The Most Talented Tennis Player of All Time, Marcelo Rios

By Scoop Malinowski

The debate about who the greatest player of all time is still shrouded in confusion because of the exploits of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, with some voices still demanding Rod Laver, Lew Hoad, Pancho Gonzalez be a part of the conversation.

Another debate which is far less discussed and argued is about who is the most talented player of all time. Perhaps that’s because there is just one undisputed answer, Marcelo Rios.

The evidences are clear if you listen to the players who shared a court with the Chilean maestro.

“Rios could make you feel like it was your first time standing on the court. I think he was one of the best players ever. You could get killed by him 1 and 1 or something like that and you could have played a good match.” – Thomas Johansson

“You could say Rios was one of the most gifted ever. But not the best ever.” – Guillermo Vilas

“Super talented. Was able to do, more or less, what no one else can do.” – Jonas Bjorkman

“He was talented enough to win several Grand Slams. But he was not a hard worker. If he would have been mentally more prepared to go out there and work his ass off and stay in there consistently, definitely the talent was there. But it’s not all talent.” – Stefan Koubek

“Rios had the talent to win ten majors.” – Marat Safin

“Waste of talent for sure. If he could better manage his personality and character, right now we would be talking about one of the greatest players in the history of tennis.” – Francisco Clavet

“People ask me who the best player I played against was and I always say Rios. And I played against Sampras and Agassi. The things he could do on a tennis court were amazing. He was a magician. If he had the same mental as Agassi… I mean he was tougher to play than Agassi.” – Michael Joyce

“In some ways Rios was better than Andre because you could not read his shots.” – Mike Agassi

“I thought he was destined to win at least five majors the way he played against Andre in the Miami final in 1998. That was one of the greatest matches I ever saw anyone play against Andre.” – Brad Gilbert

“I thought he was one of the best players with the best talent around. He was one of my favorite players around 1998 along with Pete Sampras. I was fortunate enough to lay him two times and practice with him a couple of times.” – Roger Federer

Rios had so much natural talent he even invented new shots the game never saw before. Like the jump two-handed backhand. Hundreds of professionals like Michael Chang and Marat Safin imitated this wondrous shot.

Rios was so darn gifted, he could even slip and fall and then hit an overhead winner while seated on his rear end, like he did in the final of the Grand Slam Cup vs Agassi in 1998 in Germany.

The talent of Rios only equated to 18 titles and zero major titles. Lacking the one big weapon, Rios fell short in all his Grand Slam conquests, once reaching the Australian final though he did obtain the ATP world no. 1 ranking for six weeks in 1998.

Winning big titles does not always equate to talent though. Grand Slam titles are won by grinding, consistency, brute force and perseverance through two weeks of adversity. Rios was not as gifted in those departments but his artistic tennis talent will never be forgotten by those who saw it.

“It was just so fun to watch Rios create works of art as he played. What he brought to tennis was from a universe far away. We have never seen anything like it. For him it was the beauty of the game and all the different things he could do with a tennis ball against the best players in the world. – Luke Jensen

Just watch this video of some of the best of Marcelo Rios and if you are not convinced that Rios is the most talented player of all time, I defy you to share another You Tube compilation of another player with more tennis talent.

Note: Quotes in this feature are excerpts of my book “Marcelo Rios The Man We Barely Knew” which is available at amazon for $12.99.



  • Dan Markowitz · December 24, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Best ever? What planet are you living on? Rios got to only 1 slam finals and lost in straight sets to Petr Korda in that one finals. Slam titles might not relate totally to greatness, but when you don’t win one title, you can’t be the greatest ever or even in the top 25.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 24, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    Most talented. Not the best player ever. Watch the video and show me a more talented player.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 24, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    Impressive, but if he was the most talented, again, you’d like to see 3-4 slams. Firstly, Rios didn’t have much power. He was a counter-puncher. He didn’t have a dominant attacking shot like a McEnroe serve or volley or a Federer serve or forehand or even an Agassi backhand. McEnroe and Agassi were both more talented for starters and that’s why they won 7 and 8 slams, respectively.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 24, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    Rios became world no. 1 lacking power and any major weapons, he did it all with cleverness, genius, and special incomparable TALENT to manipulate a tennis ball.

