Concrete Elbow by Steve Tignor - The Best of Her (But Not All) Time
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The Best of Her (But Not All) Time 07/15/2010 - 11:42 AM

Sw “Serena Williams: Love Her, Hate Her, She’s the Best Ever”. That’s the line that greeted us on the cover of last week’s post-Wimbledon issue of Sports Illustrated. It was a surprise in one sense. Serena, despite her continued dominance, has yet to match the career totals—the Slam wins, the tournament titles, the weeks at No. 1—of past greats like Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Chris Evert. In another sense, though, it wasn’t all that shocking. This is a magazine cover. As anyone who has ever read a fitness magazine and tried to get a “6 pack in 6 days” knows, covers are all about exaggeration.

But once we’re inside the magazine, we can come back down to earth. Why does L. Jon Wertheim suddenly believe, now that Serena has won her fourth Wimbledon and 13th major, that she should be elevated above Court (24 Slams), Graf (22), Navratilova (18), and Evert (18)? Why not also say that her fellow Wimbledon champion, Rafael Nadal, is also the greatest ever, even though he lags behind Roger Federer in Slams? I respect Wertheim’s writing and trust his judgments on most occasions, but I can’t join him here. Maybe he pushed the envelope on this a little because it was a cover story. Or maybe this is what it takes to get tennis onto the cover of SI in the first place. Or maybe he just believes it. Let’s look at the arguments.

“Williams plays in a far more competitive and demanding era.”

The game is global now, there’s more money in it, and the women hit harder and play a more physical brand of tennis. But has that produced more Hall-of-Fame level players? We’ve spent the latter half of this decade bemoaning the lack of new blood at the top of the WTA—the only multiple Slam winner to turn pro after the year 2000 is Maria Sharapova. Court did win many Aussie Opens (11 in total) against weak competition, but Serena has won Slam finals against less-than-Olympian names like Safina, Jankovic, and Zvonareva. As far as the demanding part goes, it’s true that the sport is tougher on the body now and requires a high level of athleticism, but each of those former champions—Evert and Navrailova in particular—played more matches per season than Serena does.

The more important point, though, is that the perceived level of competition in every era is skewed by the level of dominance of the top player. If Graf had never existed, Gabriela Sabatini would likely have been a five-six-seven-time Slam winner rather than a one-timer. If Court had never existed, we’d be talking about Billie Jean King as the best of all time. And while Serena has been the best player of the last decade and of her era, she hasn’t dominated the best player not named Williams, Justine Henin. Serena is 8-6 overall against Henin, but 2-4 at the majors.

The bottom line is that in each era, the women we’ve mentioned took on the best competition in the world at that moment and raised themselves above it. That’s all you can ask.

“None of the others had to play her sister in a final.”

True, Venus is also an all-time great, and it’s a unique psychological struggle for Serena. But Court had King, Navratilova had to beat 17-time Slam winner Evert over and over, and Graf had to overcome Navratilova herself to begin her reign.

“She has also won 12 major women’s doubles titles, two major mixed titles, and two double gold medals.”

The Williams sisters will go down as one of the greatest doubles team of all time. But bringing doubles into this particular conversation isn't going to help her cause. Court won 19 doubles Slams and 19 mixed-doubles Slams. Navratilova won 177 doubles titles in total. As for the Olympics, Graf owns a singles gold.

“She’s been winning them since she was 17.”

Graf won her first Slam at 17, and her last at 29, Serena’s current age. There’s no doubt that Serena can win them for years to come, and her longevity could eventually make her a candidate for greatest player ever. But during her 20s she wasn’t as dominant as Graf. Steffi won her famous Golden Slam in 1988, but she also won three majors in a year on four other occasions. Since her Serena Slam in 2002-3, Williams has never won three in a season (that could change this year). Before last year, she hadn’t won two in a single season. But if you want to talk crazy dominance, nobody can match Navratilova in her prime. From 1981 to ’87, she went 432-14. You read it right: 432-14.

Incidentally, Graf and Serena played twice, and, if the WTA’s website is correct, split those matches by the same score, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5. Both matches occurred in 1999, Serena’s first big year, and Graf’s last. (See the end of their second match, in Indian Wells, here.)

“The most important stroke in tennis is the serve, and Williams’s is the most fearsome in women’s history.”

Agreed, Serena’s serve is the best ever, and if there were no other shots in tennis, she’d have the Goat title locked up. But by most measures Ivo Karlovic has the most devastating serve in men’s tennis at the moment. Should we ignore his results and hand him the No. 1 ranking every year? Plus, Graf and Navratilova also had the most effective serves of their eras.

“If you matched tennis’s female legends head-to-head—all at their best, with identical equipment—Williams wouldn’t just beat the others; she’d crush them.”

Serena would crush Court and Evert, I agree, and beat Graf and Navratilova most of the time. But I would also say that the 500th-ranked man on the ATP tour right now would beat Don Budge—at his best, with identical equipment—like a drum. Does that make No. 500 from 2010 a greater player and champion than Budge, or Tilden, or Gonzalez?

Every player, obviously, is a product of his or her era. The best player of any era has trained and designed her game to beat the opponents she has to face on the court—nothing more, nothing less. You can’t penalize Graf and Navratilova for not making themselves good enough in their primes to beat a hypothetical future opponent. If Serena had made her debut, say, three years after Graf’s debut, and Serena had started taking Slams from her, Steffi would have been forced to change her game to meet this challenge. We’ll never know how that would worked out, so all we can do to compare them is to look at their overall records during the times when they were playing. And as with the Federer-Nadal head-to-head argument, the fact that someone can beat another player doesn't make them "greater"—top players play to win tournaments, not beat certain individuals.

The same will be true when a young serve-and-volleying Russian starts racking up Slams 15 years from now. We won’t be able to look back and penalize Serena for not having made her game consistent or versatile enough to have beaten her.


Slam totals are what we generally go by to judge all-time greatness. There’s a vogue right now for saying that they shouldn’t matter so much, because the best players skipped the Aussie Open in the 70s and 80s. And it’s true, the Aussie was not really a major title for 20 years, and the “it’s only the Slams that matter” attitude didn’t get started until the Ivan Lendl era, when the top players became rich enough not to have to worry about anything other than prepping for and winning those four tournaments. But that doesn’t change the fact that from the earliest days of the sport, the Slams—which were each of the big tennis nation’s national championships—were the events that the players wanted to win most. That’s why they remain the benchmark.

But there are other markers of excellence. There’s time spent at No. 1: Graf finished eight seasons there, Navratilova seven. Williams has done it twice. There are total titles: Navratilova ended with 167, Graf 107; Williams has 37. There’s excellence on all surfaces: Serena has won all four majors at least once; Graf won all four at least four times (her signature achievement, IMO). 

None of this is a knock on Serena. She’s the best of this generation and a tremendous athlete to watch. She’s also never been too concerned with the No. 1 ranking, or total titles, and she hasn’t had the relentless, long-term, week-to-week drive for dominance that characterized Graf and Navratilova. And as it stands now, Serena’s best years may be ahead of her. You can’t fully measure a career against the sport’s past until that career is over.

In a way, it’s only fair to Serena that we not jump the gun on her place in history. Next thing you know, in 10 years, we’ll be celebrating a young American champ as “Better than Serena ever was!” after she wins her fifth major. Sounds like a good line for a magazine cover.

