the all-time 25 most stylish tennis players

With Wimbledon in full swing and the usual grass court fever taking over the UK, i-D looks at the most stylish tennis players to have hit the court, from Henri Lacoste in the 1920s to present-day Dustin Brown who wowed the SW19 crowd this week with his...

by Stuart Brumfitt
05 July 2015, 11:36pm

Photography Steven Pisano

Dustin Brown

The German-Jamaican player, his flying locks and the side flank tattoo of his father Leroy might have hit the headlines after his recent Wimbledon victory over Rafael Nadal, but Brown has been around for a while, beating former world no.1 Leyton Hewitt at Wimbers in 2013 and also winning against Rafa last year on the lawns of Germany. He's known for travelling round the European tour in a camper van, which is brilliantly old school.

Yannick Noah

Yannick Noah was the original dreadlocked tennis champion and a maje French sex symbol. He won the French Open in 1983, married Miss Sweden (check for their son, NBA player Joakim Noah) and went on to be a successful pop-rock star. His lemon yellow Le Coq Sportif polo is a classic, plus he wore Rasta coloured sweatbands and practised in David Bowie t-shirts.

Andre Agassi

Agassi pretty much single-handedly brought neon into the game, and arguably into sport more widely. He was Nike's poster boy, a player who didn't mind taking risks (eg cycling shorts under black, stonewashed denim) and someone who rebelled with his long, bleached hair (now known to be a wig). His Nike Air Tech Challenge is a classic shoe.

Photography Mike Cole

Björn Borg

John McEnroe's main rival in the late '70s was the ice cool Swede, an inspiration for Wes Anderson's Richie Tenenbaum. The blond fringe tucked and pouffed under his stripey headbands was a styling moment and his pinstriped Fila polo with contrast collar is one of the game's finest.

Photography Mike Cole

Gustavo Kuerten

Brazilian Guga was the smiley, floppy Brazilian who brought flair to the tour with his big-swinging game and infectious smile around the millennium. Also key to his appeal was his embracing of loud colours (especially when he played in his country's national strip), big headbands and unruly, sun-kissed curls.

"British tennis players Fred Perry and Bunny Austin with the Davis Cup shield at Wimbledon" Getty

Fred Perry

The brand came from the man who was one of the dominant forces of 1930s tennis. And it's easy to see how Perry managed to launch a label if you look back at not only his classic polos, but also his immaculate suits and very modern sense of layering.

Photography Mike Cole

Gabriela Sabatini

The Argentinian beauty was an occasional rival to Steffi Graf, and were it not for regular attacks of the nerves, she could have won many more titles. She was well known for her South American glamour and her love for flashy brights and headbands. She was ahead of the #freethenipple game too, as she often revealed them to the world through her sweaty, see-through tops.

Photography Mike Cole

John McEnroe

The temperamental leftie's signature - apart from screaming at umpires - was the headband that cut his big brushed-out bush of curls in two. His Sergio Tacchini kits were on point, and even as he was about to exit the game he had a spell rocking Agassi-esque neons for Nike.

Photography Mike Cole

Jennifer Capriati

She went on to become a weed-smoking, shop-lifting rebel, but before her meltdown after the pressures of being a teen star became too much(she entered the world's top 10 aged 14), Capriati was a fresh-faced American with a fondness for French plaits. Style high-points: accepting Olympic Gold in Barcelona 1992 wearing a giant stars'n'stripes shell suit, carrying funky 90s tennis bags and accessorising her dolphin grey-blue Prince with a hot pink grip (it's all in the details).

Photography Mike Cole

Ivan Lendl

The Czech-turned-American won three of the four Grand Slams multiple times over at the end of the 80s (Wimbledon eluded him). If his clean style was nothing remarkable, Lendl makes the cut because of the ludicrous net-protecting flap on his cap, making him look like the big-eared Disney Pluto of the game.

Photography Mike Cole

Martina Navratilova

Navratty is tennis' (and arguably sport's) most famous LGBT name and we love the way she embraced a more masculine style, particularly towards the end of her career, when she was becoming more confident in her sexuality being public. Her shorts (never skirts) spiky hair and macho swag were a nice antidote to pretty, girly Chris Evert. Great round professor specs too. 

Photography Mike Cole

Pete Sampras

Sampras is often seen as a bit of a dullard, but look back and you realise the young American had the cutest Grecian brown curls and was the first to bring a basketball silhouette to tennis with his baggy shorts and oversized polos. This was the 90s, when Michael Jordan was ruling the court for the Chicago Bulls - Sampras understood that aesthetic, but toned it down with white and navy. He also had a season of window pane prints, which still look fresh to death today.

