Although the grass court season is short, the discussion about the greatest grass court player ever can inspire lively debates. The US and Australian Open used to be contested on Grass. The current true measure of success in lawn tennis is how well a player performs at Wimbledon. By that measure, the argument for the best grass court player ever begins and ends with Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer and Pete Sampras. Sampras’ holds the record for most titles with seven. Borg and Federer hold the record with five consecutive titles.
John Newcombe won five Grand Slam singles titles on grass at Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open.
Connors won three different Grand Slams on Grass including twice at Wimbledon. He was also the runner-up twice. Connors won two non grand Slam titles on grass and he finished with an 84-18 record a Wimbledon, a 10-1 record in Australia on grass and was 15-4 in US Opens contested on Grass.
Rod Laver is regarded by some as the greatest player that has ever lived. He won four grass court slams in the Open Era without a grass court final loss. His career record at Wimbledon was 50-7 (spanning both the open era and before). He also won nine other grass court tournaments.
Stefan Edberg had a 99-12 career record on grass including 49-12 at Wimbledon. He won the 1988 and 1990 Wimbledon titles. A loss in the 1989 final and semifinals appearances in 1987 and 1991 gave Edberg a five year streak of reaching at least the Final Four at the All-England Club. Edberg also won the Wimbledon junior title in 1983 when he became the first player to capture the junior Grand Slam.
John McEnroe’s battles with other Hall of Fame players were legendary. His rivalries with Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl are among the sport’s greatest ever. Johnny Mac won eight career titles on grass including three at Wimbledon and finished his career with 119-20 career record on the lawn.
Boris Becker burst onto the scene when he shocked Wimbledon by winning the title in 1985 as an unranked 17 year old. He followed that up with another title in 1986. Becker won his last Wimbledon title in 1989 and appeared in seven Wimbledon Finals in all. He finished his career with seven grass court title and a 71-12 career record at the All England Club.
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer battles mark the only time that the final pairing has occurred three years in a row. Rafael Nadal was known as a great clay court player before advancing to his first Wimbledon final in 2006. He would finally capture his first Wimbledon title in his third try in an Epic five set match against Federer. He won again in 2010 before finishing runner-up to Novak Djokovic this year. Nadal has a career record of 48-10 on grass per Menstennisforums.com. Nadal’s five finals appearances tie him for sixth in the open era
After Australians won the first four Open Era Wimbledon tiles and Americans three of the next four, the Borg era began. The Swede won the next five Wimbledon titles and lost in his quest for a sixth title to John McEnroe in 1981. He shockingly retired in early 1983 after playing in only one tournament in 1982. He held the record of five consecutive Wimbledon titles until Federer matched the feat in 2007. Borg’s 41 match grass court winning streak was broken by Federer in 2006.
Borg finished his career with six grass court titles, five at Wimbledon. His career grass court record was 61-11.
Roger Federer’s six Wimbledon rank second in the Open Era and his five titles in a row between 2003 and 2006 rank first and second during the open era. He won a record 65 consecutive matches on grass courts between 2003 and 2008. He won 170 of his 186 sets during the streak and only went to five sets twice. The streak was broken by Rafael Nadal during the 2008 Wimbledon final. That match is considered by many to be the greatest ever played.
Federer truly earned his place on the tennis landscape when fifteenth seeded Federer, then 19 shocked the top seeded Sampras in five sets. He has 11 career titles on grass with a career record of 100-15, including 59-7 at Wimbledon.
Pete Sampras is Wimbledon’s ultimate champion. He won seven titles between 1993 and 2000. He won all seven of his finals appearances. In addition to his Wimbledon titles, Sampras won seven grass court Wimbledon tune-ups in his career.
He finished his career 101-20 on grass and 63-7 at Wimbledon.