Victoria Azarenka’s unbeaten start to the year has fluttered the hearts of many tennis fans from Minsk to Scottsdale but it’s also given historians a lift as they pull their record books out to see how it compares in the grand scale of women’s tennis. Novak Djokovic proved as an historian’s best friend this time last year with his own winning streak; the ‘Serbinator’ eventually went 43-0 before Roger Federer halted the run during the French Open semi-finals — just three matches short of the longest ever undefeated record. Upon entering the Premier Mandatory event at Indian Wells, Belarusian world number one Azarenka was 17-0 on the year after three consecutive tournament victories in Sydney, Melbourne and Doha. However, as we’ll see further down, the 22-year-old has some way to go until she breaks some of the long-standing record streaks of women’s tennis.
35 – The longest unbeaten spell of the 21st Century belongs to Venus Williams. The American beat Martina Hingis, sister Serena and Lindsay Davenport en route to a maiden Slam title and the first of her five Wimbledon crowns in 2000. Her form lasted through the US Open and beyond the Olympic Games in Sydney where she became the first woman since Helen Wills Moody to win gold in both singles and doubles. Shortly after that her run ended when Davenport defeated her in the final of Linz in three sets.
45 – Martina Hingis’ 37 straight wins at the start of 1997 set her up for three Grand Slams but it still wasn’t enough to beat the greatest start to a season, set by Steffi Graf. At the end of the 1980’s Graf was the dominant figure. In 1988 she became the only ever winner of the Golden Slam and that all stemmed from her 45-match winning streak a year before. The German won six tournaments in a row heading into the French Open and conquered Martina Navratilova in the final. She took that form to Wimbledon but her American Czech rival had revenge, ending Graf’s run in the final. A similar story panned out at the US Open before Graf had one of the best seasons in living memory.
74 – As if she didn’t already hold enough records, the longest winning streak from either ATP or WTA Tours belongs to Martina Navratilova. Most players will struggle to play 74 matches all year these days but the American Czech won 13 consecutive tournaments and three major titles in 1984 to reach that tally unbeaten. Her record was ended by Helena Sukova, two short of completing the Grand Slam that year when the Australian Open was played in December.
125 – If Rafael Nadal is the King of Clay then no one can doubt Chris Evert is the Queen. The American won 125 consecutive matches on the surface from 1973 to 1979 claiming three of her eventual seven French Open titles. Remarkably, Evert only lost seven sets during that spell and she could have won more times at Roland Garros had she not played World Team Tennis instead. Tracy Austin eventually broke the run before she went another 72 matches without defeat. No other player, male or female, has a better record on clay.
444 – When talking about female tennis players with amazing streaks, there’s none more illustrious than Esther Vergeer. The Dutchwoman has dominated wheelchair tennis pretty much since picking up a racquet. She became world number one in 1999 as an 18-year-old and has been at the top ever since. Her last defeat in singles came in 2003. Combined with doubles she’s amassed 39 Grand Slams, five Paralympic gold medals and 22 Masters titles. Vergeer is often dubbed the most dominant athlete in the world and, worryingly for her rivals, her record is still being extended today.