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Sports Then and Now



Best of the Decade: Top Individual Sport Athletes 10

Posted on December 26, 2009 by Dean Hybl
Tiger Woods was the most dominant performer in an individual sport during the decade.

Tiger Woods was the most dominant performer in an individual sport during the decade.

As we near the end of 2009 and thus the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, Sports Then and Now is looking at some of the athletes and moments that shaped the decade.

When you look at the list of great individual sport athletes over the last decade it is quickly apparent that we are living in an age of unparalleled individual greatness. Almost every one of the athletes we have chosen as the top 10 individual athletes of the decade has a case to be ranked number one. They are all champions who performed at the top of their sport for a prolonged period of time.

Who is the Best Individual Sport Athlete of the Decade?

  • Tiger Woods (22%, 11 Votes)
  • Roger Federer (22%, 11 Votes)
  • Michael Phelps (16%, 8 Votes)
  • Usain Bolt (14%, 7 Votes)
  • Lance Armstrong (12%, 6 Votes)
  • Jimmie Johnson (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Serena Williams (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Phil Mickelson (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Annika Sorenstam (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 50

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10. Phil Mickelson – When the decade began, Phil Mickelson was known as the best golfer yet to win a Major Championship. He finally broke free of that label by winning the 2004 Masters and went on to win the PGA Championship in 2005 and the Masters again in 2006. He has endured a series of near misses and collapses at other Major Championships, most notably at the U.S. Open where he has finished second (or tied for second) five times, including four times this decade. Overall, Mickelson won 24 tournaments in the decade and finished in the top 10 at a Major Championship on 20 occasions.

9. Rafael Nadal – Had Rafael Nadal been competing throughout the entire decade, he would likely have moved higher on this list. Since establishing himself as one of the premier men’s tennis players in the world, Nadal has claimed six Grand Slam titles and unseated Roger Federer as the number one player in the world for nearly a year. Overall, Nadal has claimed victory in 81% of his matches and won 36 tournament titles. He has won the French Open four times and in 2008 defeated Federer in a classic Wimbledon final to establish his ability to win on multiple surfaces. He went on to claim the Australian Open title in 2009. He also claimed the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics.

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  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Larry “The Zonk” Csonka
      January 29, 2022 | 4:43 pm
      Larry Csonka

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was the leader of a running attack that was the cornerstone of two Super Bowl Championship teams, including the only undefeated squad in NFL history.

      With his distinctive headgear and a body suited for punishing contact, Larry Csonka looked the part of a fullback and for 11 NFL seasons delivered and took regular punishment on his way to the Hall of Fame.

      Following in the great tradition of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, Jim Nance and Floyd Little, Csonka earned All-American honors at Syracuse while rushing for 2,934 yards.  He began earning a name for himself as the Most Valuable Player of the East–West Shrine Game, the Hula Bowl, and the College All-Star Game.

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