As Andy Murray becomes the first British player to hold the ATP rankings top spot, an incredible achievement for the sport in this country, we ask: how does he measure up against the all-time greats?
Here at Tennis Talent towers, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten male British players of all time, not only taking into account the silverware they won, but other, less obvious factors such as their overall impact on the sport.
Of course, the list is likely to be controversial so please get in touch by commenting if you disagree!
10. Arthur Gore
As well as being the owner of an impressive moustache, Arthur Gore won Wimbledon in 1901, 1908 and 1909 – the latter at the grand old age of 41, making him the oldest player to have ever won the title.
He also picked up two medals at the 1908 London Olympics and triumphed at the International Lawn Tennis Challenge (the precursor to the Davis Cup) in 1912.
9. Laurence Doherty
Laurence Doherty had tennis in his blood. Aside from being born in Wimbledon, his older brother Reginald won the local tournament four times at the end of the nineteenth century. It was a sibling rivalry that put the Murray brothers to shame, but Laurence eventually went one better and won Wimbledon five times (1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906), as well as the US Open in 1903 and two gold medals in the 1900 Paris Olympics. Tragically, he died in 1919, aged just 41.
8. Bunny Austin
He may not have had the most fearsome nickname, but Wilfred “Bunny” Austin was a force to be reckoned with on the court. Unfortunately now mainly known as the last British man to reach a Wimbledon final before Andy Murray, he also reached a French Open final in 1937 and scooped three Davis Cups with his teammates (including Fred Perry).
So why have we put him above multiple Wimbledon winners? Buddy Austin was one of the first great tennis celebrities, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Daphne du Maurier and Peter Ustinov. He was also an early, and controversial, adopter of a segmented-shaft ‘Streamline’ racket that would go on to have an influence on later designs. Oh, and he was the first player to wear shorts at Wimbledon.
7. Greg Rusedski
The well-documented rivalry between the Canadian-born Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman – who, bizarrely, share the same birthday – has somewhat overshadowed the accomplishments of the former’s career.
Sporadically British No.1 and World No.4, Rusedski reached a Grand Slam final (the US Open in 1997), a feat that famously eluded Henman, and was the first male tennis player to be crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Another of Rusedski’s feats was holding the fastest serve record, a blistering 149mph, until it was broken by Andy Roddick.
6. Roger Taylor
Roger Taylor is perhaps best remembered for failing to win Wimbledon in 1973, when 13 of the top 16 players in the world boycotted the tournament – including the reigning champion Stan Smith. However, the left-hander went on to reach the semifinal (as he had done before in 1967 and 1970) after beating a 17-year-old Bjorn Borg in a five-set thriller, eventually losing to the eventual champion Jan Kodeš. He also reached the semifinal of the Australian Open in 1970 and won two doubles titles at the US Open.
5. John Lloyd
The younger brother of Davis Cup captain David Lloyd (yet another sibling rivalry), John Lloyd was the first British player to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open era, losing the 1977 Australian Open final 6-3, 7-6, 5-7, 3-6, 6-2 to Vitas Gerulaitis. It was a record that stood until 1997, when Greg Rusedski reached the US Open final.
Lloyd became an influential figure in the British tennis and television worlds after retiring, with his distinctive, food-based commentary (“overcooked”, “too much mustard”) entering the sport’s lexicon. He was also, of course, one half of tennis’ “golden couple”, marrying World No.1 Chris Evert in 1979.
4. Tim Henman
“Come on, Tim!” is a cry forever etched into the memories of tennis fans of a certain age. In fact, so ingrained was the phrase in the British psyche that it was even jokingly shouted at Andy Murray before his first Grand Slam triumph.
The Tim in question is, of course, Tim Henman – six-time Grand Slam semifinalist and all-round nice guy. Although he never quite lived up to his full potential, the serve-and-volley specialist became World No.4 on three occasions, won 11 ATP singles titles, bagged a doubles silver at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and racked up 40 Davis Cup wins. That’s a lot of celebratory “Henman fists”.
3. William Renshaw
Who? The man who won seven Wimbledon titles, that’s who. Yes, it was in the late nineteenth century, an era of stiff flannel trousers and cravats. And yes, the previous year’s winner was automatically entered in the final, but the feat remains remarkable nonetheless.
He won the singles tournament in 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1886 and 1889, as well as the doubles title in 1884, 1885, 1886, 1888 and 1889. As if that wasn’t enough, he popularised the sport so much that there was a “Renshaw Rush” to take it up and was the first to draw attention to the debilitating tennis elbow, which meant he couldn’t defend his title in 1887. He also became the first president of the Lawn Tennis Association in 1887.
2. Andy Murray
Two-time Wimbledon champion, two-time Olympic gold medallist, US Open winner, BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2013, Davis Cup hero and, finally, World No.1 – Andy Murray has achieved a staggering amount in his career. However, at just 29, there’s plenty more on the horizon for the stupendous Scot.
Indeed, if his performance in this year’s French Open is anything to go by, we may soon see the first British champion in Paris since Fred Perry in 1935. In fact, we were very torn as to whether to give Murray the top spot over the English legend – but it’s only a matter of time.
1. Fred Perry
Where to start with Frederick John Perry? The son of a Stockport cotton spinner, he has been a British sporting hero ever since he won his first Grand Slam (the US Open) in 1933. He was the first player to complete a Career Grand Slam, mastering all of the surfaces, and won eight overall. He also led the British team to four consecutive Davis Cup victories between 1933 and 1936, the country’s first since 1912. Not bad for a polo shirt maker.
However, despite showering himself with glory, Perry repeatedly came up against the fussy, class-based opinions of the LTA – so much so that, after turning professional in 1936, he became a naturalised US citizen. Luckily, the British tennis authorities have since recognised their madness and a statue of Perry now stands proudly in Wimbledon, a tournament he won three times.