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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 12:40 PM   #1
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Serena as GOAT???

It seems like every time Serena plays on television, the commentators are applauding her as the Greatest Female Tennis Player ever. I cringe when I hear this. Here's why.

First, I would agree that Serena at her best would be above the level of any player who has come before. Her serve, athleticism, speed, power... plus the benefit of better equipment really put her on a higher level than tennis has ever been.

But here's where I don't jump on board. Serena has never consistently dominated women's tennis for a lengthy period of time. She became #1 in 2002 and showed all the tools to be dominant, yet injuries, illness, personal issues, and just what appears to be a lack of focus at times have all kept her from staying at the top of the game. At times, Justine Henin clearly out-performed Serena, and throughout her career she was often topped in the rankings by obviously inferior players (Davenport, Mauresmo, Safina, Jankovic, Ivanovic, Wozniacki and others).

Look, I know that injuries and other issues are beyond a player's control, but throughout her career, I believe that we have often been treated to a Serena who was not at her best. I grew up with the Evert/Navratilova example of two players who seemed to always bring their "A" games, and I admired the professionalism of Graf who dominated while at her best and still competed fiercely even when hampered by injury. (I'm a Seles fan, but please don't bring the Seles argument here).

I do give Serena her credit. When at her best (which she has shown consistently the last 2 years), Serena is the best to ever grace the court. But in my opinion, the greatest of all-time debate should include players who showed consistent excellence throughout their careers.

I just want to see what others think about my observations.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 01:58 PM   #2
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

I agree with a lot of what you say. I think a lot of us who have watched tennis over a long period subscribe to the fact that there isn't a GOAT, but a clutch of players that have earned the right to be included in that discussion, and Serena I think is now one of those players. What's even more significant is that she is a black woman who didn't come through any recognised tennis system.

I also cringe when I hear people say that she is the GOAT. Her record is full of holes, particularly the number of titles held. Her inconsistency is the big thing that holds her back from being definitely the GOAT. Injuries and particularly the murder of her sister have had a big hand in this. The flip side of this though is that if she had remained as focussed as she has been in 2012/2013 throughout her career, perhaps her GOAT status would be beyond question. After all, she has 17 grandslams despite not being at the top for several seasons. Also in her defense, everyone in the GOAT discussion has holes in their records or a question mark, or asterisk.

In regards to standard of play, I think the equipment means that the game is played differently now. I don't think that it's necessarily better. It's just different. As discussed many times here, the players these days are more althletic and hit the ball a lot harder. But the trade off for this is a lack of variety in terms of spins, angles, and range of shots, and also a lack of consistency. I think the players of yesteryear were more skillful because they could not win on power alone, so they had to find different ways to win. So I'm not sure that I subscribe to the opinion that Serena at her best is the best that has ever played. She is definitely the best player over 30 ever, and the most powerful but her game was developed with the equipment.

To illustrate the point, not sure if you guys have seen this footage of Serena playing with a wood racquet. She wants to switch back only after 2 or 3 shots. That's not to say that if she had been raised on wood racquets only, she would not be as dominant. My point is that it is a lot harder to play with wood, so playing with a modern racquet makes you looks so much better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKJ6e4y-tSk

Last edited by BCP : Nov 18th, 2013 at 02:04 PM.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 02:12 PM   #3
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

I disagree. A "GOAT" can have been inconsistent at times as well as dominating. It's certainly more difficult to be as much consistent today as it was in the previous decades. I think that Serena's 17 slam titles are here to show her consistency, over 14 years of competition since her first slam win.

As for the title of "greatest player of all time", I feel there are a few worthy of that title along with Serena, so I let it shared.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 07:59 PM   #4
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

There is a difference between best and greatest. Too early to be greatest, but she is already the best. I do believe in a series of matches with any women in history on a neutral court, she would win more often than her opponent, no matter who.

