How does Serena Williams compare to other tennis greats?

·6 min read

How does Serena Williams compare to other tennis greats? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

One of the most storied careers in tennis history is about to come to a close.

Serena Williams wrote in an editorial for Vogue’s September issue that she will retire sometime after the U.S. Open. The Grand Slam event will get started in New York at the end of August and is the site of some of her most iconic moments.

Though she was not clear on an exact retirement timeline, it won’t be long before the final chapter in Serena’s career is written. It’s undoubtedly one of the most illustrious careers not just in tennis, but all of sports. So, where does it stack up against the greatest resumes in tennis history?

It’s tough to compare players from different periods. Though tennis’ Open Era gives a benchmark date for a seismic change in the sport, there are over 120 years of history to sift through when defining the best players. Serena’s on-court dominance is tough to match, but other players across the sport have her beat in the record books. 

Before Serena steps off the court for the final time, here’s where she stacks up against other tennis legends:

Which tennis player has the most Grand Slam singles titles?

Serena has the second-most Grand Slam singles titles of any tennis player – women’s or men’s – with 23. Her first victory came at the 1999 U.S. Open, and her most recent Grand Slam championship was won against her sister, Venus Williams, at the 2017 Australian Open. 

She spread her wealth across the four Grand Slams. She has seven U.S. Open and Wimbledon titles, six U.S. Open titles and three from the French Open. She won all four Grand Slam tournaments in a row twice in her career, though neither of those streaks came within one calendar year.

Margaret Court is the only player above Serena on the all-time women’s singles Grand Slams list, winning 24 in her career. She completed the Golden Slam in 1970, sweeping all four Grand Slams. Her top tournament came in her native country, as she won 11 of 14 Australian Open titles from 1960 to 1973. Thirteen of her Grand Slam titles came before the start of the Open Era in 1968.

Steffi Graf is the third woman with 20-plus Grand Slam singles titles. The German champion took home 22 Grand Slam trophies, with seven coming from Wimbledon.

On the men’s side, three players have earned 20 or more Grand Slams. Rafael Nadal leads the pack with 22, followed by Novak Djokovic’s 21 and Roger Federer’s 20. Federer held the men’s crown until Nadal won the 2022 Australian Open. Djokovic also passed Federer earlier this year by winning Wimbledon.

Which tennis player has the most Grand Slam doubles titles?

Though Serena and Venus were often competitors, they were also successful teammates. The Williams sisters won 14 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles: six at Wimbledon, four at the Australian Open, two at the U.S. Open and two at the French Open.

Martina Navratilova is the queen of doubles tennis. She won 31 Grand Slams, winning at least seven titles at each of the four events. Louise Brough, Margaret Osborne duPont and Pam Shriver are next on the list with 21 in their careers. Court sits alone in fifth with 19 women’s doubles Grand Slam titles.

Only five men have more doubles Grand Slams than the Williams sisters: Mike Bryan (18), John Newcombe (17), Roy Emerson (16), Todd Woodbridge (16) and Bob Bryan (16). Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all competed in doubles at points in their careers, but none of them ever won a Grand Slam in the format.

Which tennis player has the most Olympic gold medals?

Serena and Venus have the most Olympic gold medals in tennis history.

The siblings won three golds in doubles, beginning at the 2000 Sydney Games and earning back-to-back golds at the 2008 Beijing Games and 2012 London Games. Each sister also has a singles gold medal. Venus won hers in 2000 and Serena stepped atop the podium in 2012.

Venus and Kathleen “Kitty” McKane Godfree are the two tennis players with the most Olympic medals overall at five. Along with her four golds, Venus earned silver in the mixed doubles event at the 2016 Rio Olympics while playing alongside Rajeev Ram. Godfree took home one gold, two silver and two bronze medals in her Olympic career by competing in the 1920 Antwerp Games and 1924 Paris Games.

On the men’s side, Reginald Doherty is the only player to win three Olympic gold medals. Two of those came in men’s doubles (1900, 1908) and the other came in mixed doubles (1900). Chris Dixon is the only other men’s player to win four Olympic medals.

Of the men’s players with 20 or more Grand Slam wins, Nadal is the only one to win Olympic gold in singles, doing so in 2008. Federer has two Olympic medals, including gold in the men’s doubles event that same year. Djokovic’s lone medal came in the form of bronze in the 2008 men’s singles tournament.

Which tennis player has won the most tournaments?

Serena sits in eighth place on the list of women’s singles titles with 73. When it comes to the Open Era, she is up to fifth.

Court owns the record by a wide margin with 192 tournament titles. Navratilova is next on the list with 167, followed by Chris Evert with 157, Billie Jean King with 129 and Graf with 107. Navratilova owns the Open Era record with a whopping 177 doubles titles.

Rod Laver has the most singles titles of any tennis player. He won 198 events while also reaching an all-time record 286 singles finals. Ken Rosewall is second in both categories, while Federer is 10th in both.

Which tennis player has the most career wins?

On the men’s side, Rosewall is the all-time leader with 1,811 wins and 2,521 matches played. Bill Tilden is second in both categories, earning 1,726 wins in 2,232 matches, though he holds the record for consecutive wins with 98. 

Narrowing it down to the Open Era, Jimmy Connors leads in both categories with 1,274 wins in 1,557 matches. Federer leads active players with 1,251 wins and 1,562 matches played.

For the women, Navratilova leads all players from the Open Era with 1,661 matches played and 1,442 victories. She has the longest winning streak, as well, at 74. It was one of four streaks of 41 consecutive wins or more during her career. For doubles, Navratilova went 747-143 in her career.

Though she isn’t even in the top 10 for singles matches played, Serena is fourth on the list of wins with 855.