From Williams to McEnroe, via Sanchez and Maleeva: the 13 greatest siblings in the history of professional tennis

Czechs Brenda and Linda Fruhvirtova are emerging on the pro circuit, while at the same time Serena and Venus Williams, who have passed the age of 40, seem to be getting closer and closer to the end of their careers. An opportunity to retrace the careers of the most emblematic siblings

26 December 2021
John and Patrick McEnroe, Dinara Safina and Marat Safin, Venus and Serena Williams

Tennis is a family sport. And even if the demands of the top level are unforgiving, several siblings have contributed to the history of the game with simultaneous activity. Several duos are still active: the Williams and Pliskova sisters, the Murray brothers, even to some extent the Zverev brothers. A newly hatched duo is set to head to the top of the WTA Tour: Brenda and Linda Fruhvirtova. And perhaps the Argentine brothers Juan Manuel and Francisco Cerundolo.

Trios have also emerged at the highest level. Three Bulgarian sisters, the Maleevas, made the top 10 in three different decades. The Sanchez Vicario and Black siblings have also made their mark with trophies.

Many siblings have won doubles titles together. The Bryan brothers, the best doubles players in history, are undoubtedly the most iconic. Let’s take a look at these brothers and sisters, from the most recent to the oldest, who have made or will make their mark on tennis.

Brenda and Linda Fruhvirtova,
the future of women’s tennis

  • Czech Republic
  • Linda Fruhvirtova: born in 2005 / 304th in 2021 / 2nd in the world junior rankings in 2021 / Active
  • Brenda Fruhvirtova: born in 2007 / 4th in the world juniors in 2021 / Active

Two phenomena, winners of the Petits As, one in 2019, the younger in 2020. Brenda is 14, Linda is 16. Brenda is fourth in the world in juniors at the time of the first edition of this article, Linda is second in juniors and already 304th in the world in pros. Their season is amazing. The elder Linda has already reached the quarter-finals of a WTA tournament, in Charleston, where she knocked out Alizé Cornet.

While she failed to win a junior Grand Slam in 2021 – that was her goal – Linda won two Grade 1s at the end of the season. In November, she met a certain Brenda Fruhvirtova in the final. They have now played each other three times, all in finals, always on clay. The result: Linda 2, Brenda 1. That says a lot about the potential of the youngest, who is already capable of beating many older players and won her first pro match 6-0, 6-1. She is set to become better than her sister – both play under the daily guidance of their father and under the supervision of the Mouratoglou Academy.

Brenda caused a sensation in July 2020 when, at the age of 13, she beat world No 54 Katerina Siniakova in an exhibition. This opened the doors to the first women’s UTS in history. Since then, she has taken off: five junior tournaments won in 2021, including four Grade 1s, and a world ranking of fourth. She will aim for a Grand Slam in 2022, at only 15 years old. And she should play in a few WTA tournaments. We can’t wait to see her in action with the grown-ups.

Karolina and Krystina Pliskova – one twin at the top

  • Czech Republic
  • Twins
  • Karolina Pliskova: born 1992/world No 1 in 2017/16 titles/ Active
  • Kristyna Pliskova: born 1992/career high of 35th/one title / Active

The Pliskovas are not at all the same career-wise. Karolina has been one of the best players in the world for over five years. She has always finished the year in the top 10 since 2016. And she was even No 1 in the world in 2017. The downside is that she has not won a Grand Slam despite two finals, at the US Open (2016) and Wimbledon (2021). Her sister, Kristyna, is left-handed. She has only one singles title (Tashkent). Out of the top 100 since last July, she is fighting to come back. For the moment, without success. Together, they have played 50 doubles matches, but have not yet managed to win a tournament or reach a final. In singles, the sisters have played each other ten times, mostly on the secondary circuit. Surprisingly, it is tied at 5-5. The last match, in Birmingham in 2019, was even won by Kristyna.

The Zverevs – ten years and a class apart

  • Germany
  • Mischa Zverev: born 1987/career high of 25 in 2017/1 title/Active
  • Alexander Zverev: born 1997 /career high of 3 in 2017/19 titles/Active
  • 2 titles together

They too are far from having a similar career. Alexander Zverev, at the time of the first edition of this article, is third in the world behind Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, two men he has troubled during the season. 19 titles, the US Open final, semi-finals at the Australian Open and French Open, two Masters titles, an Olympic title: his record is already impressive even though he is only 24 years old. Only a Slam is missing. Mischa Zverev, ten years his senior, had his day of glory on 22 January 2017, when he achieved the feat in the last 16 against world No 1 Andy Murray, overpowered on serve and volley. A quarter-final appearance would be his best Grand Slam result. A 2018 Eastbourne title holder, he now spends more time in the stands supporting his brother than on court. Alexander and Mischa played a lot of doubles between 2015 and 2019: they won two titles (Montpellier and Acapulco) and reached five finals.

