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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 5th, 2015, 06:03 PM Thread Starter
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Succession

I guess this is the safest place to discuss this, but is anybody worried about what will happen when Serena becomes part of BTFP?

For as long as I've followed tennis, one champion has been replaced with another emerging one, and the line of succession has been pretty clear.

Sharapova, for all she has achieved, is an also-ran, and would be a poor replacement. Anything she wins will be stigmatised by the fact that Serena is not around. Kvitova can't string back to back wins. Halep, Keys, Bouchard, Stephens are so far disappointing, and need to get a Grand Slam win on the board. I don't see Woz or Ivanovic as a credible no.1.

Serena says she has no plans to retire, which is admirable, but she can't carry the game forever.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 5th, 2015, 07:52 PM
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Re: Succession

Agreed. It's happened before that a player left and there was a big question as to who would fill the void, but I don't know if there has ever been such a drop off in credentials.

Go back to the 50s. Connolly completely dominated for 3 years (maybe unlike anyone since Lenglen). No one saw her injury coming. Brough and Hart rose to the top the next year and they were already champions, but Mo had wiped the floor with them. Then Hart retired and Fry took #1 (she had always been behind the others). And though we give Gibson a lot of credit as a groundbreaker in tennis, she was a marginal player for most of the 50s and #2 to Fry until Fry retired.

Many thought Truman would be the successor to Gibson, but Bueno blossomed. I think 1961 was a year with a real void at the top. 1959 Bueno dominated and 1960 she was still #1 with Hard a close 2nd. Then Bueno was ill, Hard missed time and it was a free for all with Angela Mortimer taking #1.

After that Court, King, Goolagaong, Evert, Navratilova, Austin, Graf, and Seles made legitimate claims to #1 for 25 years. I think that 1997 had the potential to be a real letdown. Graf won 3 Slams in '96 and it was very doubtful that anyone would rise to that level. Hingis saved the day with a near Grand Slam. Maybe there wasn't a lot of depth at the top, but Hingis excelled early and kept us from a lapse in a legitmate champion.

The late 90s through mid 2000s can be viewed in a couple of ways. Some can say that there was no real strong champion while others might say there were multiple champions who just kept anyone from dominating. I think there is a combination of the two. Venus' inconsistency, Serena and Justine's injuries just kept them from being consistent #1s. As much as some people make over Davenport's weaknesses, Lindsay was the one consistent force during that time. Yet, she might be viewed more like a Sharapova (good enough when the best isn't at her best).

As to what happens next, who knows? You probably have to go all the way back to Wills Moody retiring in the 30s to find a time when there really wasn't a true #1 to take her place (and Moody retired and came back). Jacobs was her Sharapova and laid claim to the top spot. There was probably not another great champion til Marble who was derailed by the war.

Kvitova is maddening. For a couple of tournaments a year, she can blow anyone away (a la Mary Pierce). But then she loses early matches to journeywomen. I think she crumbles with expectations. We may have a period of flux. There may be players who claim #1 for a period of time who aren't GOATs. Jacobs, Fry, Davenport and Mauresmo might have never made #1 if they came along during long stretches like the Evertilova realm. Hopefully someone will step up and earn the place at the top. Tennis doesn't need a great champion to retire and the public to lose even more interest.

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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 5th, 2015, 08:58 PM
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Re: Succession

I have also noticed that the crops of players following the Serena-Venus-Hingis-Henin-Clijsters-Mauresmo generation have been lacking in many respects -- and even Serena-Venus-Hingis-Henin-Clijsters-Mauresmo had more than a few issues. I do think lack of successors is going to be a problem, and although I do not really follow the game that much right now, I get the sense that part of the reason Serena is still playing is because she knows the chain of succession must be done correctly. She's waiting for someone to step up and beat her in a Slam or two or three, preferably in the final, but if earlier, then at least have the player go on to win the title. It's the same as the ancient concept of the rex Nemorensis (in this case regina, but the men's side seems to be on the brink of the same problem).