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Posted by MikeDC 07/15/2010 at 10:28 PM

How about we call it a draw. I hardly think that giving a young Chris Evert (measuring 5'5") 2000-era equipment, competition, and training would allow her to be competitive with Serena. Serena would destroy her.

That said, give Serena (and her technique) 1980 equipment and training and matched with Evert she's not going to be able to hit her off the court, and she's going to hit enough errors (frameballs, lack of topspin) that she would lose everytime. During Evert's prime there was NO ONE who could hit through her simply from the backcourt. Austin outfoxed her, but didn't overpower her. It's not a question of talent, just what the game was.

We may hate it, but tennis in 1980 is not tennis in 2010. Really two different games, with different talent sets rewarded. Therefore saying player X of today could of beaten player Y of yesteryear is kind of silly.

Posted by Geellis (Chris Evert Speaks) 07/15/2010 at 10:29 PM

It's hard to credit Steve or other commenters thoughts on the GOAT question when it's so clear that GOAT contenders like Evert feel such conviction that Serena is the best player to ever play the game. I don't think Evert would care a hoot about whether Serena has 13 or 20 GSs. I think she understands, as a great champion and a tennis coach, that Serena simply has an assortment of attributes unmatched in the history of the women's game. If others here cannot see that, oh well. Not much I can do to convince them. But it's really not that arguable to objective watchers who know the game best. I'll let BJK finish the point:

""Sports are a microcosm of society. It just shows how much more competition there is in the world," King said. "When I was playing, we didn't have to compete against everybody in the world. Now it's a truly global sport, so the competition's much greater, just like it is for our children in every other area, whether it be in science or technology or whatever you talk about. So we have to work that much harder. We have to get kids who are eager. We have to get good athletes in our sport if we're going to win globally."

Posted by Geellis 07/15/2010 at 10:38 PM

Agree completely and have made the same point in other posts over the prior 6 months (re Fed v. Laver).

Seriously. This isn't a beauty pageant. It's a discussion of the greatest player of all time, not the greatest personality or most gracious loser. There's a difference. NO one in their right mind would argue for Serena in the latter category, but we're all here willing to discuss her eligibility as the former.

Posted by jula 07/15/2010 at 10:48 PM

No mention of a beauty pageant in my post. Sportsmanship is part of being an athlete, besides power and might. It takes a sum of all of these things to be considered the greatest, not just your outcomes.

Posted by jula 07/15/2010 at 10:51 PM

No mention of a beauty pageant in my post. Sportsmanship is a huge part of what makes a great athlete. Without it (which is my point about Serena), consideration for "Greatest" should be out. Her outcomes are not the only measurement of how truly "great" she is.

Posted by Conrad 07/15/2010 at 10:51 PM

I think the problem with someone being hypothetically better than Serena is the inability to realistically imagine anyone stronger and faster. Graf's power was replaced by Seles... ect. ect. The truth is that Jankovic hits harder, more consistently, and is a more explosive athlete than Graf... Serena crushes Jankovic is all those catagories. When Graf was 29, she was an amazingly accomplished, wonderful tennis player started getting replaced by the stronger and faster, younger generation (Venus/Serena)... When Serena turns 29, she will still be the most talented and physically gifted athlete out there, by far. That's why she's the greatest of all time.

Posted by JJ 07/15/2010 at 10:57 PM

How about this??? Lets just declare Rafa the best ever, he has beaten the guy considered the 'GOAT' and would have better head to head just like Serena is assumed to have with all the other legends of previous eras, he has won the last two GS and seems to be unstoppable based on his current form just like Serena, he is the best athelete the game as ever produced just like Serena and you can't blame his knees for his inconsistent results just like you can't blame Serena for not participating in minors due to her "injuries" or other commitements and when he has his mind set on winning, he is unstoppable just like Serena, his ground strokes and returns are superb just like Serena's serve, it is amazing to watch him in person than on TV just like Serena, he is only 24 and his best days seem to be ahead of him just like Serena and by the way, if he is stronger physically like Serena but that is just progress in the game and proves that he can beat the best from the past and anyway, the no:of GS won do not matter, so who cares if Federer won 16 slams since it is not the no:of slams but how good a player is at their respective peak (not me, Wertheim's view).

Posted by Aube,Venus Williams is a doll!!! 07/15/2010 at 11:00 PM

Serena Williams cherie de mon coeur.I know that for me,Oracene Price and Venus Ebony Starr are definetely the GREATEST,period!end of discussion...
Tracy Austin,another guilty as charged Serena Williams hater had said this:
"The thought of playing Serena Williams is alone scary!!!",if that doesn't tell you anything about Serena's state of game,sleep on!!!
Anyway,Steve Stignor never even gives Serena Williams a good grade while handing out grades after tournaments,why bother thinking even if she wins 100 grand slams he will ever agree to call her a fairly good player?now don't dream of reading about Serena's being a good player, if he is the one writing...and for the people out here writing about Clijters being better than Serena,let me laugh and see you acclaim Kim with another grand slam,by the way, Serena neutreulized in Wimbledon the one who killed Kim's dream to celebrate in London,just saying!!!
For the one reason we all know and no one dares to talk about, Serena will never be the best to certain people,they are blinded by what we all know, and that I will refuse to name,they know it so why tell them?!!!
SEREBABY,rain or shine,you will always be the best for the eyes of honest people who simply love the game,but for those who feel like you and Venus are the intruders in the country club of tennis,even a MELANIE OUDIN will be better than you,but don't bother,you're you and we love you!!!

Posted by Northern boy 07/15/2010 at 11:00 PM

Definitely don't agree that Serena would wipe the floor with all the greats of the past. Graf, Seles and Navratilova in particular could easily match Serena for athleticism. Graf, at the very very tail end of her career, still split their matches, and both won slams in 1999 (Graf the French and the Wimby final, and Serena her breakthrough at the USO).

Even in her prime, Serena has never been as consistent as someone like Graf. In her 2002-2003 early prime, she played a high risk, high reward game - she's definitely a more balanced player now with good touch approaching the net, and her serve is better than its ever been. But look even at her dominant Wimbledon run. She was taken to 2 tiebreaks, one against unheralded Petra Kvitova who was spraying the ball everywhere in that match, and Li Na also should have taken it to a tiebreak.

Against Graf at Wimbledon Serena would have been in for an all out war. I'd have loved to see that matchup Center Court with both at the top of their game.

As I said before, consistency has for the most part been completely overlooked here. Serena only has 24 non-GS titles. Graf had 85. Evert had 139. Navratilova had 149. Serena doesn't perform as well outside the main stages, and has played well in patches rather than consistently, whereas those three legends were dominant day in and day out.

My GOAT list for women 1) Graf/Navratilova - too close to call. 3) Serena 4) Seles/Evert 5)Court/King

The more interesting debate is how shockingly quickly Nadal is looking to have a shot at surpassing Federer in history. Already has the Masters series record, already has the Olympic gold medal in singles, already has the Davis cup championship, and of course the dominant head to head record. Plus he's looking every bit as much a complete player as Federer (Nadal has a better backhand, while Federer has a better serve.

