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7 Most Popular Tennis Players of All Time

In an individual sport like tennis, winning usually gives people a great opportunity to also be popular. The best players get center court as much as possible and play on TV quite a bit.

Trying to come up with the seven most popular tennis players of all time is very difficult. For this list, both men and women were considered. Tennis became a fairly popular sport during the 1970s, which is why this list also leans more towards players in the open era.

Everyone has their favorites, but these seven seem to rank amongst the most universally loved.

7. Billie Jean King

The star power of Billie Jean King was already there before the Battle of the Sexes. When she was able to beat Bobby Riggs in a marquee tennis match, she instantly became a popular sports star.

She will forever live on as the namesake for the Billie Jean King Center at the U.S. Open. She also just happened to play a role in starting the WTA in the first place.

A living legend in tennis, she’s one of the most recognizable faces in sports.

6. Pete Sampras

Pete Sampras was one of those players who could do everything right on the tennis court without necessarily making a big deal out of things. He was unassuming, quiet, and dominant on fast surfaces.

Even though he might not be as universally loved as some of the others on this list, everyone respected his play.

The popularity of Sampras only went up as he started to age. People realized that his style of play was different from most others of his era.

He relied on hitting hard first and second serves to dictate points. He wasn’t afraid of coming to the net and ending points early.

Even though he would break down on slower surfaces, he still finished his career with the most Grand Slam titles ever on the men’s side.

5. Kim Clijsters

Kim Clijsters appears to be the most easy-going player of her generation. A lot of people loved the fact that she played in an entertaining style, while also seemingly being friends with everyone on tour.

She was popular before coming back after having a kid, but then she reached another level as the marquee mom on tour.

When she was able to win Grand Slam titles after becoming a mother, her fan base made her arguably the most popular player on either tour.

4. Rod Laver

Still considered by some people to be the greatest tennis player of all time, Rod Laver is a living legend who continues to make appearances at tournaments.

In the middle half of the 1960s, he was the best player in tennis. The Australian got along with a lot of other players on tour, and it was hard for him to have a lot of enemies.

Just like Evert, Laver always had fans that like to root for the underdog. He stands just 5’8” tall, which made him short even for that era.

Despite his physical limitations, he was a very technically-sound player who could hit strong groundstrokes while also mixing in his patented serve and volley game.

3. Chris Evert

Chris Evert was a young, girl-next-door type of player when she first hit the professional tennis scene. Being able to have success very early also made her a very popular player.

Even though she had some rivalries during her career, a lot of players respected her ability to make the most out of what she was able to do on the court.

There is something to be said for the fact that she wasn’t the most physically dominating player. She didn’t hit for a lot of power, but she was a counter puncher playing from the baseline who drove other players crazy.

Post-tennis career, she’s stayed in the limelight as a commentator for big tournaments.

2. Rafael Nadal

The fighting spirit of Rafael Nadal is something that even his non-fans can appreciate. He has been a dominant figure on the tennis tour since he came onto center stage in the mid-2000s.

In particular, he’s been virtually impossible to beat on the red clay at the French Open. Whether it’s fighting through injuries or battling back after being down early, his passion for the game has drawn a lot of fanfare.

A humble player who’s quick to give his opponents credit if they play well, even fans of other players have respect for Nadal. The only real complaint, some have is his slow style of play.

His matches can last hours and hours even while he wins in straight sets due to his slow pace between points.

1. Roger Federer

Seemingly everything about Roger Federer makes him a popular player. He’s one of the all-time greats as far as wins are concerned, sitting with 20 Grand Slams in his career.

His ability to play at such a high level despite looking like he is gracefully moving around the court makes him about as close to a perfect tennis star as possible.

A worldly player who speaks several languages, this has also allowed him to endear himself to the general public even more.

Federer is currently in the twilight of his career, but fans are very quick to be there for him whenever he plays in a tournament.

Does Popularity In Tennis Matter?

The popular players tend to get a few perks for drawing a crowd. For starters, they almost always get preferential treatment when it comes to what court they play on during a tournament.

After all, tennis officials want to make sure that they are getting the best crowds, so they are going to put them in the largest stadiums.

There is nothing wrong with the player not being popular and still picking up victories consistently. After all, popularity doesn’t play a role in who wins or loses.

With that said, the general public gravitates more towards winners, which is why all of the players above have such a reputation.