Australian Open 2012: The All-Time Top 15 Men's Australian Open Players

Dan Renfro@danrenfroCorrespondent IIIJanuary 9, 2012

Australian Open 2012: The All-Time Top 15 Men's Australian Open Players

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    The Australian Open has had some great talent play in the tournament over the past 40 years.

    Some players have solidified themselves as great. Others have failed to do so. Either way, the Australian Open has brought out the best in some players.

    There are some familiar names, forgotten names and random names on this list. In addition, there are some household names that just didn't quite make the cut in Australia. As a result, this list is based mainly on how each player did in Australia, concentrating on their appearances in the finals.

    There was no set criteria for this list. However, each of these players has qualified for at least two Australian Open finals. In addition, they all have at least one title to their names.

    With the Australian Open right around the corner, I have compiled a list of the top 15 men's players of all time.

15. Jimmy Connors

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    Jimmy Connors is known more for his performances at the U.S. Open than anywhere else.

    However, he did win an Australian Open championship in 1974, and he was the runner-up the next year.

    Connors was around for a long time, and he won his final Grand Slam almost a decade after he won his first title. That's pretty impressive.

    The Australian Open was the first of three Grand Slams Connors won in 1974, and it established him as a great tennis player.

14. Arthur Ashe

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    Arthur Ashe is probably more well known for his work for social causes than his tennis career.

    At this point, people forget how great of a player Ashe truly was. He won the 1970 Australian Open, and he remains the only African American singles player to win the tournament.

    Even with all his great social work, Ashe was still a great player. He made history in 1970, and that makes him one of the best Australian Open players of all time.

13. Jim Courier

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    Jim Courier won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 1992 and 1993.

    He finished 1992 as the No. 1 player in the world, and he started up 1993 with his second consecutive Australian Open title. He defeated Stefan Edberg each year, and at 22, he looked like he would remain the top player in the world for a long time.

    That same year, he made the Wimbledon final, making him the youngest player (22 years, 11 months) to reach all four Grand Slam finals.

    That was the apex of his career, and he never really maintained (or regained) that type of success. Meanwhile, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were bursting onto the scene, making it incredibly tough for Courier to continue his elite play.

    Courier had a brief window at the top of the tennis world, and it was highlighted by his two Australian Open titles.

12. Marat Safin

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    Believe it or not, Marat Safin made it to three Australian Open finals.

    Known for his intensity and fire, Safin was able to work his way to the No. 1 ranking in 2000, but he wasn't able to capture the Australian Open until five years later.

    Now retired, Safin was only able to win two Grand Slams. However, he made each of those wins count, as they occurred five years apart.

    Safin was a great player, and he saw a lot of his success in the Australian Open.

11. Novak Djokovic

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    In 2011, Novak Djokovic solidified himself as the top men's tennis player in the world.

    Djokovic started 2011 with a dominating performance at the Australian Open. He only dropped one set throughout the entire tournament, and it came in the second round.

    Then, "Djoker" went on a tear, as he landed himself the No. 1 ranking last summer. He has yet to relinquish it, and he hopes to win his third Australian Open title in 2012.

    Still, considering he has only been to two finals, I have kept Djokovic low on the list.

    For now.

10. Ken Rosewall

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    Ken Rosewall is a legend.

    He begins the top 10 thanks to his two Australian Open titles. However, it should also be noted that he won two Australian Championships in the 1950s, 15 years before his Open titles.

    Not too shabby, huh?

    Those two titles in the '50s didn't count toward this list, but they ought to be noted. Rosewall was a great player, and he was able to maintain his greatness for the better part of two decades.

    Not many players can say that, which is why his run was so impressive.

9. Boris Becker

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    Boris Becker is a six-time Grand Slam winner, and each win was as impressive as the last.

    He won his first Australian Open in 1991, which gave him the No. 1 spot in the world. However, he lost the ranking a few weeks later, and he was never able to finish a year with it.

    Becker was unable to put together a great run of tennis, preventing him from becoming the unquestioned greatest of his era. He was a great player, no doubt. Unfortunately, he only won multiple Grand Slams in one year once, and he never won the French Open.

    After a career decline, Becker came back with a bang in 1996. He won his second Australian Open, and he put himself back into the talks of best tennis players from the late '80s to early '90s.

    Becker was a great player, and he played extremely well in Australia.

8. Guillermo Vilas

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    Guillermo Vilas never became the No. 1 player in the world, but he was the best player in Australia two years in a row.