Steffi Graf

Graf has won the most Grand Slam titles of any woman (but Serena is chasing down that record fast), but few remember her as being a particularly stylish champ. I beg to differ though - look back and her twisted bandanas and flat-fronted, high-waisted skirts make you realise the German had it going on.

Photography Mike Cole

Michael Chang

Chang was a baseline ball chaser extraordinaire, but also stood out for his stylish choice of rackets and trainers. His crossbar Prince bat was a thing of great beauty and he was the first major star to rock the tennis version of the Reebok Pumps. He also knew how to wear his socks high to emphasise the meat on his fast-running calves.

Arthur Ashe

Ashe was the first black man to represent the USA in the Davis Cup and to win Wimbledon, US and Australian Opens. His neat hairdo and fondness for aviators (be they specs, or shades) marked him out as a man of style. He died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993, after setting up the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS. Flushing Meadow, the site of the US Open in New York, opened the Arthur Ashe stadium in his honour in 1997.

Henri Lacoste

The Frenchman was a champion throughout the 1920s. The logo for the brand he established with a simple tennis shirt in 1929 was a crocodile, coming from the nickname that referenced his on-court tenacity. Into his flat caps and side parts too.

Serena Williams

Even though she's not surpassed Graf's Grand Slam wins just yet, Serena is arguably the greatest female player ever. When healthy, she's dominated to an impressive degree. And much as we loved the cute young Serena who came out just after Venus, we're more into latter-day Serena who seems be growing in confidence and beauty as she turns into a full-blown woman. Neons, dramatic make-up and square leg knickers that flash under her little skirts are all part of the charm, but it's her banging body that wins every time.

Anna Kournikova

The player who promised to take over the tour as a teenager never quite became the champion people expected (although she did manage to bag heartthrob Enrique Iglesias) and was outshone by peers like Martina Hingis and Venus Williams. But the Russian certainly made her impact on the image of the game, with her sports bras, micro shorts, mini dresses and saucy Sport Illustrated photoshoots.

Photography Mike Cole

Boris Becker

The ginger German shot to fame as a 17-year-old Wimbledon winner and later gained headlines as a ladies man who got a waitress pregnant in Nobu's broom cupboard. But back to his looks: the sandy locks were his main appeal, but he also rocked Fila in his early career and made a name for Italian brand, Lotto. Plus his jockstrapped butt in his tiny white shorts had a certain appeal.

Stefan Edberg

The serve and volleying Swede was Becker's pretty boy rival in the late 80s, with coiffed blond hair and an array of wonderfully squiggled-upon Adidas polos, with his initials lost hidden in the zany scrawls. He also had the best racket - the tomato and mustard accented black Wilson Pro-Staff Classic.

Photography Mike Cole

Chris Evert

America's sweetheart looked cute, but played doggedly. She was the baseliner who bashed away in a long rivalry with the net-loving Martina Navratilova from the mid-70s to the mid-80s. She wore neat little Ellesse dresses throughout her career, but most image change came in her mane. It started off dark-blonde, centre-parted and pulled back in a simple pony, then towards the end of her career was an ice-white tipped feast of 80s feathers.

Roger Federer

Federer's big style moment was supposed to be his dapper white suit for Wimbers a few years back, but we hated this gentlemanly relic look and much prefer Federer as the dark knight when he wears all black or badass bold colours on the clay and hard courts. Shows off the edge to his killer skills. This is no gent - he's an on-court assassin.

Rafael Nadal

Rafa's tight pants have always been a welcome way of showing off the best bubble butt in the game. He also knew how to harness the appeal of his bi- and triceps with his sleeveless tees. Bright colours work well on the Spanish skin, but we can all agree that his pedal pusher period is best left forgotten.

Photography Mike Cole

Mary Pierce

When not self-consciously fiddling with her contact lenses to distract an opponent, or biting her racket frame through frustration, Mary Pierce was a mighty thwacker of the ball. The French-Canadian only won two Grand Slams, but was a longstanding prima donna presence on the tour and the first to rock Nike's body con dresses.

Photography Mike Cole

Venus Williams

Venus's desire to be a fashion designer is well-known, but aside from some of her own nutty creations, she's had some strong looks, most especially when she bounded onto the circuit as a 14-year-old with multi-coloured beaded braids (all white for Wimbers), but also with plenty of halternecks and cut-outs as she matured. It was the beginning of the Williams sisters' takeover of the tour. 

Special mention

Stan Smith, for the trainers

Natasha Zvereva, for the pig tails and sporty shades

Pat Cash, for the checkerboard bandana

Pat Rafter, for the facial sunblock, ponytail and streak of white hair. 

Marat Safin, for being a stonecold fox