To be the even arguably greatest she needs to continue building her time at #1, tournament wins, and reach atleast 20 slams. Things she should be able to do.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 08:01 PM   #5
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Quote:
Originally Posted by preacherfan View Post
It seems like every time Serena plays on television, the commentators are applauding her as the Greatest Female Tennis Player ever. I cringe when I hear this. Here's why.

First, I would agree that Serena at her best would be above the level of any player who has come before. Her serve, athleticism, speed, power... plus the benefit of better equipment really put her on a higher level than tennis has ever been.

But here's where I don't jump on board. Serena has never consistently dominated women's tennis for a lengthy period of time. She became #1 in 2002 and showed all the tools to be dominant, yet injuries, illness, personal issues, and just what appears to be a lack of focus at times have all kept her from staying at the top of the game. At times, Justine Henin clearly out-performed Serena, and throughout her career she was often topped in the rankings by obviously inferior players (Davenport, Mauresmo, Safina, Jankovic, Ivanovic, Wozniacki and others).

Look, I know that injuries and other issues are beyond a player's control, but throughout her career, I believe that we have often been treated to a Serena who was not at her best. I grew up with the Evert/Navratilova example of two players who seemed to always bring their "A" games, and I admired the professionalism of Graf who dominated while at her best and still competed fiercely even when hampered by injury. (I'm a Seles fan, but please don't bring the Seles argument here).

I do give Serena her credit. When at her best (which she has shown consistently the last 2 years), Serena is the best to ever grace the court. But in my opinion, the greatest of all-time debate should include players who showed consistent excellence throughout their careers.

I just want to see what others think about my observations.


Everyone has holes:

Graf- Won a bunch of slams after biggest rival was stabbed. Never faced a fellow all time great in their prime when she was winning anymore than 1 slam a year ever.

Evert- Not as dominant or as high a peak level of play as many other greats. Owned by Navratilova when both were at their best.

Navratilova- took too long to get going, many aspects of her career pale compared to Chris, despite that she proved herself the better player probably.

Court- Australian Open, no fault of her own, but everyone knows the story here.

Lenglen and Wills- hard to compare to today, competition level definitely not the same.

Serena's are no worse than any of the others if you ask me. Atleast she has earned her place in the pantheon of greats.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 08:03 PM   #6
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Navratilova always brought her A-game? Navratilova is an amazing player and worthy of the GOAT title but this is simply not true. In her best 2 years ever two of her 3 losses were to a 17 year old Sukova (who would never win a slam) and Kathy Horvath. She had a big slump period after her first 2 years at #1 and dropped to #5 in the World, and went over 2 years before winning another slam. She didn't win her 3rd slam until going past 25.

Evert I agree always brought her A-game, but her A-game wasn't what many other GOATs in history had for an A-game.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 08:15 PM   #7
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

There are what I consider Serena's main arguments as GOAT:

-Best longevity ever. Nobody should dispute this. She has now won singles slams over a 15 year stretch and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. She was also the dominant player 11 years apart (2002 and 2013), something only the great amazing Margaret Court has ever done (1962 and 1973).

-4 Olympic Golds. I know Olympics weren't around for all all time greats in fairness, but they were for many- Graf, Evert, Navratilova, Wills Moody, and Lenglen. Serena was the one who played the most and took the most opportunities.

-Highest peak level play ever. This is subjective, and there are others truly outstanding here too, but I think most give her that.

-5 slams at 3 different venues. Only Graf matches or surpasses this kind of versatility, but Graf had a bit of help in getting there.

-Was the most successful player during the period of the toughest womens field in history from 1999-2007. Yes I know some will say Henin was close overall but Serena still edges it (8 slams to 7, and no Wimbledon for Justine). Justine's success during this period reflect what a great player she is too mind you. Competition matters, especialy in womens tennis when it is often....less than optimum.


I can see the arguments against her being GOAT too:

-Not enough time at #1
-Not enough tournament wins
-Not enough quite enough slams yet
-Not enough consistency

However she is getting there.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 09:44 PM   #8
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Posted by RollingGraces

Quote:
Everyone has holes:

Graf- Won a bunch of slams after biggest rival was stabbed. Never faced a fellow all time great in their prime when she was winning anymore than 1 slam a year ever.

