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World number 1 ranked male tennis players is a year-by-year listing of the male tennis players who were, at the end of each calendar year, at that time, generally considered to be the best overall for that entire calendar year. The runner-up for each year is also listed as is a summary of the reasons why both were ranked as such, which includes the performance of the players in major tennis tournaments of the particular year, and the tennis ranking authorities which provided rankings.

Rankings before 1973

Before the open era of tennis arrived in 1968, rankings for amateur players were generally compiled only for a full year of play. Professional players were ranked by journalists, promoters, and players' associations usually at the end of the year. Even for amateurs, however, there was no single official overall ranking that encompassed the entire world. Instead, nation rankings were done by the national tennis association of each country, and world rankings were the preserve of tennis journalists. It was only with the introduction of computerized rankings in the open era that rankings were issued more frequently than once yearly. Even the end-of-year amateur rankings issued by official organizations such as the United States Lawn Tennis Association were based on judgments made by men and women and not on mathematical formulas assigning points for wins or losses.

In 1938, for instance, when Don Budge won the amateur Grand Slam, it was easy to conclude that Budge was not only the U.S. No. 1 but also the world No. 1 amateur player. It was far more difficult, however, to decide who was the best overall player, amateur or professional, for that year because both Ellsworth Vines and Fred Perry, now professionals, were still at the top of their form. Two different sources, however, carefully studied the performances of the players for that year and both concluded that Budge was the best overall player, with Vines a close second. For the previous year, 1937, one of these same sources concluded that all three players, Perry, Vines, and Budge, deserved to be called the co-world No. 1 players.

In 1946 Bobby Riggs, a professional, had established himself as the best player in the world. In 1947, he was still the best professional player but Jack Kramer as an amateur player won Wimbledon and the U.S. Championships. Kramer, having turned professional in November after the amateur Pacific Coast Championships, met Riggs three times in late December on fast indoor courts and Riggs won twice. But at the end of their long series of matches in May 1948, Kramer had led Riggs decisively in head-to-head meetings.

1948 was the last year in which an amateur player turned professional and then went on to beat the defending professional champion.

Even here, however, some years present difficulties. Kramer was perhaps the world's best player in 1950 and 1951 when he crushed first Pancho Gonzales and then Pancho Segura in head-to-head tours but was dominated in tournaments by those same players. In 1952, there was no long, headline tour. Instead, there were short tours between different players and several professional tournaments, with the result that none of the professionals played extensively. The short-lived Professional Lawn Tennis Association published an end-of-the-year list in which Segura was ranked the best player in the world, with Gonzales second. During the year, however, Gonzales had defeated Segura 4 matches to 1. Segura had also won a number of important tournaments.

The following year, 1953, Kramer narrowly defeated the top amateur-turned-professional, Frank Sedgman, in their tour during the first half of the year and so reestablished himself as world No. 1, at least for that period. But then, because of injuries, he did not play the second half of the year. As a result, Kramer was now in semi-retirement.

In 1954, there were a number of round-robins tournaments as well as shorter tours, from which it is clear that Gonzales had now established himself as the best player in the world, the first year in a run of seven consecutive years as the world No. 1. But, given the spotty and often contradictory record-keeping of the professional results since 1926, it is frequently difficult to make a clear, objective judgment as to who was the best player in any number of years.

There were numerous teaching professionals, that is, players who gave lessons for money at private clubs and public parks. Because they accepted money in return for their services, they were not allowed to participate in amateur tournaments. They did, however, create a number of relatively small professional tournaments for players like themselves, primarily in Europe.

Some of the oldest professional matches known are those between Irish player George Kerr and American Tom Pettitt. In 1889, Kerr beat Pettitt three times in four meetings. In June 1890, Kerr won all three matches against Pettitt in Dublin.