Posted by JJ 07/15/2010 at 11:09 PM

Mr.Conrad, like your argument but when Agassi peaked at an age of 29 and won 3 of 4 majors in 99-00, the same Mr.Wertheim did not call him the best ever then since he said Agassi could not have played well at 29 if he played continously like Pete Sampras did between the ages of 25-27 and it is consistency that mattered. The same goes with Serena, if Serena played her best tennis between 18-26 and won 3/4 GS in 4 years like Graf did during her peak years and 4 times on 4 different surfaces in the same age period, with the powerful game that Serena plays, she would not have her best at 29. By the way, Graf at 29 game back from nowhere (she was not even listed in the rankings by the end of 97 as she was out with knee injury and had reconstructed knee surgery) and won FO and made it to Wimby finals before she retired. Lets just not downplay other great players for argument sake.
I have a huge admiration for Serena and definitely believe she has the potential to be the greatest ever and sincerely hope that she will be the greatest ever but for that she has to play at the current level for a few more years and then lets declare her the 'GOAT' unianimously without any doubt or discussions.

Posted by chad 07/15/2010 at 11:12 PM

personally i think that as far as strokes are concerned serena really doesn't have a weakness, like graf or navratilova. if you look at the numbers of slams, no , serena is not the greatest but keep in mind that graf's biggest competition was monica seles, who owned her for a while and graf's second era of dominace came at a time when her biggest competition, who was the world number one, was taken out of the game for 3 years due to a shoulder stabbing. but even when you consider that, serena is not the greatest (grand slam wise)

Posted by FED FRED 07/15/2010 at 11:17 PM

FED is the best of all time....

He will win The US Open and retire with over 25 Slams.

That is why he is The GOAT!!!!!!

THE Goat and the donkey as well as the Cat's pajamas.

Posted by Tennis fan 07/15/2010 at 11:18 PM

I do not care how great Serena is as a tennis player her terrible personality will make sure that she is never a GREAT. She has not matured throughout the years and there is something much more important that just how you hit the ball. She is trash. This is from a black tennis fan.

Posted by Geellis 07/15/2010 at 11:27 PM

@Tennis fan
we cannot see you so your pronouncement of your race is, pathetic, and meaningless (and I frankly don't believe you). Moreover, your statement that Serena is trash is just ludicrous in the extreme.

@Northern Boy
I invite you to review some video on youtube. Steffi would have lost to Serena for the same reason that Fed loses so often to Rafa......Steffi was constantly moving around her BH to hit FHs. Just watch the video man and try to explain, logically, how you think Steffi gets around all those balls coming at her BH side and coming harder than from ANY player she played against.

That said, on grass that BH slice would have been interesting. It stayed low and would have made life much more difficult even for serena, who gets down on the ball exceptionally well. So, on the grass, I think Steffi might have had an edge. On clay, i think the BH slice would have sat up a bit and been fodder for Serena's mill. On HCs, I don't thin it would have been close here. Just too much power from all parts of serena's game. But I'm open to hearing explanations of how Steffi would have become faster and pulled a booming BH out of her hat in order to keep up with the stiff competition that would be Serena.

Posted by Neveah 07/15/2010 at 11:33 PM

It takes trash to know trash. People have alot of nerve criticizing Serena when they have absolutely no idea what she's been through. I doubt if the critics are the best in their neighborhood...Forget the world.

Posted by Aube,Venus Williams is a doll!!! 07/15/2010 at 11:43 PM

Serena,thank you for not overdosing on anything that would be a nuisance to your body but also could you imagine what people who call you every name in the book will call you???Trash? my boots!!!If evry trash resemble SERENA WILLIAMS,the world would not need to recycle,pfffffffffffffffff!smart and dirty mouth can not give a moral lesson to anyone!!!Trash?really?seriously?Trash???Me either Geelis!I doubt anything someone who calls a human being trash would say!!!

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/15/2010 at 11:47 PM

Geelis writes that, on clay, Graf's "BH slice would have sat up a bit and been fodder for Serena's mill."

Would that be why S.Williams has won numerous singles titles at Roland Garros?

Oh, my mistake, often out of shape S.Williams has only won one title at RG.

Would that be why S.Williams has destroyed Henin's BH slice at Roland Garros, thereby depriving Henin of several titles at RG?

Oh, my mistake again, that scenario is as counterfactual as the nonsensical position that often out of shape, often uninspired S.Williams deserves, at this point in time, to be considered a GOAT candidate.

Fortunately, twenty years from now, when S.Williams' career is over and observers note that Nav's, Graf, and Court each won several hundred more matches than S.Williams, 40 or more tournaments than S.Williams, AND more majors than S.Williams, the fact that some folks embraced the idiotic position that S.Williams was a GOAT candidate will be largely forgotten.

Posted by Conrad 07/15/2010 at 11:49 PM

JJ, very well said. I agree with one exception: Agassi was a master tennis player, but the tales of a talented, hot-blooded Russian with impossible talent were emerging... An Australian roadrunner was gathering strength before his 01/02 peak... While Agassi's twilight was brilliant, as was Graf's, it was clearly their finale. Graf was playing some exceptional tennis in 1999, as you mentioned, and a 17 year old Serena beat her, in the final of one of the biggest tournaments outside the slams. Serena was just faster and bolder. She took the match. Who can do that to Serena?

Posted by Evelyn 07/16/2010 at 12:50 AM

I love Serena, but she is not yet the best

You love her serve? For me, the most wonderful stroke in tennis history is the Graf serve. Just look at it
The best singles player is Graf
The best all around, singles, doubles, mixed is Navratilova

Serena, why did ou lose the Wimbledon Doubles?

Posted by joackim 07/16/2010 at 02:30 AM

Mr.Tignor it was a well written article but it left out 1 small but very important detail.
When it comes to Graf's record of 21 majors the number is in a way not real.
Court,Navratilova,Evert,Serena played against the best of their time but in Steffi's case it was different.You mentioned Sabatini's name and the possibility of winning 5,6,7 majors without Steffi around but what about Steffi if Monica Seles wasn't stabbed in '93?
She was the dominant player at the start of the '90s.Not Steffi;-)

Posted by Hashim 07/16/2010 at 03:35 AM

How can you forget to add that Graf would have won much lesser had Seles not been stabbed?By 19,she has 8 GS and was in top form when she got stabbed by Graf's fan.Graf just got too lucky!

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Rafa Channel Slam Winner 2010! 07/16/2010 at 03:52 AM

Steve Just to add my view on the so called best or Goat talk in the womans games

First a few points.

Do we compare different era's at all.The present day technology for one is soo much advanced for one thing.These power head racquets do enhance the power.In saying that we can look back at the say power hitters Martina N for example.

Also what about Monica Seles her career was cut short? who could say what she might have gone on and achieved.

I for one dont like comparing era's though most tennis observers will always define a champion player at say the end of their career with the total amount of GS titles they have achieved and say career slams as well.Also the final amount of titles they have won.

I personally will wait for Serena to hang up her racquet.Then we can all define where she belongs in the greatness of woman that have played our game of tennis.

Posted by roGER 07/16/2010 at 04:16 AM

I believe both Graf and Navratilova in their prime could have lived with Serena, and probably beaten her on many occasions. Not least because I've never seen any evidence of Serena being able to change her game plan, or think tactically. Critics might argue that's because she's never had too, but I'd argue it explains how canny opponents like Henin and Clisters are able to beat her.