Evert- Not as dominant or as high a peak level of play as many other greats. Owned by Navratilova when both were at their best.

Navratilova- took too long to get going, many aspects of her career pale compared to Chris, despite that she proved herself the better player probably.

Court- Australian Open, no fault of her own, but everyone knows the story here.

Lenglen and Wills- hard to compare to today, competition level definitely not the same.

Serena's are no worse than any of the others if you ask me. At least she has earned her place in the pantheon of greats.
Donut holes. They each have them


I would agree she has earned her place in the "pantheon" as you call it. That doesn't mean I'd put her on top, but she's in the mix. And as BCP put it, there really isn't a true GOAT. Everyone has there order. As long as there is basic respect I'm happy with whatever order they are put in. Serena is the flavor of the decade, just as Steffi was and Navratilova before her, etc.

My only quibble would be Court's "hole". The 11 Aussies make her case stronger IMO-it is the small amount of Wimbledon titles (3) that weakens here in my eyes. But maybe we are just arguing two sides of the same coin.
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 10:01 PM   #9
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Posted by RollingGraces

Quote:
There are what I consider Serena's main arguments as GOAT:

-Best longevity ever. Nobody should dispute this. She has now won singles slams over a 15 year stretch and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. She was also the dominant player 11 years apart (2002 and 2013), something only the great amazing Margaret Court has ever done (1962 and 1973).
Not QUITE yet. Helen Wills Moody has a longer slam span. She won the US in 1923 and Wimbledon in 1938. That's 15 years. If Serena wins a slam next year (her first being in 1999) she will tie Helen.

Longevity is a plus in Serena's favor though. I'm with you on that.

Quote:
-4 Olympic Golds. I know Olympics weren't around for all all time greats in fairness, but they were for many- Graf, Evert, Navratilova, Wills Moody, and Lenglen. Serena was the one who played the most and took the most opportunities.
To me this is a wash. Having it is nice. I'm glad she's winning some YEC titles now too. That and being a consistent computer #1 is helping her in my eyes.

Quote:
-Highest peak level play ever. This is subjective, and there are others truly outstanding here too, but I think most give her that.
It's hard to judge if she had to play with wooden racquets. Also hard to say how someone as gifted as Navratilova would be in today's game. To me Martina would play like Amelie Mauresmo but without the nervousness.\

That would make her one dangerous player

Or imagine Steffi with a topspin backhand. Again dangerous.

Serena has without a doubt the best women's serve ever. Even with a wood racquet it would be a cut above anyone else's.

Quote:
-Was the most successful player during the period of the toughest womens field in history from 1999-2007. Yes I know some will say Henin was close overall but Serena still edges it (8 slams to 7, and no Wimbledon for Justine). Justine's success during this period reflect what a great player she is too mind you. Competition matters, especialy in womens tennis when it is often....less than optimum.
Was it the toughest field in women's history? I'm not convinced. Kimiko Date is still notching up wins for godness sake. (Just being a devils advocate here). Overall it's a tougher tour though-and all the hard court events are a wear on the body.

Quote:
I can see the arguments against her being GOAT too:

-Not enough time at #1
-Not enough tournament wins
-Not enough quite enough slams yet
-Not enough consistency

However she is getting there.
Here I will defend Serena to some extent. She would have a LOT more weeks as #1 under any sane ranking system. Jankovic and Wozniacki were JOKES as #1. If you can't win a major (I'd even settle for a YEC or Olympics) you are not #1. End of story.

And it's tougher to win tour events now that there are less of them overall. There were no two week events outside the slams in the past.

