World number one male tennis player rankings

World number one male tennis player rankings

World number one male tennis player rankings is a year-by-year listing of both the male tennis player who, at the end of a full year of play, has generally been considered to be the best overall player for the entire year, and of the runner-up for that year.

Unofficial rankings before 1973

Before the open era of tennis arrived in 1968, rankings for amateur players were generally compiled only for a full year of play. Professional players were ranked by journalists, promoters, and players' associations usually at the end of the year. Even for amateurs, however, there was no single official overall ranking that encompassed the entire world. Instead, nation rankings were done by the national tennis association of each country, and world rankings were the preserve of tennis journalists. It was only with the introduction of computerized rankings in the open era that rankings were issued more frequently than once yearly. Even the end-of-year amateur rankings issued by official organizations such as the United States Lawn Tennis Association were based on judgments made by men and women and not on mathematical formulas assigning points for wins or losses.

In 1938, for instance, when Don Budge won the amateur Grand Slam, it was easy to conclude that Budge was not only the U.S. No. 1 but also the World No. 1 amateur player. It was far more difficult, however, to decide who was the best overall player, amateur or professional, for that year because both Ellsworth Vines and Fred Perry, now professionals, were still at the top of their form. Two different sources, however, carefully studied the performances of the players for that year and both concluded that Budge was the best overall player, with Vines a close second. For the previous year, 1937, one of these same sources concluded that all three players, Perry, Vines, and Budge, deserved to be called the co-World No. 1 players.

Another example was 1947. Bobby Riggs, a professional, had clearly established himself as the best player in the world the year before. In 1947, he was still the best professional player but Jack Kramer had a sensational amateur year. The following year, 1948, Kramer turned professional and defeated Riggs decisively in a long series of matches. It is feasible to argue, therefore, that Riggs and Kramer were the co-World No. 1 players for 1947.

1948 was the last year in which an amateur player turned professional and then went on to beat the defending professional champion. Therefore, it is generally acknowledged that the World No. 1 in every year since 1948 has been the best professional player.

Even here, however, some years present difficulties. Kramer was perhaps the world's best player in 1950 and 1951 when he crushed first Pancho Gonzales and then Pancho Segura in head-to-head tours but was dominated in tournaments by those same players. In 1952, there was no long, headline tour. Instead, there were short tours between different players and several professional tournaments, with the result that none of the professionals played extensively. The short-lived Professional Lawn Tennis Association published an end-of-the-year list in which Segura was ranked the best player in the world, with Gonzales second. During the year, however, Gonzales had defeated Segura 4 matches to 1. Segura had also won a number of important tournaments; so, it is probable that Segura and Gonzales were co-World No. 1 players for the year.

The following year, 1953, Kramer narrowly defeated the top amateur-turned-professional, Frank Sedgman, in their tour during the first half of the year and so reestablished himself as World No. 1, at least for that period. But then, because of injuries, he did not play the second half of the year. As a result, Kramer was now in semi-retirement.

In 1954, there were a number of round-robins as well as shorter tours, from which it is clear that Gonzales had now established himself as the best player in the world, the first year in a run of seven consecutive years as the World No. 1. But, given the spotty and often contradictory record-keeping of the professional results since 1926, it is frequently difficult to make a clear, objective judgment as to who was the best player in any number of years.

Professional tennis in Europe before 1926

The first professional tour was held in North America in 1926 with Suzanne Lenglen as the main attraction. [ [ Suzanne Lenglen and the First Pro Tour] ] Before then, there were numerous "teaching" professionals, that is, players who gave lessons for money at private clubs and public parks. Because they accepted money in return for their services, they were not allowed to participate in amateur tournaments. They did, however, create a number of relatively small professional tournaments for players like themselves, primarily in Europe.

Some of the oldest professional matches known are those between Irish player George Kerr and American Tom Pettitt. In 1889, Kerr beat Pettitt three times in four meetings. In June 1890, Kerr won all three matches against Pettitt in Dublin.

In April 1898, a professional, round-robin tournament was played in Paris on covered courts. Both Thomas Burke "(tutor of the Tennis Club de Paris, former teacher of Joshua Pim who won Wimbledon twice)" from Ireland and Kerr (Fitzwilliam Club) defeated Tom Fleming (Queen’s Club), and Burke defeated Kerr 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.

During the 1900 Paris Exhibition, a professional tournament was held on clay, with Burke finishing ahead of both Kerr and the Englishman Charles Hierons.

In the spring of 1903 in Nice on clay, Reggie Doherty, the leading amateur, defeated the leading professional, Burke, 1-6, 6-1, 6-0, 6-0.