Posted by tre 07/16/2010 at 05:23 AM

@Geelis, you are awesome!!! That's exactly what I've been saying...if the greats consider you to be the BEST ever, then any other speculation is useless. You can find quotes where Nav, Evert, Austin and Seles have stated that Serena is the best ever. Even Roger Federer has said that Serena is his favorite WTA player. I have not heard a peep from Graf but I guess she does not speak often to the press.

Posted by MEE 07/16/2010 at 06:12 AM

I agree with Wertheim that Serena is the GOAT and I'm glad he has finally acknowledged that. Mr. Tignor, your argument to the contary is weak at best, but it's in sync with the majority of your readers who are tennis purists with oldschool loyalties.

Here is my take on the debate:

WERTHEIM: “Williams plays in a far more competitive and demanding era.”

TIGNOR: The game is global now, there’s more money in it, and the women hit harder and play a more physical brand of tennis. But has that produced more Hall-of-Fame level players?

MEEE: You've answered your own question, Mr. Tignor. Because this era is tougher and more competitive, it's hard to sustain a high level of competitive greatness. There are fewer hall of fame worthy players on the men's side as well because of this, but that hasn't affected Federer's legacy, so why is it different for Serena?

Posted by MEE 07/16/2010 at 06:14 AM

TIGNOR: Serena has won Slam finals against less-than-Olympian names like Safina, Jankovic, and Zvonareva. As far as the demanding part goes, it’s true that the sport is tougher on the body now and requires a high level of athleticism, but each of those former champions—Evert and Navrailova in particular—played more matches per season than Serena does.

MEEE: The past greats have won slams over "less-than-Olympian" names as well. Graf had wins over the likes of Zvereva, Sukova, and Novotna; Evert and Navratilova had their Kathy Jordan, Olga Morozova, and Zina Garrison; and don't get me started on Court. As a tennis writer you should know better than to scrutinize who one plays because one does not get to choose her opponents. Safina, Jankovic, and Zvonareva were the best players at that time, as a matter of fact Safina and Jankovic were ranked #1 at the time that Serena beat them. For the record, Serena had to go through Venus, Sharapova, and Olympic champion Dementieva to play Safina, Zvonareva and Jankovic. Trying to make a case of this shows a desperate attempt to downplay Serena's accomplishments. As for the second part, do you think Navratilova, Evert, Graf, and Court would have played as much as they did and last as long as they did if they had to play in such a physically demanding era? It's clear they wouldn't, and if you think otherwise then I'd have to doubt your credibility as authority on the subject.

TIGNOR: And while Serena has been the best player of the last decade and of her era, she hasn’t dominated the best player not named Williams, Justine Henin. Serena is 8-6 overall against Henin, but 2-4 at the majors.

MEEE: 3 of Henin's wins over Serena came in 2007 a few months after Chris Evert had written an open letter to Serena telling her to focus on tennis and after an out of shape Serena willed herself to win the Australian open. The fourth win Henin had was the controversial French Open where she raised her hand then lied about what she'd done. Anyone following tennis knows that Henin's winning head 2 head in the majors was because of extenuating circumstances and not because of Serena's inability to conquer her. Serena has proven time and again that when she doesn't beat herself, Henin's game cannot touch her. On the men's side, let's take Nadal out of the conversation, Arnaud Clement has a winning record over Federer at the slams while Federer leads in the head 2 heads and has more slams, would anyone call Federer's GOAT status into question because of this? Wertheim: “None of the others had to play her sister in a final.”

Posted by MEE 07/16/2010 at 06:16 AM

Tignor: True, Venus is also an all-time great, and it’s a unique psychological struggle for Serena. But Court had King, Navratilova had to beat 17-time Slam winner Evert over and over, and Graf had to overcome Navratilova herself to begin her reign.

MEE: You've missed the point or chose to ignore it. If you had to take the glory of winning away from your spouse, parent, sibling--someone you love, can you emapthize just how difficult that would be? You said "Court had King"--and? Court owned Kind and I'm sure she relished the opportunity to beat someone whose (gay) lifestyle she despised. Also, Evert wasn't a 18 (not 17 as you stated--another shot to your credibility) time grand slam champ while Navratilova was playing her, she acquired 18 slams over a period of time, so to Navratilova wasn't playing Chris Evert the great, she was playing Chris Evert in pursuit of greatness. And Graf had to overcome an aging Navratilova who was past her prime--big deal. In my humble opinion Graf would not be in this conversation if her main rival, Monica Seles, wasn't stabbed. But none of that compares to raising your hand in triumph while watching your someone you love bow in defeat. I find it hard to be indiscriminately aggressive against my friends when I compete, so I can imagine what it must be like against one's sibling on the biggest stages in tennis.

WERTHEIM: “She’s been winning them since she was 17.”

MEE: Mr. Tignor, none of what you said in regards to this is worth noting. Serena and even Sharapova could've sleepwalked through the field that Graf, Navratilova, Evert, and Court had to face. Even Navratilova noted that it would've been fun to play Serena, but she's glad she didn't have to. This is coming from someone who faced the greats in question, Graf, Evert, King, and Court.

Posted by MEE 07/16/2010 at 06:17 AM

WERTHEIM: “The most important stroke in tennis is the serve, and Williams’s is the most fearsome in women’s history.”

TIGNOR: But by most measures Ivo Karlovic has the most devastating serve in men’s tennis at the moment. Should we ignore his results and hand him the No. 1 ranking every year? Plus, Graf and Navratilova also had the most effective serves of their eras.

MEE: That Karlovic comment was laugh out loud funny, but it demonstartes a pattern of how far you have to reach to counter Wertheim. To calrify for you, Wertheim is saying Serena having the greatest serve of all time is one of the reasons she's great, not the only reason! Karlovic's serve IS the only reason we even know him. Unlike Serena, Karlovic's ground game is average at best. Serena's strokes and movement around the court is top notch, there's nothing average about her game--she's a complete player.

WERTHEIM: “If you matched tennis’s female legends head-to-head—all at their best, with identical equipment—Williams wouldn’t just beat the others; she’d crush them.”

TIGNOR: Serena would crush Court and Evert, I agree, and beat Graf and Navratilova most of the time. But I would also say that the 500th-ranked man on the ATP tour right now would beat Don Budge—at his best, with identical equipment—like a drum. Does that make No. 500 from 2010 a greater player and champion than Budge, or Tilden, or Gonzalez?

MEE: With a statement like that, I don't know much about you, but I get the feeling the only time you've taken the court (if ever) is for a hit and giggle with friend's. Have you ever seen Don Budge at his best, Mr. Tignor? I doubt you have, or Tilden, or Gonzalez. If you assume those greats would lose to guys in the 500s then you know very little about the champion's mentality. Budge, Tilden, and Gonzalez knew how to win and knew how to handle pressure, that's what separates the best from the rest. Serena is the best in this regard. I've never seen any of the greats come back from the brink of defeat against quality opponents the way Serena has done time and time again.

