If you take a look at the ladies’ singles draw for Wimbledon 2013 today, you’ll notice something pretty interesting. Three of the top five and and eight of the top fifteen women were eliminated in the first week. Gone are Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki, and Maria Kirilenko, which most observers would say leaves only Agnieszka Radwanska between Serena Williams and her sixth Wimbledon title.
Is it a foregone conclusion that Serena will win? Not technically, no. But if you bet against her you’re crazy.
In any case, in anticipation of (possibly) another victory on the grass courts of the All England Club for Serena Williams, today we’re going to get an idea of where she stands among the Wimbledon greats. So what follows is a list of the women with the most singles championships in the history of the tournament.
Now, often when compiling lists like this, writers will either tacitly or explicitly limit the field to championships won in the so-called “Open Era”—i.e., that period of time when pro tennis players were allowed to play the major tournaments. However, for this list we’re including champions from the Open Era and the Amateur Era. One reason is that there aren’t enough multiple winners in the Open Era to make a whole list. But another reason is that, in this case, it didn’t seem right to exclude some of these pioneering female athletes who were so dominant.
Are five Wimbledon titles in the Amateur Era as impressive as five in the Open Era? I’d say no. But I’ll leave those qualitative assessments to you and present just the fact.
So, shall we begin?
The USA's Louise Brough Clapp won a ridiculous 21 Grand Slam doubles titles in her career from 1942 to 1957. And while she wasn't quite as dominant all by herself, she did pretty well. She won the U.S. Open Singles Title in 1947 and the Australian Open Singles Title in 1950, plus Wimbledon in 1948, 1949, 1950, and 1955.
12. Louise Brough Clapp (4)
There is no doubt that Serena Williams is one of the greatest women's tennis players of all-time. Some might even say she's number one. And if you're going to make that argument, you have to start with this fact: Serena has not dominated any one single tournament. When she's healthy, she's dominated every tournament. French Open? Two titles. U.S. Open? Four titles. Aussie Open? Five titles. Wimbledon? Five titles.
Of course, she'll likely win Wimbledon number six next week, unbalancing her record a bit. But of course, the U.S. Open is in September, and barring injury she'll probably win that, too.
11. Serena Williams (5)
Hey, Serena's great, but let's not forget about old venus. She doesn't have titles at all four Grand Slams like her little sister, but the elder Williams has two U.S. Open titles and five Wimbledon titles.
Why does she rank ahead of Serena on this list? Just because she's older and she won Wimbledon first. Serena actually has the edge in head-to-head Wimbledon finals match-ups, 3-1.
10. Venus Williams (5)
Lottie Dod won Wimbledon in 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, and 1893, and her first victory came when she was just 15 years old. That makes this Englishwoman the youngest ladies' singles champion ever—though Martina Hingis was three days younger when she won the doubles title in 1996.
9. Lottie Dod (5)
England's Charlotte Cooper Sterry won Wimbledon in 1895, 1896, 1898, 1901, and 1908, but was actually runner-up on six other occasions.
You wouldn't think playing tennis in an ankle-length dress and long-sleeved shirt buttoned up to your chin would be a whole lot of fun, but Sterry must have enjoyed it. She continued to play championship events into her 50s.
8. Charlotte Cooper Sterry (5)
France's Suzanne Lenglen, after whom court number two at Roland Garros is named, is probably best-remembered as the first superstar of women's tennis, one of the first world-famous female athletes, and a style icon of the 1920s. However, she wasn't just a celebrity. She was also an excellent athlete. In addition to two French Open titles, Lenglen won Wimbledon six times in seven years—from 1919-1923, and then again in 1925.
7. Suzanne Lenglen (6)
Billie Jean King won each Grand Slam tournament at least once in her career, but her best event was Wimbledon. Her reign at the All Englad club began with three straight titles from 1966-68, then resumed with three more titles in 1972, 1973, and 1975. That's a pretty good haul, I'd say.
6. Billie Jean King (6)
England's Blanche Bingley was there for the first ever Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championships. However, she didn't win the event until two years later in 1886. Then she went on to win five more, and only the last two in 1899 and 1900 came consecutively.
Her opponent in three of those finals victories? Charlotte Cooper Sterry.
5. Blanche Bingley (6)
Steffi Graf is definitely in the conversation when it comes to talking "best women's tennis player ever." She won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, no fewer than four at each event, every one of them in the Open Era. That's a better distribution than Navratilova and Williams without the advantage of winning a bunch of Aussie titles without stiff competition like Margaret Court.
Of course, if you had to pick Steffi's best event, it would have to be Wimbledon. She and her devastating forehand won the title at the All England Club seven times: 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1995, and 1996.
4. Steffi Graff (7)
England's Dorthea Lambert Chambers won Wimbledon seven times from 1903 to 1914—and every one of them dressed like a waiter in a French café.
I kid, I kid. It wasn't her fault that she was born and raised in Victorian England, or that she played her tennis in post-Victorian England.
That hair, though. That's her fault.
3. Dorothea Lambert Chambers (7)
Compared to the Wimbledon champions of the Victorian Era we've seen on this list, Helen Wills Moody's attire looks downright scandalous.
Moody, of course, won 19 Grand Slam titles in her career from 1923 to 1938, and that's without the Australian Open, which at the time was not feasible for American and European athletes to play. Eight of those 19 Grand Slams were won at Wimbledon, her best event.
With that kind of resume, she, too, would have to be considered in the discussion of "greatest women's tennis player."
2. Helen Wills Moody (8)
The undisputed Queen of Wimbledon is Martina Navratilova. And, most remarkably, her reign covers parts of three decades. Her first Wimbledon title came in 1978; her ninth in 1990.
Though Navratilova's game was best-suited for grass, which means she was never as dominant at the other Grand Slams, she did manage to win each of the others at least twice for a grand total of 18 Grand Slam singled titles.
That's pretty good.