Some players are tough guys and some are match tough. There is a difference. The ability to hang tough in a match, come back from 2 sets down and survive extreme temperatures without complaining defines an Iron Man to me.
Here’s my top 10. (*active)
1. Rafael Nadal
Nadal’s fitness has to be above all others. On clay forget it, on grass he showed that he could take down Federer in 5. His 5th set record wins will surely double in a few years.
Fifth Set Record: 15-4*
2. Thomas Muster
If we’re talking clay, the Moo Man’s record speaks for itself. Getting caught up in a 5 set clay battle with Muster is like going 12 rounds with Lennox Lewis. Brutal.
Fifth Set Record: 18-9
3. Lleyton Hewitt*
With 30 wins in 5 sets, I’d send in Hewitt if my life depended on it. He never, ever, gives up. 30 times Lleyton has taken care of business, 5th all time.
Fifth Set Record: 30-18
4. Wayne Ferreira
Wayne never missed a Grand Slam in years and his fitness kept him fresh for the long battles. His South African fighting spirit meant he would tough it out till the bitter end.
Fifth Set Record: 27-12
5. Aaron Krickstein
Known for his 5 set heroics. Krickers reveled in the long format of the game and was involved in some of the most memorable 5-set matches of all time, notably with Connors at the 1991 US Open.
Fifth Set Record: 28-9
6. Ivan Lendl
Like the Terminator, Lendl would keep coming back. 36 fifth set wins is the most in history and there was no one fitter during his era. Mental toughness was also the key and Ivan could break you!
Fifth Set Record: 36-21
7. Boris Becker
Becker loved the heat of battle. He had heart of a lion and knew he would have gas left in the tank to serve his opponent off the court. Sometimes, Becker would need 2 sets just to get into top gear, so he was in his element in a best of 5.
Fifth Set Record: 32-15
8. Guillermo Vilas
The Argentine Bull was as his name suggests, a beast. His clay streak in the 1970s included many 5 set battles and that Bull would keep charging.
Fifth Set Record: 28-20
9. Bjorn Borg
The Ice Man’s nerves of steel meant you had to beat him as he would not beat himself. He only lost 6 five set matches in total! Just one more ridiculous stat Borg owns.
Fifth Set Record: 24-6
10. Pete Sampras
Pistol Pete got famously embroiled in plenty of 5 set battles with Agassi and in Davis Cup. Memorably cramping and still winning in 5, was Pete’s signature and you would never want to find yourself in a tiebreak with the legend.
Fifth Set Record: 33-15