Monica Seles tapped Serena to break the slam records, According to Mary Carillo, Graf said Serena would be the best ever after Serena defeated her in '99, Evert's open letter to Serena made it clear that she thinks Serena could be the greatest of all time, King has said Serena IS the greatest, and I mentioned what Navratilova said about Serena above. The greats also think Serena has the goods and now the numbers are starting to add up, but even if she doesn't break the all time slam record, Serena's mentality and competitiveness coupled with her physical gifts is what makes her great--the greatest of all time.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 06:36 AM

Graf's record on the WTA Tour: 900 - 115

S.Williams' record on the WTA Tour: 474 - 101

22 Majors Singles Titles and a Gold Medal in Singles for Graf

13 Majors Singles Titles and No Gold Medals in Singles for S.Williams

107 WTA Singles Titles for Graf

37 WTA Singles Titles for S.Williams

Graf's H2H versus S.Williams 1-1

Graf's H2H versus Capriati: 10-1

S.Williams' H2H versu Capriati 10-7

Graf's H2H versus Hingis 7-2

S.Williams' H2H versus Hingis 7-6

The numbers tell it all.

Players like Graf, Navratilova, Court, and Evert EARNED GOAT consideration status by going out onto the tennis courts year after year and PRODUCING, not by hanging out on the sidelines partying and pitching products shopping channels.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 06:47 AM

you mention serena's record on clay as if i am not aware of it. i can always count on you to state the obvious. my point is not re serena against all players on that surface. it's re serena v. graf on that surface. i'm pretty sure henin would have beat graf on clay as well. but no one here is arguing that serena has been the most consistent player in history. it's just that many greats (most of them the top women in the history of the game who, with all due respect, know a sh#t-ton more about the sport and its competition than you in all your illustriousness) assert that she's the best ever. just read my other posts and argue with evert and king if you like. cause you know better than them. sitting in your comfy retirement couch :)

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 06:50 AM

Last I looked, Henin had the most versatile BH of this era. She doesn't just have a BH slice as anyone who's ever watched her (as opposed to just watching manue santana) might have known. She drives through the BH in ways Graf could only have dreamed of. She hits angles that Graf could only have dreamed of. Henin's game is largely dictated by her BH as opposed to Graf's so there's just no comparison here at all. Therefore, your quippy analogy is simply not remotely apt. Good try dude.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 06:58 AM

again with the stats that you somehow think we do not know or cannot look up. obviously you're speaking with people who know all the stats you're presenting. what you are not doing is making a rational case for how, why graf or navratilova beat serena. you're not reconciling your opinion with that of women who's names appear at the top of your list (e.g. evert). if your boy laver declared that roger was the best ever and would have beaten him (laver) would you accept that or would you argue with laver too. read the quotes i presented from evert. serena just has gifts that the other greats would not have been able to handle. and your idea of "erratic" or consistency simply does not match up with today's serena. as i've written b4, today's serena would beat the serena of the serena slam era. she's a better tactician, makes far fewer UEs, and uses her serve with far greater effect. these are arguments. recitation of matches won etc. is not.

Posted by FED FRED 07/16/2010 at 07:03 AM

Serena is not even in the top 7 of all time.

This is not a more competitive era...
It is weaker and Graf still blows Serena way by the records.

Serena just wants to push her latest dress and nail polish.

Serena is all glitz and little substance.

Posted by FED FRED 07/16/2010 at 07:05 AM

Serena will never be the best...

Are you kidding?

She will soon fade into obscurity.
Except she might attack a poor lines person at The Open.

Posted by FED FRED 07/16/2010 at 07:08 AM


What a stupid term.

Except for "King Roger"

He is the "donkey" and "pig"
the whole farm.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 07:12 AM


I suggest that you a look at the Henin-Conchita Martinez matches (including Fed Cup) on red clay and/or Har Tru.

Henin caught Martinez when Martinez was way past her prime and/or coming back from injury and Henin, in at least three of those matches, struggled to beat Martinez in three sets.

Graf, on the other hand, battled with Martinez on clay when Martinez was in her prime and Owned Martinez.

Geelis: Study, restudy, restudy some more, and you may be on your way to cluedom (a word I created, just for you).

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 07:18 AM

sometimes i wonder where you come from guy. conchita martinez was how many years older than henin? 10. they would have played at the very beginning of henin's career. geez man. stop reaching so far to make the point. and, by the way, you did not create cluedom. but getting one is highly recommended.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 07:20 AM

@Fed Fred
Really. So that's why August persons in the sport consider her the best of all time? That's why Evert and King consider her the GOAT. That's why Davenport considers her the GOAT? Hmmmmmm. Not sure your head is really screwed on right, but that's cool. All are welcome here.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 07:24 AM


The last time Martinez and Henin played was during at the 2005 Roland Garros that Henin won, and Henin beat the 33-year old Martinez 6-4 in the third.

Study, restudy, and restudy some more.

You might make more sense.

Good luck.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 07:44 AM

and what exactly does that tell us about them? what's you're point dude? where are you trying to go with one match? are you really that daft or you just takin the piss at me? seriously. what do you hope that match establishes? i mean your logic, or lack thereof, strains all credulity. and i can also use the WTA website (since there's no way the 2005 date was in YOUR head). but again, you're not making logical arguments. henin played conchita 7 times and never lost once. so what's your point now? henin also had a love set in 5 of those matches. you're so grasping at straws and still there's no point that you are making. if you have one, articulate it. otherwise, desist with the conchita distraction.

Posted by athan 07/16/2010 at 07:45 AM

And while Serena has been the best player of the last decade and of her era, she hasn’t dominated the best player not named Williams, Justine Henin. Serena is 8-6 overall against Henin, but 2-4 at the majors.

and 7-6 againts Hingis

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 07:51 AM

like most great players, serena has taken time to come into her own. today's serena would crush hingis. today's serena is just too consistent off the ground. when serena was regularly playing hingis early in their careers, hingis was able to hang around in rallies long enough for an error from serena. but that serena's been gone for about 18 months or so. i keep saying that i think today's serena is much better than the serena of '02/'03

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 07:52 AM


I never asserted that I knew the 2005 score off the top of my head.

I went to the WTA site.

And, I would never piss on you.

I don't want to be responsible for cleaning the pertinent liquid from the top of your cranium.


Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 07:56 AM

like i thought. you have no case that can be logically deduced. we're always here. i make arguments, point by point, to support my thesis and you give stats like over all win/loss record that are not responsive to my arguments. if you want anyone to take you seriously as a thinking person, you'll have to do better than quote stats that we all have at our fingertips. you'll have to actually think through your position and articulate the rationale behind your conclusions. if you cannot do that, then it's best you leave the discussion to those of us who can. cheers mate.

Posted by Manuel Jorge 07/16/2010 at 09:42 AM

Hi, I want to thank you Steve, a very interesting article here. I do think Serena is the best of her era. I think she's so good fighting and winnig all tournaments that there are moments I want so bad someone like Maria, Venus or other players of the same caliber settle down and be as consistant as she is in Grand Slams.

Other information, I was looking in the WTA's website and the scores weren't the same just by one more game in the first set, which actually was 6-3 (the scores were 6-2,3-6,7-5 won by Graf at Sidney & 6-3,3-6,7-5 won by Serena at IW)

Posted by Neveah 07/16/2010 at 09:46 AM

MEE - Well Done! ;)

Posted by PDT 07/16/2010 at 09:55 AM

To CPM: Federer was slathered with the GOAT desognation long before he passed
Sampras' GS total. Did you object to that? If not, why not? Honestly.

