A Grand Slam Title is a dream of every single competitor on the ATP Tour. But that dream starts many years before entering the world of professional tennis. Many junior tennis players have got only one desire – to win a Grand Slam final lifting the coveted trophy above their head, and in doing so reach the pinnacle of the sport.
Even though some of them make it to the very top of the world rankings, achieving that title from one of the four most famous tournaments in the world still eludes them.
It is almost like a nightmare when you come so close to winning it, but yet you are so far from reaching the top, and there are more and more obstacles in your way that weren’t there before.
Or is it purely the self belief and the mental strength that are letting you down in the final stages of your Grand Slam journey?
One thing is for sure, to be rated as the greatest tennis player ever to play the game, you have got to win a Slam, and just one won’t be enough… You just have to look at Federer, Sampras, Laver or Borg to see what you’ll have to do to be considered as one of the greatest of all time.
It is always hard to pick a single tennis player who is more superior to all the rest in any given field, but I am going to look at the Greatest Male Tennis Players in the “Open Era” Never to Win a Grand Slam.
1. MARCELO RIOS
The Chilean was the only player in history to get to the top of the rankings without winning a Grand Slam. Rios reached the no.1 spot in 1998, and stayed there for just six weeks. His biggest chance to grab a Slam title happened to be in the same year at the Australian Open, but he finished second best to the Czech Petr Korda, who would be sanctioned by the ATP in December 1998 after testing positive for nandrolone following a doping test at Wimbledon. Rios, despite winning quite a few “Lemon Awards”, which is the prize for being the most un-cooperative tennis player with the press, was certainly one of the most talented player ever to play the game of tennis.
2. NIKOLAY DAVYDENKO
A player who was equally strong on hard court as on the clay, he never even reached the final of a Grand Slam. The former world no.3 Davydenko might be the best player ever not to play a Slam final. He reached the semi-finals of the French Open on two occassions (2005, 2007) and got into the last four at the US Open in two consecutive years (2006, 2007). The biggest victory for the Russian came in 2009, when he won the ATP World Tour Finals. Davydenko beat his biggest nemesis Federer in the semis (was his first win over the Swiss in 13 attempts). He then went on to capture the crown as he outclassed Argentina’s Del Potro in the final. Davydenko always was a threat to any of the top players, his solid ground strokes and endurance causing problems for even the most physical of opponents. The Russian can claim something that many would be proud of, he has got a 6-4 positive head to head against the Spaniard Nadal.
3. DAVID NALBANDIAN
The Argentine reached his highest ranking of 3 in 2006 and is considered by many to have the greatest double-handed backhand on tour. Although Djokovic might have taken this accolade now, and Nadal and Murray certainly come close, if not also ahead of him in this respect. For Nalbandian, it was the 2002 Wimbledon Final that could have changed the outlook of his career. Unfortunately for Nalbandian, Lleyton Hewitt was the man of the day and despite reaching four more Grand Slam semi-finals (2006 Australian Open, 2004 and 2006 French Open, 2003 US Open), he never got the taste of winning a Slam. His elegance on court will always be admired and he certainly raised the level of tennis in his homeland, Argentina.
4. TIM HENMAN
The British former world no.4 (2002), might have been unlucky to have lived in the era of Pete Sampras, possibly the second greatest tennis player of all time. Henman has got four Wimbledon semi-finals to his name (1998, 1999, 2001, 2002). Sampras denied him a final appearance in the first two years, and as Federer surprisingly beat Sampras at the 2001 Championships, that was his best chance to claim the All England Tennis Club crown. He came within two points of reaching the final, but eventually lost his semi-final match against the wild card holder Goran Ivanisevic, who went on to beat Patrick Rafter in the final. In 2002 the semifinal story repeated itself and this time it was Lleyton Hewitt who put him on hold. Henman, despite clay being his least favourite surfaces, also reached the Roland Garros semi-finals in 2004 and the very same year got to the US Open semi-final, losing to Federer.
This list may change with time passing by, but one thing is for sure – the above mentioned players will always be remembered for their fighting spirit and talent that attracted the crowd and offered them some very memorable tennis moments.