Isn’t it just time that rank Serena Williams near or at the top of the list when we start to talk about the greatest female tennis players of all-time?
If many can get over the now and then tantrums, her fashion, her body shape (thanks New York Times) and yes, even her black skin, and just look at what she’s doing and at the age she is doing it, frankly there’s few others to talk about.
At age 33, when most of the people who started playing with her are retired and taken on other careers, Williams is playing the best tennis of her life and playing it on a level that few can manage to compete. In July’s Wimbledon finals, she was down to Garbine Muguruza 4-2 in the first set before roaring back to win 6-4, 6-4 to now own all four major crowns at once – for the second time in her career.
Yes, many call it a “Serena Slam” because she has not won all four majors – Australian, French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open – in the same year, but that’s ridiculous semantics that dampens the astonishing achievement, but that’s another column for another day.
She still has a shot to do it at the U.S. Open this year to become the first player since Steffi Graf won all four in one year in 1988. It appears Graf is the only person that stands in her way of being considered the greatest ever. Williams is one off her Majors record and could tie it in New York.
To show how dominate she has been, Williams is ranked No. 1 in the world and has beaten the No. 2-ranked player in the world, Maria Sharapova, 18 of the last 20 times they’ve played.
“(Williams) is the oldest player, male or female, to ever be world number one; 16 years on from her first Slam triumph, aged just 17, she has won the first three of the year with her 34th birthday just eight weeks away,” wrote Tom Fordyce, of BBC Sports, who wondered aloud why Williams is not revered the same way many do Roger Federer, or Martina Navratilova and Sharapova for that instance.
“To put that into context, there were 12 years between Martina Navratilova’s first Grand Slam win and her last. It was the same for Steffi Graf. Margaret Court stretched her peak out to 13, yet she never won another beyond 31 years old,” Fordyce continued.
Yet, has there been any player that has had to deal with the negatives Williams have faced over the years. From the criticism about her father Richard Williams, the sexism of being called with her sister Venus “the Williams brothers” by a Russian tennis official, to the racism – Williams just ended a 14-year boycott of Indian Wells this year because of past treatment there – she has endured as much off the court as on.
“Serena has shown that you can be tough, you can be fearless, you can be courageous, you can be a competitor and you can still be a woman,” former world No. 1 player and three-time Grand Slam champion Lindsay Davenport, told BBC Sports of Williams, calling one of her greatest opponents.
“She was the most intimidating opponent I ever faced. With some players you would be intimidated by their record or their game, like with Steffi Graf. But with Serena you were scared by absolutely everything – her passion, her attitude, how she serves, the power she has, her athleticism. She plays tennis at a different level. She is better than any player on tour even if she is only at 80 percent – and I think she would still win a ton of matches at just 50 percent,” Davenport continued.
Then when you throw in the fact her career could have ended in 2006 when she slipped to No. 95 in the world after losing her form and 2010 after suffering a pulmonary embolism, it makes her current streak that much more remarkable. Then to look at three of the top players she played when at 17 — Martina Hingis, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters – have all retired and playing sparingly at best, leaves little doubt that Williams is, well, not like the rest of us.
No one really knows how much longer Williams can keep this dominance up. But if you can finally just look at the talent she is, does Serena really have to do anything else to be considered the best?