  • Eelco · December 25, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    Miloslav Mecir is far more talented.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 25, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    Mecir didn’t come close to being world no. 1 nor did he reach a major final. Super talent but Rios superior IMO.

  • Dan Markowitz · December 25, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    The Big Cat did win an Olympic gold.

  • catherine · December 25, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Scoop – Mecir reached the final of the US Open in 1986 after beating Becker. He was exhausted and lost easily to Lendl. All the finalists that year came from Czechoslovakia.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 26, 2018 at 8:19 am

    I did not follow tennis at all in 1986 and nobody ever talks about Mecir in the media, just flashing mentions here and there but nothing in depth. I did manage to do a Biofile with Mecir at US open about five years ago and see him now and again as he coaches players here and there. Last time was two years ago talking with Mats Wilander about Facing Sampras and Mecir walked by us. Are there any highlight reels of Mecir’s talent on you tube like there is of Rios?

  • catherine · December 26, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Mecir wasn’t a flamboyant character or a flashy player so he hasn’t attracted the same attention as Rios. Also he retired early because of his back injury.

    There are a few short clips on youtube but the visual quality is poor. He was one of the players I really enjoyed watching but I didn’t often get the chance.

    You might be interested to know that in the Becker/Mecir match Mecir not only served better than Becker but made 45 approaches to the net v 35 for Boris.
    I wrote that his tennis was ‘sublimely efficient’, a piece of verbal pretension which makes me blush now but it was true.

    He also refused CBS an interview. That was worth a GS title in my view 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 26, 2018 at 10:44 am

    From what i saw of Mecir he looked mechanical like a Karol Kucera, who I thought was also a great talented player just lacking a big weapon.

  • catherine · December 26, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    Well, I would agree. No fireworks – just a pleasure to watch. But ‘mechanical’ ? Suggests an automaton and he wasn’t that.

  • catherine · December 27, 2018 at 7:32 am

    How to win AP Female Athlete of the Year Award 2018:

    Play tennis –

    Win no titles –

    Behave disgracefully in the final of a GS –

    Be a mother –

    And that’s it 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 27, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Serena winning AP female athlete of the year just goes to show you the agenda of the mainstream media in the US. Outrageous nonsense to reward that kind of behavior when she didn’t even win a tournament the entire year. Kareem Bell gonna win MAOTY?

  • Dan Markowitz · December 27, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Catherine, you and Scoop should get together and start the “Bash Serena Williams” fan club. Come on, Serena’s 37, she comes back after giving a complicated birth and makes the finals of the US Open losing one set on her way to the finals. Of course, she’s the female athlete of the year. Let me ask you, has any female athlete ever come close to doing the same at her age?

    And Scoop, the Mainstream Media agenda, please, we’re seeing right now in this country how important it is to have an independent media reporting openly on what is going on in this world. Because otherwise, we get our news, our “reality,” from a single person sitting atop of the throne and that news is clearly not objective, transparent or anywhere close to the truth.

    So yes, hail Serena, I’m quite interested in seeing her comeback in 2019. She and Federer and Bob Bryan should all be applauded for still going out there and competing when you get players younger of pretty much the same age, playing on the Seniors Tour.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 27, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Let’s hear it for Paes, now 45 or 44, still grinding on the Challenger circuit to try to get back to the big show. I like the Rios Paes doubled duo if Rios opts to become a doubles specialist. Or how about Scoopowitz as a new doubles duo, if we hire Spadea as our mentor and Richard pagliaro as our volley consultant?

  • catherine · December 27, 2018 at 10:01 am

    The award should be given for achievements in sport surely, nothing to do with having a baby (which is a natural process, not an achievement) or age. Evonne Cawley, Margaret Court and Kim Clijsters all played after having children and I can’t remember this much fuss being made over it.

    The fact is, Serena did not play very well this year, she did not win any titles and she did not, in my view, qualify for this type of award. Maybe no woman tennis player did.
    Maybe the prize should have gone to Simone Biles.Without doubt the best in the world at what she does.

    I don’t have any axes to grind over Serena Williams – I’m not that interested either way although I suspect the WTA want to keep her name in the news because it’s afraid women’s tennis will lose crowd appeal once she’s gone.