Burke was reportedly as good a player as the leading amateurs [ The (London) Times 1920 March 21] , but he is totally forgotten today, as was later Charles Haggett, the best English teaching professional. In 1913, Haggett settled in the United States, invited by the West Side Tennis Club of Forest Hills, New York and became the coach of the American Davis Cup team. In practice matches, he beat the leading amateurs Tony Wilding, Wimbledon winner and Maurice McLoughlin, Wimbledon All Comer's winner. [ [ World's best tennis player known to experts] ]

In the 1920s, Karel Koželuh, Albert Burke (son of Thomas Burke), and Roman Najuch were probably the most notable, as well as the best, of these players. The Bristol Cup, held at Beaulieu or at Cannes on the French Riviera and won seven consecutive times by Koželuh, was "the world's only significant pro tennis tournament." [ [ "History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter II", by Ray Bowers] ] Koželuh went on to become one of the very best of the touring professionals in the 1930s; so, it is easy to imagine that he, Burke, and probably other forgotten teaching professionals were among the top 10 amateur and professional players in any given year before 1928, which is the first year for which any of the sources cited here give a ranking for all the top players of that year. All top 10 rankings for the years before 1928 were for amateurs only.

The major professional tournaments before 1968

Tradition on the pro circuit was non-existent before 1968 because the event hierarchy could change each year. Some major tournaments, however, stood out at different times, as the Wikipedia article Major professional tennis tournaments before the Open Era explains.

Elite events that lasted only a few years (mostly because of financial collapse) included:

* Bristol Cup: 1920s,
* Queen's Club Pro: 1928
* Southport tournament: 1935-1939
* World Pro Championships in Berlin: 1930's
* U.S Pro hardcourt: 1945
* Philadelphia: 1950-1952
* Tournament of Champions: 1956-1957
* Masters Pro Round Robin: 1957-1958
* Australian Pro: 1954, 1957-1958
* Madison Square Garden Pro: 1966, 1967
* Wimbledon Pro: 1967
* Bonnardel Cup: 1930s
* Kramer Cup: 1961-1963

Three major tournaments held a certain tradition and usually had the best of the leading players. They were called "Championship Tournaments." The most prestigious of the three was generally the London Indoor Professional Championship. Played between 1934 and 1990 at Wembley Arena in the United Kingdom, the tournament was unofficially and usually considered the world's championship until 1967. The oldest of the three was the United States Professional Championship, played between 1927 and 1999. Between 1954 and 1962 it was played indoors in Cleveland and was called the World Professional Championships. The third major tournament was the French Professional Championship, played between 1934 and 1968, generally at Roland Garros. The British and American championships continued into the open era but devolved to the status of minor tournaments. The winner and runner-up in each of these tournaments will be shown for the years in which they were played.

These three tournaments (Wembley Pro, French Pro and U.S. Pro) through 1967 are sometimes referred to as the professional Grand Slam tournaments by tennis historians. In any particular year, another tournament, such as the Forest Hills Pro or the Masters Pro, could have had a better field. But over the decades, these were the three "majors" that all professional players sought.

The Open Era

ources of rankings and other information

Other years dating back to 1913 also present difficulties and ambiguities. The rankings below, however, all come from various sources that are as authoritative as can be found. There are eighteen sources:

*"The United States Tennis Association Official Encyclopedia of Tennis" (1981). [cite book |author=Shannon, Bill |title=United States Tennis Association Official Encyclopedia of Tennis |publisher=Harper & Row |location=San Francisco |year=1981 |pages= |isbn=0-06-014896-9 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=] This book has annual rankings for the top 10 players as compiled every year from 1914 through 1980. These rankings were made annually by various tennis experts at a London newspaper, The Daily Telegraph: Wallis Myers (1913-1938), John Olliff (1939-1951), and Lance Tingay (1952-1967). These rankings, however, included only amateur players. Beginning with the 1920s, some of the best players in the world were professionals. Once they became professionals, as Bill Tilden did in 1931, they were no longer included in these annual lists.

*"History of the Pro Tennis Wars", by Ray Bowers, is a website ["History of the Pro Tennis Wars, Chapter I", by Ray Bowers,] associated with [ the Tennis Server website] . In thirteen chapters, Bowers gives a very detailed account of the first twenty years of the professional tennis tours, from a modest beginning in 1926 with Suzanne Lenglen and Vincent Richards as the main attractions, on through 1945. He also gives detailed results of some of the tournaments played by professionals in addition to the main head-to-head tours. In his summing-up for each year since 1928, he gives his rankings for the best players of that year, combining both amateurs and professionals, with the number of players ranked varying from year to year. In all cases prior to 1940, his rankings coincide with those of The Daily Telegraph as far as amateurs are concerned.