Sharapova, at 28, is getting long in the tooth. I understand that there's supposed to have been a paradigm shift with the players lasting longer, but I think that's has only happened because of Agassi Syndrome (i.e., more than the usual amount of "time off" during the commonly-accepted prime years), which has the obvious trade-off of a lower achievement level within the commonly-accepted prime years and a more-difficult-to-express trade-off in the form of a credibility-as-a-champion gap.

The game really needs a teenager or early-20s-year-old with the ambition, energy, fearlessness, and know-it-better-ness that only a youngster who hasn't yet been ground down by the System possesses. Unfortunately, I also think the System gets hold of all of them too soon now -- tennis academies and the various national tennis associations' junior programs/competitions and the agents have made it an almost cradle-to-grave operation -- for the necessary qualities to develop. It would take someone coming out of Nowhere, but still having the technical skills and athleticism, to fill the role. Even in the recent past (Graf and Venus/Serena) it was a difficult thing to pull off and produced a lot of friction, so it might be nearly impossible now.

Then again, from what I have seen of older teenagers/20-somethings here in the U.S., their problems on the tennis front is the least of the worry.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 5th, 2015, 11:50 PM
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Re: Succession

Sharapova won't last that long anyway. I predict a couple of years of random Grand Slam champions and finalists à la Muguruza or Safarova. The top 20 (most of it, at least) will have the ability to win a major and suck for months after that. Regularity hasn't been awarded with Slams as of late if we count Serena off. The likes of Kerber, Wozniacki, Halep and Radwanska with CSN closely following them are capable of reaching the latter rounds of the main tournaments but more often than not won't prevail when it really matters. If Serena retired next year I wouldn't be surprised if the next set of Grand Slam champions looked something like

2017: Halep, Bencic, Konjuh, Sharapova
2018: Azarenka, Bouchard, Kvitova, Muguruza
2019: Badosa, Sharapova, Townsend, Bellis

And so on

Yeah.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 2015, 03:53 AM
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Re: Succession

Without Serena it would go on fine with the other champions in competition. It's not because she didn't find a rival able to handle her that the game won't be exciting anymore. We're still excited with many other matches without Serena.

It's not the level of the game itself that makes it exciting, it's how both levels of game match up. In some way, when a player, whether it's Serena, Graf or Navratilova in the past, dominates the opponent outrageously, I'm just bored. When Graf was dominating the field, it was boring. It was only exciting when she had opponents able to challenge her. Same for anyone else.

Fortunately, we had players able to challenge Serena pretty fine this year and the previous ones. Azarenka comes pretty close, especially in the fighting spirit department, and actually Vika is better than Serena in the rallies. No kidding. Serena has to raise amazing striking ability to get Vika (that's what she did at Wimbledon).

Safarova, Halep have been challenging her this year. Kvitova has beaten her in Madrid (that wasn't Serena at her best, but hey, it was Serena). We know how tennis matches go, and if Serena is clearly the better player, her dominance isn't so huge. When you recall how some other champions were dominating their era with double bagels or double breadsticks, we cannot really say that's the case today.

To me, the field is great.

As for who I see as the next big one... I'd go with Stephens. She's improving slowly, but her potential is huge. But I don't think any champion will have a great dominance, and these eras are my favorite. Multiple champions fighting at the top is more exciting than just two or one dominating the others.

Actually you have to give credit to Serena for being dominant in a strong and challenging era.

On the paper, you'd say the top 10 in 2001 was amazing and stronger: I'm not so sure. With the way Serena plays today, I'm not sure Venus, Justine, Kim, Martina Hingis, Jennifer, Lindsay would have got a say. Not sure they would have won slams either. We will never know anyway.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 2015, 07:23 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Succession

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Originally Posted by Hugues Daniel View Post
Without Serena it would go on fine with the other champions in competition. It's not because she didn't find a rival able to handle her that the game won't be exciting anymore. We're still excited with many other matches without Serena.

It's not the level of the game itself that makes it exciting, it's how both levels of game match up. In some way, when a player, whether it's Serena, Graf or Navratilova in the past, dominates the opponent outrageously, I'm just bored. When Graf was dominating the field, it was boring. It was only exciting when she had opponents able to challenge her. Same for anyone else.

