Top 5 longest ATP World No. 1 streaks
Here, Tennishead takes a look back at the ATP rankings to highlight the most dominant periods from players at the top of men’s game.
Since the official ATP rankings began back in 1973, 26 men have laid claim to the number one spot. Join us as we revisit the longest ever streaks at the very pinnacle of the sport.
5. Pete Sampras – 102 weeks
Sampras’ longest consecutive spell at the top of the ATP rankings occurred from 15th April 1996 until 30th March 1998.
The American had already spent a combined 116 weeks at the top of the rankings across four periods since first climbing to the top in April 1993.
During this 102 week spell, Sampras added a fourth US Open (1996), second Australian Open (1997) and fourth Wimbledon title (1997) to his seven Slam titles so far achieved, as well as a best ever result at Roland Garros, reaching the semi-finals in 1996.
He won 13 titles overall in this time, including the already mentioned three Slams, plus the 1996 and 1997 ATP Tour World Championships (equivalent to the ATP Finals today), the 1997 Cincinnati Masters and the 1997 Paris Masters.
4. Novak Djokovic – 122 weeks
The Serbian star held the number one ranking for his longest consecutive period from 7th July 2014 until 31st October 2016.
Having first achieved the top spot by claiming his maiden Wimbledon title in 2011, Djokovic had since spent 89 combined weeks there.
After defeating Roger Federer to clinch a second Wimbledon title, the Serb went on an unprecedented run of form across his 122-week stint at the very top.
First he won Beijing, the Masters 1000 in Paris and the ATP Finals to top off 2014. In 2015, Djokovic had one of the most incredible ATP seasons ever witnessed.
The Serb won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open that year, only losing at Roland Garros in the final. He also won six of the nine Masters 1000 events available, reaching the final of all eight that he took part in.
Another ATP Finals title saw Djokovic finish the year with 16,585 ranking points, with second-placed Andy Murray on just 8,945 in comparison.
Despite winning both the Australian Open, Roland Garros and four more Masters 1000 titles in 2016, Djokovic lost the top spot to Murray, after the Brit won the Paris Masters.
3. Ivan Lendl – 157 weeks
The eight-time Slam champion enjoyed three whole years in the number one spot from 9th September 1985 to 12th September 1988.
After first climbing to the top in February 1983, the Czech held the throne for a combined 29 weeks before his three year long run. During this streak of over 150 weeks, Lendl won five of his eight Slam titles, as well as reaching the Wimbledon final twice in 1986 and 1987, the only times he did so.
In that time, Lendl also captured three consecutive Masters titles, the year-end championships (now ATP Finals), from 1985-7. Finally, the legend won 26 of his 94 career titles over this streak, including 11 in 1985.
The run was eventually ended by Mats Wilander when the Swede claimed the number one spot after defeating Lendl 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in the US Open final.
2. Jimmy Connors – 160 weeks
Just pipping Lendl’s record, eight-time Slam champion Connors has the honour of second place on the longest consecutive period atop the ATP rankings, achieved between 29th July 1974 and 23rd August 1977.
The start of the run was actually also the first time that Connors topped the rankings ladder, with the system only introduced a year prior in August 1973. The American already had two Slams under his belt by this point, being the 1974 Australian Open and Wimbledon the same year.
Connors secured two more Major titles within this streak, his first two US Opens, in 1974 and 1976, one on grass and one on clay. That championship match in 1974 holds the record for the shortest men’s Slam final both by number of games and duration, as Connors defeated Ken Rosewall 6-1, 6-0, 6-1 in just 78 minutes on-court.
He won 30 overall titles across the 160 weeks, including 12 in 1976 alone. The run was ended by a 21-year-old Bjorn Borg not long after he triumphed to win his second Wimbledon and fourth Slam title overall.
1. Roger Federer – 237 weeks
By far the longest streak as world number one is held by none other than 20-time Slam champion Federer. The Swiss’ run is over a year longer than anyone else’s, having sat atop the ATP ladder for four and a half years from 2nd February 2004 to 18th August 2008.
Federer had already won two Slams before this unprecedented period of dominance, Wimbledon 2003 and the 2004 Australian Open, with the latter result taking him to world number one.
Federer went on to win 10 of his 20 Slam titles during this 237-week run. These included four consecutive Wimbledon titles (2004-7) to add to his first in 2003 for five straight, as well as four consecutive US Open titles, with a fifth in a row coming after the legend lost the top spot.
Of the 18 Slams contested over this period, Federer made the final of 14, including 10 consecutively from Wimbledon 2005 to the US Open in 2007.
Federer’s run of Wimbledon titles famously came to an end in one of the greatest matches ever played, losing out to Rafael Nadal in five epic sets.
The Spaniard then finally broke the Swiss’ incredible number one streak after securing singles gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, after Federer lost in the quarter-finals to James Blake.
Make sure to read up on the longest number one streaks in the women’s game too!
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