In women’s tennis history, there are many players who have won millions of hearts world over. Surely, all these female tennis stars have left an indelible mark on the minds of tennis fans, with their diverse, yet unique games…
Women’s tennis has always been the story of rivalry between sheer power and delicacy in accurate strokes. In the history of tennis, there have been so many famous female tennis stars who have excelled in every department of the game, leaving the audience enthralled. Be it the famous Steffi Graf forehand or superb volleying skill of the ever-young and agile Martina Navratilova; all these women tennis players have won the hearts of tennis fans world-wide. Here is a brief biography of a few of them…
Maria Ester Audion Bueno, won Brazil’s women’s single championship at 14 years of age. After that, there was no looking back. She started playing tennis at an early age and without any formal training won her first tournament at the age of 12. She was the first non-American woman to capture Wimbledon and U.S championships. In her career, she won three singles titles at Wimbledon and four U.S. championship titles, with a total of 71 titles during the open era.
She also won twelve Grand Slam championships as a doubles player, with six different partners. In 1960, she became the first woman to win the women’s doubles title, at all four Grand Slam tournaments in a year. She was a finalist at the French Open and Australian open in 1965 and 1964 respectively.
Recognized as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, Margaret Court is the grand old lady of tennis. She had a total of 192 career titles, which included 62 major titles (48 during open era) won on all types of courts including grass, clay, hard and carpet (with a 91.74 winning percentage), which in itself is a record. In 1979, she was inducted into the ‘Tennis Hall of Fame’.
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King (née Moffit), born in California, was an exceptional softball player in her early years, yet her parents introduced her to tennis, the game that would change her life. In 1967 she was selected as ‘Outstanding Female Athlete of the World’. In 1972 she was the first woman to be honored by Sports Illustrated as ‘Sportsperson of the Year’. In 1973, she was dubbed ‘Female Athlete of the Year’ too. She was the first female athlete to win over $100,000 prize money in a single season.
Billie Jean King spoke out for women and their right to earn comparable money in tennis and other sports. Her constant lobbying has broken many barriers. For her contributions to tennis as President of Tennis-America, Billie Jean King was awarded the National Service Bowl. In her heydays, she won a total of 129 career titles, which includes 12 Grand Slam Singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
A former world’s no.1 (1980) from United States, Tracy Ann Austin Holt, started her career at a very early age and as a Junior player won 21 age-group titles, including the U.S. national under-12 title at the age of 10 (1972). She became famous as the youngest player to win a professional tournament at the age of 14 (1977). She became the youngest-ever U.S. Open Champion at the age of 16 (1979). In 1992, she became the youngest person to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
However, her career was cutback by injuries and she was outclassed after her comeback in the following years. After her retirement from the game she worked as a commentator for NBC and the USA Network and now usually participates in the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage.
Dorothea Douglass Chambers
One of the early starters in women’s tennis players, Dorathea Katherine Douglass Lambert Chambers, from England, won seven ladies singles titles at Wimbledon, the first coming in 1903. She was the one who played the longest Wimbledon final in her time. She took retirement from singles in 1921 but continued as doubles player till 1927. From 1924 to 1926 she captained Britain’s Wightman Cup team and turned to professional coaching in 1928.
Charlotte Reinagle Cooper, from England, was a member of the Ealing Lawn Tennis Club. In 1895, she won her first of five Wimbledon championships singles titles and continued to succeed further. Also known as “Chattie”, she was a tall, slender and elegant woman, but a powerful athlete who became the first woman to win the Olympic Gold Medal. She got married, during the same year when she won her fourth Wimbledon championship.
After living a family life, she returned to active tennis and won her fifth Wimbledon championship (1908) at the age of 37, an age record that still stands. She died at the age of 96, after being active as a tennis player, even in her fifties.
Lottie Dod started her career at the age of 11. She won her first Wimbledon title at the age of 15, in 1887. An English athlete, best known as tennis player, she won the Wimbledon Championships five times. She remains the youngest player to win the women’s singles tournament and press dubbed her as ‘Little Wonder’. She was not only a tennis player but also a golfer, field hockey player and an archer.
Not surprisingly, she is also named in the Guinness Book of Records, as the most versatile female athlete of all time. She died at the age of 88, unmarried, listening to the Wimbledon radio broadcasts in bed.
The first African-American woman to break the ‘color barrier’, Althea Gibson is known as the ‘Jackie Robinson’ of tennis. Under the assistance of a sponsor, she began her tennis career in 1946. She was also the first black person to win a title at the Wimbledon. Althea was also honored, as the Associated Press Female Athlete of the year and that year, she retired from tennis.
Christine Marie Evert
Christine Marie Evert from United States is a former World No.1 woman tennis player who is still remembered by many as one of the all time greats. Daughter of Jimmy Evert, who himself is a professional tennis coach, she started her tennis lessons at the age of 5 and become the No.1 ranked player in the under-14 category, in United States (1970). Her tennis career gave her 18 Grand Slam singles, including a record 7 at French Open.
The writer Steve Flink, in his book ‘The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century’, named Chris Evert as the third best female player of the 20th century after Steffi Graf and Martina Navratilova.
Martina Navratilova, a former World No.1 women tennis player was quoted by Billie Jean King as “She is the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived”. She was named second best female player of 20th century in “The greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century”, a book by Steve Flink. Tennis magazines have declared her as the greatest ever. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles.
Starting her career with her first coach and her stepfather Miroslav Navratil, she is famous for her superb volleying skills. A southpaw, she won her first Grand Slam singles at Wimbledon, defeating Evert in 1978. In 1985, she also released an autobiography titled ‘Martina’.
