Giving Serena her due
Why Williams may be best women's player of all-time
John Wertheim - Tennis Mailbag
May 2, 2007 1:28PM
You say, "Rev up a tape of Borg or Vilas, watch where their shots land, take note of the pace and I defy you to tell me either would stand a chance against Nadal. Heresy, I know. But I'm telling you it wouldn't be close." All right then, how about this: Rev up a tape of Evert, Navratilova or Graf, watch where their shots land, take a note of the pace, and I defy you to tell me any of them would stand a chance against Serena. Heresy, I know. But I'm telling you, it wouldn't be close. I also would point out that Serena is way ahead of Nadal in Grand Slam wins and will likely stretch her lead in the next few years. So, using your logic, does that make Serena the greatest women's player of all-time?
-- Roger Prine, Charlottesville, Va.
No, because there are additional factors, just as there are additional factors working against Nadal. But I do agree with Roger's other premise: Head-to-head, Serena beats everyone. Ply all the greats with the same racket, pit them in a tournament and my money is on Williams. And I think that should have some bearing on how history recalls her. As I wrote last week, Serena will not surpass the Slam total of Evert, Martina, Court or Graf. But a few more majors and I think we have to speak seriously about her as a female GOAT candidate.
We could sit at the bar and debate this until last call, but look at it this way: Bill Russell won many more NBA titles than Michael Jordan. Kareem-Abdul Jabbar won (several) more MVPs. Wilt Chamberlain had a higher career scoring average, et cetera. And yet at some point there is a generally accepted recognition that Jordan is the Best Ever. Why? Because non-empirical factors (depth of competition, mental toughness, arc of career and, yes, a sense that in absolute terms there was never a better player) work in his favor.
Serena Williams: GRAND SLAM CHAMPION
57 Consecutive Weeks as World #1
Olympic Gold Medalist ('00 Doubles w/ Venus)