When she retired from singles play following the 1994 season, the magnificent lefty had compiled a total of 167 titles, the most of any player in tennis history, regardless of gender. Her win-loss record? A staggering 1,438-212.
2. BILLIE JEAN KING, USA
Remembered for her battle of the sexes win over Bobby Riggs in 1973, King was an aggressive serve-and-volleyer who won a record 20 Wimbledon titles (six singles).
3. STEFFI GRAF, GERMANY
With a devastating forehand and rabbit-quick reflexes, Graf redefined athleticism in the women’s game. She’s won more major singles titles (21 going into 1999) than anyone but Margaret Smith Court (24).
4. CHRIS EVERT, USA
The darling of American tennis, her tenacious baseline game vaulted her to the 1971 U.S. Open semifinals at age 16. Evert went on to win 18 major singles titles in all, including seven French and six U.S. Opens.
5. MARGARET SMITH COURT, AUSTRALIA
Aggressive and tall (5-11), Court is the only player ever to win Grand Slams in singles (1970) and doubles (mixed, 1963). She’s won more major titles (62) than any other player.
6. HELEN WILLS MOODY, USA
Known as “Little Miss Poker Face” for her stoic demeanor, Wills Moody was an eight-time Wimbledon and seven-time U.S. Open winner in the ’20s and ’30s.
7. SUZANNE LENGLEN, FRANCE
Lenglen won six straight Wimbledon titles, from 1919 to ’25.
8. MONICA SELES, YUGOSLAVIA/USA
A ferocious competitor, Seles won eight majors before being stabbed courtside in 1993.
9. ALTHEA GIBSON, USA
She was the first African-American to play in the U.S. Championships (1950) and the first to win (1957).
10. MAUREEN CONNOLLY, USA
She became the first woman to win a Grand Slam (1953).
TOP 10 MOMENTS, WOMEN
1. GRAF’S GOLDEN SLAM (1988)
Graf not only becomes the third woman to capture the Grand Slam, she also wins the singles gold medal at the first Olympic tennis tournament to be accorded full medal status since 1924.
2. LITTLE MO COMES UP BIG (1953)
Maureen Connolly becomes the first woman to win a Grand Slam. Tragically, her career is cut short when she injures her leg in a freak accident the following year and is forced to give up the sport at age 19.
3. KING BEATS RIGGS IN “THE BATTLE OF THE SEXES” (1973)
See Top 10 Moments, Men.
4. NAVRATILOVA RULES WIMBLEDON (1990)
Martina Navratilova wins a record-breaking ninth singles championship, breaking her tie with Helen Wills Moody. It’s the final major singles title of her career.
5. THE WOMEN UNITE (1971)
Tired of playing second fiddle to the men, the top female players, led by Billie Jean King and Gladys Heldman, form their own tour and union, the Women’s Tennis Association.
6. THE “OPEN” ERA BEGINS (1968)
See Top 10 Moments, Men.
7. SELES IS STABBED (1993)
During a changeover at a tournament in Germany, Monica Seles is stabbed in the back by a man who claimed to be a Graf fan. Ranked No. 1 at the time of the assault, Seles was sidelined for over two years while she recovered both physically and mentally.
8. GIBSON WINS THE FRENCH (1956)
Althea Gibson, who became the first African-American to be permitted to play in the U.S. Championships in 1950, also becomes the first to win a Grand Slam singles title with her victory at Roland Garros.
9. PROFESSIONAL TENNIS IS LAUNCHED (1926)
Flamboyant Suzanne Lenglen of France, who had dominated amateur tennis to date, accepts $75,000 to join the first professional tennis tour.
10. A FAMILY AFFAIR (1999)
At the Lipton Championships, 18-year-old Venus Williams defeats her 17-year-old sister, Serena, in the final, the first time sisters had met in a major tournament final this century.