Ranking the Least Impressive No. 1 Ranked Players in Tennis History

Jeffrey Ruth@@ruthjeffreyaFeatured ColumnistOctober 31, 2013

Ranking the Least Impressive No. 1 Ranked Players in Tennis History

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    Patrick Rafter kept this shirt longer than he was No. 1.
    Patrick Rafter kept this shirt longer than he was No. 1.Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    The least impressive No. 1 tennis players in history defied all sorts of expectations.

    They lost more matches than they won, or they didn't win at all. Only one managed to actually hoist a trophy during his reign at the top.

    One player didn't even go to a single tournament while ranked No. 1.

    Not one.

    When ranking just how memorable these failed efforts were, there are three key characteristics to evaluate:

    1. How long they remained No. 1.
    2. How many matches they won during their reign.
    3. What their winning percentage was.

    Here are the numbers behind the five least impressive No. 1 players in tennis history. They will surprise and astound, just not for positive reasons.

     

No. 5 Thomas Muster

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    Thomas Muster at the 1996 Australian Open.
    Thomas Muster at the 1996 Australian Open.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Thomas Muster of Austria won over $12,000,000 during his time as a professional tennis player. Only two percent of that was earned during his tenure as No. 1.

    The numbers don't lie: He didn't impress as the top player in the world.

    Here are the facts:

    1. How long at No. 1:  six weeks
    2. Matches won as No. 1: 10
    3. Winning percentage as No. 1: 77 percent (10-3)

    The thing that stands out is the great winning percentage, but there is something hidden behind the statistics. The three losses were at the hands of No. 161 Sandon Stolle in Dubai, No. 114 Nicolas Pereira in Miami and No. 40 Adrian Voinea in Indian Wells, CA.

    Not good.

    Memorable, but not good, and certainly not impressive.

    Positive Fast Fact: Muster is the only Austrian to have won a Grand Slam (French Open, 1995).

No. 4 Yevgeny Kafelnikov

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    Yevgeny Kafelnikov serves at the 1999 Queen's Club
    Yevgeny Kafelnikov serves at the 1999 Queen's ClubClive Brunskill/Getty Images

    1999 was a good year for Yevgeny Kafelnikov. Well, it was a good six weeks.

    Actually, it wasn't even the greatest six weeks.

    On the bright side, the Russian did get to the semifinals of the tournament in St. Poelten, Austria during his brief time as No. 1. Unfortunately, he lost to No. 26 Mariano Zabaleta 5-7, 3-6.

    On a more ominous note, he lost his very first match at Queen's Club to No. 74 Sargis Sargsian 6-3, 3-6, 3-6.

    That early exit not only ended his time at the tournament, but his time at the top as well.

    Here are the numbers:

    1. How long at No. 1: six weeks
    2. Matches won as No. 1: six
    3. Winning percentage as No. 1: 60 percent (6-4).

    Positive Fast Fact: Kafelnikov won the Olympic singles gold medal in 2000 at Sydney.

No. 3 Marcelo Rios

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    Marcelo Rios at the 1998 U.S. Open.
    Marcelo Rios at the 1998 U.S. Open.Al Bello/Getty Images

    Marcelo Rios has something in common with Thomas Muster and Yevgeny Kafelnikov: He was No. 1 in the world for six weeks. He wishes he had more in common with them, however.

    He only managed to win one match during those six weeks.

    One.

    That victory came over No. 476 Bob Bryan (yes, the doubles player) at Indianapolis, 6-4, 6-4. He played another player with the initials B.B. in the next round. Byron Black, then ranked No. 35, defeated him 7-5, 1-6, 5-7.

    That was Rios' most successful tournament during his entire time as the top-ranked player in the tennis world.

    Here are the hard, cold facts:

    1. How long at No. 1: six weeks
    2. Matches won as No. 1: one
    3. Winning percentage as No. 1: 33 percent (1-2)

    Positive Fast Fact: According to atpworldtour.com, Rios was the first player to win all three clay court ATP Masters Series titles.

No. 2 Carlos Moya

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    Carlos Moya during his short reign as No. 1, 1999 Miami.
    Carlos Moya during his short reign as No. 1, 1999 Miami.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Carlos Moya won more matches in a week during his time as No. 1 than Marcelo Rios did during his six weeks. It is a good thing Moya was so efficient.

    He only stayed No. 1 for two weeks.

    His only appearance as the top-ranked player came at the 1999 Masters event in Miami, FL. Despite wins over No. 46 Davide Sanguinetti and No. 36 Jason Stoltenberg, he fell in the round of 16 to then-ranked No. 74 Sebastian Grosjean, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (9).

    Not impressive, and it would mark the end of the time Moya would spend at the top.

    Here is what he achieved during his reign:

    1. How long at No. 1: two weeks
    2. Matches won as No. 1: two
    3. Winning percentage as No. 1: 67 percent (2-1)

    At least he had a winning record.

    Positive Fast Fact: Moya began running the SD Tennis Academy in Madrid, Spain in 2011.

No. 1 Patrick Rafter

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    Patrick Rafter didn't break a sweat during his time as No. 1, 1999.
    Patrick Rafter didn't break a sweat during his time as No. 1, 1999.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    If tennis fans blinked during the week of July 26, 1999, they would have missed this important news flash:

    Patrick Rafter is No. 1 in the world.

    The truth about the matter is that the headline should have read, "Least impressive No. 1 ranked tennis player in history." That would about sum it up. To compound the fact that Rafter only spent one week on the top of the game, there is another reason that tennis fans might have missed it.

    Rafter never actually took to the court during his stay as No. 1.

    Not once.

    As a result, his numbers look like this:

    1. How long at No. 1: one week
    2. Matches won as No. 1: none
    3. Winning percentage as No. 1: N/A

    Wow. Those numbers are so poor they are almost impressive. They are definitely memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

    Positive Fast Fact: Rafter was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006.