Autobiography" in 2009.
2. Pancho Gonzalez
Born: May 9, 1928 (Los Angeles, California)
Died: July 3, 1995, (age 67, Las Vegas, Nevada)
Career: 26 years (1949-74)
Grand Slam titles: 2 — U.S. Open (1948, 1949)
Bottom line: Few tennis careers — in fact, few professional athletes in any sport —have seen their lives take on the Paul Bunyan status that Pancho Gonzalez's life did. Possessing perhaps the greatest serve in tennis history, Gonzalez won back-to-back U.S. Opens in 1948 and 1949, with the first coming when he was just 20 years old.
Gonzales's success in Grand Slam tournaments never extended beyond the U.S. Open, however, and despite being the No. 1 player in the world for most of the 1950s he didn't compete in Grand Slam events for almost 20 years, instead choosing to dominate in a series of similar pro tournaments when amateurs and pros couldn't play each other.
Gonzalez, who was married six times, died almost penniless and alone in Las Vegas in 1995, at 67 years old. Tennis star Andre Agassi, Gonzalez's former brother-in-law, paid for his funeral.
1. Pete Sampras
Born: Aug. 12, 1971 (Washington, D.C.)
Career: 16 years (1988-2003)
Grand Slam singles titles: 14 — U.S. Open (1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 2002), Wimbledon (1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000), Australian Open (1994, 1997)
Bottom line: Pete Sampras is the greatest American tennis player of all time, and it's not even really close. That's an incredible feat considering he never even completed a career grand slam.
Sampras won 12 of his 14 Grand Slam titles in the 1990s and missed out on winning eight consecutive Wimbledon titles with a loss to Richard Krajicek in the 1996 quarterfinals.
The only thing missing on Sampras' resume is a French Open title. The farthest he made it was the French Open semifinals in 1996. But he still ranks fourth all-time for most Grand Slam singles titles in men's tennis history.