Top 10: Briefest tennis world number ones in history – Australians look away now!
The battle for the number one world ranking feels more important than ever these days, but who held it but couldn’t enjoy it for long?
Karolina Pliskova, 8 weeks
It wouldn’t surprise you at all to see Pliskova add to her weeks at the top of the WTA rankings in the future, but for now she’s making our list.
She ascended to world number one in July 2017, becoming the sixth player to ever achieve it without winning a Grand Slam – another record she is surely keen to put right in the coming years.
John Newcombe, 8 weeks
Aussie Newcombe was an amateur world number one on 1967 before repeating the feat on the ATP Tour in 1974.
He was actually world number one in 1970 and 1971 as well, although he had to share the ranking on those occasions.
It’s probably surprising to see a seven-time Grand Slam winner on this list, although he was almost certainly hurt here by his, and tennis’, transition into the professional ranks.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, 8 weeks
A fine and fearsome clay court player in his prime, Ferrero’s stint as world number one was brief but exceptionally well-earned.
In 2003 he won the Monte Carlo Masters before taking the title at Roland Garros.
At the US Open he beat former world number ones and Flushing Meadows champions Lleyton Hewitt and Andre Agassi before losing to Andy Roddick in the final. Still, it was a hot enough streak of form to get him to the top.
Thomas Muster, 6 weeks
Would we describe Thomas Muster as enigmatic? I think I would, even if he was a bit more of a ‘leave it all on the court’ kind of player.
However, he hated Wimbledon to the point that he only bothered to show up four times, and he was always delightfully moody about it.
He was, though, brilliant on clay, and when he topped the rankings in 1996 both Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi voiced their dismay that such a specialist should be able to be world number one.
He was, though, first for a solitary week in February and then again in March and April.
Marcelo Rios, 6 weeks
Famous for reaching world number one without ever winning a Grand Slam, it’s hard not to wonder what Rios might have achieved had injuries not curtailed his career.
His peak came in 1998 when he won seven titles, including three Masters titles, and reached the Australian Open final.
Oh what might have been…
Yevgeny Kafelnikov, 6 weeks
When discussing Kafelnikov, it’s sometimes easier to just state what he was and leave the reader to revel in just how much of a one off he was.
Winner of two Grand Slams, one of only ten players to ever beat Roger Federer at Wimbledon, former professional poker player, retired at 29 – and world number one for six weeks.
Got to love him.
Garbine Muguruza, 4 weeks
Like Pliskova, it’s hard to expect Muguruza to not add to this number in the coming years, especially now Serena Williams’ years of dominance are over.
The Spaniard has already won two Grand Slams and after the second, Wimbledon 2017, she topped the rankings for far too short a time.
She was unable to finish the year as world number one, though, although she did win the WTA Player of the Year.
Carlos Moya, 2 weeks
Moya, who now coaches Rafael Nadal, topped the ATP rankings in March 1999 for just a fortnight, although that was largely down to his fine work in 1998.
That was the year he won the French Open – his one and only Grand Slam title – and Monte Carlo as well.
He finished the year plagued by a lower back injury and never regained his top ranking, but I’m sure he enjoyed those two weeks nonetheless.
Evonne Goolagong, 2 weeks
14-time Grand Slam winner Goolagong, amazingly, only held the world number one raking for just two weeks in her career.
Even more amazingly, it took 31 years for it to be acknowledged.
Her ascent to the top in 1976 – the year of her fourth Australian Open title – was not reported to due ‘incomplete data’ and the oversight was not discovered, and officially credited, until 2007.
Pat Rafter, 1 week
The last week of July, 1999 – that one and only glorious week when Pat Rafter topped the tennis world.
Earlier that year he beat a very young Roger Federer at Roland Garros and reached the semi-final of the Wimbledon.
He finished the year retiring from the US Open in the first round with a shoulder injury. In 2000, after surgery and as the world number 21, he reached the final of Wimbledon.
Two years later, he had quit, claiming his constant battle with injuries had stripped him of his motivation to play at the top level.
Still, he’ll always have that one glorious week that he will probably forever be known for…
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