Top 10 men’s title winners in the Open Era: Novak Djokovic hot on Rafael Nadal’s heels

Novak Djokovic ATP Finals celebrations Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic ATP Finals celebrations Credit: Alamy

Will Novak Djokovic usurp Jimmy Connors at No 1 in the list of top 10 men’s title winners in the Open Era before he retires?

Djokovic is up to 91 ATP Tour singles titles after winning a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals crown and he is now just one trophy behind the fourth-placed Rafael Nadal.

The 21-time Grand Slam winner played in his 130th ATP final on Sunday – now joint fourth with Nadal for most finals played in the Open Era with Connors also leading the way on 164 – and he had too much in his locker for Casper Ruud as he won in straight sets to collect his fifth title of the year.

It is no longer a question of if he will move past Nadal’s 92 in the all-time list of most titles won, but when. He is also just three adrift of the third-placed Ivan Lendl (94) and after that he will eye the big 100.

After defeating Ruud in Turin, Djokovic admitted that he still wants to break records.

“I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that what I hold in my mind is a huge hunger still to win trophies, make history of this sport, compete on the highest level all around the world, bring good emotions to sports fans, tennis fans,” he said.

Beating Connors’ record will no doubt be on that list of things he wants to achieve.

Top 10 men’s title winners in the Open Era

9. Ilie Nastase (Romania) and Pete Sampras (United States) – 64 titles

Ilie Nastase competed on the amateur tour before turning professional in 1969 and he won his maiden title at the Colombia International in Barranquilla that year.

The Romanian went on to lift another 63 trophies – including the 1972 US Open and 1973 French Open – with his final title coming at the WCT Challenge Cup in Montego Bay in 1978. Nastasie holds the record with Guillermo Villas for most titles in a single season as he won 16 in 1973.

By the time American great Pete Sampras retired in 2002 he was joint-sixth with Nastase as he called it a day before Messrs Federer, Nadal and Djokovic joined the list.

Sampras’ first-ever ATP title came at the US Pro Indoor in February 1990 and 12 years later he would retire after winning title No 64 at the US Open. He, of course, left the game with 14 Grand Slams, which was an Open Era record at the time.

The American has the second-best win-loss record in finals as he won 64 of his 88 finals for a 72.7% record (joint with Rod Laver).

Pete Sampras Wimbledon 2000 Credit: Alamy
Pete Sampras Wimbledon 2000 Credit: Alamy

8. Bjorn Borg (Sweden) – 66

The great Bjorn Borg’s career started in 1973 and he initially retired in 1984 before returning in 1991 only to call it quits for good two years later. He didn’t win any titles after his return.

Borg played in 92 finals and won 66 of them for a 71.7% win-loss ratio.

His maiden title came at Auckland, New Zealand, in January 1974 and his final trophy success came in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1981.

In total he won 11 Grand Slams, 20 Grand Prix Super Series finals (today’s Masters events), three year-end titles and 37 Grand Prix Regular Series events.

7. Rod Laver (Australia) – 72

The Australian legend actually won 198 singles titles over the course of his career, but 53 came during the amateur era, 73 in the professional era and 72 during the Open Era. There is some confusion over whether it was 72 during the pro era and 73 in the Open Era, but the official ATP website states 72 in the Open Era.

He won his first title of the Open Era in April 1968 at NTL Professional Championships in London and he topped the list for most titles when he won his final trophy at the 1975 Orlando WCT in the United States.

Laver remains the only man to win all four Grand Slams in a calendar year with the feat coming in 1969.

6. John McEnroe (United States) – 77

The seven-time Grand Slam winner is the only man to win more than 70 singles and doubles titles as he won 77 singles and 78 doubles trophies over his career.

That career started in 1978 and he retired from singles in 1994 and called it a day in the doubles in 2006.

He won his maiden title Hartford in the United States in the same season as he made his debut and he lifted his final trophy in Chicago in March 1991. His win-loss ratio in his 109 finals is 77–32 for a 70.6% record.

5. Novak Djokovic (Serbia) – 91

Novak Djokovic is a man on a mission as he has made clear that he wants to break as many tennis records as he can before the curtain comes down on his career.

Despite playing only a handful of tournaments this year for various reasons, Djokovic has won five titles with No 91 coming at the season-ending ATP Finals. Incidentally, he has won 19 different countries following his win in Kazakhstan earlier in the season.

Djokovic’s first title came at the Dutch Open in 2006 and his best season in terms of titles was in 2015 when he won 11 titles while he also collected 10 trophies in 2011.

He is second behind Roger Fedeerer in terms of most hard-court titles won with 63 compared to the Swiss’ 71 and he is joint-fourth with Rafael Nadal for most finals appearances with 130.

4. Rafael Nadal (Spain) – 92

Although Djokovic is likely to be the man to finish his career with the most singles titles, you’d expect Rafael Nadal to move up to third place next year while he could also pip Federer before he calls it a day.

The Spaniard started the year on 88 titles, but won four trophies – including two more Grand Slams to go to a record 22 – to edge closer to third spot.

Nadal’s first ATP singles title came at the Orange Prokom Open in Poland and his last title was at Roland Garros in June this year.

Unsurprisingly, 63 of his titles were won on clay with 22 coming on hard courts. He has won only two indoor titles. He is also fourth in the list of most final appearances with 130 and his win-loss ratio in finals is 70.8%.

3. Ivan Lendl (Czechoslovakia/United States) – 94

The eight-time Grand Slam champion turned professional in 1978 and called it a day in 1992, finishing with a career record of 1068–242 (81.5%).

He won title No 1 in Houston in the USA in 1980 and the final trophy of his career came at the Tokyo Indoor event in 1994.

The Czech-American won 42 indoor titles – third behind McEnroe and Jimmy Connors and he is also third terms of most finals appearances (146) and matches won (1,068).

2. Roger Federer (Switzerland) – 103

For a while it looked like Roger Federer would end up top of the list as he won his 103rd title at the Swiss Indoors in 2019. However, it turned out to be his last trophy as he played very little tennis during the final few seasons of his career, hanging up his racket after the 2022 Laver Cup.

Roger Federer Swiss Indoors Basel trophy Credit: Alamy
Roger Federer Swiss Indoors Basel trophy Credit: Alamy

He won his first title at the Milan Indoor in Italy in February 2001 and played in 157 finals.

His trophy haul includes 20 Grand Slams, six year-end titles and 28 ATP Masters 1000 trophies. Of the 103 titles, 71 came on hard courts, 19 on grass, 11 on clay and two on carpet.

1. Jimmy Connors (United States) – 109

Eight-time Grand Slam winner Jimmy Connors’ career spanned from 1972 until 1996 and during that time he played 1,557 official matches – 31 more than Federer – winning 1,274 for a 81.8% winning record.

The American won his maiden title at Jacksonville, US, in the same year that he turned professional and he would win a title every year until 1989. His final trophy came on the hard courts of Tel Aviv in Israel in 1989.

Connors won most of his titles (33) on indoor carpets while 31 trophies were won on outdoor hard courts.

He also holds the record for most final appearances of 164, finishing runner-up in 55, while his best title-winning season came in 1974 when he won 15 trophies.

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