After several fairly bleak years in the 1980s, Britain enjoyed something of a tennis renaissance over the next few decades, featuring grand slam and Olympic triumphs.
By September 2022, there were four British men in the top 50 of the ATP rankings and two women in the top 100 of the WTA list.
In this article, we will talk about some of the most successful players to have played under the British flag, and we will begin by considering who have been the top British tennis players during this era.
Famous British Male Tennis Players
In common with several of the players in this list, Cam Norrie was a late developer.
Having grown up primarily in New Zealand, Norrie moved to Great Britain, where his parents were born, at the age of 16, primarily to access funding and support for his tennis.
Although he was recognised as a good player, when he went to study and train at Texas Christian University in 2014 it was not expected that a glorious professional career awaited him.
Norrie thrived in American collegiate tennis, becoming the top-ranked player in the country, and, by the end of the third year of his course, he had risen close to the top 200 in the world rankings. He decided to turn professional and defer the fourth year of his studies, and has not looked back.
By September 2022 he had won four ATP titles, reached a Wimbledon semi-final, and attained a career high ATP ranking of 8, establishing him as Britain’s number one player.
Dan Evans is on the small side for a tennis player at 5’ 9” tall, but his speed and tactical intelligence have made him a formidable player.
Despite his ability, however, his career has been a bit of a roller coaster. Evans is a spiky character, and, in his younger days, coaches frequently questioned his attitude and commitment to the sport, resulting in his funding being withdrawn by the UK governing body on two separate occasions.
By 2017, Evans seemed to be on the way up, breaking into the top 50 for the first time, but then he failed a drugs test due to having taking cocaine, and was issued with a 12–month ban.
Many thought this might be the end of his career, but Dan had other ideas, and by 2019 he had risen to become Britain’s number one. By 2022, he has become a very consistent player, winning one ATP title, putting in strong Davis Cup performances, and equalling his career-high ranking of 22 in August 2022.
Sir Andrew Murray is quite simply a British sporting legend.
He is the only person ever to have won the BBC’s prestigious ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ award three times, despite having to overcome the trauma of being present at the infamous Dunblane School massacre as a child.
His slightly grumpy on-court demeanour and dry humour meant that some people took time to warm to him when he first came to fame, but in the latter stages of his career he has come to be regarded as a ‘National Treasure’ in Britain.
Andy has enjoyed a glittering career, which would have been even more productive if he had not been born into the era of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.
Nonetheless, by 2022 he has gained 3 grand slam titles, reaching 6 other finals, won 46 ATP titles, earned two Olympic gold medals, won the World Tour Finals, been part of a winning Davis Cup Team, and reached number one in the world rankings.
In early 2019 he underwent a resurfacing operation on his hip, but against the odds had risen again to 43 in the world by September 2022.
See also: Andy Murray Analysis
His father Roger was Chief Executive of the Lawn Tennis Association, and his mother Nicky is a former national junior champion, so he always had the best guidance, training and playing opportunities.
The downside of this was that it created jealousy among other players, and Jack describes several occasions where he was playing matches as a junior at which a crowd would build up to support his opponent.
Although, as of September 2022, Jack has yet to win an ATP title, he has won several events at Challenger and Futures level. He has shown considerable promise at grand slam events, impressively reaching the 3rd round of the 2022 US Open before being forced to retire through injury.
Tim Henman was born in 1974, and was an important part of the resurgence of British tennis in the 1990s and 2000s.
His background was, again, relatively privileged, as his well-off sport-loving parents even had a tennis court in their back garden.
As a junior he was considered rather small and not the most talented, but he was supported by David Lloyd and financier Jim Slater, switching to LTA funding in 1991 when he decided to target success as a singles player.
Henman went on to enjoy a successful career, reaching six grand slam semi-finals, including four at Wimbledon. Fans would gather on the hill at Wimbledon to watch his matches on the big screen, resulting in this being nicknamed ‘Henman Hill’– a name which has endured long after the end of his playing career.
Henman won 11 ATP titles, and was ranked as high as number 4 in the world.
Sharing a birthday with Henman, albeit a year older, Greg Rusedski was the other player driving British tennis forward during the 1990s and beyond.
Although Canadian-born, Rusedski switched his allegiance to Great Britain in 1995 for what he called ‘lifestyle reasons’, particularly relating to the fact that he had a British girlfriend whom he would later marry.
Some were slow to accept Rusedski as British, as an unspoken element of his decision was undoubtedly the support he would receive from the LTA, but when he started to do well this was quickly forgotten.
Rusedski was a player with a great physique for tennis and an extremely positive and competitive mindset, without perhaps being as talented as some of his rivals.
He was not as consistent as Henman in grand slam events, but at his best he could beat anyone, a point exemplified by his run to the US Open final in 1997.
Rusedski won 15 ATP titles, as well as the Grand Slam Cup, and attained a ranking of 4 (the same as Henman’s peak) in the world rankings – he was even voted Sports Personality of the Year in 1997.
Famous British Female Tennis Players
Born in 2002 in Toronto, but growing up in Bromley, England, Emma Raducanu was recognised as a very promising junior player.
Her transition to senior events was slightly unusual as, during the COVID pandemic, it was decided that she would just play British events, when possible, to keep active and focus on her A-level studies.
This meant that in early summer 2021 she was playing British Tour events at unheralded venues, relying on wild cards for any WTA Tour events.
Promising performances at pre-Wimbledon events earned Raducanu a wild card for Wimbledon 2021, where she rocketed to fame by reaching the fourth round.
This was followed by an astonishing run at the US Open, where she won through qualifying and went on to lift the trophy without dropping a set, leading to her gaining lucrative sponsorship contracts and being voted Sports Personality of the Year.
The 2022 season proved tougher, with a succession of minor injuries and coaching changes preventing her from building any momentum, but whatever comes next, Raducanu has already had an extraordinary career.
See also: Emma Raducanu Analysis
Jo Konta is in many ways the antithesis of Raducanu, being someone who was not expected to become a leading player, but who determinedly persevered until she got there.
Konta was born in Australia to Hungarian parents in 1991, and lived in Britain from the age of 14. She played as an Australian until she gained British citizenship in 2012, but it was not until 2014 that she briefly broke into the top 100 for the first time.
For several years, Konta was regarded as a player who tightened up under pressure and would never make it to the top of the game, but with great dedication she improved both her tennis and her mentality.
Ultimately, she reached a semi-final at three of the grand slams, with a quarter-final being her best effort at the US Open, gaining 4 WTA titles and reaching a high of number 4 in the world.
Although she never managed to take the final step to grand slam glory, Konta represents a fantastic example of what can be achieved through hard work and determination.
There have been several famous British tennis players since the 1990s who have achieved a considerable amount within the game, or show signs of doing so in the future. In this article, we have briefly talked about:
Cameron Norrie– the surprise package now established as British number one.
Dan Evans– the reformed ‘bad boy’ who punches above his weight.
Andy Murray– the legend himself, still playing in 2022 with a partly artificial hip.
Jack Draper– the talented youngster from the right side of the tracks.
Tim Henman– dogged battler from an affluent background who just came up short in the biggest matches.
Greg Rusedski– tough competitor from a Canadian background who enjoyed some great moments.
Emma Raducanu– produced a sporting miracle by winning the US Open with minimal senior experience.
Johanna Konta– fought her way to the top despite few others having faith in her.
We will tell you more about some of these players in later articles.
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