*"Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia" (2003), by Bud Collins. [cite book |author= |title=Total Tennis: The Ultimate Tennis Encyclopedia |publisher=Sport Media Publishing |location=Kingston, NY |year=2003 |pages= |isbn=0-9731443-4-3 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=] This massive work has year-by-year chapters in which Collins gives a brief summation of the pro tour results, often with personal comments about the players. It also has somewhat more complete rankings from the early years of the "Daily Telegraph". The combined amateur-professional rankings for 1968 through 1972 are those of Collins himself. Beginning with 1973, the Association of Tennis Professionals began issuing computer-generated weekly rankings. Collins shows the top 10 players in these rankings for the last week of every calendar year through 2002.

*"The History of Professional Tennis" (2003), by Joe McCauley. This book was published in the United Kingdom and is a year-by-year account of the professional tours and tournaments between 1926 and 1968. The book has 80 pages of year-by-year results for as many tournaments, tours, and head-to-head matches as the author, a long-time writer for "World Tennis" magazine, could find.

*Professional Lawn Tennis Association (PLTA). The PLTA was composed of a group of professional players in the late 1940s and early 1950s and, for several years, issued its own official rankings of professional players at the end of each year. The PLTA was also apparently called the Professional Players Association (PPA) in at least 1946.

*"The Game, My 40 Years in Tennis" (1979), by Jack Kramer. [cite book |author=Deford, Frank; Kramer, Jack |title=The Game: My 40 years in Tennis |publisher=Putnam |location=New York |year=1979 |pages= |isbn=0-399-12336-9 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=] Kramer's autobiography has information about the 1954 professional tour that is somewhat different from the other sources but that must be considered authoritative in that Kramer himself was the tour promoter that year.

*Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). The ATP has issued its own year-end ranking of the top male players every year since 1973.

*"Tennis Is My Racket" (1949), by Bobby Riggs. Riggs's autobiography has information about the 1946 professional tour that is slightly different from the other sources. He also writes at length about his 1948 tour with Kramer but says nothing about his playing record in 1947, about which there is much conflicting information.

*"The Last Sure Thing: The Life & Times of Bobby Riggs" (2003), by Tom LeCompte. [cite book |author=Lecompte, Tom |title=The Last Sure Thing: The Life & Times of Bobby Riggs |publisher=Black Squirrel Publishing |location= |year=2003 |pages= |isbn=0-9721213-0-7 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=] This biography published after Riggs's death jibes with his own information for 1946 but is at odds with other sources about Riggs's record in 1947.

*"Vainqueurs 1946-2003" (2003), by Michel Sutter ("Winners 1946-2003" in English). Apparently based mostly on information drawn from the French sports magazine L'Équipe, this is an updated edition of his earlier book "Vainqueurs 1946-1991". Both books list the winners of many professional tournaments and matches for the years shown in their titles, but the earlier book also listed the runner-ups, scores, and the exact dates as well as some commentary, in French and in English, by the author for each year.

* ("History of tennis"). This is a [ French website] that has much interesting information, particularly in its extended chapters with the history of tennis. Some of its information about the professional tour in 1954, however, seems to conflict with other sources. The 1954 information may actually be for 1953.

*"Der Grösste Meister. Die denkwürdige Karriere des australischen Tennisspielers Kenneth Robert Rosewall" (1999), by Robert Geist. This is a detailed account of Ken Rosewall's career with many statistics and, in particular, his annual rankings during his professional career.

*"Anthony Wilding A Sporting Life" (2005), by Len and Shelley Richardson.

*"Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club: 100 Years in Australian Tennis", by Richard Yallop. [cite book |author=Yallop, Richard |title=Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club: 100 Years in Australian Tennis |publisher=Curry O'Neil |location= |year=1984 |pages= |isbn=0-85902-393-1 |oclc= |doi= |accessdate=]

*"Modern Tennis" (1915), by P.A. Vaile (second edition).

*"Lawn Tennis" (1889), by Methven Brownlee (Arrowsmith, Bristol)

*"Kings of the court. The story of lawn tennis." by E.C. Potter. (Barnes and Company, New York, 1963.) A very good tennis history book, has many details about the pre-WWI players.

*"Fifty years of Wimbledon. " by Wallis Myers. (The Field, London, 1926.) Each year of Wimbledon is examined, although it does not contain Top10 world rankings.