    In 1977, he was the runner-up in Australia before winning the French Open and the U.S. Open, making him one of the best players in the game. Then, Vilas won back-to-back Australian Open titles in 1978 and 1979.

    His run was long, but his elite play was very short-lived. Still, Vilas was a force during his three-year run in the Australian Open final.

7. John Newcombe

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    John Newcombe is one of the best Australian tennis players of all time.

    He was a great doubles player and a great singles player. Between the two, he won 24 Grand Slams in the span of 10 years.

    Pretty solid.

    As a singles player, Newcombe won two Australian Open titles, and he finished second in another one. He reached the No. 1 ranking in June of 1974, which was right in the middle of his two Australian Open victories.

    He had one of the best second serves of all time, and he was notorious for picking up aces on his second serve.

    Even though Newcombe had more success as a doubles player, his singles play was still spectacular, making him one of the all-time greats in Australian Open history.

6. Ivan Lendl

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    Ivan Lendl was one of the most dominating tennis players in the 1980s.

    He finished off the decade with an Australian Open title in 1989, and he defended his crown with another victory in 1990.

    Lendl was the No. 1 player in the world for a total of 270 weeks, and not many players even had a chance of dethroning him. Lendl was great for a long time, and his Australian Open victories put a nice cap on a great career.

    He never won another Grand Slam after his Australian title in 1990, and that was fine, for Lendl had already proven himself as one of the greatest tennis players to ever play.

5. Pete Sampras

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    Pete Sampras is one of the all-time greats.

    He won 14 Grand Slam titles in 15 years, and he has won tons of tournaments.

    Despite all his success, he couldn't quite win the French Open. However, he didn't let that stop him from winning every other Grand Slam multiple times.

    He made the Australian Open final three out of four years, and he won it twice. Obviously, those statistics don't match up to his wild success at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. However, it is still impressive.

    Sampras ended the year with the No. 1 ranking for six consecutive years—a record. In addition, he was notoriously spectacular at Wimbledon.

    With that said, we should also remember that he was pretty darn good in Australia, too.

4. Stefan Edberg

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    Stefan Edberg lost more Australian Open finals than he won.

    Still, when you reach the final five times, losing it three times doesn't seem so disappointing.

    Edberg made the final five times in eight tries, and he missed out on a chance to three-peat when the tournament wasn't held in 1986. If he had that tournament, Edberg could've conceivably made six finals.

    That's absurd.

    Edberg is tied with Roger Federer for the most Australian Open final appearances, and that number won't be touched by anyone else anytime soon (Novak Djokovic has reached it twice and Rafael Nadal has once).

    Edberg's Australian Open success kicked off a pretty great career, which ultimately finished with six Grand Slam titles.

3. Mats Wilander

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    Mats Wilander easily has one of the most impressive Australian Open resumes of all time.

    He made four finals, and he won three of them. All of that was in the course of five competitions.

    Wilander is one of two players (Ivan Lendl) to qualify for the Australian Open final in three consecutive tournaments. He won the first two, before dropping the third to Stefan Edberg in 1985.

    Wilander came back in 1988 to win a five-set thriller over Australian Pat Cash.

    His Australian Open dominance was short-lived. However, that amount of dominance is one of the most impressive runs of any singles player in the Australian Open's history.

2. Andre Agassi

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    Andre Agassi won four Australian Open titles in a span of nine years.

    While Agassi won every Grand Slam, he had his most success at the Australian Open. Half of his Grand Slam titles came from Australia. He was undefeated in his four trips to the final, and he only dropped two sets in those four matches.

    Agassi is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, and his success at the Australian Open is a huge reason why.

    He had his personal issues and different things. However, when Agassi focused at the Australian Open, he was a spectacular player.

1. Roger Federer

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    Roger Federer is the greatest player of this era, and he is arguably the greatest of all time.

    His 16 Grand Slam titles is second to none. His five U.S. Open titles is second to none. And his four Australian Open titles is second to none.

    Not a bad resume.

    Federer has reached the Australian Open final five times, and he has won it four times. In his four victories, he has only dropped one set. If you include his loss to Rafael Nadal, he has won 14 sets and lost five.

    Again, that's not a bad resume.

    Federer dominated the mid-2000s as much as any tennis player has ever done. That included a pretty incredible run at the Australian Open that began in 2004 and could still be continuing.

    Federer is the best player of this generation.

    And, he's the greatest Australian Open player of all time.