People are, by now, familiarized with the best tennis players in history. However, have you ever wondered which have been the best seasons in the history of tennis? The most dominant displays of talent?
Here are the nine best years by a tennis player, man or woman, in the history of this beautiful sport.
9. Bjorn Borg – 1979
- Notable Titles: 2 Grand Slams (French Open, Wimbledon), Tour Finals, 2 Masters
- Season Record: 84-6 (93.3% Win Rate)
No player dominated in the late seventies like Bjorn Borg. The 1979 season was marvelous for him, as he won both the French Open and Wimbledon, his two favorite Grand Slam tournaments, plus the Tour Finals and the WCT Finals. He also lifted two Masters trophies and finished with a total of 13 titles.
That year, Borg had a phenomenal 84-6 record. It goes without saying that Borg finished 1979 as the number one ranked tennis player in the world. He also surpassed $1 million in money prizes, the first tennis player to do so in a single season.
8. Rafael Nadal – 2010
- Notable Titles: 3 Grand Slams (French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), 3 Masters
- Season Record: 71-10 (87.7% Win Rate)
Roger Federer was the face of tennis in the early 2000s, and Novak Djokovic dominated the scene in the 2010s, but there is no doubt that 2010 was all Nadal’s. A knee injury took the Spaniard out in the Australian Open quarterfinals against Andy Murray, but the rest of his year was quite impressive.
In his preferred competition, the French Open, he defeated Robin Soderling in the final and won the tournament without dropping a single set. He then won Wimbledon and the US Open: in the latter, he lost his first set in the final match against Djokovic.
His loss against Federer in the Tour Finals wasn’t the ending he was expecting, but 2010 was perhaps the greatest year in Nadal’s illustrious career. He was 71-10 with seven titles in total.
7. John McEnroe – 1984
- Notable Titles: 2 Grand Slams (Wimbledon, US Open), Tour Finals, 5 Masters
- Season Record: 82-3 (96.5% Win Rate)
The 1984 year was quite eventful for the mercurial American star. McEnroe won 96.5 percent of his matches by going 82-3 in a year in which he won two Grand Slams (Wimbledon and the US Open) and lost one in the final match, the French Open, where he lost in five sets to Ivan Lendl, another former number one player.
McEnroe was also the champion at Wimbledon’s doubles tournament, and won the Tour Finals for the seventh straight year.
In 1984, McEnroe lost only three times: the French Open finals to Lendl, the Davis Cup final to Henrik Sundstrom, and a surprising defeat at the hands of Vijay Amritraj at the ATP Championships.
6. Serena Williams – 2012
- Notable Titles: 2 Grand Slams (Wimbledon, US Open), Tour Finals, 2 Olympic golds (singles and doubles)
- Season Record: 58-14 (93.6% Win Rate)
Williams completed the ‘Serena Slam’, becoming the fifth woman to hold all Grand Slam singles titles at the same time, by winning the 2003 Australian Open. She almost completes the ‘Grand Slam’ in 2015, but she shockingly lost to Roberta Vinci in the US Open semifinals that year. However, 2012 was perhaps her most dominant year.
The physically imposing Serena took home two Grand Slam titles that year, Wimbledon and the US Open, and went 33-1 in the second half of the season. Oh, and she also won Wimbledon in its doubles version.
The Tour Finals and the two Olympic gold medals she achieved in London were the icings on the cake: after a rough 2011 and an ugly first-round exit in the French Open, Serena was once again at the top of the world.
5. Steffi Graf – 1988
- Notable titles: 4 Grand Slams, 1 Olympic gold at Seoul 1988
- Season Record: 72-3 (96% Win Rate)
Steffi Graf was a true tennis star: she held number one for a record 377 weeks and won 22 major single titles, among many other achievements, However, what she did on a tennis court in 1988 has never been matched to this day.
1988 was the year of Graf’s ‘Golden Slam’: she won all four major titles (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open) plus the Summer Olympics’ singles gold medal in Seoul, South Korea.
