Surviving on hard courts at the professional level means that a player must be able to handle fast play. Every hard court is slightly different, but the ball bounces faster in many cases. That means it rewards big hitters who also have great footwork.
Who are the greatest hard court players of all time? While it’s next to impossible to put together a definitive list across gender and era, these are the dominant forces in tennis history who won consistently.
Here are the 15 greatest hard court players of all time.
15. Kim Clijsters
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||79.5%|
Kim Clijsters found a way to dominate at the US Open before and after she had a child. All four of her Grand Slam championships came on hard court, showing that her playing style fit the surface.
Whether it’s on offense or defense, movement is a big part of Clijsters’ game. She’s willing to grind out points and fight for a win if necessary. Being able to have clean, hard strokes on hardcourts also gives her an edge in hitting winners.
Prone to errors on occasion, Clijsters gladly accepts her playing style compared to hesitating. No one wants to be holding back on shots because they feel like they won’t be able to hit them consistently enough.
14. Andy Murray
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||76.3%|
Andy Murray couldn’t keep up with the big three as contemporaries, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have an outstanding career of his own.
He only won the US Open once for his single hard court title at a Grand Slam, but making final after final showed his consistency on the surface.
What made Murray stand out was his ability to play well at every level of the tournament. Very rarely was he eliminated early, putting himself in the mix to win.
Along with his US Open championship, he also won the Miami Open, Canadian Open, Canadian Masters, and the Shanghai Masters two or more times each.
Beating each of the all-time greats on hard courts at least once proves that his best play could keep up with anyone.
13. Ivan Lendl
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||85.1%|
In the middle of the 1980s, Ivan Lendl showed that playing a predominately baseline game could result in success. Hard courts seemed a little too fast for that to occur, but he proved everyone wrong by winning the US Open three times and the Australian Open twice.
Winning is nice, but Lendl made eight consecutive finals at the US Open from 1982 to 1989. The level of consistency he reached shows that his approach to the game on hard courts allowed them to compete. That’s all anyone can ask for out of the sport.
12. Martina Navratilova
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||86.8%|
A serve and volleyer for most of her career, Martina Navratilova used this strategy consistently on all surfaces. This led to 167 total titles, and a lot of those came on hard court.
In the mid-1980s, she was a dominant force. At the U.S. Open, she won four Grand Slam singles titles. Navratilova was also an excellent doubles player who found most of her success on hard courts as well.
Her strengths always seemed to be on display better when playing a physical style of tennis on hard courts.
11. Jimmy Connors
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||81.2%|
For two and a half decades, Jimmy Connors played professional tennis at a high level. A lot of the records he still holds to this day are thanks to his hard court success.
The US Open was always very kind to Connors, as he won the tournaments five times. However, only the last three were on hard court. He never won the Australian Open, but it wasn’t as stressed as it is now when he was on tour.
A 1991 run to the semifinals for Connors at the US Open showed that he could still play at a high level on hard courts. Although he was unable to win the title at age 39, he captivated the fans along the way.
10. John McEnroe
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||81.8%|
|Hard Court Titles||63|
|Grand Slam Titles||7|
The native New Yorker found a way to win four US Opens in his career. Even though some might say that grass was his best surface, hard court was not far behind.
Being able to get to the net after a strong serve helped him on hard courts. He was never afraid to take chances since he grew up on the surface. The bigger the occasion, the better McEnroe played the game
9. Stefan Edberg
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||74.6%|
A serve and volleyer throughout his career, Stefan Edberg always enjoyed fast courts. He won back-to-back US Opens in 1991 and 1992, solidifying himself as one of the best hard court tennis players of all time.
Hard courts played into all of his strengths. Not only was his serve effective, but he could move a lot faster on steady hard courts. That meant he could get to the net and control points with his volleys.
A bit forgotten in today’s modern game, Edberg was a very consistent player on hard courts throughout his career. Even in smaller tournaments, he would make deep runs.
8. Monica Seles
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||79.3%|
Six Grand Slam titles on hard courts is impressive for any player. The fact that she had years robbed of her career thanks to the stabbing incident means that she very well would have finished with more. Playing two-handed from both sides, she found a way to hit hard and flat.
Hard courts worked best for her because she didn’t have to worry about as many bad bounces. Her fitness was superb, and it seemed like she got to anything on the court.
Having the opportunity to retrieve balls and keep it in play made her nearly impossible to beat even at a young age.
7. Steffi Graf
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||84.6%|
|Hard Court Titles||95|
|Grand Slam Titles||22|
Steffi Graf finished her playing career with nine Grand Slam singles titles at the Australian Open and US Open.