The Murrays – simultaneously world No 1s

  • United Kingdom
  • Jamie Murray: born in 1986 /world No 1 in doubles in 2016/26 doubles titles / Active
  • Andy Murray: born 1987/world No 1 in 2016/46 titles /Active
  • 1 title together

Two world No 1s at the same time, in 2016: one, Andy, right-handed, in singles; the other, Jamie, left-handed, in doubles. Andy has three Grand Slam singles titles – one US Open, two Wimbledons. Jamie has two major titles in men’s doubles. Andy, a member of the Big Four beloved of the British press along with Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, was considering retirement in 2019 after double surgery on his right hip, which was replaced by a metal prosthesis. But he has hung in there and shown a unique resilience. He is trying to make a comeback, initially in the top 100, and dreams of another Grand Slam semi-final. His brother Jamie, now ranked 19th in the world, is always in the top tier. He took part in the last ATP Finals in Turin.

The Williams sisters – the greatest

  • United States
  • Venus Williams: born 1980/career high of 1 in 2002/49 titles/Active
  • Serena Williams: born 1981/career high of 1 2002/73 titles/Active
  • 23 titles together

There are no words to describe their careers. Between them, the Williams sisters have 30 Grand Slam singles titles – 23 for Serena, seven for Venus – 122 singles trophies and hundreds of weeks as world No 1. The Compton girls have even won 14 Slams and an Olympic doubles title together. They have revolutionised tennis, accelerated the speed of the game. They are icons, inspiring many to take up tennis, like Frances Tiafoe. Not far from ending their careers – perhaps at the same time? -Serena and Venus will leave a huge mark. Their story, especially that of their father, who made this phenomenon possible, has just been made into a movie.

The Radwanskas – battling back

  • Poland
  • Agnieszka Radwanska: born 1989/world No 2 in 2012/20 titles/2005-2018
  • Urszula Radwanska: born in 1990/29th in 2012/0 titles/Active
  • 1 title together

Agnieszka and Urszula Radwanska are unique in that they are the only sisters to have both been world number one juniors in singles. Then, Aga became one of the best players on the circuit in the 2010s with 20 titles, including the WTA Finals, a Wimbledon final and a world No 2 ranking. Her kindness, great technical range and game intelligence made her a special player, who ended her career in 2018 at the age of 29.

Her younger sister is still there. 29th in 2012, she was slowed down by repeated injuries – to her shoulder in particular – as well as by mononucleosis. Now out of the top 200, she has reached two finals (0 titles) and is looking to get back into the top 100. The last time she was there was in 2015.

The Bryans – the GOATs of doubles

  • USA
  • Twins
  • Bob Bryan: born in 1978/world No 1 in doubles in 2003/119 titles/1998-2020
  • Mike Bryan: born in 1978/world No 1 in doubles in 2003/124 titles/1998-2020
  • 119 titles together

If the debate about the best player of all time in singles is not about to end, there is no doubt about it in doubles since the beginning of the 21st century. Left-handed Bob and right-handed Mike Bryan are the GOATs. 119 titles together, 16 Grand Slams, 39 Masters 1000, four ATP Finals, Olympic champions (2012), Davis Cup winners in 2007, 438 weeks as world No 1, 139 of them in a row… The twins’ record of success is almost incomprehensible; so is their understanding and loyalty to each other. Apart from when Bob was injured in 2018 – when Mike won Wimbledon, the US Open and the Masters with Jack Sock – and a few weeks in 2002, the two brothers have always been partners in doubles.

The Krajiceks – Richard the elder much more successful

  • Netherlands
  • Richard Krajicek: born in 1971/world No 4 in 1999/17 titles/1989-2003
  • Michaella Krajicek: born 1989/world No 30 in 2008/three titles/2003-2020

Eighteen years separate the Dutch. Richard Krajicek played mainly in the 1990s, Michaella in the 2010s and 2020s. Michaella Krajicek started her professional career at the same time as her older brother ended it. The older brother won 17 titles (9 finals), including a Grand Slam, Wimbledon in 1996, two Masters 1000 tournaments and a semifinal at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Although very precocious, Michaella did not reach this level. She was satisfied with a quarter-final at Wimbledon in 2007 and three titles in Tashkent, Hobart and Hertogenbosch.