Posted by Ren 07/16/2010 at 10:08 AM

MEE: Wow, if that were a debate you have me cheering for you!

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 10:14 AM

KCWill @ 07/15/2010 at 04:01 PM: "I am not the biggest Serena fan, but I really do try to take the bias out when evaluating her game.

However, I do believe being the GOAT does involve a level of sportsmanship that she sometimes lacks. I had to put that out there."

The absurdity of this statement can be summed up in the first sentence. "I am not the biggest Serena fan, but I really do try to take the bias out when evaluating her game."

Yes, of course you do--isn't it obvious? LOL!!!!

Posted by Ren 07/16/2010 at 10:27 AM

Sad, that people would label you as GOAT, then attack you at the same time for a thing of not your own making. Serena would have cared less.

Posted by Marcel 07/16/2010 at 10:58 AM

Serena is no GOAT. The main reason she won as much as she did in her earlier years was the almost man-like power she has in her shots, especially her serve. She had a very limited variety of shots, and won most of her matches with the only 2 shots she was any good at; the man-like serve and forehand. When some of the other top players learned to adapt to that power, plus her own fitness/focus issues, she started losing and spent extended periods of time out of the top 10, reaching a low ranking of 80+ at one point if I remember correctly. The only reason she started to dominate lately is that the WTA is currently almost LAUGHABLY weak. In fact, it's so weak that players who already retired were tempted to come back and play some more (and even win Grand Slams right away in case of Cljsters). Players like Davenport, Capriati, Hingis and Sharapova more than stood up to Serena when at their prime/healthy. The current crop of players just don't have the weapons to hurt her, with the possible exception of in-form Henin/Cljsters, plus Venus obviously.

I do agree that if a true GOAT like Graf co-existed with Serena, she probably would've been more than capable to handle Serena's power, and make the necessary adjustments to her already spectacular game towards that goal. Someone argued that it's not easy to just change your game to beat someone, otherwise Federer would've done that with Nadal, but that argument doesn't make much sense. Using this one example doesn't prove anything, other than maybe Federer's stubbornness and/or (justifiable) confidence in his game (which won him 16 GS). Elite players, male or female, adjust their game to handle the strong points of their opponents ALL THE TIME, most recently with Nadal himself to handle the power of Soderling/Berdych. If Nadal can do it, then you can bet your house Graf could have!

Let's call Serena what she is, a talented player with unmatched power and an indefatigable fighting spirit. She certainly belongs in the same conversation as Graf, Navratilova and Evert. But if we're talking GOAT, it'd make more sense to rank her after those 3, at least.

Posted by wonbok lee 07/16/2010 at 11:04 AM

head to head argument on nadal & federer needs to be looked at after clearing the facts. during their 4 (?) years locked in #1 and #2 federer was consistantly the 2nd best clay court player meeting nadal in the finals. and nadal owned the corner market on clay where there are many masters and a french open every year. while there is only one wimby for their dual on grass. nadal became the 2nd best grass court player more recently. there had been countless federer wins in the finals of hard court tennis where nadal failed to meet him. nadal has never been the 2nd best hard court player to meet federer regulary on hard court finals during their #1 and #2 period. why? nadal has yet to reach USopen final and was in the semis only twice fainling to meet federer in the final.

so the argument of nadal/federer and their head-to-head is very unworthy.

Posted by Sandra 07/16/2010 at 11:10 AM

If whether one can beat a "hypothetical future opponent" is going to be the measure (or even a measure) of GOAT, then nobody would ever be able to be declared GOAT. I've been watching tennis since 1972, and Serena Williams is the best female tennis player I have ever seen. I conclude from that that she is the GOAT. Graf may have more grand slam tourney wins (in part due to the untimely demise of Monica Seles), but sheer numbers don't make you the GOAT (if that were the case, Margaret Court would be GOAT). Serena Williams is the best player I have ever seen and the GOAT.

Posted by Sandra 07/16/2010 at 11:14 AM

Also, declaring Serena the GOAT now is not jumping the gun. We fall over ourselves declaring Federer the GOAT, yet his career isn't over yet. And Federer still has challengers for GOAT (Sampras in the past and Nadal for the present and future - especially since Nadal is already eclipsing Federer in all numbers except GS tourneys won given that Federer has a 5 year headstart on Nadal). If calling Federer GOAT now isn't gun-jumping, then neither is the same declaration with Serena gun-jumping.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 11:57 AM

Major differences between Federer and S.Williams.

Federer the all-time leader on the men's tours in winning majors.

Williams sixth or seventh on the womens' tours.

Federer within one week of the record for weeks ranked number one on the ATP.

Williams not even close to the analogous record on the WTA.

Graf has Nine more titles on the Single side of the majors than Williams.

Graf has 400 plus more victories than Williams on the womens' tours.

Williams is No GOAT.

However, based on Williams' disgraceful treatment of the official at last year's U.S. Open and Williams threatening Martinez Sanchez at Roland Garros in 2009, Williams is the All-Time PIG of the WTA.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 12:01 PM

I was the one who made the argument about not being able to simply add speed, agility, or power to your game just because you will it. Re-read my entire post and you'll get a more comprehensive picture of my thoughts in this regard. Then, and only then, you can take a shot at responding intelligently. You should also listen to Davenport talk about Serena. Davenport said in her commentary to this year's wimbledon, that when serena was on her game, there was nothing she (davenport) could do. nothing. And to further disprove your point, you state: "I do agree that if a true GOAT like Graf co-existed with Serena, she probably would've been more than capable to handle Serena's power, and make the necessary adjustments to her already spectacular game towards that goal. "
Hmmmmmm curious given that EVERYONE AGREES that Seles was cleaning Graf's clock on a regular basis prior to her stabbing. How is it that the player you think would be able to radically alter her game v. Serena was unable to do it against her primary rival? Moreover, you haven't even remotely responded to my assertions about Graf's BH being a major liability v. Serena. Do you have any arguments as opposed to just platitudes?

Posted by CPM 07/16/2010 at 12:03 PM


I did, actually. For just the same reasons. Hell, I was probably more annoyed by the fawning in Fed's case. Why do you ask?

(It's interesting to note that Wertheim cops to being among the first to name Federer GOAT, too -- my take on him as unduly subject to enthusiasm looks better & better, I think.)

The part of Steve's piece that seems to me the strongest point, and which you have not adequately addressed, is this: "The best player of any era has trained and designed her game to beat the opponents she has to face on the court—nothing more, nothing less. You can’t penalize Graf and Navratilova for not making themselves good enough in their primes to beat a hypothetical future opponent." You instead reply with pseudo-empirical Xs-&-Os about how Graf would match up with Serena, with some hand waving about how people can't just will themselves to be better. Well, of course they can't -- but they can train themselves and be trained from a young age to be better. You give the example of Federer being unable to just will himself to beat Nadal -- well & good, but what about the reverse? Nadal, almost a tennis-generation younger than Fed, has developed his game over the past 3 years to exploit his advantages over his rival, and to diminish his rival's over him. That's the privilege of the younger over against the older. All credit to Nadal, or whomever, for having the determination and skill to do it -- but that doesn't mean there isn't an ineluctable element of arbitrary luck all the same.

