Women’s tennis has enjoyed an explosion in popularity over the past decade. Legends like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles paved the way through the 1970s-to 1990s, inspiring young women to pick up a racket and compete for pride, and for the ever-increasing prize money available on the WTA Tour. The influx of talented female tennis stars has made today’s women’s tennis circuit much more balanced, and the parity has made for some very compelling tennis. Still, there were a select few athletes that managed to separate themselves from their peers in the first decade of the new millennium. Here are my picks for the top 5 female tennis players of the 2000s:
5 – Kim Clijsters – Despite the fact that she actually retired from the sport for almost two years following the birth of her daughter, Kim Clijsters still did enough in the rest of the decade to squeak onto the list. During that span she held the #1 ranking, won two US Open titles – her second coming just weeks after coming out of retirement – and piled up close to 40 ATP titles.
4 – Maria Sharapova – Though in the past two years this Russian beauty has seen her WTA ranking slide outside the top 10 in the mid part of the 2000’s she looked like she was poised to become the sport’s biggest superstar. At age 17 she became the third youngest woman ever to win a Wimbledon title, and has since added two more Grand Slam titles (2006 U.S. Open and 2008 Australian Open) to her impressive resume. On four separate occasions she has held the number one ranking in women’s tennis, and at the tender age of 23 she already has more than 20 tour victories under her belt.
3 – Venus Williams – One half of the greatest sister act in the history of tennis, Venus was an absolute force in the tennis world from 2000 onward. She won both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open titles that year, and would repeat the feat again in 2001. Over the course of the decade she would win seven Grand Slam singles titles, including five Wimbledon’s, making her one of the most dominant ever at tennis’s most prestigious event.
2 – Justine Henin – Like her Belgian countrywoman, Kim Clijsters, this diminutive star actually retired from the sport for a significant period. However, despite hanging up her racket for the bulk of 2008 and 2009, Henin managed to tie Venus Williams for second most Grand Slam singles titles during the decade, including four French Open titles, two U.S. Open crowns, and an Australian Open victory. Despite the fact that women’s tennis in the 2000’s has been largely dominated by tall, powerful players like the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova, Henin managed to more than hold her own with her incredible accuracy and unparalleled skill-set.
1 – Serena Williams – As good as the other ladies on the list were in the decade gone by there is only one natural choice for the number spot on the list of the top 5 female tennis players of the 2000’s. Between 2000 and 2009 Serena won four Australian Opens, three Wimbledons, two U.S. Opens and a French Open title, making her the only woman in the decade to achieve a career Grand Slam. One of the hardest-hitting players in the history of the women’s game, Serena dominates her opponents with sheer power. However, her ability to pound the ball is but one of many weapons in her arsenal. Her combination of speed and determination allows her to track down balls that other players would give up on, and her consistent accuracy, coupled with the speed at which she strikes the ball, makes it a nightmare for opponents to try and defend against her. At 28 years of age and showing little sign of slowing down there is little doubt that Serena will find herself on the list of the best players of the millennium’s second decade as well.