Consistency will always be a weakness for Serena. Once you get her head to head she'd deadly though. Does she have a losing head to head vs anyone?
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Old Nov 18th, 2013, 10:18 PM   #10
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Posted by BCP

[quote]I agree with a lot of what you say. I think a lot of us who have watched tennis over a long period subscribe to the fact that there isn't a GOAT, but a clutch of players that have earned the right to be included in that discussion, and Serena I think is now one of those players. What's even more significant is that she is a black woman who didn't come through any recognised tennis system. [quote]

I concur

Quote:
I also cringe when I hear people say that she is the GOAT. Her record is full of holes, particularly the number of titles held. Her inconsistency is the big thing that holds her back from being definitely the GOAT. Injuries and particularly the murder of her sister have had a big hand in this. The flip side of this though is that if she had remained as focussed as she has been in 2012/2013 throughout her career, perhaps her GOAT status would be beyond question. After all, she has 17 grandslams despite not being at the top for several seasons. Also in her defense, everyone in the GOAT discussion has holes in their records or a question mark, or asterisk.
I only cringe when some punk proclaims she is without a doubt GOAT beyond question. These folks usually dis everyone else in the process. And I'm not singling out Serena fans on this count. Other GOAT contenders have their "fans' as well-LOL

Quote:
In regards to standard of play, I think the equipment means that the game is played differently now. I don't think that it's necessarily better. It's just different. As discussed many times here, the players these days are more althletic and hit the ball a lot harder. But the trade off for this is a lack of variety in terms of spins, angles, and range of shots, and also a lack of consistency. I think the players of yesteryear were more skillful because they could not win on power alone, so they had to find different ways to win. So I'm not sure that I subscribe to the opinion that Serena at her best is the best that has ever played. She is definitely the best player over 30 ever, and the most powerful but her game was developed with the equipment.
Spot on. no way Serena powers past people today with wood. Of course Court or Navratilova couldn't serve and volley in todays world.

A Serena of yesteryear would still have a lot a power though. And better adapting skills to boot. As sharper drop shot, and much better volleys. With her serve in an older era she could stay back and rally OR serve and volley.

Quote:
To illustrate the point, not sure if you guys have seen this footage of Serena playing with a wood racquet. She wants to switch back only after 2 or 3 shots. That's not to say that if she had been raised on wood racquets only, she would not be as dominant. My point is that it is a lot harder to play with wood, so playing with a modern racquet makes you looks so much better.
That was cute! Thanks for posting it BCP. It would be a different game with the wood, but because the women's game is basically flat she would be very frightening, just not blasting winners at warp speed, because of course no one did in the wood era.

Imagine Serena vs Chris or Martina. What fun that could be!

What Rafa Nadal would be a Borg if beamed back. There is no way he could do all that spin on a lower bouncing surface like the old grass.

BTW-its great having you post BCP. Have you seen the threads on 1983 and 1986?
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Old Nov 19th, 2013, 03:29 AM   #11
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
Posted by RollingGraces

Donut holes. They each have them


I would agree she has earned her place in the "pantheon" as you call it. That doesn't mean I'd put her on top, but she's in the mix. And as BCP put it, there really isn't a true GOAT. Everyone has there order. As long as there is basic respect I'm happy with whatever order they are put in. Serena is the flavor of the decade, just as Steffi was and Navratilova before her, etc.

My only quibble would be Court's "hole". The 11 Aussies make her case stronger IMO-it is the small amount of Wimbledon titles (3) that weakens here in my eyes. But maybe we are just arguing two sides of the same coin.
Regarding Court, yes that is probably a better way to look at it. Only winning 3 Wimbledons when it was generally regarded grass as her best surface, is definitely a hole of sorts when talking about the possible GOAT. Not that Court couldn't still well be the best ever, but 3 Wimbledons is a mark against her in that argument for sure.

As for the 11 Australians, while it is great anyway you look at, the circumstances around the Australian Open in that time period are well known so I wont even bother going into those. Not Court's fault of course, you can only play who shows, but all the Australian players of that era benefited to some degree from the situation- Court (11 of her slams there, more than double she won anywhere else), Goolagong (over twice her slams there, from 72-79 she won 0 non Australian slams but 4 straight Aussies somehow), Chris O Neill (shock slam winner). They still deserve credit for their victories but they also deserve some context all the same.
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Old Nov 19th, 2013, 03:38 AM   #12
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
Not QUITE yet. Helen Wills Moody has a longer slam span. She won the US in 1923 and Wimbledon in 1938. That's 15 years. If Serena wins a slam next year (her first being in 1999) she will tie Helen.