Fortunately, we had players able to challenge Serena pretty fine this year and the previous ones. Azarenka comes pretty close, especially in the fighting spirit department, and actually Vika is better than Serena in the rallies. No kidding. Serena has to raise amazing striking ability to get Vika (that's what she did at Wimbledon).

Safarova, Halep have been challenging her this year. Kvitova has beaten her in Madrid (that wasn't Serena at her best, but hey, it was Serena). We know how tennis matches go, and if Serena is clearly the better player, her dominance isn't so huge. When you recall how some other champions were dominating their era with double bagels or double breadsticks, we cannot really say that's the case today.

To me, the field is great.

As for who I see as the next big one... I'd go with Stephens. She's improving slowly, but her potential is huge. But I don't think any champion will have a great dominance, and these eras are my favorite. Multiple champions fighting at the top is more exciting than just two or one dominating the others.

Actually you have to give credit to Serena for being dominant in a strong and challenging era.

On the paper, you'd say the top 10 in 2001 was amazing and stronger: I'm not so sure. With the way Serena plays today, I'm not sure Venus, Justine, Kim, Martina Hingis, Jennifer, Lindsay would have got a say. Not sure they would have won slams either. We will never know anyway.
As you say, there are good players in the field that can challenge (at times), but consistency is a huge issue for me. As good a player as someone like Safarova is, I just don't see her as a GrandSlam champion. Maybe the next big one is Muguruza, who is making steady progress year on year.

I guess what I'm saying is, who is going to be the next GOAT? The line of succession that I can see is:

Court/BJK
Evert/ Navratilova
Graf/Seles
Hingis ( slightly transitional)
Venus/Serena, with Justine thrown in.

Everyone else during those periods to me are just supporting cast.

In each of these cases, previous champions have been taken over by new champions who naturally took over and started to dominate the game. I just don't see this happening, and can't help feel that when Serena leaves that we'll be left with a bunch of also-rans. We need someone to step up and start beating Serena with some degree of regularity as has happened in the past line of succession, so that there would be some level of legitimacy to the next in line. I think without this, the next no.1 won't have an air of credibility.

I'm not arguing whether the standard is better or not. I know we have different opinions on this. My argument centres on whether the next champion makes Serena think that her time is up because she is being consistently beaten, as all of the champions before her were. At this point in time Serena is chasing and sweeping all the records before her because she is just so much better than everyone else.

JMHO.
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 2015, 07:54 AM
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Re: Succession

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We need someone to step up and start beating Serena with some degree of regularity as has happened in the past line of succession, so that there would be some level of legitimacy to the next in line. I think without this, the next no.1 won't have an air of credibility.
That's the point I disagree with. I don't think the next champion, is there's a regular one, will be less legitimate for not playing better than Serena. We just have to accept that Serena is a phenomenon. And the history of tennis is always on movement. Always hard to imagine how Navratilova would have competed against Graf if she had been in Graf's generation, or how Graf would have competed against Serena if she had been in Serena's generation. Champions evolve with their time, improve their level relatively to the field they compete with, etc, etc.

And if ever a player had to defeat Serena regularly (which is possible in the years to come), how can we know if it's not only Serena getting too old to play her best anymore?
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 2015, 09:03 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Succession

when a champion gets to the end of their career and is starting to be regularly challenged and beaten by one or two or even three players, it makes them realise that they are no longer at their peak.

So yes, if someone started to beat Serena regularly I would expect that she would not be at her peak. At the end, even though Martina was still getting good wins over Steffi and Monica, she was also losing to them as well on a regular basis. I think we all know that she was not at her peak, but that Steffi and Monica were ready to take over. They were winning consistently and regularly against the rest of the tour, so the succession was clear. Everyone knew that these were the next super stars and there was a legitimacy to their succession.

Serena is exceptional, but do we really want to be left with a tour of players that can't beat a 50% Serena as per the French Open this year?

BTW, I've never thought that the next champion is necessarily better at their peak than the last. The outgoing champion will be below their peak and the next champion will be ascending to reach their peak.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 6th, 2015, 01:34 PM
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Re: Succession

It's possible that those players that are getting close to challenging Serena on a regular basis are running out of time. It wouldn't surprise me if Serena retired on the spot if she kept on winning GS titles. If she's injury free I'd say she will retire after next year's US Open, one month shy of her 35th birthday and she will probably have 23-25 slams to her name by that time if she maintains her mental level.

