The Fastest Women You've Seen at their Peaks?
(Obviously there are many fast players past and present who I haven't mentioned - Dementieva, Coetzer, Date; I've chosen number ones and what I would call 'star' players...)
Steffi Graf: Almost certainly the quickest all-round woman ever. Her movement had power, lightness of foot, fast reflexes - Graf just never looked cumbersome, never stretched, never tired, always within her comfort zone when mobile. Her build was perfect for tennis because she just did not seem to ever put on weight. Effortless footwork.
Aranxta Sanchez-Vicario: The best retriever there's ever been. Legs like trunks, thick with muscle. Aranxta ran for balls no other woman would have even attempted, either then or now. Clijsters and Jankovic run her close in the retrieving stakes, but Aranxta was simply incredible. Both Graf, Seles and even later a young Venus and Serena found themselves driven into insane errors by Aranxta's lunges and unmatched anticipation. She was just everywhere at once. And most importantly, she retrieved sensibly, with lobs and jabbed slices to her opponents' weaknesses, piling all the pressure on them to hit a killer shot beyond her reach. And under such pressure, so often they missed. Boundless, intimidating energy too. At 8-8 in a final set on clay, Aranxta would still be bouncing around looking like she could go on forever.
Jana Novotna: Had the movement of a cat. Again, a perfect build for tennis. Perhaps the only woman as fleet of foot as Graf in her prime. Watching Graf and Novotna play one another was a joy, because they were both so light-footed, and so quick. They would stretch one another to the limits. Novotna on form was an impassable barrier at the net. Her lunges, knee bends and slam dunks will never be forgotten. An all-time brilliant athlete.
Gabriela Sabatini: Just so graceful and so physically strong. Along with Novotna, Sabatini was the only athlete who could compete on Graf's level. Gabi could chase down angles with powerful steps and then within one second be covering the net. Always incredibly fit.
Justine Henin: Perfect footwork, a model of agility and quick at sprint speed both going sideways and forward. Excellent net coverage too.
Kim Clijsters: Like Sabatini, just so strong, Kim could cover so many angles with the strength of her legs and powerful movement.
Venus Williams: At maximum speed, possibly the fastest woman there's ever been, complemented by her reach. No weaknesses, except possibly her height affects her footwork.
Serena Williams: At maximum speed (c2002, 2003) probably the fastest woman there's ever been. Just such powerful movements, strength off-balance, and super-human reflexes. Women's tennis had never seen anything like it. Only minor weakness has been her footwork. Has suffered from lack of dedication to fitness, injuries, and maybe some natural changes to her body. Not the athlete she was by any stretch.
Jennifer Capriati: Her powerful steps and work ethic on the court always made for a spectacle. She could cover angles and hit off her back foot such was the strength of her legs and her upper-body. One of the standout athletes of this decade.
Amelie Mauresmo: Lithe, trim very light of foot and always comfortable ducking and diving at the net, or bending her legs. Sometimes struggled covering angles because her final step wasn't powerful enough at full sprint.
Jelena Jankovic: Not quite on the level of any of the above at their peaks, in my opinion, but about the quickest left in top level women's tennis except a fully energised Venus Williams.