It took me a long time to accept or consider that Serena Williams was the greatest women’s tennis player of all time. I gave that distinction to Martina Navratilova, not that my opinion matters.
And I cannot say that I am (or was?) a big fan of Serena’s. I was a contrarian as a youngin’ and so always rooted for her rivals (Justine Henin, Jelena Jankovic and Caroline Wozniacki - though only Henin was the truest rival of the three). I rooted against her the same as I rooted against Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. As a kid I cheered for this brash up-and-coming Serbian Novak Djokovic, who at the time had zero major titles.
As Serena crept closer and closer to 24 major titles, the more I began to appreciate her. Heck, I wanted her to surpass Margaret Court’s all-time record. Serena would be a far greater representative to hold that record than Court.
So I thought about which tennis players had the best weapons of the game. Serena had the best serve, backhand, movement and forehand. Navratilova had the best volleys and second-best serve, and Graff had the best slice backhand.
And I think it’s a close one, but Serena had the best mentality of all. There are only three players I’ve ever seen who are zeroed-in on every single point: Rafael Nadal, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams. Nor did I ever count her out of a match. She could be down a set and 0-5 and I still would put my money on her to win.
What astonished me was the longevity of her career. I saw a stat that she had recorded at least one victory against a player born every year from 1966-2001. Crazy! And to think she had a rivalry against Martina Hingis and then Naomi Osaka decades later.
I used to complain that Serena dominated an era when some of those great players like Navratilova or Graff or Chris Evert weren’t in their prime. But I cannot think of a single player who has a winning record against her.
In addition to her Olympic gold medal in singles, Serena won 14 majors in doubles, including three Olympic golds, and two mixed-doubles titles.
Even without 24 majors, she is a great champion that Court could ever imagine. Serena and her sister Venus revolutionized how the game is played and broke down racial barriers that allowed others like Coco Gauff and Sloane Stephens to walk through.
She was, simply, peerless. She should be considered the greatest tennis player of all time. Better than Navratilova, Federer, Djokovic or Nadal.
Fitzie’s track of the day: The Greatest, by Sasami
And now for your links:
Charlie Eccleshare ($): Kane can finally take a rest after ‘force of nature’ Richarlison’s arrival
Dan KP: Tottenham’s win vs. Fulham offers glimpse of what Conte’s team can be
PGMOL accepts VAR decisions at Chelsea and Newcastle were wrong
Diego Costa reportedly to have trial at Wolves
Blackfield & Langley keeper sent off during FA Cup game for urinating in hedge
New York Times ($$): Serena Williams’s magical last week in tennis