Four tennis records that will NEVER be broken… (probably)
Records are a part of tennis that help us measure greatness, whether that be on the ATP tour, the WTA tour or with ITF events.
And while records are there to be broken, we at Tennishead feel there are some that surely will stand forever, or may even be impossible with the current rules of the sport.
Here is a look at four of the most astounding records in the history of tennis.
4. Youngest player to win a match on a professional tennis tour – Mary Joe Fernandez – 13 years and six months
Many players, particularly women, have seen huge success before even turning 18.
Martina Hingis, Tracy Austin, Monica Seles, Serena Williams, all claimed a first Major title before that age.
But in 1985, Mary Joe Fernandez did something incredible that under current rules will never happen again.
On 5th February that year, the American dominated world number 107 Candy Reynolds 6-0, 6-0 in the first round of the inaugural Miami Open to record her first tour win aged just 13.
Not only that, but she went on to record two more wins at the tournament, including over 11th seed Bonnie Gadusek before losing to seventh seed Hana Mandlikova.
According to page 180 2022 WTA Rule Book, under Section X on Age Eligibility and Player Development “a player who has not yet reached the date of her 14th birthday may not participate in any Professional Tennis Tournament.”
As such, Fernandez will remain as the youngest player ever to win a WTA tour match as long as this rule stays in place.
The American went on to have a successful career, peaking at number four in the WTA rankings in 1990 and reaching three Slam finals but never winning one in singles, landing Olympic bronze at Barcelona 1992.
However, she found more luck in doubles by winning the 1991 Australian Open and 1996 French Open, as well as two Olympic gold medals at Barcelona 1992 and Atlanta 1996.
3. Longest match of all time – John Isner vs Nicolas Mahut – 11 hours and five minutes
You knew this one was coming, the ‘endless match.’
In the first round of Wimbledon on Tuesday 22nd June 2010, world number 19 Isner took on world number 148 qualifier Mahut in a match that would go down in history on Court 18.
After a tight match went for two hours and 52 minutes to reach a score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-7 (7-9), 7-6 (7-3), play was suspended due to darkness.
After resuming at 2:05pm the next day, the record for the longest match in history was broken at 5:45pm and 32-32 in the fifth set, six hours and 34 minutes.
But the two men were far from over, as play continued until light dwindled again and play was suspended at 59-59 after 10 hours of play.
On the third day of play, another hour was required before Isner set up his fifth match point with an off-balance forehand passing shot for 30-40 at 68-69.
A backhand winner from Isner in the next point ended the ultra-marathon as the American fell to the grass before embracing Mahut at the net.
11 hours and five minutes, 183 games. That made this match the longest ever both by duration and games played.
Isner served 113 aces and Mahut hit down 103, both beating the previous single match ace record of 78.
“What more can you say, the guy is an absolute warrior,” Isner said of Mahut in a special ceremony after the battle. “It stinks that somebody had to lose. But to be able to share this day with him was an absolute honour.”
Don’t you mean three days John?
After a tiebreak was introduced into the final set of all four Slams in 2022, a match like the one between Isner and Mahut cannot happen again under the current rules of the sport.
2. Most career titles – Martina Navratilova – 354
You read that right. WTA legend Martina Navratilova won a truly astronomical 354 titles over the course of more than 30 years.
And Navratilova has by far the most titles of any man or woman in the Open Era. The next best player, at least in able-bodied tennis, is Chris Evert, with 189 titles, 165 behind Navratilova, while John McEnroe won the most among men with 156 titles.
This is because Navratilova was prolific across all disciplines of the sport, singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
She holds the Open Era record for most singles titles with 167 and most doubles titles with 177, plus 10 mixed doubles Slam crowns just for good measure.
Navratilova won an unprecedented 59 Slam titles, 18 in singles, 31 in doubles and 10 in mixed doubles, winning at least one title at all four Slams in every discipline.
Her first Slam title came when she won the mixed doubles at the 1974 French Open, her last coming 32 years later in the mixed doubles of the 2006 US Open.
In doubles, Navratilova won the Career Grand Slam seven times over as Wimbledon and the French Open were her least successful events with seven titles at each.
Such prowess in singles and doubles meant Navratilova was ranked singles world number one for a total of 332 weeks, as well as doubles world number one for 237 weeks, making her the only player ever to claim number one status in both disciplines for more than 200 weeks.
Arguably the Czech-American’s most famous record is her nine singles titles at Wimbledon, winning six in a row from 1982 to 1987.
What makes this record of 354 titles seemingly unbreakable is the fact that in the modern era, on both the ATP and WTA tour, few players consistently play singles and doubles at events beyond the Slams.
The level of dominance across both disciplines required to beat Navratilova’s record is simply unattainable in the atmosphere of the sport today.
1. Longest win streak – Esther Vergeer – 470 matches
While tennis is a sport with roots going hundreds of years back, wheelchair tennis is far younger, having only truly gained in popularity and recognition in the second half of the 20th century.
The sport has among its storied competitors potentially the most dominant athlete in the history of professional sport: Esther Vergeer.
The Dutchwoman won 21 singles and 27 doubles Slams in a professional career spanning 18 years.
She won the Wheelchair Tennis Masters singles 14 times consecutively from 1998 to 2011, plus the Masters doubles nine times in 11 years from 2001 to 2011.
She won four successive Paralympic gold medals in singles from 2000 to 2012, as well as three golds and a silver in doubles in the same period.
Vergeer spent recorded an incredible 668 weeks, nearly 13 years total, as wheelchair singles world number one between 1999 and her retirement in February 2013.
But most staggeringly, from 30th January 2003 to her retirement 10 years later, the Dutch star did not lose any singles matches.
She won 120 tournaments in a row with 470 match wins, losing just 18 sets along the way.
Moreover, she faced just one match point in that time, in the gold medal singles match of the 2008 Beijing Paralympics against Korie Homan.
A win streak in the double digits is admirable, over 100 in a row is absurd, but nearly 500 wins in a row, utterly mind-boggling.
At time of publication, current women’s wheelchair singles world number one Diede de Groot, also Dutch, is on a thoroughly impressive win streak of 58 matches stretching back to February 2021.
However, she still has a long long way to go to equal her legendary compatriot. Furthermore, as wheelchair tennis gains more and more popularity and sees growth in top talent, surely no player can again dominate like Esther Vergeer did in her career?
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