From its concept and creation, tennis was an elite sport watched by the English upper-class in the 19th century and since then, it spread out the whole world. A vast number of people usually watch the Grand Slam Tournaments where only the best of the best compete while sometimes an underdog slithers in amongst the greats and defeats them like a true pro!
And it happens that one of those tennis players haven’t even won a Grand Slam Tournament, the most prestigious award in ATP. It’s always great to see some unusual names competing in the tournament because that’s one of the places where they can become huge. If you don’t recognize them, it’s probably because you usually follow the games of the very top players.
But you don’t see the effort, the determination, the hard training that led them to the top. People only want to see the most exciting games with a little bit of domination from their favorite player’s side. That’s all. For instance, Novak Djokovic. Until his 23, 24 the world hasn’t recognized him even a bit.
A new decade began, and he won the tennis world’s heart with his game. The 2010’s were surely his years of domination, but we can say that he had some pretty good streaks overall. And he was that very underdog way before. Now, he’s loved and respected by the globe.
The topic of today, and also a good question: Who are the current best players without the most prestigious Grand Slam title, but could be easily imagined at the top of the ATP list if things were different. Here are 5 of them explained briefly and clearly, let’s begin:
5. David Nalbandian
Born on the 1st of January in the New Year of 1982, David comes from Cordoba, Argentina and in a span 2000-2013 he brought freshness to the tennis world and fans with every Grand Slam he competed in.
Already in 2002, two years after his debut, he entered the Wimbledon finals. However, unfortunately, he lost to Lleyton Hewitt, a former tennis sensation between 1999 and 2003 and unluckily Nalbandian was caught in his victorious, peak performance and couldn’t have overcome him that day, losing 1-6, 3-6, 2-6.
He was simply lucky that far but his luck ran out the moment he faced the former ATP number one Aussie. It’s good to know that the Wimbledon loss wasn’t the only thing he’ll be remembered for. Quite the contrary because within the next 3 years, he probably hasn’t even dreamed about overcoming Roger Federer in the 2005 Tennis Masters Cup.
In the very match, after two tough consecutive 7-6 set losses with a tie-break, a switch flicked in his head all of a sudden, proudly taking the upcoming 2 sets with a great score 6-2, 6-1, and the 5th – and final – set was every tennis player’s dream.
His returns were unstoppable and even Federer couldn’t have coped with them so that’s when the tennis pro had to let things flow their own way, losing to an outsider who set his mind to demolish him in the final set.
It started with 3 games for David’s taking, however, you shouldn’t underestimate a heart of a champion. Especially when it comes to Roger so David somehow clinched his victory with a tie-breaking 7-6. It was an outstanding tennis match where even those who don’t regularly follow tennis enjoyed the beauty of the game.
His shoulder injury in October 2013 was the cause of his retirement and the capped score and final earnings from tournaments were at 383-192 and $11M, respectively. He won 11 tournaments in total, was by far third of the ATP list, and lost a devastating number of 12 finals!
As things untied and settled, he ended his career with empty hands of a Grand Slam title. Don’t let that fact let you down because David found himself as a race car driver in Argentina and that’s his occupation in life at the moment.
4. Tomas Berdych
If you don’t like this guy, you simply don’t love tennis. He symbolizes the easiness by destroying his opponents like they’re no competition at all. And not only did he find beginners at the short end of his racket, he knew how to inflict damage to the tennis greats as well! The 32-year-old Czech comes from Valmez and he currently stands at the 13. position on the ATP list.
His estimate is around $26M with a *current score of 594-309. 2002 was his debut year, and the strongest impression in his professional tennis career was when he was victorious against Roger Federer who was at that moment at the ATP mountain’s peak, defeating him in the second leg of the Summer Olympic Games tournament with 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
After the surprising win, people have speculated a bright career in his future, winning Grand Slams as he pleases. However, later in the years, he was known for losing in those tournaments yet in the 1st legs. The only huge expectation was in 2010 after he competed against Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon finals and lost all 3 sets, 3-6, 5-7, 4-6.
Fans knew he had it in him but that simply wasn’t enough against the current world’s number one Nadal who swept him with ease, so to speak. Tomas’ current individual standings (W-L): Grand Slams (0-1), ATP Masters 1000 (1-3), ATP 500 (3-4), ATP 250 (9-9). His highest ranking was number 4 on the ATP list.