Longevity is a plus in Serena's favor though. I'm with you on that.
Serena does play much more regularly than Wills Moody did past 33 though. Even at her most part time period ever from 2005-2006 she played more than Helen did past 33. So I would still give her the edge there, even over Helen.

I do expect Serena will win a slam in 2015 and go past even Helen's length of winning singles slams period, although you are right Helen has that all time record for now.



Quote:
It's hard to judge if she had to play with wooden racquets. Also hard to say how someone as gifted as Navratilova would be in today's game. To me Martina would play like Amelie Mauresmo but without the nervousness.\

That would make her one dangerous player
This is true, although for what it is worth I would easily favor peak Serena even over a non nerved Amelie.


Quote:
Or imagine Steffi with a topspin backhand. Again dangerous.
Hmm what would make her ever use this more. Had she used it more she would have done much better vs Martina while still in her prime in 86-87 (I know some will say Martina was still in her prime in 88-89 but I disagree), and better in 90-92 vs Seles, Sabatini, Novotna, when she stopped winning as many slams and these players gave her trouble. So that she didn't pull it out in times it would have benefited her a great deal, suggests to me she never would have.


Quote:
Serena has without a doubt the best women's serve ever. Even with a wood racquet it would be a cut above anyone else's.
For sure!

Quote:
Was it the toughest field in women's history? I'm not convinced. Kimiko Date is still notching up wins for godness sake. (Just being a devils advocate here). Overall it's a tougher tour though-and all the hard court events are a wear on the body.
Oh I am not talking about the current field for sure. I am talking about the very late 90s and early 2000s field. I know the current field isn't the toughest ever, but IMO the field Serena dominated in 2002-2003 especialy was the toughest field anyone dominated. Only Seles in the early 90s could have a case against.



Quote:
Here I will defend Serena to some extent. She would have a LOT more weeks as #1 under any sane ranking system. Jankovic and Wozniacki were JOKES as #1. If you can't win a major (I'd even settle for a YEC or Olympics) you are not #1. End of story.
Yes the ranking system sucks today. I know rankings should not just be about slam wins, and I agree consistency and overall tour performance should matter to some extent, but even looking beyond that Serena should have spent a lot more time at #1.


Quote:
And it's tougher to win tour events now that there are less of them overall. There were no two week events outside the slams in the past.
This is true. You cant fairly compare to Evert, Navratilova, Court winning 160-200 tournaments. That was the period the game was the most plentiful combination of lots of opportunities and events, yet not an overly physical style of player. I am not talking about whether the fields were tougher or not, but the sheer physicality of the game today. However she does need to get to around 80 I feel, and I believe she will do this.


Quote:
Consistency will always be a weakness for Serena. Once you get her head to head she'd deadly though. Does she have a losing head to head vs anyone?
Excellent point.
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Old Nov 19th, 2013, 12:42 PM   #13
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

[/quote] BTW-its great having you post BCP. Have you seen the threads on 1983 and 1986? [/quote]

Hi Rollo.

Yes, I've been spending too much time reliving 1986. What an interesting year. Evert still hanging on, the ongoing saga of Mandlikova's inconsistency, Graf emerging as a real threat, and Sukova having one of her best years.

I loved reading about the Wimbledon QF that Evert played against Sukova. I would love to see that match- sounds like it was one of the best matches of the year.

As for 1983, as a Chris fan, the less said about 83 the better!