    If Serena comes back in 2019 and flattens everyone in her path, then yes, she’ll be deserving of an award ( I think these are pretty pointless anyway)- but I’m rather looking forward to some younger players making a breakthrough and being consistent. It’s about time.

  • Chazz · December 27, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Williams wasn’t even the most deserving WTA player for the award. Halep would be much more deserving of it. She showed resilience to finally win her first slam title and be ranked #1 with a huge gap between her and #2. Wiliams winning this is a sham.

  • Hartt · December 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Khachanov won over Thiem in SS in Abu Dhabi today. The first set was very close until the TB, which Karen won 7-3. Karen dominated in the 2nd set, taking it easily. Dominic did have several nice volleys, including a beautiful BH volley early in the match and a terrific pickup later on. Karen was simply the better player overall, helped by a strong serve and good shots from both wings. His volleys were unpredictable, that is an area where he can improve.

    Kevin Anderson, who won in 3 sets over Chung (who was flat in the last 2 sets), will play Rafa next, and Karen will face Novak.

  • catherine · December 27, 2018 at 1:06 pm

    Serena/Tiafoe playing in Hopman Cup so we’ll have a little preview of her form. Shame it’s the last Cup.

    First view of Kerber with new coach Schuetler, and Roger and Belinda presumably wanting to bow out with a win. All very interesting.

  • Hartt · December 27, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    My stream did not show the match, but Venus won over Serena 4-6, 6-3, and 10-8 in the match TB in Abu Dhabi. Fans started arriving in droves during the Khachanov vs Thiem match. Apparently it was sold out for the Williams sisters.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 27, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    Serena winning this award is an outrageous injustice and an insult to the champion athletes who are more deserving such as Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka, Nelly Korda, Jessica Korda, Michelle Wie, Ash Barty, Su Wei Hsieh, Rebecca Marino, Bethanie Mattek Sands. It’s just a gigantic shame that politics and corruption have ruined this award and actually made it a hollow award. Shame on AP for doing this and cheating out the more deserving candidates. Terrible injustice.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 27, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    Season starts early now, it used to start in January after NYE. Proof again the players quacking about the short off season but jump in as early as possible, even late December now.

  • catherine · December 28, 2018 at 2:43 am

    Scoop – a couple of points about the AP award – it was just US journalists, not worldwide, and Serena has an iconic status there, and also it wasn’t just tennis. That’s why I suggested Simone Biles should have won.

    Serena just did not have the results on the tennis court and I feel that was unfair to other players. In fact no one woman player dominated the game in 2018 so ‘Female Athlete of the Year’ should have gone elsewhere. (Kerber won W’don and carted off the trophy in Germany and that was fine and deserved but she’d probably be the first to say she wasn’t the best in the world otherwise).

    I’d like to see other players overtake Serena this year, not out of malice but for the good of the game.
    I want Sabalenka, Osaka, Yastremska, a few others, show real signs of fulfilling their promise. No sport which is in good shape should depend on ageing stars. And we can do without some of the more frenzied fans Serena attracts.

    Re the season – AO used to start on Boxing Day 🙂

  • catherine · December 28, 2018 at 7:50 am

    Hartt – I saw some of the match on Youtube – you couldn’t tell very much, no one was going to break an ankle in an exho, but Serena’s mobility could be a problem against a skittish type of player or a power hitter who will make her run. Her serve seemed ok.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 28, 2018 at 8:25 am

    mattek Sands had that horrific knee surgery in 17 and then came back and won a major at US Open in mixed this year. Mattek Sands deserves it more than Serena who won nothing this year. I wonder if Serena bought the award. As some suspect sometimes these year end awards come with a price tag. It’s just embarrassing that the AP would give the award to such a poor sport who achieved absolutely nothing this year to earn the award. Just more fake news BS.

  • Hartt · December 28, 2018 at 8:25 am

    There is a video of Evert and Navratilova where they look back at 2018 and ahead to next season. They agreed that Bertens, Sabalenka and Kasatkina are players who should do well in the coming year. For rivalries, they suggested Halep, Stephens and Osaka.

