In the world today, about 10% of people are left-handed, and 1% of the population has what is called mixed-handedness or cross-dominance.
This means that they change hand preference with different tasks. As such, the majority of tennis players are right-handed, as well, and that means that those left and mixed-handed players are sure to stand out.
Here are the 7 greatest left-handed tennis players in history.
7. Goran Ivanisevic
- Year of birth: 1971
- Grand Slams Won: 1 Singles Title
In 2001, Goran Ivanisevic entered Wimbledon as a wild card, which means he wasn’t ranked high enough to automatically qualify.
That year, Ivanisevic became the only tennis player in history to enter Wimbledon as a wild card and win the entire tournament. This was also the only time he would win a Grand Slam tournament.
However, his impact on tennis cannot be understated. Ivanisevic has gone on to coach Grand Slam winners, including the great Novak Djokovic, and he was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2020.
6. Jimmy Connors
- Year of birth: 1952
- Grand Slams Won: 8 Singles Titles – 2 Men’s Doubles
Connors’ long career saw him span all of the tennis surfaces fans know and love. He became the first male tennis player to win Grand Slams on grass, clay, and hardcourt.
In addition, he also has the distinction of being the only player to win the US Open on all three surfaces. From 1974 to 1978, the US Open surfaces transitioned through the surface types, and Connors was in his prime during those years.
5. Monica Seles
- Year of birth: 1973
- Grand Slams Won: 9 Singles Titles
In 1993, this then-eight-time Grand Slam winner suffered a vicious attack from a fan of her opponent at a match in Hamburg, Germany.
Luckily, the physical injury to her shoulder was relatively minor, but the violence against her took its toll on her mentally. She didn’t return to the game for two years, but when she did, Seles went on to win another Grand Slam title to bring her total to nine.
Seles discusses the stabbing and its effects on her, as well as other aspects of her life, in her 2009 memoir “Getting a Grip: On My Body, My Mind, My Self.” She is also a spokesperson for the first FDA-approved drug designed to treat binge-eating disorder, which Seles has suffered from throughout her life.
4. Rod Laver
- Year of birth: 1938
- Grand Slams Won: 11 Singles Titles – 6 Men’s Doubles Titles – 3 Mixed Doubles Titles
It’s impossible to mention Rod Laver without touching on his incredible tennis achievements. He is the only player to win a Calendar Year Grand Slam singles title twice (winning all four Grand Slams in a calendar year). He has tournaments and courts named after him, and his impact on the game is impossible to quantify.
However, in his later years, Rod Laver has been featured in “Golf Digest.” Why?
Laver has stated he always enjoyed golf, but after retiring and having some health issues, he took up the sport more regularly. He is frequently seen in his Carlsbad, California, golf club getting 18 rounds in.
And the kicker? He’s left-handed with a racquet and right-handed with a club.
3. Martina Navratilova
- Year of birth: 1956
- Grand Slams Won: 18 Grand Slam Singles Titles – 31 Women’s Doubles Titles – 10 Mixed Doubles Titles
One of the most prolific tennis players to ever step on a court, Martina Navratilova has also had success off of the court. Most notably, she is the author of five books about her life as an athlete, fitness, and the struggle of LGBTQ youth.
In addition to those five, she has published three fiction books in the mystery/detective genre. Two of these were co-authored with Liz Nickles, and the third, “Killer Instinct,” was solely authored by Navratilova.
Her fictional books all have tennis as a central theme and feature Jordan Myles as the main character. The fiction books were published in the ’90s, while her nonfiction books were published first in the ’80s and then again in the 2000s.
2. John McEnroe
- Year of birth: 1959
- Grand Slams Won: 7 Singles Titles – 9 Men’s Doubles – 1 Mixed Doubles Title
As a well-known figure in the tennis world, John McEnroe isn’t afraid to use his voice. In January of 2020, John McEnroe and fellow lefty Martina Navratilova walked onto the court at the Australian Open to protest the renaming of the Margaret Court Arena.
Although Margaret Court has an impressive tennis record, the two phenoms teamed up to protest Court’s anti-LGBTQ views. Even though Navratilova’s speech was not televised, as the feed was cut while she was speaking, the two gained traction on social media.
The stunt was against the Australian Open’s protocols, but McEnroe was famous during his younger years for his on-court antics and temper tantrums.
His 2020 on-court behavior garnered positive attention, and McEnroe even poked fun at himself during his apology for not realizing the protocol, stating he wasn’t “one to study the rule book carefully or, for that matter, even at times abide by the rules.”
1. Rafael Nadal
- Year of birth: 1986
- Grand Slams Won: 20 Singles Titles
There is no denying that Rafael Nadal has made his living using the tennis prowess in his left hand, but fans who have seen Rafa sign an autograph may notice that he writes with his right hand.
As a young boy, Rafa’s uncle noticed that Rafael could play well with both hands and was indeed a bit stronger when he favored his left hand. Since then, he has played to his strengths.
This choice has certainly served Rafael Nadal well. Known as the King of Clay, he has the distinction of being the only tennis player to win 13 Grand Slam titles at the same event (the French Open).
While this can’t be solely attributed to using his left hand, Rafa can and does excel in the areas where he is strongest: left-handed on the clay.