The Most Intense Rivalries in Tennis History Part 1

September 5, 2017

In this article we have 5 out of the top 10 rivalries in tennis history. So sit down with your popcorn and get ready for some nail biting points!

Martina Navratilova vs Steffi Graf

The first rivalry we are going to cover is Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. With a 12 year age different Steffi Graf arguably brought a fresh and young face to women’s tennis.  In 1987 Graf and Navratilova met in the French Open Final. The two had previously played each other 7 times, Navratilova led 5-2 in match wins. However, Graf beat Navratilova 6-4, 4-6, 8-6 and became one of the youngest players to win the French Open Title. During their whole career the two rivals have played 18 times each winning 9 matches.

Justine Henin vs Kim Clijsters

Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters, are next on our list of rivalries. Being from the same country fueled this already intense rivalry even more. In 2001 Henin and Clijsters played in the French Open semifinals and the winner (Clijsters) would make history as the first Belgium singles player in a Grand Slam final. Their rivalry lasted 12 years and consisted of 25 matches, 8 of the matches were in Grand Slam tournaments. Clijsters often had the edge on hard courts, whereas Henin dominated on clay courts. Both the players were evenly matched on grass courts. Clijsters won 13 out of their 25 matches, however, Henin won 5 out of their 8 Grand Slam matches.

John McEnroe vs Bjorn Borg

The John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg rivalry is so popular that a movie about it will be released in 2017 called “Borg vs McEnroe.”  The two men were known as polar opposites on the court; Borg had earned himself the nickname “Iceman” because he was so cool and calm on the court, and we all know McEnroe was nothing but cool/calm when playing. This contrast in court demeanor eventually lead to the rivalry being coined as a “Fire and Ice” rivalry.  Their rivalry lasted from 1978 to 1981; during this time they played 14 matches on tour against eachother, each winning 7. The most famous match between the men was the 1980 Wimbledon Finals, McEnroe was hoping to win his first Wimbledon title and Borg was aiming to win his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. Borg claimed victory after four sets, but McEnroe put up a good fight in the fourth set tie break saving 5 match points. The two men remain close friends even today.

Andre Agassi vs Pete Sampras

The Agassi and Sampras rivalry is similar to the McEnroe and Borg rivalry because the men also had contrasting playing styles and personalities.  By simply looking at the men you can see the differences. Sampras dressed conservatively and was more quiet when playing; he was very talented in a serve and volley game. However, Agassi dressed in a style that was very rebellious to tennis norms. He was very strong on the baseline and returning serves. Sampras held the number 1 seed for 82 consecutive weeks until April 1995 when Agassi replaced him. The men played 34 times and met 16 times in tournament finals. Sampras won 20 of the matches and 4 out of 5 of their Grand Slam Finals.


Steffi Graf Vs Monica Seles 

Between 1989 and 1999 Graf and Seles had a rivalry competing for the best female tennis players. Overall they played 15 matches and Graf won 10/15 of the matches played. However, it is important to account for Seles’ unfortunate stabbing that stopped her from playing tennis for two years. Even though this rivalry was intense, many believe that it could have been even more competitive and grueling if Seles was never stabbed. In 1989 the two women met for the first time at the Semi-Finals of the French Open where Graf won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.  The next year Seles got revenge and gained the French Open Grand Slam Title.

Those were some intense rivalries; do you have an intense rivalry? Do you need some more practice before meeting head to head with one of your rivals? Use My Tennis Group to propose matches and set up practices!

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