The GOAT debate has been hashed, rehashed and continues to be discussed endlessly in the singles, with Roger Federer continuing to cement himself as the prime candidate for that title.
But tennis has seen some brilliant pairs grace (and ace) the courts over the years.
DISCLAIMER: I’ve looked at legacy pairs here, with the Williams sisters still up for the title with their unprecedented success on Tour and at the Olympics!
Martina Navratilova – Pam Shriver
Czech-American ace Martina Navratilova is up there in the Greatest of All Time pantheon. It would take a long time to list every single record she has held, made, or broken over the course of her 31-year career.
Navratilova, now 60, is the only tennis player in history – male or female, to have held the No. 1 rank in both the singles and doubles for over 200 weeks – 332 in the singles, and 237 in the doubles.
She won 18 singles Grand Slams – but 26 in the doubles in the Open Era alone – and another five before it.
In 1975, soon after defecting from the then-Communist Czechoslovakia, Navratilova won her first ever Major doubles title – teaming up with the World No. 1 of that time – Chris Evert, to take top honours at the French Open.
The pair would team up again the following year, winning Wimbledon. Navratilova would win a doubles title a year over the next two years, twice with WTA founder and tennis legend Billie Jean King.
But it was the beginnings of her partnership with American ace Pam Shriver in 1981 that proved to be one of the most fruitful doubles partnerships of all time.
The two won the 1981 edition of Wimbledon, and for the next two years took top honours at both the year-opening Australian Open and Wimbledon.
Navratilova won three Majors in 1982, two of them with Shriver, and three Slams with the American the following year.
But it was 1984 that would prove to be their biggest year yet. That year, the Navratilova-Shriver combine won the Calendar Grand Slam – winning every Major doubles title that year.
Over the next five years, the two added another ten titles to their kitty.
The pair ended their partnership with a staggering twenty one doubles Majors titles on every possible surface.
They won 79 of the 104 tournaments they participated in over the course of their partnership, finishing with a win-loss record of 390-25.
Perhaps one of the most successful doubles partnerships in tennis history started only because of a phone call from Navratilova asking Shriver to partner her.
And the rest was history.
Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan
Known collectively as the Bryan Brothers, fraternal twins Bob and Mike Bryan are the most successful doubles tennis pair of all time. They have won more Majors, tournaments and matches than any other pair in the history of doubles tennis, and held the World No. 1 ranking for a record 438 weeks.
They also have Olympic gold together, winning that at the London 2012 games, with each brother also winning multiple titles in the mixed doubles – Bob with 7, and Mike with 4.
With their 2013 win at Wimbledon, the two held every Major and the Olympic gold in the span of one year, making them the only doubles pair to do so.
They amassed over 112 titles on Tour of a total of 167 finals, and the 38-year-old brothers are still the World No. 2 ranked pair, 22 years after first going pro and 15 years after their big breakthrough on the Tour.
A number of factors give the Bryan brothers the definitive GOAT title – and it’s not just in the numbers. Their longevity is a major factor, but the fact that they have maintained a singular consistency in that longevity is the real kicker.
To attest to that fact, this year the two finished runners-up at the Australian Open – a tournament they have won six times.
Leander Paes – Mahesh Bhupathi
Considered the 'first pair’ in the sport in India, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were almost singularly responsible for truly putting India on the map when it came to tennis. The pair saw an illustrious partnership, becoming the top-ranked doubles players in the world – the first time an Indian pair had achieved the feat.
The pair could be regarded as truly putting Indian tennis on the map, and after coming together in 1997, had unprecedented success. Although they won only three Majors together (in itself not a small feat), they made six finals – giving them a 50% success rate at Majors finals.
Together, they won a number of titles on the Tour and had success on every surface, partnering each other until 2002, and then reuniting for a brief spell in 2011.
Their relationship has over the years been fraught with controversy and tension, and it has widely been reported that the two no longer communicate despite having been close friends.
Despite this, it emerged Paes sought to partner Bhupathi at the 2012 London Olympics, but was unable to do so.
These days, Bhupathi has been busy with sports management and his baby, the International Premier Tennis League, while Paes is still successful on the tennis court, more so in the mixed doubles – at 43, Paes has continued to win Majors with former World No. 1 Martina Hingis.
Natasha Zvereva – Gigi Fernandez
Belarusian Natasha Zvereva had success as a youngster in the singles, winning the Wimbledon girls’ singles title in 1986, then the US Open girls’ singles the following year. Like a number of successful women’s doubles players of her time, she was one of the top-ranked in the singles as well, reaching a career high of World No. 5, making the finals of the French Open in 1988.
She was one of the only singles players who defeated both former World No. 1s – Monica Seles and Steffi Graf, at the same Grand Slam – Wimbledon, 1998: it was only the second time in history a player had done so.
But it was in the doubles that the outspoken Zvereva truly shone. Initially pairing up with Larisa Savchenko, with whom she won two titles, Zvereva won a title with Pam Shriver before partnering Puerto Rican-American Gigi Fernandez in one of the most successful women’s doubles pairings in tennis. Together, the two went on a nine-Grand Slam winning streak, and at Wimbledon 1993 held all four Grand Slam titles.
The pair won fourteen Majors of 17 Slam finals they played together and a record number of titles on the Tour, becoming the most successful doubles pair since Navratilova and Shriver just before them.
Together, the two were inducted into the tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.
Todd Woodbridge – Mark Woodforde
Collectively known as the Woodies, Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde won 11 Majors together. They also won the doubles gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, a win that netted them a Career Golden Slam.
The two came together in 1991, and enjoyed an immensely fruitful 9-year partnership until Woodforde retired, following which Woodbridge paired up with Swedish ace Jonas Bjorkman for more Major titles.
Woodbridge was a Top 20 singles player before taking up the doubles, but enjoyed so much success with Woodforde that the pair went on to win a staggering 61 titles on the ATP World Tour across surfaces.
Todd Woodbridge won 5 titles with Jonas Bjorkman before his 2005 retirement, and the pair routinely represented Australia at the Davis Cup as well, met with success there too.
The two have bronzed statues in their honour at Melbourne Park in recognition of their achievements, and can still be seen at a few exhibition tennis matches on occasion, with Woodbridge pairing up with former No. 1 Kim Clijsters at last year’s Australian Open.