The Blacks – legendary Zimbabweans

  • Zimbabwe
  • Byron Black: born 1969/world No 22 in 1996, world No 1 in doubles in 1994/2 singles titles, 22 in doubles/1991-2002
  • Wayne Black: born 1973/world No 4 in doubles in 1998/18 doubles titles/1994-2006
  • Cara Black: born 1979/world No 1 in doubles in 2005/60 doubles titles, 1 singles title/1998-2015
  • Cara and Wayne Black: 2 titles/Wayne and Byron Black: 1 title

Byron, Wayne and Cara Black are, together with Kevin Ullyett, the greatest Zimbabwean players. Between them, they have 97 titles in doubles, including 60 for Cara, one of the best players in the history of the sport. The youngest member of the family is the third longest-serving world number one with 167 weeks at the top. She has won five women’s doubles majors – three Wimbledons, one Australian Open and one US Open – three Masters titles and five Grand Slams in mixed doubles, two of which she won with her older brother Wayne. The latter has had a great career in doubles: fourth in the world, 18 titles, 15 finals, two Grand Slams won in addition to the men’s. But the best of the two brothers is undoubtedly Byron Black: 22nd in singles – with quarters at Wimbledon and the US Open – and first in doubles – he won the French Open in 1994. The two-handed player from both sides is one of only five players to have handed out a bagel to Roger Federer. That was at Queen’s in 1999.

Since the retirement of the Black siblings, Zimbabwean tennis has not been at the top of the game. Benjamin Lock, 497th in singles and 212th in doubles, is the top men’s player at the end of 2021. And the best woman is 548th in the world in singles: Valeria Bhunu.

Safin and Safina, the world No 1s

  • Russia
  • Marat Safin: born 1980/world No 1 in 2000/15 titles/1997-2009
  • Dinara Safina: born 1986/world No 1 in 2009/2000-2011

A brother and sister ranked No 1 in the world, one in women’s singles, the other in men’s singles, is no mean feat. Especially since with Marat Safin and Dinara Safina, we have two strong personalities of the first decade of the 21st century. Marat is one of the most emblematic players of the last twenty years: with his impressive power, his outbursts, his temperament, his humour and his charisma. With “only” 15 titles, he probably doesn’t have the career that might have been expected. But he has been world No 1 and won two Grand Slams (US Open 2000 and Australian Open 2005).

Her sister Dinara never managed to win a major and has gone down in history as one of the best players without a Grand Slam. She has won 12 titles. The most important ones? Rome and Madrid in 2009 – a year in which she reached two major finals at the Australian Open and Roland Garros, having already made the final in Paris in 2008. No title. The Slam won in doubles at the 2007 US Open with Nathalie Dechy does not make up for it. Marat and Dinara played only one tournament together: the Hopman Cup, in 2009, the elder’s last year on the circuit. They were finalists.

Arantxa Sanchez – and her older brothers

  • Spain
  • Emilio Sanchez: born 1965 /world No 7 in singles in 1990, world No 1 in doubles in 1989/15 singles titles, 50 doubles titles/1984-1998
  • Javier Sanchez: born 1968/world No 23 in singles in 1994, world No 9 in doubles in 1990/4 singles titles, 26 doubles titles /1986-1999
  • Arantxa Sanchez: born 1971 /world No 1 in singles in 1992 and in doubles/29 singles titles, 69 doubles titles/1985-2005
  • Emilio and Javier Sanchez: 2 titles /Emilio and Arantxa Sanchez: 1 title

Another set of three siblings – a sister and two brothers – but the Sanchez Vicarios are in another dimension to the Blacks. Between the three of them, singles and doubles combined, they have 190 titles! Let’s talk about the eldest, Emilio: a great career in singles with 15 titles (including Barcelona and Rome), a final at Indian Wells, two Grand Slam quarters and finishing the year as world No 7 in 1990. But above all, he is a great doubles player with 50 titles, including five Majors – three in men’s doubles, two in mixed – and, of course, the throne of world No 1. He won two trophies with Javier, the least successful of the siblings, who was still ranked 23rd in the world in singles and ninth in doubles with 26 titles.

And Emilio won the Hopman Cup in 1990 with Arantxa Sanchez, the greatest Spanish player in history until Garbiñe Muguruza, perhaps, decided otherwise. She was the world No 1 in singles and doubles, won 29 singles titles including four Grand Slams (three French Opens) and 69 doubles titles including 10 Majors. Add to that five Fed Cups, four Olympic medals and two Masters titles in doubles, top ten status for ten consecutive seasons. And she has been a finalist in every Grand Slam and the WTA Finals. Logically, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007.

