Top 10 youngest ATP number ones
It is a hell of an achievement to climb the ATP ladder and stand on top as world number one, but for some that accolade is just to attainable.
Here, Tennishead runs through the 10 youngest players ever to lay claim to the status of being world number one.
10. Rafael Nadal – 22 years and 76 days
Nadal eventually claimed his number one berth on the 18th August 2008, after having been at number two for 160 consecutive weeks.
By the time Nadal became number one in the world, he had already won five Grand Slam titles and 12 Masters 1000 tournaments. After winning one of the all-time classics to claim his first Wimbledon title in in 2008 against Federer, Nadal edged that much closer to the world number one spot. The next month, after Nadal clinched singles gold at the Beijing Olympics, the rankings had a new leader after Federer’s 237 consecutive weeks in pole position.
Since then, Nadal has held the number one spot on eight stints in all, racking up 209 weeks in the position.
9. Jimmy Connors – 21 years and 330 days
On the 29th July 1974 the American reached the top of the rankings for the first time, but it was not surprising.
Over the course of 1974, Connors only lost four matches and became the first man to win three Majors in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969, claiming the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
He held the number one spot for a total of 160 weeks from 1974, before losing it to Björn Borg in 1977. Overall he stayed at the top of the ATP rankings for a total of 268 weeks throughout his career.
Connors was also the year-end number one for an outstanding five years in a row from 1974 to 1978.
8. Pete Sampras – 21 years and 243 days
On the 12th April 1993, Sampras became the 11th different world number one in ATP history.
‘Pistol Pete’ burst onto the scene when he claimed his first ATP win at only 16 years old, going on to become the youngest ever US Open men’s singles champion at the age of 19 years and one month.
Wins in Miami and Tokyo in 1993 meant the American became ATP world number one for the first time. Throughout his career he was in pole position on 11 different occasions with 286 weeks in total at the summit.
7. Jim Courier – 21 years and 177 days
Courier’s rise to the top of the ATP rankings saw him complete the ‘Sunshine Double’ of Indian Wells and Miami in 1991. Later that year, at the age of 21 he became Roland Garros Champion for his first ever Slam title. Courier finished runner-up at the US Open later that season, losing to Stefan Edberg in straight sets in the final.
Finally, on the 10th February 1992, Courier became world number one off the back of his second Major triumph, the 1992 Australian Open. He is the youngest man ever to reach the final at all four Slams, aged just 23.
Courier only held the position for six weeks in his first stint as world number one, before reaching that position on four different occasions for a total of 58 weeks.
6. Björn Borg – 21 years and 78 days
On the 23rd August 1977 the Swede topped the ATP rankings for the first time. He had already won four Grand Slams, two French Opens and two Wimbledon trophies. Borg continued this good form following his rise to the top, winning an additional four Roland Garros titles and three crowns at SW19.
The ‘Ice man’ was world number one on six different occasions throughout his relatively short career, accumultaing 109 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings.
5. Andy Roddick – 21 years and 65 days
On the 3rd November 2003, Roddick became world number one for the first and only time in his career, overtaking Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero at the top of the rankings.
In the summer of 2003, Roddick’s performances shone as he beat Federer on his way to his first ATP 1000 Masters title in Montreal and fourth title of the year. Only a couple of weeks later, he was the Cincinnati Masters champion, defeating fellow American Mardy Fish in the final.
But the thrilling run did not stop there. He completed the North American hard-court summer sweep by winning the US Open, his one and only career Major win.
In October 2003, after a semi-final run at the Paris Masters, Roddick made sure he would be the new world number one, a position he held onto for 13 weeks, before being dislodged by Federer on the 2nd February 2004.
4. John McEnroe – 21 years and 16 days
On the 3rd March 1980, McEnroe officially became the fifth ATP world number one, taking over from long-time rival Björn Borg.
Following ‘Johnny Mac’s’ first ever Grand Slam triumph at the 1979 US Open, he quickly rose to top spot.
His first stint in pole position only lasted three weeks, which set a tone for the rest of his career. Over the next five years, McEnroe was the world number one on a record 14 different occasions, continuously jostling over the position with rivals Ivan Lendl, Borg and Connors.
In total, he spent 170 weeks as the ATP number one, with 58 weeks being his longest period of time at the summit. Between 1979 and 1984, he was ranked at number one in doubles too for a mammoth 269 weeks.
3. Marat Safin – 20 years and 298 days
The Russian had a remarkable rise to the ATP top spot. He was officially declared as the world number one on the 20th November 2000, following a straight shoot out for the top ranking in the Paris Masters final against Australian Mark Philippoussis.
On 28th February of the same year, Safin had been ranked at number 38 in the world. He is the only man to be ranked outside the top 35 and reach the number one ranking in the same season.
In August, he won his first Masters 1000 title in Toronto and soon followed this up by winning his first Slam, defeating Pete Sampras in the final at Flushing Meadows. In total, the 2005 Australian Open champion held the number one ranking for just nine weeks.
2. Lleyton Hewitt – 20 years and 268 days
Almost a year to the day that Safin broke the record for the youngest ever ATP singles number one, Australian Lleyton Hewitt broke it again.
It was in the 2001 ATP finals where Hewitt was officially crowned as world number one. In the round robin group stage, Hewitt had already beaten third seed Andre Agassi and seventh seed Sebastien Grosjean. However it was the last match of the group stage which determined his fate and if he was to become the ATP’s most hunted man.
The eventual 2001 ATP finals champion beat sixth seed Pat Rafter in that group match, overtaking Gustavo Kuerten as the new world number one, a position he held for a total of 80 weeks over two stints.
1. Carlos Alcaraz – 19 years and 131 days
Entering 2022, an 18-year-old Alcaraz was touted to have a breakthrough season from his impressive ranking of 32nd in the world, but few could predict how the young Spaniard would take the tour by storm.
In his second tournament of the season Alcaraz claimed his second ever ATP title, and first at 500 level, by winning the Rio Open, launching him into the top 20 for the first time in mid-February.
He only went from strength to strength, reaching the semi-finals of Indian Wells and winning the Miami Masters to be ranked 11th by the end of April. Another ATP 500 title, this time at home in Barcelona, brought Alcaraz into the top 10 at ninth, before a second Masters 1000 crown in Madrid pushed him to sixth.
He breached the top five at the start of August, ranked fourth entering the US Open later that month, before meeting Casper Ruud in the final in New York. Whoever won would become the new world number one, and it was Alcaraz who clinched it in four sets to become the youngest man to top the ATP Rankings by more than a year.
🎾 Free >> Join our legendary newsletter
🎾 Join >> Receive $700/£600 of tennis gear from the Tennishead CLUB
🎾 Social >> Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & YouTube
🎾 Read >> World’s best tennis magazine
🎾 Watch >> How to enjoy ATP/WTA/Slam tennis on TV
🎾 Shop >> Lowest price tennis gear from our trusted partner