In April 1898, a professional, round-robin tournament was played in Paris on covered courts. Both Thomas Burke (tutor of the Tennis Club de Paris, former teacher of Joshua Pim who won Wimbledon twice) from Ireland and Kerr (Fitzwilliam Club) defeated Tom Fleming (Queen's Club), and Burke defeated Kerr 6–2, 4–6, 6–1, 5–7, 6–4.

During the 1900 Paris Exhibition, a professional tournament was held on clay, with Burke finishing ahead of both Kerr and the Englishman Charles Hierons.

In the spring of 1903 in Nice on clay, Reginald Doherty, the leading amateur, defeated the leading professional, Burke, 1–6, 6–1, 6–0, 6–0.

Burke was reportedly as good a player as the leading amateurs.[1] Charles Haggett was the best English teaching professional during the early 20th century. In 1913, Haggett settled in the United States, invited by the West Side Tennis Club of Forest Hills, New York and became the coach of the American Davis Cup team. In practice matches, he beat the leading amateurs Anthony Wilding, Wimbledon winner and Maurice McLoughlin, Wimbledon All Comer's winner.[2]

In the 1920s, Karel Koželuh, Albert Burke (son of Thomas Burke), and Roman Najuch were probably the most notable, as well as the best, of these players. The Bristol Cup, held at Beaulieu or at Cannes on the French Riviera and won seven consecutive times by Koželuh, was "the world's only significant pro tennis tournament."[3] Koželuh went on to become one of the best of the touring professionals in the 1930s. He and Burke, however, were not listed among the top players before 1928, as this was the first year when a ranking was published for all the top players, amateur and professional. All top 10 rankings for the years before 1928 were for amateurs only.

Tradition on the pro circuit was non-existent before 1968 because the event hierarchy could change each year. Some major tournaments, however, stood out at different times.

Elite events that lasted only a few years (mostly because of financial collapse) included:

Three major tournaments held a certain tradition and usually had the best of the leading players. They were called "Championship Tournaments." The most prestigious of the three was generally the London Indoor Professional Championship. Played between 1934 and 1990 at Wembley Arena in the United Kingdom, the tournament was unofficially and usually considered the world's championship until 1967. The oldest of the three was the United States Professional Championship, usually called the U.S. Pro, played between 1927 and 1999. Between 1954 and 1962 it was played indoors in Cleveland and was called the World Professional Championships. The third major tournament was the French Professional Championship, played between 1934 and 1968, generally at Roland Garros. The British and American championships continued into the open era but devolved to the status of minor tournaments. The winner and runner-up in each of these tournaments will be shown for the years in which they were played.

These three tournaments (Wembley Pro, French Pro and U.S. Pro) through 1967 are sometimes referred to as the professional Grand Slam tournaments by tennis historians. In any particular year, another tournament, such as the Forest Hills Pro or the Masters Pro, could have had a better field. But over the decades, these were the three "majors" that all professional players sought.

The occasional lack of authoritative material about the early years of the professional players is an issue that complicates the creation of reliable rankings. For instance, the very existence of the 1936 and 1938 Wembley tournament is in question. Two sources, Collins and McCauley, give results for the Wembley tournament in each year. Bowers, however, is adamant that neither took place and offers some evidence to support his view.

In 1947 Collins said that Riggs beat Budge in a tour; McCauley said that there was no long tour, only a short one between Riggs and Frank Kovacs. Tom LeCompte says that there was a small tour with Riggs overcoming Budge 12–6 followed by the short Riggs-Kovacs tour (4–3, but 11–10 according to McCauley).

Other examples : the French Pro until 1933. McCauley says that the first year of the French Pro is unknown but begins his list in 1930 whereas Ray Bowers doesn't talk about any French Pro before 1934 (even in 1934 he doesn't use the expression "French Professional Championships" but writes a three-day tournament at (Roland) Garros, September 21–23). For example, in 1933, the supposed Tilden-Cochet final (6–2 6–4 6–2) listed by McCauley was just according to Bowers a singles match (with a slightly different score 6–3 6–4 6–2) of a USA-France meeting (in the Davis Cup format) at Roland Garros (where Cochet defeated Bruce Barnes, Tilden beat Plaa and Cochet and Barnes overcame Plaa and the US won the doubles).

