Female tennis players dominate today’s lists of highest paid female athletes. They are among the most popular and famous athletes and come from all over the world. This is nothing new. At the turn of the 20th century, tennis was one of the first sports to see women become globally recognized superstars.
Tennis was first created in 19th century England and was normally played in country clubs by the elite. It quickly spread and the first version of Roland Garros was played in the 1890s. The sport remains immensely popular today and has become much more accessible in many parts of the world thanks to public pitches and programs. Today’s biggest stars like Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Naomi Osaka are household names and are racking up earnings and support deals on a colossal scale. Several tennis players are on the list of the 40 must-see athletes of the 21st century.
Racquet sport has also been a great way for athletes to break down barriers and highlight injustices. Several of the women on this list paved the way for women’s athletics and inspired future generations. Many have tackled issues of racial and gender inequality and discrimination in various ways, some very directly like Billie Jean King. Much of that impact resonated well beyond the tennis court and athletics. For more women excelling in male-dominated fields, check out the Most Influential Women in Science History.
To determine the most successful tennis players of all time, 24/7 Tempo looked at ESPN’s list of Grand Slam title winners in women’s singles. Events which were not open to all competitors were not taken into account.
Click here to find out who the greatest tennis players of all time are