However there are sometimes contradictions between all these sources.

Discrepancies in source material

A good example of the occasional lack of authoritative material about the early years of the professional players is the somewhat surprising fact that the very existence of the 1936 and 1938 Wembley tournament is in question. Two sources, Collins and McCauley, give results for the Wembley tournament in each year. Bowers, however, is adamant that neither took place and offers some evidence to support his view.

Another example is 1947. Collins says that Riggs beat Budge in a tour; McCauley says that there was no long tour, only a short one between Riggs and Frank Kovacs. Tom LeCompte says that there was a small tour with Riggs overcoming Budge 12-6 followed by the short Riggs-Kovacs tour (4-3, but 11-10 according to McCauley).

Other examples : the French Pro until 1933. McCauley says that the first year of the French Pro is unknown but begins his list in 1930 whereas Ray Bowers doesn't talk about any French Pro before 1934 (even in 1934 he doesn't use the expression "French Professional Championships" but writes "a three-day tournament at (Roland) Garros, September 21-23"). For example in 1933, the supposed Tilden-Cochet final (6-2 6-4 6-2) listed by McCauley was just according to Bowers a singles match (with a slightly different score 6-3 6-4 6-2) of a USA-France meeting (in the Davis Cup format) at Roland Garros (where Cochet defeated Bruce Barnes, Tilden beat Plaa and Cochet and Barnes overcame Plaa and the US won the doubles).

The world number one and number two from 1877

These rankings are objective in intent but admittedly sometimes arguable.

Before 1973 there was no computer rankings but only journalists or officials (on their personal behalf) or promoters or players themselves who listed their own annual rankings.

In 1973 the ATP listed its own rankings every fortnight and some years later (around 1977) every week but they had many imperfections because in the seventies and the eighties they didn’t take into account such events as the Davis Cup, the WCT Finals and the Masters (later called the Singles Championship and in the 2000’s the Tennis Masters Cup). Nowadays the Tennis Masters Cup give ATP points. (See : List of ATP number 1 ranked players).

Therefore other rankings proposed by tennis experts or by the players themselves could be more accurate because they included these events : From 1973 to 2006 this list sometimes differs from the ATP list because it shows journalists (or even players) rankings and not computer rankings. In particular Connors has been ranked #1, at the end of the year, from 1974 to 1978 by the ATP but the majority disagreed the computer rankings : for instance in 1975 all the journalists (among them John Barrett, Bud Collins, Barry Lorge, Judith Elian) ranked Arthur Ashe as the number 1 in the world while his ATP ranking was only 4th; in 1977, no one, except the ATP ranking, considered that Connors was the best player in the world, and everyone thought that Borg and Vilas were tennis kings; and in 1978 everyone and in particular the ITF recognized that the Swede was the World Champion. In 1982 and in 1989 respectively Connors and Becker both winners of Wimbledon and the US Open were considered as World Champions even though the ATP ranked respectively McEnroe and Lendl as number 1. Since the mid-90s the ATP rankings had been more or less accepted by many as the official rankings (but in 1999 many considered Sampras as the second best player in the world while the ATP ranked Kafelnikov 2nd). Finally since 1978 the ITF (represented at the beginning by Sedgman, Hoad and Trabert) has designated his World Champion.

Before 1913 very few sources are available but Richard Yallop in "Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club 100 Years in Australian Tennis" stated that Norman Brookes was the champion of the world in 1907 and Len and Shelley Richardson in "Anthony Wilding A Sporting Life" cite A.E Crawley's (a British journalist at the beginning of the XXth century) and Anthony Wilding's (the New Zealander tennis player) opinions A. = Amateur P. = Professional

From 1913 sources are more detailed and better documented.

Male tennis players No. 1 or Co-No. 1, since 1877 "(sorted by descending number of years)"

(Earliest first for those with identical numbers; (probably) undisputed No. 1 year in Boldface and Co-No. 1 year in normal characters) :

