A fast player in tennis has a distinct advantage over his opponent. Not only can they get two more balls than the average person, but just that fear of having to hit balls a little bit better can force opponents to make mistakes.
Of the 15 guys to make this list, all of them were not only fast, but quick during their prime. After all, it’s worthless to be fast on the tennis court if a player can’t also make quick decisions and use them to their full advantage.
Here are the 15 fastest tennis players of all time.
15. Rod Laver
The first few making this list deserve recognition for their speed during the era. Rod Laver is a perfect example, as he was a very fast, all-court player in the 1950s and 1960s.
He wouldn’t be as fast as some of the top players in tennis today, but so much has changed over the decades.
Only 5‘8“ tall, Laver could play a variety of ways to suit his strengths. His serve and volley game worked because he was able to get to the net very quickly. He could move side to side with ease to open up opportunities.
14. Bjorn Borg
Borg was one of the first modern-day players to play from the baseline and now be free to chase down balls and extend rallies.
For him to have success, he had to be incredibly fast. He found ways to wear down his opponents and have success in a variety of ways.
Thanks to Borg, fitness became a bigger and bigger focus for the top players. He helped usher in the current era that everyone’s used to today.
13. Sebastian Grosjean
Sebastian Grosjean made four Grand Slam semifinals, but he never found a way to go beyond that. A massive nightmare for a lot of players, his speed wore people down.
Not only does it allow for a lot of court coverage, but it also gives him an option to hit his forehand as much as possible.
Consider Grosjean as another player to maximize his talents thanks to his speed. Without high-level speed, he was just an undersized tennis player with pretty average strokes for a professional.
His one elite skill allowed him to win four titles and get as high as #4 in the world in singles.
12. Björn Phau
Journeyman tennis player Bjorn Phau never made it to the third round of any Grand Slams. His career-high #59 in the world is also very unassuming. However, he became a bit of a legend on tour for his outstanding speed and fitness.
Undersized at 5‘9“ tall, he needed to use all of his speed to compete at the highest level. Unfortunately, he didn’t possess the weapons necessary to compete with the very best players in the world. He has a few memorable wins, but more than the speed needed to help him get to the top.
11. James Blake
The court coverage for James Blake turned him into a professional player after a successful start to his college career at Harvard. He could back it up with some powerful shots as well.
Blake would likely be higher on his list if his stamina was just a bit better. While he was as fast as anyone in the first set, he will start to lose a step later on in a match.
Players knew this about him, hoping to extend the match. Meanwhile, Blake played low-percentage tennis as an offensive-minded attacker.
10. Gilles Simon
Movement-wise, Gilles Simon is another player who might not seem all that fast on television or even in person. However, video analysis shows that he’s not only one who can reach top speeds rarely seen in tennis, but he has an average speed that puts him near the top as well.
Simon was a very consistent baseline player who always found ways to stay relevant during his prime. He never made it beyond the quarterfinal of any Grand Slam event, but his consistency got him to #6 in the world back in 2009. Still playing on tour to this day, he does enough with his speed to put fear in the opposition.
Pure talent is always just a small part of having success at the highest level in tennis. Simon never possessed outstanding shots or any huge weapons, but his speed allowed him to take down some of the best players in the game during their prime.
When he was dialed in with his shots, the speed turned into a valuable weapon.
9. Alex De Minaur
The 23-year-old Australian hasn’t done a ton at the ATP level just yet. However, many believe that he is a promising youngster who can consistently stay in the top 10 once he reaches his peak.
How will he compete? It comes down to his speed in many cases.
Known as a speed demon on tour, he retrieves balls and hits defensive shots all over the court. He’s a counter puncher who hopes to gain a bit more power to take control of points in his career.
8. Roger Federer
People might not think of him as a speedster these days, but he’s a long way removed from his prime. During his prime years, he was very fast and could anticipate shots as well.
His movement on the court allowed him to always be in a position to take off on quick sprints. He can still turn it up to chase down balls today, giving him just another weapon to count on.
7. Michael Chang
For Michael Chang to hold up against the best players in the world, the diminutive American relied on speed.
He is one of the most successful counter punchers in tennis history, running all around the court to extend points and try to outlast opponents.
Chang got the most out of his tennis talent. He only won one Grand Slam as a 17-year-old in 1989, but he was a mainstay on tour for 15 years.
6. Lleyton Hewitt
The warrior mentality of Lleyton Hewitt allowed him to chase down balls that few others could during his prime. His speed is what allowed him to get to #1 in the world and win a Grand Slam title.
Unfortunately, his legs started to let him down a bit later in his career. Injuries started to pile up and he was out of the game after a relatively short career. His speed during his prime could match up with anyone on tour.
5. Carlos Alcaraz
Tennis fans are very excited to see the future of Carlos Alcaraz. He’s young, talented, and can chase down nearly any ball on the court. That opens up a ton of opportunities for him to be a future Grand Slam champion with the right mindset.
There are quite a few comparisons between him and Rafael Nadal, and speed is one of them. He’ll need to showcase speed a little bit longer to move up this list, but he’s one to watch moving forward.
4. Rafael Nadal
Even though he makes the top 15 list, some might argue he should be higher on this list. His speed has always been tremendous, but it’s more his anticipation that allows him to get so many balls.
Nadal is always in the right position, which helps him make up for some of his minor deficiencies.
Clay courts have always been his specialty, and he makes running around look so easy on that surface. Sliding into shots and changing directions is a breeze.
3. Andy Murray
One of the most unassuming fast players to make this list is Andy Murray. He doesn’t necessarily seem like he’s fast as he slowly walks around between points, but video analysis shows him to be one of the best in the game during his prime. His ability to track down balls played into his defensive style of play.
Once injuries started to pile up, Murray never quite regained his full talent. He is still on tour trying to compete the best he can, but his speedster days are behind him.
2. Novak Djokovic
Statistics have shown in the past that Novak Djokovic is one of the fastest players ever. Not only can he reach top speeds in a match, but he has the stamina to go over and over again.
The raw numbers show that he deserves mention at the very top of any fastest tennis player ever list. What makes him even seem faster is that he has quickness and flexibility to get to shots.
His ability to hit balls with pace on a full stretch allows him to extend points that others can’t.
1. Gael Monfils
Until Gael Monfils retires, he’s always going to be on the list of the fastest tennis players. During his prime, he was as fast as anyone, and his highlight reel shows only part of the story.
Tracking down balls became a specialty for Monfils early in his career. Not only does he have speed, but his size and length allow him to reach seemingly everything. Having a great slide on clay courts and even hard courts helps out tremendously as well.
Why Speed Kills In Tennis
Speed in tennis can make a huge difference in any match. As the technology gets better and points become extended, players with outstanding speed will chase balls down that others can’t.
It’s impossible for speed alone to make a huge difference, but it’s one of the top attributes a player can have today. It should come as no surprise that this list was littered with players with many Grand Slams.