Graf went 72-3 in 1988 and won a total of 11 titles, proof of his sheer dominance over her rivals. She defeated Chris Evert in the Australian Open final; her match in the French Open final, against Natasha Zvereva, finished 6–0, 6–0, and lasted 34 minutes.
She earned a comeback victory against Martina Navratilova in Wimbledon’s final match, and defeated Gabriela Sabatini to win the US Open and the Olympic gold.
It was a truly outstanding year for a truly outstanding tennis player.
4. Rod Laver – 1969
- Notable Titles: 4 Grand Slams, 18 of 32 singles tournaments
- Season Record: 106-16 (86.7% Win Rate)
Laver’s 1969 achievements came one year after the Open Era started, and with his best years behind him. This is not to say he didn’t remain a top player for a considerable period of time after 1969, but his success was not the same in the Grand Slam tournaments.
During that 1969 season, Laver won all four major titles for the second time in his career, after 1962. He took home 18 of the 32 singles tournaments he participated in and had a fantastic 106–16 win-loss record.
In addition to the Grand Slam success, Laver was the winner in the two most important hard court (South African Open and the US Professional Championships) and indoor tournaments (Philadelphia US Pro Indoor and Wembley British Indoor).
The left-handed star was tennis’ biggest star back in the day, but in 1969, he was a level and a half above everyone else. There was simply no competition for him that year.
3. Novak Djokovic – 2015
- Notable Titles: 3 Grand Slams (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open), 6 Masters, Tour Finals
- Season Record: 82-6 (93.2% Win Rate)
Djokovic is one of the best players ever to touch a court, so naturally, he has completed several impressive seasons. What he did in 2011, and especially in 2021, was thoroughly impressive. But his 2015 is a clear contender for the best season of all time.
Only Stan Wawrinka, who defeated him in the final match of the French Open, stood in the way of Djokovic and the Grand Slam, which is very disappointing since he had managed to beat the best clay court player in history, Rafael Nadal, in the quarterfinals.
He won in Australia, Wimbledon, and the United States, though, beating Andy Murray and Roger Federer (two times) in the final.
Among his achievements in 2015 were a whopping six Masters and the Tour Finals. Overall, ‘Nole’ was 82-6 that year, with a 93.2 winning percentage. He won eleven titles and was the best player on the planet with some difference that year.
- Notable Titles: 3 Grand Slams, both in singles and doubles (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open), Tour Finals
- Season Record: 86-1 (98.9% Win Rate)
There is no doubt that Martina Navratilova was one of the most influential and successful tennis players in history. His 1983 season, however, was by far the best of her excellent career.
She won three major single tournaments: Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. She lost in the fourth round of the French Open against a relative unknown, Kathy Horvath, 4-6, 6-0, 3-6.
The most amazing fact about that loss is that it was the only one she suffered that year. Yes, Navratilova went 86-1 in 1983, which is absolutely mind-blowing.
Not only did she win three major single tournaments, but she also won three double Grand Slams: Australia, the French Open, and the US Open.
Additionally, she won both singles and doubles WTA Tour finals in 1983. Utter and complete dominance.
1. Roger Federer – 2006
- Notable Titles: 3 Grand Slams (Australian Open, Wimbledon, US Open) 4 Masters, Tour Finals
- Season Record: 92-5 (94.85% Win Rate)
To be fair, the number two and three seasons in this ranking could have easily placed number one. But there was something about Roger Federer that oozed confidence, flair, and charisma, especially back in those early-to-mid-2000s years.
In that successful season, Federer won three Grand Slams: Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open. He was in the midst of his prime back then, also winning the Tour Finals and four Masters.
2006 represented the best season by one of the best, if not the best, tennis player in history. He won 12 singles titles that year and compiled an impressive 92-5 record.
Only his longtime foe Rafael Nadal avoided a Grand Slam by Federer that season, as the Spaniard won in four sets in Roland-Garros.