Also, I'm curious -- you say if you put Graf, Navratilova & Serena on today's courts with today's rackets, Serena would trounce her opponents; what if all three played on early Navratilova-era courts, with her rackets -- same thing? Or would, rather, Serena's power baseline game, already tending toward FH errors on even a slightly bad day, along w/her relative lack of facility at the net, be over-matched against Navratilova? And if that's the case, why shouldn't that at the very least cancel out the hypothetical match under modern conditions?

Posted by Neveah 07/16/2010 at 12:06 PM

"However, based on Williams' disgraceful treatment of the official at last year's U.S. Open and Williams threatening Martinez Sanchez at Roland Garros in 2009, Williams is the All-Time PIG of the WTA."

Wow, that comment showed your true colors Manuelsantanafan. It takes a Pig to know one,at least she's a pig who's living her dream. Not a pig who has nothing better to do than come online and bash someone. Laptop bullies are pathetic and have no life.

Posted by Liz (4 Federer & Serena - 4 ever!) 07/16/2010 at 12:09 PM

Here we go again! You deny Federer GOAT status just because the #2 player beats him on a regular basis, make the claim that he only one the FO & Wimbledon last year because Nadal was injured and claim he has no compeition. So when Federer after being an absolute warrior on the court, 23 SFs in a row, 16 GS in 6 years is raked over the coals for daring to say he was feeling pain in his leg and back -- yeah, he's making excuses...what do you people want?

Now you want to say just because Serena shows up when she gets ready (but when she does, a GS title is usually a foregone conclusion), did not play as much as Evert or Navaratilova, did not win her slams as many times as Graf (who we all know had her REAL compeititor knocked out by a crazed fan in Germany)that she cannot be considered as one of the Greatest of all time?

Come on, give Federer and Serena a break (who happen to be the same age, ironically enuf)why don't you? When the dust settles and they both call it a career, no one can ever take away their names on the Grand Slam championship roll of honor. Roger still has won GS # 16 at the Australian Open and Serena has #13 at Wimbledon. At the end of the day, the players they faced on the other side of the net are but a footnote of history.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 12:14 PM

Neveah writes:

". . . at least she's [S.Williams] a pig who's living her dream."

So S.Williams is "a pig who's living her dream."

Congrats to her, I guess.

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 12:18 PM

LOL--Neveah; some of the people on this site are truly a disgrace to the human race. U have one fool trying (& failing) to denigrate her by talking about her "man-like" power. Then there's an individual who comes here to type gibberish about what makes one "great" & he concludes it with showing what makes him an actual "PIG". Well, you know you are good when you are able to spring the rodents out of their rock.

Keep em MAD, Rere! Because as hard as the "un-biased" commenters strive to give you credit wrapped up in insults, denigrations & absurd statements--we know who & what you are. As manY have said: U ARE THE BEST THAT I HAVE EVER SEEN! The more you win, the madder they get--that's what we WANT!

Posted by Marcel 07/16/2010 at 12:21 PM


No need to re-read the drivel that you wrote; one time reading it was once too many. You come across as a rabid Serena fan boy (or girl), who'll say any garbage and make up ludicrous theories to make what you think is a valid argument, only in your puny, delusional little head of course. I have no time to waste on the likes of you.

Posted by Neveah 07/16/2010 at 12:24 PM

manuelsantanafan - How old are you like 50 or 60? Grow up and get off of the high horse.

You didn't comment on being the pig who sits online to bash so I guess that's true too huh?

Pretty much;)

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 12:27 PM

MEE--U are my GOAT. Well done!!!!

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 12:30 PM

"At the end of the day, the players they faced on the other side of the net are but a footnote of history."


Posted by Neveah 07/16/2010 at 12:31 PM

Babe - It's so funny and truly pathetic.

Posted by Liz (4 Federer & Serena - 4 ever!) 07/16/2010 at 12:32 PM

And another thing...too much has been made of Serena's tirade at the US Open. People won't let her say she's sorry or apologize and she did both on national TV. If she had not said she was sorry or apologized she would have been talked about for that too.

How many years did John McEnroe argue with chair umpires? Serena does it ONE time and for that she's forever labeled?

What John McEnroe said to get tossed out of the 1990 Australian Open was MUCH WORSE than what Serena said at the US Open last year.

As the article said on the SI cover, love her or hate her, nothing takes away the facts. Serena is the #1 player, she has 13 GS singles and she's the highest paid female athlete (at the moment).

She's also our most well rounded player -- author, actress, designer, entrepreneur, philanthropist -- among many of her accomplishments.

Give Serena a break!

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 12:33 PM

Yea, Neveah, BTW, stop wasting your energy on doldruns--not worth it.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 12:35 PM


If being an online pig was my worst character flaw, I'd be a better person than I currently am.

Insult away.

I'm relatively sure I'll get over any slings and arrows you send my way.

Posted by Marcel 07/16/2010 at 12:35 PM

LOL (big?) Babe, if you think it's being a fool to consider a female player with an average first serve speed similar to that of the current no.1 MALE tennis player as having man-like power, then you're simply too dumb to reason with.

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 12:40 PM

I'm sure I am, Marcel. Just like if you think you deceive anyone with your idiotic comments as some kind of a credit to Serena, then I won't bother to tell you what that makes you.

But, I am gratified that the problems are yours alone & not Serena's. Unfortunately (for you, anyway), the more she wins, the more you die.

Posted by Neveah 07/16/2010 at 12:41 PM

Babe - You are absolutely right and that's the last post I'll ever respond to from Mr.Piggy. All I see from now on is Oink,Oink,Oink and I can't understand that!;) Plus if you wallow with pigs, you'll get dirty and I'm so fresh and so clean always.;) *Giggles*

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 12:42 PM


What is a "doldrun"?

Is that word an example of Pig Latin? Pig English? Piggery, in general?

Posted by bigtrain 07/16/2010 at 12:44 PM


I don't see how you can blithely ignore the Seles argument vis-a-vis Graf.

Posted by Babe 07/16/2010 at 12:48 PM

Neveah: indeed, my friend!

Posted by Marcel 07/16/2010 at 12:52 PM

"the more she wins the more I die"?! Babe, dude (or dudette), you're psychotic; I'm not hating on Serena like you seem to have delusionally convinced yourself (then again, we did establish that you’re dumb). In fact, the more she wins, the less of a problem I'll have with calling her GOAT, the happier I am :) But she needs to do a hell of a lot of winning in the remaining years of her career to be called GOAT, till then Graf/Navratilova/Evert are much more worthy candidates for that title.

Posted by bigtrain 07/16/2010 at 01:05 PM

I partially retract my earlier question to Marcel - looking at the H2H between Steffi and Monica, it stands 10-5 in favor of Steffi. Prior to the stabbing, however, it was only 6-4 in favor of Steffi, and in Slams, it was 3-3 (3-1 in favor of Seles in Slam finals during that period).

Posted by Sherlock 07/16/2010 at 01:12 PM

Steffi-Monica could have been one of the great rivalries ever. It's such a shame. That one French final was amazing, something like 9-7 or 10-8 in the third. Steffi destroyed her in the Wimby final, but I think Monica would have gotten better on the turf.

