Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: United States of America
Nice post Roan- here's my list:
1. Suzanne Lenglen- played an all-court, attacking game- first player to have all the shots and make frequent forrays into the net with flourishing volleys, known for her balletic movement about the net. She liberated women's tennis with her unabashed and very French Isadora Duncan style and freedom of movement (before her shocking arrival on the scene, players were still wearing long skirts and playing what Bobby Riggs would have termed "a nice game for girls"). Also arguably the first professional female tennis player.
2. Helen Wills- probably still holds the record for the longest ralley every kept in play- in Golden Gate Park with her coach. She brought incredible consistency, coupled with accurate, powerful ball placement from the baseline, and her concentration was formiddible. The blueprint for tennis players from Connolly to Evert and countless others.
3. Alice Marble- Played the serve-and-volley game, and introduced the world to the idea that it was actually okay for a girl to really "muscle" the ball and hit volleys without leaping in artistic fashion a la Lenglen. A true pioneer for the concept (still suffering detractions today, incredibly) of women as athletes.
4. Althea Gibson- broke the racial barrier in tennis (with a little help from Marble and others) for both men and women- showed that it was possible for a woman of color to not only compete in the then elitist all-white sport, but actually win Wimbledon and much more.
5. Margaret Smith Court- the true pioneer of cross-training and using weights and training in a gym to perfect her body into the supreme female athlete. Long before Martina, she ran, did standing jumps, lifted weights, and trained just as hard as the Aussie men to achieve her goals, and it showed. Was arguably the quickest player of her era, and had the hardest first serve and toughest overhead smash.
6. Martina Navratilova- took a couple of years to get going, but once she dedicated herself- she sculpted her body into what is still today the most complete package for a female athlete on the tennis court. First player to actually use computers to aid and assist not only in her fitness, but in assessing opponent's strengths and weaknesses against her own finely tuned machine.
7. Steffi Graf- arguably the fastest woman ever to play tennis, and at 17 came out of the blocks with a serve and forehand one-two punch that had never been seen before. She was the first player to go for outright winners in the first two shots of any given ralley, and a pioneer of what is now considered the norm.
8. Venus & Serena Williams- the sisters combination sealed the direction of the game with a potent package of great serves, overpowering returns, sheer physical presence, and determination. Revolutionized tennis in America in that they came up outside the system, and basically used the system at the same time to develop their power games.
There is nothing more beautiful than Evonne Goolagong in full flight moving across a tennis court.