Top 5 WTA players with most weeks at World No. 1
Here, Tennishead looks back at the most prolific women to top the WTA rankings since they began over 45 years ago.
Join us for a deep dive into the reigns of the five women who have spent the most combined time at the top of the WTA rankings.
5. Martina Hingis – 209 weeks
The Swiss star first achieved the top spot on 31st March 1997 at just 16 years old. This was soon after her first singles Slam title at the 1997 Australian Open.
Hingis held on to the number one ranking for 80 consecutive weeks until she was overtaken by Lindsay Davenport on 12th October 1998. This was a month after losing to the American in the US Open final.
Over that more than year-long streak, Hingis claimed three of the seven Slams contested, reaching the final at five and the semi-finals in the remaining two.
After reclaiming the number one spot from Davenport in February 1999, the two women traded first and second in the rankings a further five times until Hingis took it once more for a streak of 73 weeks between 22nd May 2000 and 14th October 2001.
This took the Swiss’ tally of weeks atop the rankings up to 209. After Jennifer Capriati then took the top ranking, Hingis never achieved it again.
4. Chris Evert – 260 weeks
This American legend holds the honour of being the first woman to officially be recognised as world number one. Evert was the first player to top the WTA rankings when the system was formalised in November 1975.
Over nine spells at the top of the women’s tennis pile, Evert accumulated 260 weeks in the number one position. Her longest streak came during her second spell, as between May 1976 and July 1978 she spent 113 consecutive weeks in the top spot.
During that longest streak, Evert played just six Slams, three each of Wimbledon and the US Open. Seh won four of those six: three successive US Open titles (1976-8) and Wimbledon 1976. She reached the semi-finals of the other two events.
From 1976 until 1985, Evert was in constant battle for the top spot with Martina Navratilova, with Tracy Austin sneaking a two-week reign atop the rankings in 1980. Otherwise, one of Evert or Navratilova was ranked first for the entire period between May 1976 and August 1987.
3. Serena Williams – 319 weeks
The 23-time Slam champion first summited the women’s rankings when she was 20 years old on 8th July 2002.
This was soon after claiming her first Roland Garros title, her second Slam title overall.
The young American then held the first position for a little over a year, 57 weeks to be precise, while she won Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open consecutively before adding a second Wimbledon to bring her total Slam tally to five.
From August 2003 to September 2008, Williams was not ranked number one at all. Meanwhile, the top spot changed hands 19 times between seven different women.
In that time, Serena added two more Australian Open titles and a US Open title to her collection, the latter bringing her back to world number one for a month or so.
Overall, Williams has enjoyed eight spells atop the WTA rankings, her longest streak coming between February 2013 and September 2016, an astonishing 186 weeks.
This streak is the joint longest, shared with 22-time Slam champion Steffi Graf. During the streak, Williams added seven more Slam titles to bring her total to 22 herself.
2. Martina Navratilova – 332 weeks
As mentioned, this 18-time Slam champion was in a lengthy battle with Chris Evert for the number one spot throughout much of her professional career.
Navratilova first achieved the top ranking in July 1978, claiming the spot from Evert to end her 113 week streak in the position.
Navratilova would go on to enjoy nine overall spells at world number one, last being ranked in that position in August 1987 while on a tally of 16 Slam singles titles.
The Czech-American’s longest stint in the first spot came between June 1982 and June 1985. That is 156 weeks, nearly three whole years exactly, in the first spot.
Only Serena Williams and Steffi Graf can boast a longer consecutive stretch at the pinnacle of the WTA rankings.
1. Steffi Graf – 377 weeks
This 22-time Slam champion holds both the longest consecutive streak and the most accumulated total weeks atop the rankings.
Graf first reached the top of the rankings in August 1987. From May 1976 until August 1987, only three women had held the number one spot: Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Tracy Austin.
In fact, as mentioned earlier, Austin was only number one for two weeks out of those 12 years, in 1980.
After breaking the (practical) duopoly of Evert and Navratilova, Graf enjoyed 186 weeks in the top position on her first spell.
In that time, the German first completed the Calendar Golden Slam of winning all four Majors and the Olympic gold medal in 1988, before winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 1989, plus the Australian Open in 1990 before falling from the top spot.
Hence, Graf won eight of 10 available Slams in her first streak at world number one, an incredible feat.
Over seven total runs at number one, Graf accrued 377 weeks in the top spot, more than seven years in total.
Make sure to read up on the longest number one streaks in the women’s game too!
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