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Ranking the Best Left-Handed Tennis Players of the Modern Era

Jeffrey RuthCorrespondent IJanuary 17, 2017

Ranking the Best Left-Handed Tennis Players of the Modern Era

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    Rod "The Rocket" Laver is all smiles these days.
    Rod "The Rocket" Laver is all smiles these days.Marianna Massey/Getty Images

    Is it a back-handed compliment to say someone is the best left-handed player of the modern era? Certainly there is more to these great champions than just being good lefties, after all.

    They are also among the game's all-time greats.

    These players have a host of things in common. They have won seven or more Grand Slam events, and claimed more than 50 total titles each. All but one of them were ranked No. 1 at some point in their career.

    So how does one go about ranking the best-of-the-best?

    The simplest way is to look at how they did at the biggest-of-the-big. The majors. Except that really doesn't do justice to the one lefty who ranks above them all. He is the exception to the rule, neither having been the top-ranked player in his day, nor winning the most Slam titles. He is still the best.

    Rod Laver is that good.

    Here's the breakdown of the six best left-handed tennis players of the modern era.

No. 6 John McEnroe

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    John McEnroe and his famous left hand, still in action.
    John McEnroe and his famous left hand, still in action.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

    John McEnroe routinely makes the lists of all-time lefty greats, such as "The 10 greatest lefties in sports history" by USAToday.com (although he was merely an honorable mention). Still, even more than the famous hook serve, what he will always be known for is his status as Super Brat.

    According to Debbie McGoldrick of The Irish Voice, McEnroe's own father displayed one of Nike's promotional ads which said of their shoes "McEnroe swears by them."

    If his family focuses on that aspect of him, it's no wonder why the world recalls him that way, too.

    However, he will always be one of the greatest left-handed tennis players. Here are his stats:

    • Grand Slams Won: 7
    • Major Titles Won: Wimbledon, U.S. Open
    • Total Titles Won: 77
    • Highest Ranking: No. 1

No. 5 Jimmy Connors

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    A dapper Jimmy Connors takes in action at the Stella Artois, 2007.
    A dapper Jimmy Connors takes in action at the Stella Artois, 2007.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Jimmy Connors and his two-fisted backhand remain legendary among fans long after his playing days facing nemesis Bjorn Borg. As with John McEnroe, this American is just as well-known for his personality as for his accomplishments on the court.

    Yet his statistics are just as memorable.

    Connors managed one more Grand Slam title than McEnroe did. He also amassed an incredible 110 total tournaments won.

    Perhaps what truly sets him apart is the fact that he is the only player to win the U.S. Open on three different surfaces—a record that will never be broken.

    Here's the breakdown:

    • Grand Slams Won: 8
    • Major Titles Won: Wimbledon, U.S. Open*
    • Total Titles Won: 110
    • Highest Ranking: No. 1

No. 4 Monica Seles

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    Monica Seles enjoys her return to the Rogers Cup, 2013.
    Monica Seles enjoys her return to the Rogers Cup, 2013.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Sometimes it is difficult to remember that Monica Seles was actually a left-hander. More often than not, she hit with two hands from both sides. Coach Nick Bollettieri, who worked with Seles, once wrote that very few people could ever do that successfully, let alone at the pro level.

    But her left-handed forehand was a weapon all by itself, as this clip from the 1997 U.S. Open shows.

    In her eight-year career Seles nearly came away with the career Grand Slam, only failing to win Wimbledon. She made the finals at the All England Club in 1992, losing to Steffi Graf, 0-6, 1-6.

    Due to her successes at the slams, Seles rates slightly above Jimmy Connors. Here are her numbers:

    • Grand Slams Won: 9
    • Major Titles Won: Australian Open, French Open, U.S. Open
    • Total Titles Won: 53
    • Highest Ranking: No. 1

No. 3 Rafael Nadal

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    French Colors, French Trophy, Rafael Nadal 2013.
    French Colors, French Trophy, Rafael Nadal 2013.Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

    Rafael Nadal's results represent quite a jump over the previous three players.

    He has already won over a dozen Grand Slam titles in his 12 years on tour. Not only does that make him one of the very best left-handed players in tennis history, but it could mean even more.

    According to Askshay Kohli of TennisEarth.com, retired player Fabrice "The Magician" Santoro claimed Nadal could take the spot as the best-ever in tennis if he wins four more Grand Slams, due to his record against the top players.

    That would be in addition to his already achieving the career Grand Slam.

    Nadal's numbers speak for themselves:

    • Grand Slams Won: 13
    • Major Titles Won: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open
    • Total Titles Won: 60
    • Highest Ranking: No. 1

No. 2 Martina Navratilova

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    Still carving a lefty backhand, Martina Navratilova, 2012 French Open.
    Still carving a lefty backhand, Martina Navratilova, 2012 French Open.Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

    Martina Navratilova is the queen of tennis, according to Larry Schwartz of ESPN.com. The International Tennis Hall of Fame places her as one of the best female athletes of all time, not just best of tennis.

    Enough said.

    As with Rafael Nadal, the numbers are overwhelming. She, too, has won the career Grand Slam, and holds more individual major titles than him. And she wasn't just a big-game player, either. Each and every year of her career, Navratilova won other tournaments.

    She would end up holding trophies aloft in three straight decades, from September 1974 to February 1994.

    • Grand Slams Won: 16
    • Major Titles Won: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open
    • Total Titles Won 167
    • Highest Ranking: No. 1

No. 1 Rod Laver

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    Rod Laver enjoys yet another special moment at Wimbledon.
    Rod Laver enjoys yet another special moment at Wimbledon.Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Rod Laver is the best left-handed tennis player of the modern era. Despite his not holding the most Grand Slam titles, and being ranked only as high as No. 3 in his time, there are two reasons why he tops the list. They are:

    1. Calendar Year Grand Slam 1969
    2. Calendar Year Grand Slam 1962

    Wow.

    For fans who overlook Laver as the best in favor of today's players, consider this quote from Rafael Nadal via atpworldtour.com. "To win all four Grand Slams in one year I think is impossible for anyone. That's my feeling."

    Apart from any underlying reasons for this claim, Nadal was careful to use the word impossible.

    Not for Laver, though. That's why he is the best.

    • Grand Slams Won: 11
    • Major Titles Won: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open
    • Total Titles Won: 52
    • Highest Ranking: No. 3

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