The 10 Best Australian Tennis Players of All-Time

Margaret Court between Victoria Azarenka and another player

The game of tennis has long been a favorite sporting pastime for many aspiring athletes. Australia has generated some remarkably talented tennis players over the past few decades. In fact, some of the most talented tennis players of all time are from Australia. During the 1960s and 1970s (the start of the modern Open of tennis), Australia produced many superstar athletes and tennis players. While the sport has become more competitive, Australian tennis players continue to compete at the highest levels on both the men’s and women’s tours, often more so than even French or Spanish players.

1. Rod Laver is ranked among the best tennis players of all time.

Rod George Laver was born in Rockhampton, Australia, in 1938. Laver is recognized to be one of the best Australian tennis players of all time and often makes the short list of many tennis experts as one of the sport’s G.O.A.T. – short for – the Greatest of All Time. Laver turned pro in 1963 after being ranked as the Number 1 amateur for two years prior.

Rod Laver dominated the sport of tennis, holding the No 1 ranking from 1964 through 1970. Note that Laver straddled and excelled during the pre and post Open Era, which began in 1968. He holds 200 singles titles, which included seven years in which he won ten or more titles each year.

Laver won 11 Grand Slam singles and won two Grand Slams (winning Wimbledon, the French, Australian, and US Opens) – one in the open era and one prior. This fantastic achievement shows just how talented Rod Laver was on all surfaces – hard, clay, and grass.

2. Margaret Court is often ranked as the best Australian women’s player of all time

Margaret Court was born in Perth in 1942 and is an Australian retired tennis player who became a minister after retiring from professional tennis. She is a former world No. 1 and the first women’s tennis player during the Open era to win a ladies’ singles Grand Slam – the four major tennis tournaments within a calendar year. Court holds 24 Grand Slam women’s titles, as well as double-digit wins in Grand Slams, playing doubles and mixed doubles.

Margaret Court was 11-1 (her only loss in 1968 to Billie Jean King) when playing in the Australian Championship finals, including a record of 4-0 in the Open Era. Court has an all-time winning percentage of more than 91%. One of the featured tennis courts at the modern Australian Open is the Margaret Court Arena, an honor that is indicative of her contribution as one of the best Australian tennis players.

3. John Newcombe is one of only a few professional players who reached a world number 1 ranking as both a singles player and part of a doubles team.

John Newcombe was born in New South Wales in 1944, and he became a professional tennis player in 1967. Newcombe was ranked as one of the best all-time Australian tennis players. He won 7 men’s singles titles and 17 men’s doubles titles, which was once a record. Newcombe also played in the Davis Cup for Australia, being part of the team that won five titles for his country.

4. Lleyton Hewitt was the last Australian professional male player to win a Grand Slam Open men’s singles title – in 2001.

Lleyton Hewitt was born in 1981 in Adelaide, Australia. He turned pro in 1998. Leyton Hewitt holds the record of being the youngest male player to reach a world number 1 ranking when only 20 years and about eight months of age. His never-give-up attitude and playing style was hard on his body, which caused a few foot and hip injuries that sidelined Hewitt at times.

Hewitt won 30 singles and three doubles titles during his career, including two major tournament wins in 2001 (during the US Open over Pete Sampras) and in 2002 (during Wimbledon). Leyton Hewitt also scored two wins for Australia at the Davis Cup in 1999 and 2003. The last Australian Open men’s singles final Hewitt reached was in 2005, where he lost to Marat Safin in four split sets.

5. Evonne Goolagong Cawley is from an Aboriginal family.

Evonne Goolagong was born in New South Wales in 1951. Evonne ranked as world number 1 and was the first mother to score a Wimbledon victory – something that had not happened in more than six decades. In the 1970s, Evonne Goolagong was considered among the world’s best players. She won 14 Grand Slam titles – seven singles and seven doubles titles. Between the years 1973 and 1977, Evonne Goolagong reached the final of nearly every Grand Slam tournament she entered.

Evonne Goolagong won the French Open singles title and Australian Open doubles title (with partner Margaret Court) at only 19 years of age. In 1971, Goolagong was honored and named Australian of the Year. In the mid-1980s, she was inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame in Australia.

6. Patrick Rafter had a tremendous net play ability that worked on all courts, from clay to grass and hard courts.

Patrick Rafter was born in 1972 in Mount Isa, Australia. Pat Rafter became a professional tennis player in 1991. Rafter is one of the former number 1 Australian tennis players, having achieved this feat in July 1999. Rafter has an electrifying style of play. As a right-hander with a one-handed backhand shot, Rafter was a strong, consistent player.

Rafter was also the first player in the Open Era to win back-to-back US Open titles (1997-1998). In fact, the last of all Australian tennis players to win two consecutive US Open titles was Neale Fraser (1959-1960). An interesting fact about Patrick Rafter is that he is the only player who has no losses against the legendary Roger Federer.

7. Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl in straight sets at Wimbledon in 1987.

Pat Cash was born in Melbourne in 1965, and he turned pro in 1982. Cash is known for his attacking style of play, which brought him to a world number 4 ranking on the ATP singles chart in 1988.

Pat Cash was also one of the Australian tennis players who contributed greatly to the Davis Cup, first representing Australia as a 17 year and then eight more years.

Pat Cash may be best known for popularizing climbing into the stands to celebrate a win. Cash first showcased this shared celebration in 1987 when he won the Wimbledon’s gentlemen’s singles final.  

8. Ashley Barty achieved remarkable success in a short career.

Ash Barty was born in 1996 in Queensland, and is among Australia’s most recent crop of tennis talent. She is the second of women Australian tennis players to reach a world ranking of number 1 – following fellow-Aboriginal Goolagong years earlier. Ash Barty is considered an all-court right-handed player with a two-handed backhand that is hugely accurate.

Barty held her number 1 world ranking for 114 consecutive weeks, although this was during a time when rankings were frozen due to the Covid pandemic. While still number 1, Ash Barty retired at age 25.

9. Kenneth Rosewall was known for his wicked backhand.

Born in Sydney in 1934, Ken Rosewall began playing tennis by age 3. Rosewell, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame, turned pro in 1945 and was a tennis professional until 1980. Ken Rosewall hit a number one ranking/status several times in the early to mid-1960s. Rosewell was a natural lefthander], who was taught by his dad to play as a right-handed singles and doubles player.

He won eight Grand Slam titles during his professional career, winning the 1971 Australian Open without dropping a set throughout the entire tournament – the first to do so in the Open Era. And he reached an impressive 35 finals of Grand Slam tournaments.

10. Roy Emerson is the only professional men’s player to win a singles and a doubles Grand Slam during his career.

Roy Emerson was born in 1936 in Queensland, Australia. Roy Emerson is ranked among the best Australian tennis players and a member of the Tennis International Hall of Fame. Emerson ranked number 1 in the world and won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, plus another 16 Grand Slam titles on the doubles side of the tournament. 

Roy Emerson was also the first men’s professional to win each of the four major tennis tournaments a minimum of two times during his career. Roy Emerson’s record of six Australian Open singles titles was held until broken by Djokovic in 2019. Emerson scored eight victories at the David Cup when playing for Australia.

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