It takes a rare combination of talent and effort to win a major sporting title, but it requires a particularly unusual quantity of both to defeat all challengers year after year.
We’ve looked at some of the world’s most popular sports to identify the champions who maintained the highest level of dominance over a period of 10 years, measured by the number of major tournaments they won.
Since 1925, when the French Championships – later to become the French Open – admitted players from outside France, it has been possible for one person to win a singles title in all four modern ‘Grand Slam’ events.
The only player to have won more than 20 out of a possible 40 in a given 10-year spell was German legend Steffi Graf, who racked up 21 between 1987 and 1998.
In this period, Graf won Wimbledon seven times out of a possible 10, the French and US Opens on five occasions and four Australian Open titles.
This incredible spell of dominance comfortably exceeds the 17 singles championships that Martina Navratilova and Roger Federer managed in their best decade.
Like tennis, golf has a quartet of big tournaments – the majors – which the top players covet most of all.
Since the Masters was established in 1934, it has been possible for one player to win all four in a single year.
The most dominant sporting champion in golf in any given 10-year spell since then is still active: American legend Tiger Woods.
Between 1999 and 2008, Woods secured 13 of his 15 major wins to date; the PGA Championship four times and each of the others three times.
The only man to have triumphed more times in these competitions is Jack Nicklaus, who did so 18 times but never racked up more than 10 within a decade of each other.
If Lewis Hamilton wins another Formula 1 world title before 2024, then he will overtake Michael Schumacher’s record of six in the span of a single decade.
The German legend managed this feat between 1994 and 2003, while Hamilton has won six of the last seven, so would have two more chances to secure a seventh in 10 years even if Max Verstappen wrests the crown from him in 2021.
The only other driver in the sport’s history to win at least half of the drivers’ championships in a decade was Juan Manuel Fangio over half a century ago.
The Argentine won the second-ever title in 1951 and then four in a row between 1954 and 1957.
Like Fangio, snooker’s most dominant sporting champion ever set the standard in the early days of the sport.
Joe Davis won all of the first 15 World Snooker Championships and may have accumulated even more titles if the Second World War hadn’t intervened.
John Pulman may have matched Davis’ achievement of winning 10 in a row if the tournament hadn’t been suspended from 1958 to 1963 due to a reported lack of interest.
Pulman’s first win came in 1957, ending a run of five wins by another Davis – Joe’s younger brother Fred.
The Devon potter had been defeated by the younger Davis in each of the previous two finals and was waiting for him again in 1964 when he was finally given the chance to defend his title.
Pulman proceeded to win each of the next seven world championships, including three victories over Davis.
It’s not just an individual who can excel in a sport: teams can also sustain an impressive period of dominance.
In club football, every continental association has its own version of the Champions League – often called exactly that – which is the most difficult prize to win.
Auckland City of New Zealand have won Oceania’s major club competition – the OFC Champions League – nine times, with eight of those wins coming within 10 years of each other between 2008 and 2017.
No other club has dominated their continent to the same extent, although Real Madrid of Spain and Egypt’s Al-Ahly have each won five Champions League titles in the span of a single decade.
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