Written by: Michael Emmett
***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs. He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet. Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada. Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s. Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***
For the better part of the last five years the person most recognized as the best player without a major was unquestionably Andy Murray. With his dominating performance last September in New York, Murray squashed that moniker and joined an illustrious group of major championship winners.
Now the question arises again – who is the best player since the open era began in 1969 to not a have a grand slam to their credit?
Based a simple formula that combines highest career ranking with grand slam success here are my top 30 (both male and female) based on the sum of the two totals.
The formula is based on rankings (career high of #1 = 10pts, career high of #2 = 9pts, career high of #3 = 8pts, etc.) As well as grand slam results, all quarter final appearances = 3pts, all semifinal appearances = 5pts, all finals appearances = 10pts. Adding the rankings number and the grand slam results creates a FINAL number which is based on my ranking of the top 30 – listed below!
For example – if Sally Smith had a career high ranking of #2 and made three grand slam finals and two grand slam semifinals she would have a total of (9pts + 30pts + 10pts) 49pts. In the case of a tie – highest career ranking takes precedence.
- Helena Sukova (95 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Helena reached 4 grand slam finals in the eighties and was the easily the landslide winner in the search for the top player without a major.
- Pam Shriver (88 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Pam was best known for her US Open finals appearance in 1978. What stands out in my mind are the seven semifinal grand slam showings she had in her stellar career
- Mary Joe Fernandez (81 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Mary Joe was playing in an era of superstars. Yes, she was 0-3 in grand slam finals but those losses were against two of the sport’s biggest giants – Steffi Graf (twice) and Monica Seles
- Wendy Turnbull (79 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Wendy made the finals in three of the four grand slams – missing out at Wimbledon where her best performance was a quarter final berth in ’79, ’80 & ’81.
- Rosie Casals (74 pts) – highest career rank: No. 5. Rosie was a great example of consistency in 21-year career. In a span of 11 years she racked up 11 quarterfinal appearances and seven semifinal appearances. She also had two runner-ups in the majors losing to Billy Jean King and Margaret Court – back-to-back in the 1970 and ’71 US Open.
- Elena Dementieva (72 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Elena was one of the best players in the world in 2004 losing in the finals in both Paris and New York. Her electrifying career was also highlighted by seven semifinal appearances in the grand slams between 2000 and 2010.
- Zina Garrison (67 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Zina was most remembered for her dominating performance at the 1990 Wimbledon championships where she made it all the way to the finals. She eventually lost to Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova 6-4, 6-1 in a one sided match. Garrison also had four semifinal showing in the slams during her memorable 17-year career.
- Andrea Jaeger (63 pts) – highest career rank: No.2. Andrea was a dominant player in the early eighties. Her best chance at a slam came at the 1982 French Open when she lost a first set tie-break against Martina Navratilova 8-6. And would later collapse in the second set going down 7-6, 6-1. Jaeger also lost to Navratilova in the 1983 Wimbledon final.
- Tom Okker (59 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Tom lost a classic five set thriller to Arthur Ashe in the 1968 US Open final. This was Tom’s best chance to win a major in singles competition. Four semifinal appearances at each of the grand slams also highlights Tom’s incredible consistency over his 18-year career.
- Todd Martin (59 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Todd had the skills necessary to win a major championship. His first chance to win a grand slam was halted by Pete Sampras at the 1994 Australian Open in straight sets. Five years later he lost a five set heartbreaker to Andre Agassi in the championship match at the 1999 US Open.
- Dinara Safina (56 pts) – highest career rank: No. 1. Dinara is one of a handful of players to achieve the #1 ranking in the world and not own a grand slam title. Her best chances were back-to-back French Open finals where she lost to Ana Ivanovic and Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2008 and 2009.
- Manuela Maleeva (54 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Manuela was known as a model of consistency both on the court and off the court. Maleeva racked up 12 quarterfinal berths in her 12-year career. In ’92 and ’93 she had consecutive US Open semifinals appearances.
- David Nalbandian (53 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. David was an incredibly talented player who could do it all. In 2002 he had a glorious opportunity to win his first grand slam but he played one of his worst matches of the year, as he got manhandled by Australian Lleyton Hewitt – 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 in the Wimbledon final. He would later reach four more semifinals and five more quarterfinals but never back to the championship match at a major.
- Olga Morozova (50 pts) – highest career rank: No. 7. Olga had a great month in 1974 losing in two consecutive championship matches at the French Open and Wimbledon. Morozova lost to Chris Evert in both matches. At the French she went down 6-1, 6-2. At Wimbledon she lost 6-0, 6-4.
- Tim Henman (49 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Tim will always be remembered for his lengthy runs at the Wimbledon championships. Between 1998 and 2002 Tim had a streak of four out of five years with semifinal berths; unfortunately he couldn’t quite climb the mountain in front of his hometown supporters.
