Top 10: Tennis’ most lusciously luxurious left-handed players
There is something a little special abut left-handed players, but who is your favourite? We offer up some suggestions.
10. Henri Leconte
I’ll be honest, Laconte makes this list primarily on account of my girlfriend’s strange fascination with him, but that in itself sort of makes him worthy.
Laconte was one of the most naturally absorbing and charismatic players in an era full of personality.
His ‘never take things too seriously’ attitude probably played a part in his failure to win a Grand Slam singles title, but it endeared him to fans around the world.
9. Goran Ivanisevic
If Leconte is my girlfriend’s guilty tennis pleasure, then Ivanisevic, I’d have to admit, is probably mine.
West Brom fan Ivanisevic is that lovable sporting breed who is more famous for not winning than he is for winning. He’s the lovable loser, and, in many ways, he has remained so even after winning.
The big-serving Croat gave tennis one of its greatest ever stories when he won Wimbledon as a wildcard in 2001 after years of being the insanely popular nearly-man.
That popularity was borne of something, though, and his cool swagger and laid-back manner won the hearts of tennis fans long before his winning did.
8. Mark Woodforde
Let’s be honest: successful doubles players don’t get nearly the credit they deserve.
It’s just a quirk of fate really. The spotlight is on the singles game and so the singles players bask in it far more than their doubles counterparts.
However, winning 67 career titles, including 11 Grand Slams, most of them as part of the ‘Woodies’ with Todd Woodbridge, is worthy of all the recognition in the world, and let’s not forget that run to the Australian Open semi-final as a singles competitor in 1996 either.
7. Marcelo Rios
Ah the controversial delights of the enigmatic Marcelo Rios.
Often brilliant, always bonkers, the Chilean is one of the rarest of breeds: a former world number one who never won a Grand Slam.
Many have put that down to the constant battle with injuries that saw him forced to retire at the age of just 28, but was there more to it?
Was he just too good? Was he so good that he deemed himself beyond the need for planning and preparation, exposing him to the mercy of more professional players who embraced both? There was undoubtedly a lot to that theory.
Nevertheless, Rios certainly left his mark.
6. Monica Seles
While we are talking about the ‘burn brightly, fade quickly’ type of tennis star, who could ever forget Monica Seles?
One of the cruellest tales in sport, never mind tennis, Seles’ career was essentially destroyed by one crazed fan with a knife and agenda to return Steffi Graf to the top.
That such deplorable action was deemed necessary by a sick mind just highlights how good Seles was, though. While Graf was dominating everyone else, Seles was dominating her, and she was the only player to ever do that,
5. Jimmy Connors
Connors was arguably the man to usher in the professional generation and he reaped the rewards for that.
Jimbo would be passed in the rankings by John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Bjorn Borg, but it didn’t stop him finishing five straight seasons as world number one and winning a still-standing men’s record of 109 titles.
Among them them were eight Grand Slams, including three US Open titles all won on different surfaces. Worthy of our list indeed.
4. John McEnroe
There is absolutely no doubt about it: McEnroe broke the mould.
His mix of pure talent and pure passion-fueled aggression was something tennis had never seen before.
McEnroe was a player who walked into Stockholm and straight-setted Bjorn Borg. He was a player who went 82-3 in 1984. He was a player who was box office and as infamous as he was famous.
Only fourth on our list? You cannot be serious, I hear you cry, but we are.
3. Rod Laver
USLTA (United States Tennis Association) president Alastair Martin said of Rod Laver after he completed a second calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969: “You’re the greatest in the world, perhaps the greatest we’ve ever seen.” Five decades later, it’s still hard to argue.
The tragedy of Laver is that he spent his peak years away from the cameras, when the professional tour was a relative wilderness.
In 1966 he won 15 tournaments, in 1967 he won a further 19.
His final career slam-count of 11 is deeply impressive, but it’s almost scary to wonder what it might have been had he been allowed to compete in more.
2. Rafael Nadal
Nadal pips Laver here by virtue of one thing: Most of what he has achieved, he has achieved in the Roger Federer era, meaning nothing has come easily.
The Spaniard has amassed a total of 16 Grand Slam titles to date, over half of them coming on the clay of Roland Garos.
In recent years, when his body has started to fail him and injuries have held him back, he has also proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that his durability and mental strength are every bit as big as his talent.
He’s slowing down a little now but, at the age of 31, the same age Laver was when he won his second calendar-year slam, you get the feeling there is plenty more to come from Nadal.
1. Martina Navratilova
Sometimes, you just have to let the facts speak for themselves.
Navratilova had plenty to contend with and showed her promise by reaching two Grand Slam finals as an 18-year-old.
However, it wasn’t until 1981 when she made some majorly brave career, and life, decisions that cemented her incredible legacy.
Becoming a US Citizen and fully immersing herself in western culture gave her professionalism the shot in the arm it always needed. Off the court, she courageously came out as gay, something that was far more terrifying in the 80s than it is today.
She reaped the rewards, however, winning nine of the next 10 majors, including a record six in a row.
She won six straight Wimbledons. She went 86-1 in 1983. She kept the world number one ranking for 156 successive weeks and finished five straight seasons at the top of the women’s game.
Between 1982 and 1990, she lost just 36 matches, winning 626 in the same time and finished with over 1400 career wins and 167 titles.
No one, on either tour, can better it, and probably never will.
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