© Ella Ling

Nikolay Davydenko

Slammed: the top 10 players without a major


Most in tennis would now agree that Andy Murray has the unwanted title of Greatest Player Without a Grand Slam. The Tennis Space considers the next most talented players not to have won of the sport’s four biggest prizes.

Nikolay Davydenko
One of the most consistent players of his generation, no one played more tournaments than the Russian but few took the ball so early or hit their groundstrokes so crisply. Has won 21 career titles and though he was blighted by accusations he was involved in match-fixing (he was exonerated), he came back to win the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in 2009. Won the Davis Cup in 2006 but could not get past the semi-finals in the slams, reaching the last four twice each at the French and US Opens.

Elena Dementieva
Watching Dementieva was often a painful process. Elegant and strong, she was a superb athlete and though she lost two grand slam finals in 2004, her breakthrough seemed only a matter of time. But like so many, the mental side was weak and her errant ball toss constantly gave her problems. But she won 16 singles titles, including Olympic gold in 2008, a victory that she considered to be at least the equal of a slam win.

Tim Henman
Shouldered the burden of being a British hope at Wimbledon with grace and though he never reached a grand slam final, he perhaps made the most of his talent. One of the best serve and volleyers of his generation, he was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon four times but was unlucky to keep running into Pete Sampras. He also made the French Open and US Open semis, won 11 titles, reached world number four and even beat Roger Federer six times.

Jelena Jankovic
Like Safina, Jankovic became world number one but could not get that precious slam title, losing her only grand slam final to Belgium’s Justine Henin at the US Open in 2008. A consistent baseliner, she has won 12 titles but lacks the power or the guile needed to win one of the biggest events in the sport. Did win the mixed doubles at Wimbledon with Britain’s Jamie Murray, though, which went down well.

Miloslav Mecir
“The Cat” was absolutely fantastic to watch, bamboozling opponents with his unique style, seemingly leaning the wrong way and then sending the ball the other. Maybe lacked the power to be dominant and though he reached two grand slam finals, he was overwhelmed in both. One of the men to reach all four grand slam semi-finals in his career, he led Stefan Edberg by two sets to love in the semis at Wimbledon in 1988 only to go down in five.

Olga Morozova
Nicknamed the Volga Volleyer by tennis writer and historian Bud Collins, Morozova was the first Russian to win any grand slam title when she won the doubles with Chris Evert at the French Open in 1974. With an athletic and dashing style, she reached two grand slam singles finals in the same year but ran into an unstoppable Evert both times. Probably would have won one had the then Soviet Union hindered her travel, leading to her early retirement.

David Nalbandian
Shared the mantle of best player never to win a major with Henman for a long time. His two-handed backhand was a thing of beauty but his serve occasionally let him down. Lost his only grand slam final at Wimbledon in 2000 but should have been in another at the US Open three years later, only for his mental fragility to cost him dear in the semis when he held match point. Fitness was always an issue, though few others could lose as much weight as the Argentinian during a grand slam. 

Tom Okker
From The Netherlands he was always going to be nicknamed the Flying Dutchman but Okker deserved the title, diving around the courts at Wimbledon on a regular basis in the late 1960s and 1970s. Ranked in the top 10 for seven years in a row, he reached the US Open final in 1968 and the semis of the other three slams but just ran into better players. Won 31 titles in singles and did earn grand slam glory by winning the doubles titles at the French Open and US Open.

Marcelo Rios
Of the 25 men to have been number one since rankings began in 1973, Rios is the only one not to have won a grand slam title. As brilliant with the racket as he was surly with the press, he lacked the mental strength to get over the line when it mattered. Won 18 titles but lost his only grand slam final to Czech Petr Korda in Australia in 1998.

Dinara Safina
Younger sister of the brilliant Marat Safin, the Russian shared many personality traits with her volatile brother but unfortunately not his two slam victories. Her movement was never her best asset – her height didn’t help – but she could hit the cover off the ball and was a deserving number one when she reached the top in 2009. But her three grand slam final defeats knocked her confidence and then a chronic back injury caused her to take an indefinite break from the sport.

  • Jonny Lemonade

    Not sure Murray is the greatest to never win a Grand Slam, agree with the rest and the Nalbandian comment has amused me no end.
    At the moment he (Murray) is in the mix with an old Roger Federer, crook’d Nadal and an in form Djokovic – I’d pick all three to beat him consistently in the big matches when at their relative peaks.

    This whole season probably represents his best chance of a major – its possible both Federer and Nadal are on the way down and Djokovic may have a come down after last years fireworks – add in a pretty unremarkable set of players in the 5 to 20 ranks and some of the probable break through players yet to break through and you have to give him a better than even chance to get to a final and an even chance to win one.

    • Oliver Bett

      “Unremarkable set of players in the 5 to 20 ranks” That is a ridiculous comment.

       Tsonga, Del Potro, Berdych, Soderling (To make a comeback), all have made Slam finals and are more than capable of beating Murray on their day. Add to that the grittyness of Ferrrer, the athleticism of Monfils, the unorthodoxy of Dolgopolov and you have a set of players capable of hurting any of the top 4. Then you have the likes of Raonic and Tomic who are sure to jump up the rankings this year.

      Do not knock the efforts of these players just because they aren’t as magical as Fed, Rafa and Nole.

      • Jonny Lemonade

        Whilst I appreciate what you are saying Mr Bett, I have to beg to differ. There is something of a talent drain below the top 4 and certainly top 7. Too many players with huge weaknesses or who just hit the ball hard. Would Soderling or Ferrer be top 5 in any other era ?

        Lets look at the year end top 20 in 1991 to prove my point.

        Top 4 are Edberg, Becker, Courier Stich – top ten includes Lendl, Sampras and Agassi. Top 20 includes Bruguera, Chang, Ivanisevic, Gilbert and Gustafsson.

        In 1995

        Top 4 are Sampras, Agassi, Muster and Becker – top ten includes Chang, Kafelnikov, Courier and Ivanisevic, Top 20 includes Kraijeck, Martin, Medvedev and Stich and Bruguera

        As of today

        Top 4 are Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray – top ten includes Almagro, Fish and Tipsarevic.

        Top 20 includes Dolgopolov, Isner, Lopez.

  • Jonny Lemonade

    I’ll add in unremarkable they are generally a set of players who are plain unable to step up to the next level. Compare with a Agassi, Sampras, Chang or Courier

  • Bobvitro

    How many people (men or women) actually achieved a number 1 ranking but never won a grand slam title?

  • Johnny

    Helena Sukova is surely the greatest female player never to win a slam. Now that Andy Murray’s finally won one, no other player has made 4 grand slam finals without winning one.

    And look who she faced there. In 1984, she beat Navratilova on grass to reach the Australian Open final ending the longest winning streak in tennis history. Only to lose to Evert.
    In 1986 US Open, she beat Evert in the semi-finals to lose to Navratilova.
    She beat Navratilova again in the Australian 89 and US Open 93 to lose to Graf in the finals.

    Beating an all time great on route to each final only to lose to another. Graf, Navratilova and Evert are surely 3 of the top 5 greatest female players of all time. 3 of the top 4 even. She won 4 times in slams against Navratilova or Evert only to have to face the other or Graf in the final.

    Mary Joe Fernandez would also be worth a mention. 3 slam finals losing to Graf or Seles. Got to at least the semi-finals of every slam . 9 slam semi-finals and 17 slam quarter finals in all.

  • Justine H

    Carolina Wozinaki former world no.1 , Nadia Petrova no.3 ,David Ferer no.4 , Vere Zvonereva no. 1 three slams final..