Ranking the Greatest U.S. Tennis Players by Decade

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Ranking the Greatest U.S. Tennis Players by Decade
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The history of tennis began in Europe, more specifically, France. It was a game—an amusement—for the European trend-setters, the rich and the privileged. That aura of elitism carried over to a foundling American society whose upper strata felt inadequate unless they equaled European mannerisms and trends.

Therefore when Mary Ewing Outerbridge, a young U.S. socialite, traveled to Bermuda, she saw a real need to emulate this new entertainment whose popularity continued to increase in England and France. With the help of the most modern innovator of the game, Major Wingfield, Outerbridge planned for the construction of a tennis court at the Staten Island Cricket Club in New Brighton Staten Island, New York.

That marked the beginning of tennis in the United States.

Tennis clubs opened in other locales. But, there were different rules at each club. This lack of consistency set the stage for the rise of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now the United States Tennis Association) on May 21, 1881. Its primary purpose was to standardize tennis rules and organize competitions.

The national championship was established. The U.S. National Men's Singles Championship, now the U.S. Open, was first held in 1881 at Newport, Rhode Island.

In the beginning, like most institutions in modern society, the U.S. Open was “open” only to men who competed in singles.

In the beginning, tournaments instituted a challenger system, which meant last year’s champion only had to play in the final match when “challenged” to do so.

Quite a benefit for the defending champion, who only had to win one match to retake his trophy.This system lasted through 1911.

By then, tennis in the United States was beginning to grow into a recognized national sport. It would continue to grow and evolve, churning out champions for the next 13 decades. The following are the best of the best U.S. male players since tennis began in this country.

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