The world No. 1 and No. 2 rankings

Before 1973, there were no computer-based rankings based on the points players obtained for achieving a certain level of performance in particular tournaments, but only journalists or officials (on their personal behalf) or promoters or players themselves who listed their own annual rankings. In some years, however, only a small number of journalists or players released rankings at the end of the tennis year. For these years, rankings done by tennis historians or sports statisticians well after the tennis year ended (i.e. in the 2000s for a year in the 1960s) are considered in the determination of which players are ranked No. 1 and No. 2.

In 1973 the ATP listed its own rankings every fortnight and some years later (around 1977) every week but they had many imperfections because in the seventies and the eighties they did not take into account such events as the Davis Cup, the WCT Finals and the Masters (later called the Singles Championship and in the 2000s the Tennis Masters Cup). Currently, the ATP does award points for what is now called the ATP Finals. (See : List of ATP number 1 ranked players). As well, the ATP point rankings did not award the Grand Slam tournaments which most often attracted the most top-ranked players in the world (Wimbledon and the U.S. Open) and, therefore, were the most valuable to win in the minds of both players and tennis journalists, a number of points commensurate with their importance. As well, some events which did not attract many or even a couple top-ranked players but offered high prize money were worth a higher number of points than their perceived importance.

Therefore, other rankings proposed by tennis experts or by the players themselves could be more accurate because they included these events and adjusted the rankings to reflect the actual importance of particular tournaments. From 1973 to 2006 this list sometimes differs from the ATP list because it shows journalists (or even players) rankings released at the time and not the computer-based point rankings. In particular, Connors has been ranked No. 1, at the end of the year, from 1974 to 1978 by the ATP but the majority disagreed with the computer rankings: for instance in 1975 leading journalists including John Barrett, Bud Collins, Barry Lorge and Judith Elian ranked Arthur Ashe as the No. 1 in the world while his ATP ranking was only 4th; in 1977, no one, except the ATP ranking, considered that Connors was the best player in the world, and everyone thought that Borg and Vilas were the top two tennis players; and in 1978 everyone and, in particular, the ITF recognized that the Swede was the World Champion. In 1982 and in 1989, respectively, Connors and Becker, both winners of Wimbledon and the US Open, were considered as World Champions even though the ATP ranked McEnroe and Lendl as No. 1 in those years. Since the mid-'90s the ATP rankings had been more or less accepted by many as the official rankings (but in 1999 many considered Sampras as the second best player in the world while the ATP ranked Kafelnikov 2nd). Finally since 1978 the ITF (represented at the beginning by Sedgman, Hoad and Trabert) has designated his World Champion. From 1973 onward, as there is no shortage of rankings that were released by tennis authorities or publications at the end of each tennis year, which reflected the generally agreed upon importance of particular tournaments at the time, later rankings by tennis historians or sports statisticians are not considered in the listing of No. 1 and No. 2 players.

Before 1913 very few sources are available but Richard Yallop in Royal South Yarra Lawn Tennis Club 100 Years in Australian Tennis stated that Norman Brookes was the champion of the world in 1907 and Len and Shelley Richardson in Anthony Wilding A Sporting Life cite the opinions of A. E. Crawley (an early-twentieth-century British journalist) and Anthony Wilding (the New Zealand tennis player). Other years dating back to 1913 also present difficulties and ambiguities. There are sometimes contradictions between sources regarding the same information.

List of No. 1 and No. 2 ranked players

Early tennis era rankings are more variable in nature due to limited sourcing.

A. = Amateur P. = Professional (all players in the Open Era are professional unless otherwise indicated)

From 1913 sources are more detailed and better documented.


  • Note: An undisputed number one player for the year (without another player regarded as co-number one ) is shown in bold
  • Note: The age is measured at 31 December of year ranked as No. 1.

See also

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