- Jelena Jankovic (48 pts) – highest career rank: No. 1. The former #1 player in the world came close to a major championship in the 2008 US Open final losing 6-4, 7-5 to Serena Williams. Jankovic had her best results in grand slam play in Paris – she reached the semis in 2007, 2008 and 2010.
- Cedric Pioline (48 pts) – highest career rank: No. 5. One person stood in the way of Cedric Pioline and a grand slam championship – Pete Sampras. Pioline had an illustrious career highlighted by a 1993 US Open charge that ended with a straight set loss to Pistol Pete. And then four years later at Wimbledon Sampras did it again – dominating Pioline in the Wimbledon final with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 thrashing of the Frenchman.
- Miloslav Mecir (46 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Miloslav Mecir won the gold medal in Seoul defeating American Tim Mayotte in 1988. In the grand slams Mecir had two runner-up appearances losing twice to Ivan Lendl. Lendl won both encounters in straight sets – first in the 1986 US Open final and then in the 1989 Australian Open final.
- Henri Leconte (46 pts) – highest career rank: No. 5. Henri Leconte was trying desperately to win his favorite championship in the entire world – the French Open. Unfortunately, for the nation he came up short losing to Swedish legend Mats Wilander 7-5, 6-2, 6-1. In 1992 he had another great run – losing in the semifinals.
- Vera Zvonareva (45 pts) – highest career rank: No. 2. Vera’s year was most definitely 2010 when she made the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open. At Wimbledon Vera was hammered by double digit slam winner Serena Williams 6-3, 6-2. And then two months later she was throttled by Kim Clijsters in New York 6-2, 6-1.
- Alex Corretja (43 pts) – highest career rank: No. 2. Alex had two wonderful chances to get that coveted grand slam – both at the French Open in Paris. In 1998 he lost to Spanish superstar Carlos Moya in straight sets. And then three years later, he lost to Gustavo Kuerten in four sets.
- Nikolay Davydenko (43 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Davydenko’s best year was in 2007. He reached the semifinals at both the French & US Opens and the quarterfinals in Melbourne at the Australian Open. Davydenko has never made it to a grand slam final; however, he has reached the semis on four separate occasions.
- Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (43 pts) – highest career rank: No. 5. Tsonga had a perfect chance to capture his first ever grand slam in 2008 in Melbourne. But he lost a hard fought battle to Novak Djokovic 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in a classic final. Tsonga had back-to-back semifinal appearances at Wimbledon in 2011 and 2012.
- David Ferrer (42 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. David Ferrer is going to gradually climb this list as he seems to reach the quarters and semis of grand slams on a regular basis. Case in point – in 2012, Ferrer made it to the semifinals at the French Open and US Open, and he went to the quarterfinals in the Australian Open and Wimbledon. Ferrer has the heart of a lion but just can’t seem to generate enough pace to beat any of the big four in the latter stages of these major championships.
- Sebastien Grosjean (42 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Sebastien had four career semifinal appearances in the grand slams in his 16-year career highlighted by two final four berths at Wimbledon. The only major that he failed to reach the semifinals was the last grand slam of the year in New York City at the US Open.
- Claudia Kohde-Kilsch (42 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Claudia’s best year was in 1985 when she reached the semifinals in the year’s first two slams – The Australian Open and the French Open. She later made it to consecutive Australian Open semifinal appearances in 1987 and 1988. Clearly, her favorite slam took place in Melbourne as she had her best results in the Australian Open.
- Caroline Wozniacki (41 pts) – highest career rank: No. 1. Caroline is the third female on this list to have the #1 ranking without a grand slam. Wozniacki held this position for 67 weeks. Her best chance to win a major came in the 2009 US Open final against Kim Clijsters; however, she lost in straight sets to the Belgian future Hall of Famer. Caroline followed up that performance with two straight semifinal appearances at the same tournament in New York in 2010 & 2011.
- Nadia Petrova (39 pts) – highest career rank: No. 3. Nadia’s best results have come in Paris at the French Open. In 2003 she lost to Kim Clijsters in the semifinal. Despite having a set point in the opening set she lost 7-5, 6-1. And then in 2005 she lost to Justine Henin – also in the semifinal 6-2, 6-3.
- Anke Huber (39 pts) – highest career rank: No. 4. Anke Huber came close to a grand slam victory in the 1996 Australian Open final. She lost to Monica Seles in straight sets 6-4, 6-1. Two years later she reached the semifinals in Melbourne.
- Natasha Zvereva (39 pts) – highest career rank: No. 5. Natasha best result in a grand slam came at the 1988 French Open. Unfortunately, she ran into a buzzsaw named Steffi Graf. Zvereva was double bagled – she lost 6-0, 6-0 in embarrassing fashion in 32 minutes – the shortest grand slam final ever. Ten years later she made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon beating Graf and Seles before losing to unheralded Nathalie Tauziat.