The Maleevas – three sisters in the Top 10

  • Bulgaria
  • Manuela Maleeva: born in 1967/world No 3 in 1985 /19 titles/1982-1994
  • Katerina Maleeva: born in 1969 /world No 6 in 1990/11 titles/1984-1997
  • Magdalena Maleeva: born 1975/world No 4 in 1996/10 titles/1989-2005
  • Manuela and Katerina Maleeva: one title

To be in the top 10 is already a feat in itself. But to have three from the same family is quite an achievement. Manuela, the eldest, led the way. She has the best record of any Maleeva: third in the world behind Navratilova and Evert, semi-finalist at the US Open in 1992 and 1993, 18 runners-up spots but above all 19 titles. This makes her the most successful player not to have won a Grand Slam. Manuela won a doubles title with Katerina, two years her junior. Her career is good, too: sixth in the world at her best, 11 titles, nine finals and at least one quarter-final at each Grand Slam. Magdalena (photo) has won fewer titles (10) than her two sisters. But she went higher (4th) in the world rankings than Katerina. As a result, the Maleevas were present from the early 1980s to the mid-2000s.

The McEnroes – two careers on different trajectories

  • United States
  • John McEnroe: born in 1959/world No 1 in singles in 1980 and in doubles in 1979/104 singles titles, 79 doubles titles / 1977 – 1992
  • Patrick McEnroe: born 1966/world No 28 in singles in 1995, world No 3 in doubles in 1995/one singles title, 16 doubles titles/1988 – 1998
  • Two titles together

John and Patrick McEnroe are not in the same league. The older brother is one of the greatest players in history with 104 singles titles (including 77 ATP) and 79 doubles titles (including 70 ATP). The left-hander has won three Wimbledon and four US Opens in singles, five Wimbledon and four US Opens in doubles, three Masters and five Davis Cups. These achievements led him to the No 1 ranking in the world in singles and doubles in the same season (1984). A feat that only he has achieved. His style of play, constantly forward-looking, his personality, his repeated spats with spectators, referees and opponents have made John McEnroe a champion apart.

The younger man has a more neutral career in singles: 28th in the world at his peak, he has one title and three finals, one of which he lost to his older brother in Chicago in 1991. In doubles, the record is better, with a world ranking of 3 at best and 16 titles, including the 1989 French Open with Jim Grabb. Together, the McEnroe brothers, who are six years apart, won two titles: Richmond in 1994 and Paris-Bercy in 1992. They now work together in the academy they founded.

The Austins – carried by Tracy

  • United States
  • John Austin: born in 1957/40th in 1981/1 doubles title/1978-1984
  • Tracy Austin: born 1962/1st in 1980/30 titles/1977-1994
  • 1 title together

The eldest Austin had a decent career with a singles final, world No 40 at best and a mixed doubles title at Wimbledon in 1980 with a certain Tracy Austin, his sister who was five years younger. The latter has a record of 30 singles titles, including two US Opens, one Masters (1981) and three Fed Cups. She is known for being the youngest No 1 in tennis history at 17 years, three months and 26 days, before Monica Seles (in 1991) and then Martina Hingis broke that record. Austin remained at the top for 22 weeks. Like Arantxa Sanchez, she was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.

THE GULLIKSONS – LINKED BY DOUBLES

  • United States
  • Twins
  • Tim Gullikson: born 1951/world No 15 in singles in 1979, world No 6 in doubles in 1984/4 singles titles, 15 in doubles /1975-1986
  • Tom Gullikson: born 1951/world No 34 in singles 1984, world No 4 in doubles in 1983/1 singles title, 15 in doubles / 1975-1986
  • 10 titles together

Twins, one right-handed, Tim, one left-handed, Tom. They started their careers at the same time and ended them at the same time, in 1986. In doubles, they spent most of their careers together and won 10 titles including Queen’s. They also lost 10 finals – among them Wimbledon 1983 against the pair of McEnroe and Fleming. Tim Gullikson won the Cincinnati tournament, his biggest title, with Victor Amaya, not with his brother. Tom Gullikson’s only Grand Slam title was in mixed doubles, the 1984 US Open with Manuela Maleeva. After the end of his career, Tim Gullikson became Pete Sampras’ coach. He died in 1996 at the age of 44.

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