It depends more on her form than of her rival's abilities, actually. Out of her losses of Mouratoglou era, I don't think anyone has been able to beat her when she was playing at a certain level (not 100% but not abysmal as in her match against Niculescu). Most of her losses happened when she was playing terrible tennis and even when she won tight matches against top players she wasn't showing her full potential. That says as much of her aura of champion as of the level of competition. Some players managed to win a couple of games or even a set (Muguruza, Azarenka, Safarova, maybe even Wozniacki and some more) but nobody has been able to win a match from a fully-focused Serena these past few years. Azarenka came the closest but she got injured and she's still trying to find her old self.

Even if Serena's overtaken in the rankings by a few players, she can still win the big tournaments, just like she did when Jankovic and Safina climbed to the number 1 spot and that would still be okay for her.

Yeah.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 7th, 2015, 10:09 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Succession

I think Serena wants another Gold medal, and if possible to beat Court's 24 GS titles before she retires. It's a golden opportunity for her to put herself at the top of the singles GS tally. So I don't see her retiring before the end of 2016.
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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 9th, 2015, 10:15 PM
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Re: Succession

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I think Serena wants another Gold medal, and if possible to beat Court's 24 GS titles before she retires. It's a golden opportunity for her to put herself at the top of the singles GS tally. So I don't see her retiring before the end of 2016.
Agreed. She would have to have something truly heinous happen not to play through 2016.

Muguruza is the one I am big on. I would buy stocks in her future!


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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 10th, 2015, 03:50 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Succession

I agree. I think Muguruza looks the most likely. Hopefully Azarenka can stay injury free as well. Stephens seems to be pulling herself out of her slump, but I don't know if she can win a slam, let alone multiple slams. Time will tell. Halep was promising, but I don't know if her game and size can win her multiple slams. Maybe she can win a couple. But Serena is just well ahead of everyone........

Last edited by BCP; Aug 11th, 2015 at 01:48 PM.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 13th, 2015, 09:28 AM
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Re: Succession

Watch the highlights of the match Madison Keys lost to Serena at the AO this year. You don't see Serena overpowered so often. Madison's potential is scary. I mentionned Stephens more above cause she seems to go in a more consistent direction than Madison currently, but Madison's potential is even bigger in my book.

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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 26th, 2015, 10:53 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Succession

I'm rooting for Serena to win the CYGS. Would be great to see history being made again. I hope that she has a couple of close exciting matches, rather than her steamrolling through the draw.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old Aug 31st, 2015, 09:10 AM
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Re: Succession

The WTA has had a problem with potential successors breaking through for around ten years now. And the flameouts of up & coming young players such as Vaidisova, Paszek, Golovin, Szavay etc etc were all for a variety of differing reasons.

The up & coming players since the above generation "burned out" all have seemed to show a worrying tendency to play great for a few tournaments/months before their games seem to stagnate or go backwards under the increased attention/expectation & the pressure of being "the hunted".

As much as I like Garbine, & think she has the game to win multiple slams, I'm not sure if she is a surefire bet to do so. Not just because she has slumped since Wimbledon, but also because at nearly 22 she has managed to win just 1 small WTA title so far. It's a little concerning that she hasn't yet shown the consistency to play well enough for a week to win, say, a Dubai or Wuhan, never mind a slam.

Bencic has shown she has the ability to do this, & seems to have a great mentality/mindset, but I'm not sure if she has the requisite firepower to ever be a dominant player.

This is really the crux of the issue. There isn't one single player who you can point to as "having it all" gamewise & mentally in order to go on & win big. Whereas watching Serena, Venus, Maria, Hingis etc etc play for the first time, I immediately saw players that were going to win grand slams & reach the top of the game.

I believe that Serena, like Nav, will stay around the top of the game until her late 30's with her serve & unmatched power, but is surely done winning slams by 36 at the latest. But I really have no idea which players will break through & win after she's done. There's no one who seems to be a definite.
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