3. David Ferrer
Ferrer is an under the radar tennis player and people generally have heard of him at least, even if they are not familiar with the essence of his game. But all in all, he doesn’t get his deserved recognition. Just like Berdich, he knew how to defeat a Goliath but some higher force simply didn’t let him win any Grand Slam title. He comes from Spain, Xabia, born on April 2nd, 1982.
His greatest career highlights and successes were Roland Garros in 2013 where he lost to the legendary Rafael Nadal, who overcame his underdog opponent with ease. Ferrer was actually on a winning streak back then, winning 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. In 2007 at the World Tour Finals he was a Shanghai finalist, going up against Roger Federer and eventually losing the finals 2-6, 3-6, 2-6.
He was a real threat to him but as it turned out, the great Federer took the blowout win and seized the throne. Ferrer debuted in 2000 and hasn’t yet thought about retiring, so we have our fingers crossed and hope to watch him for a long time to come because his style of play is simply amazing and fun to watch!
His profit from tennis is over $29M and the individual score is 696-337 currently. He won 26 tournaments and lost 25 finals. In his most successful year, in 2013 when he lost to Nadal on clay, he was ranked third on the ATP list.
2. Nikolay Davydenko
The Man of Steel was born on 2nd July 1981 in Ukraine. He left Ukraine with his brother, heading to Russia where he stood a better chance of becoming a professional tennis player. Since 1999, he’s a citizen of Russia. He’s famous for his hard game interpretation, always fixing his legs firmly to the ground, waiting for the ball to bounce and whenever it comes to him, he swings it with a tight grip, determined to win every single point.
That’s how his style of play was, until 2012 when he retired. He could’ve overcome just anybody with his vicious and ice-cold overlook of the game. He was always mentally prepared on every one of his matches, looking his opponents straight in the eyes while also keeping his mind on the prize. Fearless! That’s the word that mostly describes him.
A winner’s mentality. Unfortunately, he went as far as two semi-final losses at Roland Garros in 2005 and 2007. Losing to M. Puerta in 2005 with a score 3-6, 7-5, 6-2, 4-6, 4-6, a full 5 set match lasting a tiring 3 hours and 29 minutes. You can watch the full match on Youtube, it’s definitely worth checking out. Also in 2007, Federer defeated him with a 5-7, 6-7, 6-7 tie-break loss.
Davidenko’s estimate is capped on $16M with a final individual score of 482-329. He won 21 tournaments and lost 7 finals. His best ranking was number 6 in 2006 on the ATP list. He is often mentioned as the best underrated player with no Grand Slam title despite the great number of notable matches he had won. I know, sounds ironic, but it is what it is. You can like him or love him! He showed the world what it’s like to play tennis with heart!
1. Marcelo Rios
And the number one on the list, we have a former Chilean player born in 26th of December, 1975. From 1994 to 2004 he showed tennis fans how easy it is to keep a NUMBER 1 spot without actually winning a Grand Slam title. He did the impossible while making it look easy, but it was everything but easy.
He wasn’t the best at the moment for nothing. 1998 was his prime when he lost to Petr Corda in the Australian Open, 2-6, 2-6, 2-6, hard court. It wasn’t the reason of his top placement, but instead, it was the victory over Englishman Greg Rusedski at Indian Wells, in the finals.
His tricky left hand was the reason tennis greats had trouble with him and besides his physical characteristics, he was a tennis magician! It was outstanding what he did to the ball. Every point counted on his watch. That’s why he was the best.
However, he started having back issues in 2004 and things have gotten so bad that he had to give up his career. We can all admit that for a professional tennis player with his skills, a 10-year career is quite a short period of time.
His worth was more than $9M, the smallest number of all 5 on our list. But that was the previous tennis era which he played in. 391-192 was his final individual result, winning 18 tournaments and losing 13 times in the finals!
Other than AUS Open, he participated in Roland Garros two times, losing in the quarter-finals for 2 consecutive years (1998 and 1999), Wimbledon 4th leg in 1997 and US Open quarter-finals in 1997. He was the first South-American man to clinch the number one spot on the ATP list.