We’re taking a look at players who brought more to the court than a racquet: personality. Check out Part I here and enjoy our latest picks below.
Tennis’ own A-Rod hasn’t been out of the game long, but his absence is definitely felt. The 2003 US Open champ was almost equally famous for his booming serve as his quips and sarcasm.
Roddick did put the jokes aside for an incredible final against Roger Federer in 2009, with the young American earning a ton of respect and new fans by pushing the Swiss champion to 16-14 in a fifth set epic.
Martina Navratilova changed tennis, and tennis changed her too.
Originally stubborn and sensitive, Martina’s eventual success didn’t come easy to start. After winning just two Grand Slam titles to rival Chris Evert’s 11, Navratilova had to find new ways to win. Her determination propelled her to take novel approaches to training, including building a team, focusing on nutrition and cross-training – most of which were unheard of at the time.
The unorthodox tactics paid off for the Czech-American, leading her to an incredible nine Wimbledon titles, plus three Australian Opens, one French Open and four US Opens.
Andre Agassi didn’t need charisma to win any of his eight Grand Slam titles, but it definitely didn’t hurt.
Almost equally as popular as he was dominant, Agassi’s tenacious style of play partnered with his wild attire drew tons of attention and fans to tennis. ICYMI/SPOILER ALERT: The hair was fake.
Agassi’s game was all real though, and the American is credited with helping to rejuvenate interest in the sport, something he continues to do today.
After retiring in 2006, Agassi’s big personality is still drawing crowds for exhibition matches. Who wouldn’t want to see him take shots at former rival Pete Sampras? (Maybe Roger and Rafa actually… awkward!)
Never one to shy from the spotlight, busting down barriers is Billie Jean King’s thing, even when it’s tough.
Outspoken and eager to stand up for issues, particularly sexism, King’s 12 major singles titles and win over Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” showcased both her athleticism and commitment to eradicating stereotypes in sports and gender.
King is still actively promoting equality today and has proven to be a huge role model for many young stars, often mentioned by champions as a major inspiration for her hard work, on and off the court.
Will we ever see an unseeded player win Wimbledon again?
If we do, odds are he or she would have a tough time living up to the legend that is Boris Becker. After the 17-year-old German wonder took on the field at the All England Club in 1985 like it was no big deal, he went on to win an impressive five additional major titles.
Known for outbursts of emotion that were pretty much only directed at himself (Andy Murray 1.0, you might say), Becker’s high-energy, fast-paced game earned him incredible nicknames like “Boom Boom,” “Der Bomber” and “Baron von Slam” (SIDE NOTE: why are nicknames not this good anymore???)
Becker’s style of play further added to tennis vernacular (FOR THE BETTER) with the following expressions:
I believe this is a combo Hecht-Faust-Shuffle, if you can handle it:
Few players could claim to have the charm to captivate the Roland Garros crowd the way former world No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten did while winning his three French Open titles.
A fan favourite around the world, “Guga” wore his heart on his sleeve… and drew it into the clay in Paris, too, creating an iconic moment that left a lasting impression on many, including current world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
Kuerton remained close to his family throughout his career, donating every trophy he won to his youngest brother, who suffered from mental and physical disabilities resulting from complications during birth, as well as the entire prize money from one win to an organization committed to helping people with similar conditions.
The Brazilian’s selfless attitude and emotional strength are lasting legacies that truly enriched the sport of tennis.