Posted by CPM 07/16/2010 at 01:19 PM


That's all well & good -- but what does that have to do with Serena being THE BESTEST EVAH?

Posted by Sherlock 07/16/2010 at 01:22 PM

Watch it, CPM, or I'll let loose with porcine adjectives. :)

Posted by Marcel 07/16/2010 at 01:34 PM

bigtrain, I'm not ignoring the Seles argument, blithely or otherwise, I don't think it's a valid argument to start with for the following reasons:

-It's unfair to put an asterisk on Graf's achievements based on what could have been if Seles didn't lose those 2 years. Similarly, it's generally agreed upon that the fact that Federer won the FO and Wimbledon last year without having to meet Nadal should not take away from those achievements. You can't ask more from a tennis player than to win matches against whoever he or she meets and it's neither Graf's nor Federer's fault that their biggest rivals were sidelined for an extended period of time (and I'm saying this as a BIG Nadal fan).

-Seles was not dominating Graf before (or after) her accident as people seem to indicate. It may seem that way because it was such a huge shock for Seles to come out of no where and defeat a player like Graf, who was almost unbeatable at the time. But if you look at the cold hard facts, you'll find that the head to head between the 2 players was 6-3 before Seles's accident and 10-5 lifetime, both in Graf's favor. Moreover, all but 2 of Seles's wins were on clay in tight matches. So, Seles was most successful at (barely) beating Graf on clay, but even there, their head to head is 3-3. Graf has a favorable head to head on all other types of surface, including 2-0 on grass in 2 matches that were so one-sided for Graf that Seles managed to win the grand total of 4 games in both matches combined.

Posted by Marcel 07/16/2010 at 01:36 PM

bigtrain, oops, I posted my message before reading your retraction :) At any rate, the points in my message are still valid, as you confirmed yourself (though I thought the H2H before the accident was 6-3)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/16/2010 at 01:55 PM

Gosh, is it safe? :)

"Steffi-Monica could have been one of the great rivalries ever."


(I have nothing to say on the GOAT stuff except that Serena is there in the pasture with all the other greats of the game. A+ for insight, Jewell!)

Posted by CPM 07/16/2010 at 02:03 PM


I aspire to be called "bacon-y" some day. Because, really, is anything better?

Posted by mapl 07/16/2010 at 02:04 PM

I know one thing for certain, graf is also not the best palyer of all time.....Navratilova is. If not for the stabbing of Seles, Graf would end up with far less grandslam titles than she have.

Posted by Sherlock 07/16/2010 at 02:05 PM

"Gosh, is it safe?"

Ooooh, creepy "Marathon Man" images. Yikes. :)

"Serena is there in the pasture with all the other greats of the game."

I wonder if everyone could agree on that? I hope so. :)

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/16/2010 at 02:11 PM

*goes to look up Marathon Man*

Posted by Sherlock 07/16/2010 at 02:14 PM

Well, to be precise, Laurence Olivier never said "gosh". :)

Lol, CPM. Negative. Bacon rules supreme.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 07/16/2010 at 02:16 PM

My teeth hurt in sympathy now. :)

Posted by Keith 07/16/2010 at 02:20 PM

Nice job again, Steve. Graf and Sampras are my all time favorites. Now I am rooting for Nadal. I am human, I like tennis players who carry themselves well both inside ond outside the court. I hate to say this, but Serena makes me stop watching women's tennis.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 02:30 PM

Margaret Court and Graf are in the pasture for winners of over 20 singles majors and Calendar Slams.

Navratilova and Evert are in the pasture for winners of over 15 singles majors and 1300 singles matches on the tour.

S.Williams, with her 450 or so singles matches wins, 13 singles majors titles, and her threatening behavior to the foot fault official and Martinez Sanchez is living her dream in the pen of her choice.

How's that for agreement?

Posted by Sherlock 07/16/2010 at 02:37 PM

MSF, my good man, you are nothing if not persistent. :)

Posted by manuelsantanafan 07/16/2010 at 02:44 PM


A couple of friends who have had pot bellied pigs say they have been very clean, relatively intelligent animals.

So, to borrow a very old line and apply a twist, those who refer to me as a pig may be insulting pigs everywhere.

Posted by Sherlock 07/16/2010 at 02:46 PM

MSF, lol. Well done. I knew there was an angle. :)

Posted by tre 07/16/2010 at 02:48 PM

I find it interesting that Keith says Serena has stopped him from watching WTA matches. Sounds like you were only watching the Serena matches, no? I mean, if she's now the ONLY player you see playing matches, that must mean she's fairly consistent. Possibly even dominating, at least at majors.

BTW, no one seems to have mentioned that tennis did not receive prime time attention until the Williams sisters. To, anyone who cannot recognize Serena's greatness, it's a pity! The sponsors do, the other GOAT contenders do, Federer does, you won't hear it from Venus but I'm sure she feels it. You're missing a chance to see something we may never see again. Waste your time arguing the she's not the GOAT, fine! Everyone across the world knows Serena, Tiger, Jordan and Kobe. Federer is the GOAT on the male side but if I ask my Grandmum, she will ask me who Federer is. She knows Serena. You can say she's not the GOAT but she's done more for tennis than anyone gives her credit for. I know many people that will only watch a Serena or Venus match.

Also, Serena is clearly in her prime now. She was 1 match away from winning three majors last year and will probably make the USO final this year. If she does not have to go through Kim in the semis again. If she does, she may or may not win. But if she meets Kim in the final, I'm sure Kim will see a different Serena than the one Kim has recently been beating.

Posted by london 07/16/2010 at 04:08 PM

talent wise, serena is the greatest player in my opinion. her serve, groundstrokes, movement and sometimes volleys are all top of the line. achievement wise she isnt the greatest player. so in terms of skill, serena is the greatest, in terms of achievement, no she is not. i think wallhiemer (or whatever his name is) was thinking skill wise she is the greatest of all time, which is true.

Posted by Rosangel (Viva Espana! y Vamos Rafa en los Estados Unidos) 07/16/2010 at 04:59 PM

Steve: I agree with everything you wrote here. Enough said.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 05:11 PM

first, nadal has NOT become faster or more powerful, he's tweaked his shots. i said in my original post (you might wish to find it) that small tweaks in one's game were possible, just not basic changes to a player's raw/natural talents (speed, power, reflexes, agility, etc.). those are relatively fixed. I've also argued in other posts that while today's best players would trounce those of yesterday everyone playing with today's equipment, i acknowledge that this might not be true if everyone was playing with yesterday's equipment. just like today's equipment plays to and relies upon various physical attributes, yesterday's equipment did as well. however, for reasons that really are too lengthy to mention, i feel today's players have a better chance of going back in time than yesteryear's champions have of coming forward.

Posted by Geellis 07/16/2010 at 05:14 PM

you've finally proven yourself for the non-intellectual idiot that you are. cheers.

Posted by aussiemarg [Madame President in Comma Rehab for 2009] 07/16/2010 at 05:18 PM

Sherlock I dont think its safe to come back here

Peeps In

Well good for a early morning laughter anyway

Goes back to my lovely long black coffee.

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