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Old Nov 19th, 2013, 01:18 PM   #14
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

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Originally Posted by Rollo View Post
Here I will defend Serena to some extent. She would have a LOT more weeks as #1 under any sane ranking system. Jankovic and Wozniacki were JOKES as #1. If you can't win a major (I'd even settle for a YEC or Olympics) you are not #1. End of story.
I don't know how exactly the rankings work (looks complicated to me), but I can't agree with this point. To me Jankovic and Wozniacki were deserving their rankings. I appreciate the fact that you can be number one without winning a slam, as it means there's a competitive tour out there with many other events. That case of Serena not being number one while showing she's the best in the big events, means that you can't play and win slams only to stay number one. Otherwise it's too easy to stay number one while staying out of injuries. It's obvious Serena is a better player than Wozniacki, but to stay number one of the tour is something else. It rewards consistency as much as power. It's fair to me. This logic of the modern rankings goes in the way of abolishing the challenge rounds long time ago: I may exaggerate a bit, but it goes the same way to me. Today Serena knows how to be number one. She failed a few years back, but I'm not sure the ranking system was wrong.

Last edited by Hugues Daniel : Nov 19th, 2013 at 01:33 PM.
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Old Nov 19th, 2013, 05:33 PM   #15
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Re: Serena as GOAT???

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Originally Posted by rollingraces View Post
There are what I consider Serena's main arguments as GOAT:

-Best longevity ever. Nobody should dispute this. She has now won singles slams over a 15 year stretch and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. She was also the dominant player 11 years apart (2002 and 2013), something only the great amazing Margaret Court has ever done (1962 and 1973).

-4 Olympic Golds. I know Olympics weren't around for all all time greats in fairness, but they were for many- Graf, Evert, Navratilova, Wills Moody, and Lenglen. Serena was the one who played the most and took the most opportunities.

-Highest peak level play ever. This is subjective, and there are others truly outstanding here too, but I think most give her that.

-5 slams at 3 different venues. Only Graf matches or surpasses this kind of versatility, but Graf had a bit of help in getting there.

-Was the most successful player during the period of the toughest womens field in history from 1999-2007. Yes I know some will say Henin was close overall but Serena still edges it (8 slams to 7, and no Wimbledon for Justine). Justine's success during this period reflect what a great player she is too mind you. Competition matters, especialy in womens tennis when it is often....less than optimum.


I can see the arguments against her being GOAT too:

-Not enough time at #1
-Not enough tournament wins
-Not enough quite enough slams yet
-Not enough consistency

However she is getting there.
I'm not claiming that Serena doesn't have a strong case for GOAT, but I don't think that the points you make are the irrefutable truth that you claim them to be.

For example, I don't think that best longevity ever is beyond dispute. For sure, Serena is the best player over 30 that we have seen, but this isn't the same thing. There were more than one season in the 2000s where she barely played at all. On the other hand, Chris was ranked in the top 4 for 18 consecutive years, from almost the day she started playing pro until the day she retired. She also won at least 1 GS title for 13 consecutive years, a record that may never be broken. She surely has a strong case here?

Secondly, you claim that Chris and Martina had the chance to play the Olympics, but Serena in comparison was the one who took her chances. But this is not a fair comparison. Tennis was only reintroduced as a demonstration sport in 1984, and a proper sport in 1988. Chris and Martina are particularly disadvantaged here.

Thirdly, Serena winning 5 titles at 3 grandslams. Again, not a fair comparison, as the French and Australian Opens did not have the prestige that they do nowadays in the 1970s. For example, Chris only played the Australian Open 6 times in 18 years. She only played it in 1974 and not again until 1981, so missed all of the Australian Opens in what were arguably her peak years. Every time she played the Australian Open, she reached the final. I'm not saying that she would have definitely won the 3 titles in the 70s that she would have needed to get to 5 here, but it's not out of the realms of possibility. Again, I don't think that this is a valid argument as to why Serena is a GOAT.

Highest peak ever, as you say is subjective.

Her record in these areas form part of the argument as to why Serena should be included in the GOAT discussion, but IMO does not prove that she is the GOAT.

Last edited by BCP : Nov 19th, 2013 at 06:47 PM.
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