Her playing style worked well on hardcourts, as she was able to flatten shots and hit a little bit harder for great opportunities.
Even when she switched to hitting a slice backhand later on in her career, placing it in the right spots opened up chances to pounce later on in the point.
Her fast serve also proved to be much more effective on hardcourt. She could follow it up with amazing footwork that wasn’t slowed down as it could at times on clay.
Every single tennis player seems to be a little bit slower on clay, meaning Graf had a better advantage on hard courts.
6. Serena Williams
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||87.5%|
|Hard Court Titles||73|
|Grand Slam Titles||23|
Serena Williams has found ways to excel on every single surface in tennis. While Wimbledon can be argued as her best Grand Slam, she’s won a whopping 13 Grand Slam titles on hard court. That includes seven at the Australian Open, and six at the US Open.
Despite so much success at those tournaments, Williams never won the Australian Open and US Open in the same calendar year.
Her game is built for fast surfaces, as it allows her to hit winners and keep opponents off-balance at all times. Her movement hasn’t suffered at all playing on hard courts either. Especially later in her career, sloppy footwork hindered her play.
5. Rafael Nadal
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||74.4%|
There was thought early on in his career that Rafael Nadal would not be able to compete for Grand Slam titles on hardcourts.
Six Grand Slam championships later, that doesn’t seem to be an issue. Nadal won two Australian Opens, and four US Opens to add to his 22 total Grand Slam championships.
For Nadal to succeed at hard courts, he changes up his game a little bit. For starters, he plays closer to the baseline on his return of serve.
He also likes to flatten out his shots more than on clay or grass. Instead of relying on heavy topspin, he limits the upward strokes and tries to hit with more speed.
It’s hard to get much recognition as a hardcourt player when someone dominates on clay courts. Nadal deserves recognition for his play on all surfaces. He may not be the best hard court player, but he is undoubtedly the greatest clay court player of all time.
4. Andre Agassi
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||77.9%|
Andre Agassi finished his career with 10 hard court finals appearances at Grand Slams. He was able to finish victorious twice in the US Open, and four times at the Australian Open. Known for his versatility on all types of courts, he found considerable success with the fast hard surfaces.
One of the ways he found success on hard courts came down to his return of serve. He used fast serves from opponents to his advantage by hitting sharp returns and catching players by surprise. It messed with their timing considerably, and all of a sudden, Agassi had control.
Movement on hard courts also proved very easy for Agassi. In some cases, he would have some slippage problems on grass or clay courts. Later on in his career, Agassi became a fan favorite at the US Open for all that he was able to accomplish.
3. Roger Federer
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||83.4%|
|Hard Court Titles||67|
|Grand Slam Titles||20|
Is Roger Federer too low at number three on this list? Some people believe that he’s the best hard-court player of all time.
The numbers are hard to dispute, as he is sitting at 11 titles at the Australian Open and US Open. This includes winning the U.S. Open five times in a row from 2004 to 2008.
Consistent bounces off of hardcourts allow Federer to hit much cleaner shots at any time. He takes a lot more risks when he is on hardcourts because he knows that it can open up great opportunities for him.
2. Pete Sampras
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||79.8%|
The US Open domination from Pete Sampras turned him into an all-time great. Pistol Pete found ways to continually dominate in New York thanks to a great serve, on-point volleying, and a calm demeanor that never allowed him to get too high or too low.
Sampras won five titles at the US Open, and then two more at the Australian Open. The faster the court, the better he liked the surface. Arguing that he’s the greatest hard court player of all time comes down to personal preference.
1. Novak Djokovic
|Win Percentage (Hard Court)||83.1%|
The greatest player ever is also the best hard court of all time; Novak Djokovic has had success on every surface in tennis. Out of all the Grand Slams, his most dominant performances consistently come at the Australian Open.
A combination of factors plays into this, but it proves that he finds ways to take his game to another level.
A multiple-time winner of the US Open as well, hard courts have always been a good surface for Djokovic. He is one of those players who can slide easily on hard courts, which makes it that much more intriguing to watch him play.
Why Hard Court Is The Most Important Surface In Tennis
Two of the four Grand Slams are on hard courts. Even though the Australian Open and the US Open play differently, most will find that they can have similar success.
It might not be the preferred surface of training for tennis players, but accessibility is there. Instead of having to run around and try to find a court that’s probably maintained, hard courts stay strong through all the weather.
As a player graduates and moves up in tennis, they can still go back and appreciate what the hard courts provide. You can learn more about the different surfaces in this post.