So we have Graf, Navratilova and Court, maybe even Evert in the race for "best-ever".
The stats and numbers have been discussed over and over again, everybody has interpreted them in his/her fave's favour. We have even discussed "watchability" as an important criterion.
But maybe we should have a look at who was able to demolish other great players (eg. #1's or #2's) in really important matches (eg. slam finals)?
Especially when we want to know who was the best when everybody plays in "peak prime form"!
If a player has proven that she was able to beat her top flight opponents in slam finals not only by squeaking past them but by outplaying them, destroying them, beating them like a drum - then it is safe to assume that this player was able to play at a level lesser "all-time greats" were not able to reach.
Let's have a look at Steffi Graf (don't know why this player always comes into my mind first when discussing "greatest-ever" .....
Steffi had some very clear-cut wins against top players even in slam finals.
OK, a 6-0, 6-0 at FO 88 doesn't count for much (Zvereva had beaten Navratilova in an earlier round, however).
But Steffi has impressive slam final wins against really great players:
1) A 5-7, 6-2, 6-1 Wimbledon final win (1988) against Martina Navratilova. Navi lead 2-0 in the 2nd but Graf won 12 of the next 13 games, breaking Martina in 7 consecutive games. Graf made 79 of her 97 points with own winners, Navi contributed with only 18 UEs!!!
As you may remember Navratilova had won the 6 preceeding Wimbledons and is viewed by some as the best grass courter of all time.
2) A 6-2, 6-1 Wimbledon final win (1992) against Monica Seles. The match lasted only 1 hour (without rain delays). Seles was #1 at that time in the WTA rankings because she held 3 out of 4 slam titles (although FO 92 only due to a 10-8 in 3rd set). She is viewed as the second-best player of the nineties, her fans even think she might have won tons of slams more if she had not been stabbed in 1993 (caused a 2-year-long absence from the circuit).
3) A 6-0, 6-2 AO final win (1994) against Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. ASV had her best year in 1994 (winning two slams, being #2 in rankings) but stood no chance when Graf outplayed & outhit her on that Saturday.
Graf has more impressive blow-out wins at slams against top players. Among them
- 6-1, 6-2 against #3 Pamela Shriver (Wim 88)
- 6-3, 6-0 against #4 Gabriela Sabatini (AO 89)
- 6-2, 6-1 against #4 Christine M. Evert (Wim 89)
- 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 against #2 Martina Navratilova (Wim 89; 2nd set a fluke?)
- 6-3, 6-1 against #4 Iva Majoli (FO 96; Iva won FO one year later)
- 6-3, 6-1 against #2 Conchita Martinez (FO 96).
But especially her above-mentioned final wins at Wim 88 & 92, AO 94 confirm that Graf was able to lift her game to levels no other professional female tennis player has ever reached.