Stefanie Maria Graf, popularly known as Steffi, a former World No.1 ranked female tennis player, hails from Germany. She was the one who won 22 Grand Slam singles titles since the start of the open era and that too, more than any other player (male or female). In December, 1999, the panel of Slims Championships at Madison Square Garden named Graf as the greatest female tennis player of 20th century.
She also won an Olympic Gold Medal in the year 1988 and was ranked No.1 player by the Women’s Tennis Association, for a record of 377 weeks. Her father, Peter Graf taught her basics of tennis, at 3 years of age. Soon she learned the game and played her first tournament at the age of 5. She continued with success in spite of her injury year 1991-1992, when she was defeated by Monica Seles. She regained her title and played for many years, finally retiring in 1999.
Monica Seles, a Hungarian-American, is a professional tennis player who won 9 Grand Slam singles titles, playing for Yugoslavia and United States. She learned tennis, from her father, Karoly Seles, at the age of 6 and won her first tournament at the age of 9. She went professional at the age of 14, in the year 1988. She was ranked World No.6, after finishing her first year on the tour. She was described as a ‘power player’, because of her aggressive playing style.
After her comeback in 1996, she won her fourth Australian Open and was ranked World No.3 player. She has also won a bronze medal at Olympic Games, Sydney, in 2000. Tennis magazines have listed her as the 13th greatest player of all time. She now lives in Florida.
The former world number one women’s tennis player from United States, Jennifer Capriati, won three Grand Slam single titles and a gold medal at the Olympic Games in 1992. She became the youngest player to win the French Open Junior singles title at the age of 13, until her record was broken by Martina Hingis. She became the youngest-ever semifinalist at the French Open at 14 yrs 2 months. She was also the youngest-ever semifinalist in 1991, after defeating Martina Navratilova.
After a break, she made a comeback in 1996. She won her first tournament in six years, in 1999. Finally capturing the Australian Open title in 2001 she followed up with capturing the French Open title, five months later, defeating Kim Clijsters.
The former World No. 1 Swiss tennis player, Martina Hingis, also known as “Swiss Miss”. She won 5 Grand Slam singles titles, 9 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles and 1 Grand Slam mixed doubles title. She set a series of ‘youngest ever’ records. At 12, she was the youngest player to win a Grand Slam junior title at the French Open. She withdrew from professional tennis, because of ligament injuries, in both of her ankles, at a very early age of 22.
Taking a break for her ankle surgery, she came back in 2002 and won Australian Open Doubles. Again she made a successful return to competition in 2005 where she lost and claimed that she has no plans to return. But she did make a comeback to win the 5th singles title at Tokyo finals tournaments, in 2007, defeating Ana Ivanovic.
Deep, powerful, well-placed groundstroker, Kim Clijster from Belgium is a former World No. 1 ranker in singles and doubles. Also known as Kim Kong, Killing Kim or Kim Possible, she won most of her career matches on the basis of her speed, power, and strength. Starting her career as runner-up in 1998 at Wimbledon Junior event, she has been a very successful player. Few critics lambasted her for being ‘too nice’ and she replied “You don’t have to hate your opponents to beat them”.
Kim won 34 WTA singles titles and 11 WTA doubles titles, including U.S. Open single title (2005), French Open and Wimbledon women’s doubles title (2003). She announced her retirement from the game on May 6, 2007 to live a married life with American Basketball player Brian Lynch.
Daughter of Wink Davenport, member of U.S. Volleyball team at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Lindsay Davenport is a former World No.1 American professional female tennis champion. In 1988 she won U.S Open, 1999 Wimbledon and 2000 Australian Open, which are the three prime Grand Slam singles tournaments. In 1996, she also won an Olympic gold medal in singles. Lindsay Davenport has earned about US $21 million in prize money, surpassing Steffi Graf in that department.
One of the best women’s tennis players in recent times, former World No.1 Justin Henin has been acknowledged by many of the greats as one of the best players of recent times. Billie Jean King acknowledged her in the following way “Pound for pound, Henin is the best tennis player of her generation“. Though forced to retire due to injuries, in her career spanning from 1997 to 2011, she won a total of 43 WTA titles, 7 ITF titles, including seven grand slam titles and an Olympic gold medal!
One of the game’s powerhouse performers, Serena Williams is undoubtedly one of the greatest players of all time, with a career record of 27 grand slam titles, which includes 13 singles and 14 doubles grand slam titles. Add to it, two Olympic gold medals and the fact that she is still very much in action!
With 21 grand slam titles, Venus Williams is known for her powerful stroke play, just like her sister Serena. She holds the rare distinction of being one of only two active players who have reached the finals of all the four major grand slams. Her total title tally rounds up to 43 currently, besides the Olympic gold medal she received in 2000.
A former world No.1 and the current no.4, Maria Sharapova is one of the topmost paid athletes in the world, with 24 WTA titles and 4 ITF titles to her name, which includes three grand slam singles titles, including Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open titles. Riddled by injuries, her career didn’t progress as well, as it took off, but now she is making up for the lost time.
A rising star, Caroline Wozniacki is currently (in December, 2011) the WTA World No.1, without winning a single grand slam title till date. The Danish player currently has 18 WTA titles and 4 ITF titles added to her kitty. Though yet to be tested fully, since her debut in 2005, she has steadily climbed the WTA rankings with consistent performances. Her fans now await her first grand slam win.
The list of famous women tennis stars is never-ending, as fresh blood keeps getting ingested into the game from tennis academies worldwide. The latest crop includes Samantha Stosur, Petra Kvitova, Ana Ivanovic and Na Li. They continue to enthrall audiences all over the world, with their own unique approaches to the game.