Journalists were asked to create their "dream" matchups from different eras
BUD COLLINS: STEFFI GRAF VS. MAUREEN CONNOLLY
American journalist, Boston Globe
I must choose two matches: Bill Tilden-Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf-Maureen Connolly. Big Bill in impeccable white flannels, Agassi in one of his garish outfits. They play marvelous rallies. But Bill, with a cannonball serve, incredible anticipation and master of every stroke, wins. Graf and Connolly would be the only meeting between two champions who have won the Grand Slam. Both are great retrievers and competitors. But Graf could be an Olympic sprinter; her speed and reach give her the edge.
MARTINA NAVRATILOVA: NAVRATILOVA VS. SERENA WILLIAMS
US Open champion 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987
I would be inspired if I could play Serena Williams on that US Open stadium court. The atmosphere with both of us in our primes would be electric. The key for me would be to neutralize her power and get into the points on her serve, to make her hit more balls than she is used to hitting in most of her matches. I would need to keep the ball as low as possible, and I would try to hit short to bring her forward, and then come in deep going the other way. Now she is going backwards as I come in to the net.
On my serve I would not be able to serve-and-volley all of the time, but I would do it a lot. I would serve into her body, mix it up a lot. I served-and-volleyed a lot against Monica Seles and she had the best return in the game then, and it was effective. I believe I could deal with Serena’s pace. The harder the ball comes to me the faster it tends to come back. And I would try to give her a lot of off-paced balls. Getting into the rally would be another key for me. I could see Serena and me having a very close match, something like 6-4 in the third set, with maybe a few tie-breaks before that. There would be very few service breaks and I could imagine a set without any breaks at all. It would be exciting because we are two of the best athletes tennis has ever seen and the crowd would respond positively to that.
MARY CARILLO: MONICA SELES VS. SERENA WILLIAMS
CBS TV commentator
A dream US Open match for me would be between Monica Seles and Serena Williams, with both in peak form. Seles, the best returner I’ve ever seen against the best server in Williams. Monica forcing Serena to deal with short court angles she’s never faced in modern tennis, testing her stamina and footwork. Facing off against Serena’s stunning athleticism and ability to take anyone’s best stuff and deal with it. Both of them refusing to lose. Two fierce competitors, understanding and embracing the enormity of the moment on a Saturday night in New York. I would be there for that one.
CHRIS EVERT: EVERT VS. MARTINA HINGIS
US Open champion 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982
I would really enjoy playing against Martina Hingis with us both in our primes because it would be a tactical match that would bring out the best in both of us. If I played Maria Sharapova or either of the Williams sisters, I might get blown off the court, but with Martina I am sure I would be more comfortable and could get into the match. It would be a thoughtful and interesting battle between us with strategy playing a big role in it. I would have to be very alert because Martina is such a tricky player. She has so much variety in her game. I would not know when she might come to the net, or when she would use her drop shot. I would use my drop shot as well. The tennis would be fun for both of us because we would use our heads to try to find ways to win. I don’t know who would win. Maybe I wouldn’t miss a ball but maybe Martina would have too many surprises for me up her sleeve. It would be a nice battle of the minds.
L. JON WERTHEIM: CHRIS EVERT VS. VENUS WILLIAMS
American journalist, Sports Illustrated
They say in boxing that “styles make fights.” And the same goes for tennis. Yes, best matches are packed with fluctuating momentum and moments of truth, demanding that both players ask deep questions of themselves and their opponents. But the best matches also pit together two different players—different games, different skill sets, different philosophies. You could hardly get more different than Chris Evert and Venus Williams. A quarter-century of time separates them; it may as well be a millennium. Relentless consistency versus unparalleled athleticism. A modest physique versus height that exceeds six feet. You could play the “compare and contrast game” for a long time here.
Yet for every difference there is a similarity. Two ambitious women, who came of age in South Florida, taught the sport by their parents. They both prolonged their careers into their 30s. Maybe above all, they both carried themselves with a certain dignity, a certain intensity they brought to bear on the court.
Would Venus—the Venus who won the US Open and Wimbledon in 2000 and 2001—simply steamroll Chrissie with her force? Would Chrissie—the Chrissie who won multiple majors in the same year as a matter of course—neutralize the power on the other side of the net with her pinpoint precision? Who would blink first? However it played out, we would want to see it.
MARK PRESTON: MARTINA NAVRATILOVA VS. SERENA WILLIAMS
American journalist, USTA Magazine
There has never been a player I’ve admired more than Martina Navratilova, both for her talent and her remarkable competitive ability. Born in Czechoslovakia, but most assuredly made in America, Navratilova did nothing less than change the face of women’s tennis with her aggressive game, unparalleled commitment to fitness and unquenchable desire to be the best. The only other woman on par with Navratilova in terms of mental toughness and sheer fighting spirit is Serena Williams, the greatest pure competitor of this era of women’s tennis. For that reason alone, it would be a joy to see these two go head-to-head on the game’s biggest stage; Navratilova’s precise serve-and-volley game against Williams’ punishing power. The exchanges would be staggering in their brilliance; two fighters engaged in the sort of heavyweight slugfest that usually has ropes around it. Without a doubt, this one goes the distance, as neither woman gives an inch. In three, it’s Navratilova.
TRACY AUSTIN: AUSTIN VS. CAROLINE WOZNIACKI (WTF?)
US Open Champion 1979, 1981
I wonder what it would be like to play against Caroline Wozniacki in a big US Open match. I felt I was a very good mover, a smart player, good with the tactics. My strengths were my consistency and focus, my mental toughness. Caroline is a lot like I used to be. It would be a good chess match between us. There would be very few free points for either of us. Both of us have the ability to play well, point-in and point-out, to outmaneuver each other. It would come down to who would blink first. Neither one of us is overpowering but we don’t give an inch.
The match would be decided by who plays the right shot at the right time. She wears down her opponent and doesn’t give them anything and you must earn every point against Caroline.
Whoever plays the big points better would win, and it would be a very good contest.
STEPHEN TIGNOR: JUSTINE HENIN VS. EVONNE GOOLAGONG
American journalist, Tennis magazine
My dream matchup? I want to see backhands. With that sweep across the body, it’s the shot that allows the pros to show off their artistic sides. There are two different but equally artistic players I would love to see across the net from each other. One is Evonne Goolagong, the laconically graceful Australian champion from the 1970s. The other is Justine Henin, the dynamically graceful Belgian champion who retired this year.
Here the beauty of old school and new would be united. Goolagong’s easy movement, her caressed ground strokes, her flowing serve-and-volley game, and her signature, sweeping underspin backhand would take us back to the sport at the highest point in its wood racquet evolution. At the same time, Henin’s whirling speed, her power-packed forehand—she launched herself off the court to hit it—and her famous flyaway one-handed topspin backhand would be as fine a representative of the game’s power era that we could ask.
Goolagong and Henin were flip sides of the same artistic coin. Face to face, they would bring the sport’s two schools of beauty, forever separate in time, onto one court.