*8 years Pancho Gonzales, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960
*7 years William Renshaw, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1889
*7 years Bill Tilden, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1931
*7 years Rod Laver, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970
*6 years Reggie Doherty, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902
*6 years Jack Kramer, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953
*6 years Ken Rosewall, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1970
*6 years Pete Sampras, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
*5 years Joshua Pim, 1890, 1891, 1893, 1894, 1895
*5 years William Larned, 1901, 1902, 1908, 1909, 1910
*5 years Hugh Lawrence "Laurie" Doherty, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906
*5 years Fred Perry, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1941
*5 years Don Budge, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942
*4 years Wilfred Baddeley, 1891, 1892, 1895, 1896
*4 years Ellsworth Vines, 1932, 1935, 1936, 1937
*4 "periods" Bobby Riggs, 1941, 1943-1945, 1946, 1947 "(Riggs has been considered as the best player for the entire period of 1943-1945 when the tennis activity was very limited because of war; this is why a ranking year by year would have been possibly inadequate : Riggs in particular played just one match in 1943, none in 1944 and about twenty in 1945)"
*4 years Björn Borg, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
*4 years Roger Federer, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
*3 years Ernest Renshaw, 1887, 1888, 1892
*3 years Joshua Pim, 1893, 1894, 1895
*3 years Anthony Wilding, 1911, 1912, 1913
*3 years Henri Cochet, 1928, 1929, 1930
*3 years Jimmy Connors, 1974, 1976, 1982
*3 years John McEnroe, 1981, 1983, 1984
*3 years Ivan Lendl, 1985, 1986, 1987
*2 years John Hartley, 1879, 1880
*2 years Willoughby Hamilton, 1889, 1890
*2 years Ernest Lewis, 1890, 1891
*2 years Malcolm Whitman, 1899, 1900
*2 years Norman Brookes, 1907, 1911
*2 years Maurice McLoughlin, 1912, 1914
*2 years Bill Johnston, 1919, 1922
*2 years René Lacoste, 1926, 1927
*2 years Pancho Segura, 1950, 1952
*2 years John Newcombe, 1970, 1971
*2 years Stan Smith, 1971, 1972
*2 years Stefan Edberg, 1990, 1991
*2 years Lleyton Hewitt, 2001, 2002
*1 year Spencer Gore, 1877
*1 year Frank Hadow, 1878
*1 year Herbert Lawford, 1887
*1 year Wilberforce Eaves, 1897
*1 year Robert Wrenn, 1897
*1 year Arthur Gore, 1901
*1 year Gerald Patterson, 1919
*1 year Jack Crawford, 1933
*1 year Ilie Năstase, 1973
*1 year Arthur Ashe, 1975
*1 year Guillermo Vilas, 1977
*1 year Mats Wilander, 1988
*1 year Boris Becker, 1989
*1 year Jim Courier, 1992
*1 year Andre Agassi, 1999
*1 year Gustavo Kuerten, 2000
*1 year Andy Roddick, 2003

Top tennis players by decade

* 1870s - John Hartley, 1879, 1880
* 1880s - William Renshaw, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886 & Ernest Renshaw, 1887, 1888, 1889, 1892
* 1890s - Reggie Doherty, 1897, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1901, 1902 & Wilfred Baddeley, 1891, 1892, 1895, 1896 & Joshua Pim, 1890, 1891, 1893, 1894, 1895
* 1900s - Hugh Lawrence "Laurie" Doherty, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906
* 1910s - Anthony Wilding, 1911, 1912, 1913
* 1920s - Bill Tilden, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1925, 1931
* 1930s - Ellsworth Vines, 1932, 1935, 1936, 1937 & Fred Perry, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1941 & Don Budge, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942
* 1940s - Bobby Riggs, 1941, 1943-1945, 1946, 1947 & Jack Kramer, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1953
* 1950s - Pancho Gonzales, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960
* 1960s - Ken Rosewall, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1970 & Rod Laver, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970
* 1970s - Jimmy Connors, 1974, 1976, 1982 & Björn Borg, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980
* 1980s - John McEnroe, 1981, 1983, 1984 & Ivan Lendl, 1985, 1986, 1987
* 1990s - Pete Sampras, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
* 2000s - Roger Federer, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007



* "History of the Pro Tennis Wars", by Ray Bowers
** [ Chapter I: Suzanne Lenglen and the First Pro Tour]
** [ Chapter II, Part 1: The eminence of Karel Kozeluh and Vincent Richards 1927-1928]
** [ Chapter II, Part 2: Deja vu 1929-1930]
** [ Chapter III: Tilden's Year of Triumph in 1931]
** [ Chapter IV: Tilden and Nusslein, 1932-1933]
** [ Chapter V: The Early Ascendancy of Vines, 1934]
** [ Chapter VI: Vines's Second Year: 1935]
** [ Chapter VII: Awaiting Perry, 1936]
** [ Chapter VIII: Perry and Vines, 1937]
** [ Chapter IX: Readying for Budge, 1938]
** [ Chapter X: Budge's Great Pro Year, 1939]
** [ Chapter XI: America, 1940-1941]
** [ Chapter XII: America, 1942]

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