  • catherine · December 28, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Hartt – I tend to avoid predictions because they can turn out so wrong – but I’ve a feeling the top 10-15 WTA won’t change that much. (Yastremska to me looked potentially very good but she’s only 18) How will Naomi’s sudden fame affect her ? And Simona’s back ? Now it’s there and then it isn’t. But we know two things : Halep wants to win Wimbledon and Kerber wants FO. Neither will happen. How will Simona cope without Cahill in her box ? Will Rainer Stuettler help or hinder Angie ? I wonder if she’s flashing back to this time last year ?
    Fascinating stuff 🙂

  • Hartt · December 28, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    I did make a prediction for the top ATP, but the WTA is beyond me. I don’t take my predictions seriously, especially since injuries always throw things out of whack. But it is fun to check them out at the end of the season to see how I fared.

    I did think it was interesting that Chris and Martina agreed on many players.

  • catherine · December 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    It’s Rainer Schuettler – thought it looked wrong.

    Both Chris and Martina were pretty perceptive and shrewd when they were players – Chris in particular, her press conferences were always worth going to. Often quite candid – eg ‘Hana (Mandlikova) didn’t deserve to win Wimbledon’, so it’s no surprise that they are in agreement – although I haven’t always shared some of Chris’ past enthusiasms .

  • Wayne Bradford · December 28, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Who in Kareem Bell?

    I think Serena won that the U.S. Open tantrum notwithstanding. She’s an excellent role mother and so many people have found inspiration and she’s the most female athlete worldwide and certainly the richest. There just weren’t any other choices in a non-Olympic year.

    Come on, Scoop, you aren’t one of those coo-coo conspiracy guys are you?

    Pete Sampras only played Rios twice and won both times, once in the French Open which was of course Pete’s worst surface and Rios’ best. So hard to make the argument based on that bit of information.

  • Wayne Bradford · December 28, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    Strange that some words were dropped in my response…

    I think Serena won that award the U.S. Open tantrum notwithstanding. She’s an excellent role mother and so many people have found inspiration from her and she’s the most famous female athlete worldwide and certainly the richest. There just weren’t any other choices in a non-Olympic year.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 28, 2018 at 6:50 pm

    Wayne, not going to comment any further about Serena and AP or politics. Pete did survive two close matches with Rios but Rios killed him in a senior exhibition in Chile 🙂 It’s incredible they only played twice. Rios played Berasategui three times in four weeks. Hewitt played Woodforde four times in one year. Ljubicic and Hewitt only played once though they are about the same age. Funny how the draws work out. Rios’ best surface was hard court. Welcome to the site Wayne.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 28, 2018 at 6:52 pm

    Naomi Osaka is a most worthy candidate for AP sportswoman of the year, big win in Indian Wells and then the shocker at US Open where she displayed a unforgettable performance of power, courageous tennis and also endearing sportsmanship despite having to deal with an all time great adversary having a near nervous breakdown. Osaka is your clear cut 2018 Sportswoman of the Year.

  • Wayne Bradford · December 28, 2018 at 10:09 pm

    9 of Rios’ titles were on clay and 5 of his hardcourt titles came in 1998 so I think his best surface was clay, notwithstanding that one fluke Australian Open final when Korda blew him away.

    He had talent but he was barely a factor at Wimbledon and no player can be considered great to have been so poor at Wimbledon. It’s simply the most important tournament in the sport; it would be like a player getting past the cut at the Masters once in his career much less never winning it.

    I think they should have awarded it to Naomi Osaka but she just isn’t popular among the American fans since her success is too recent. Serena being iconic and marrying that Reddit billionaire has given her a bigger Q rating to the media.

    Who is Kareem Bell?

  • Bobby Hurley · December 30, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    Rios is Certainly more fun to watch than “lets keep the ball down the middle” Nadal.

    Rios was playing against Nicoloa Lapentii in an exhibition recently. Had some of the old magic.

  • Scoop Malinowski · December 30, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Bobby, Fully agree, nobody played a better brand of aesthetic artistic tennis than Rios. Hands down the ultimate talent. Yes he looked decent vs Lapentti last week and there were flashes of the old brilliance. It’s one of the great tragedies of tennis that Rios did not stick around the sport at least another decade and that his body didn’t hold up. Rios was and is a wonder of the tennis world.

  • Mat · January 2, 2019 at 5:56 am

    Lol, Dan Makowitz doesn’t know how to read



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