Ranking the Most Entertaining Players in Tennis History
With so many great talents and personalities in the history of tennis, creating a list that ranks the most entertaining players of all time is of great difficulty.
Each of the players on the following list brought something special to the game, as did many others who could also be included.
In the end though, these players had a talent that made them who they were. Whether it was their personality, a certain shot, or overall skill, they always had people–and will always have people–wanting to watch them.
Nonetheless, and although it is open to much debate with personal preferences, here is a list of the best entertainers—men and women—in the history of tennis.
This list will be kept short and sweet, only looking at 10 of the best entertainers in tennis history to ever set foot on the court.
10. Andy Roddick
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Andy Roddick is included on this list for one reason, and one reason only: In his prime, his serve was mesmerizing.
Roddick could go into a game and lose the first three points and then fire three aces right back at his opponent to tie it all up. His serve was the best part of his game, and when it was on it was really tough to handle. It was just so fast and powerful.
He has only the fourth fastest serve ever recorded, maxing out at 155 mph, which is impressive. Roddick's serve was something that you could watch all day. It was more than just the speed, it was like a freight train coming at you.
9. Steffi Graf
Steffi Graf may be a part of one of the funniest moments in all of tennis. The marriage proposal—and her subsequent answer—is just a classic. In addition to showing quick wit, she also happens to be one of the best female tennis players of all time.
A former world No. 1 ranked player, Graf is also married to Andre Agassi. That relationship provides great entertainment to tennis fans when two legends of the game end up being together. Will their children ever take up the game, since they undoubtedly contain some great genes?
Graf used her quick foot speed and great forehand to provide fans with a lot of entertaining matches throughout her career. Not only was it her answer to a simple question that got her on this list, but she also brought excitement to the court when she played.
8. Mansour Bahrami
Jan Kruger/Getty Images
Have you ever heard of Mansour Bahrami? In case you have not do not worry, not to many people have. Even though he is considered one of the most gifted players to have ever hold a racket, according to the ATP Champions Tour website.
Growing up in Iran, Bahrami was not allowed (at least at first) to play tennis on the courts. So he improvised, practicing with frying pans and broom handles. He developed some amazing shot making skills with this method, and although he was never a top talent in singles on tour, he did have some impressive showings in doubles.
Other than his great shot making skills, including his trademark backspin shot that comes back over the net, Bahrami is truly a pure entertainer. He still competes in exhibition matches and brings the game on the court into the stands.
7. Roger Federer
Roger Federer has a game that makes tennis look like the easiest sport in the world. It seems as if there is nothing that he cannot do.
Watching Federer is like watching an artist, and that is why he gets the nickname of the Swiss Artist. Some of the shots that he can pull off, in what seem like inescapable positions, are just remarkable. His play alone warrants him to be on this list.
However, a world class athlete cannot just be a superstar on the court; nowadays, he must be active off the court as well, and Federer is no exception. He has appeared in a number of commercials over his career, like the one above for Lindt, which shows just how much of an entertainer he is and how great an asset he is to the world of tennis.
He also represents Gillette, Nike and Rolex among others.
6. Marat Safin
Feng Li/Getty Images
The master of breaking rackets.
Although Marat Safin was a very gifted player, his inconsistencies on the court seemed to always get the better of him. During his career he was able to win two majors—wins which came at the cost of a vast amount of broken rackets.
At one point in his career, Safin did become the No. 1 player in the world, but he is better known for the emotion that he showed on court. He would have great outbursts that generally involved his racket becoming unusable for further play.
Safin was a very entertaining player to watch. He brought talent to the court as well as a very interesting personality. He would yell at himself after points and even go to the extreme of crying if he hit it into the net (pretend, of course).
One of the craziest things that Safin ever did was drop his pants after winning a point at the French Open. What an entertainer!
5. Serena Williams
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Serena Williams is a very dominating figure in women's tennis. She plays a powerful game and her opponents feel and hear it. As much entertainment she gives to the fans who are watching her matches, she does a lot more off the court that makes her a very influential tennis player.
She presents a very unique sense of fashion on the tennis court, and has even branched out into designing her own line of clothing and accessories. She has been in Sports Illustrated twice for the swimsuit edition and has appeared in numerous television shows. Serena also has her own book that was co-written with her sister Venus.
The Williams sisters in general, and Serena in particular, are extremely popular and always draw a crowd. More so now it is Serena that garners the spotlight, as she is still a force to be reckoned within the world of tennis.
4. Novak Djokovic
They don't call him the Djoker for nothing.
Known for his talents on the court, the former world No. 1 is also known for his antics off the court, including his impersonations of other tennis players in the game, with his best coming at the expense of Rafael Nadal.
The announcer speaking at the end of the video above pretty much sums up Djokovic when she calls him 'a character'.
3. Andre Agassi
Florian Seefried/Getty Images
Andre Agassi has entertained fans from the very beginning of his career all the way up to the present, even after retiring from professional tennis.
From the late 1980's to the mid 2000's, Andre Agassi was a star in the sport. He was a great player and was able to win countless majors. However, two of the biggest things to happen in his career happened off the court.
One, as mentioned above, was his impromptu marriage to fellow tennis star Steffi Graf. The other was the release of his autobiography. It became an instant hit and showed a different side of Agassi that many people did not know, including his admitting to using drugs.
In the end, Agassi has always provided entertainment wherever he goes. Whether it be on the court with his world class play or off the court in his other endeavors, Agassi has to be one of the most all-round entertaining players in tennis.
2. Jimmy Connors
Jimmy Connors holds the record for most singles titles won on tour with 109—15 more than his closest competitor Ivan Lendl. That goes to show how skilled a player he actually was. It was this skill, and his will to win, that placed him on this list of the most entertaining players of all time.
Early in his career Connors was known as being a character on the court, and not in a good way. He would use a lot of vulgar language on court, make obscene gestures with his tennis racket handle and argue a lot with officials. Eventually Connors lost that part of his game, but the intensity was still there.
Nothing showed this better than during the 1991 US Open—almost at the end of his career. Connors played an unbelievable rally and his emotion on the court and his desire to win can still give you goose bumps.
1. John McEnroe
"You can not be serious!"
It is one of the most iconic sayings in all of sports, not just tennis.
The image of John McEnroe approaching the umpire and yelling pretty much sums up the entertainment value offered in his game. For as talented of a player that he was, he will always be remembered as a hot head. Which, oddly enough, makes him one of the most entertaining players of all time.
Watching a game when McEnroe was playing, you just never knew if he was going to snap. Maybe people went to see him just for that; it would not be surprising if that was the case. Even watching old videos of McEnroe's meltdowns is still awfully amusing, so imagine seeing it live. It would have been delightful.
Also, do not forget that his play would have been just as entertaining, assuming he stuck with his game.