THE GREAT SERENA WILLIAMS WINS THE 2015 FRENCH OPEN AND HER 20th GRAND SLAM TITLE. SHE IS NOW WITHIN 3 MAJOR GRAND SLAM TITLES OF SURPASSING STEFFI GRAF FOR THE MOST GRAND SLAM TITLES IN ALL OF TENNIS HISTORY, MALE OR FEMALE.
Like It’s 1999: On Serena Williams’s Dominance and the Passage of Time
June 8, 2015
by Brian Phillips
Serena wins. Again. It’s still amazing.
She is like some marvelous water bug, all legs, and she skims over the surface of the court with a lightness that seems almost comical. She is 17 and she wears white beads in her hair and when she thanks Jehovah God after each fresh win, she smiles like … and there was light. It’s 1999 and Serena Williams is about to win her first U.S. Open, her first major tennis tournament. But she plays like she’s still figuring out her own body. To her opponents, she is a phenomenon of power — she has a serve like a boulder shearing down a ski slope, and with roughly the same effect on European blondes — but watching her now, 16 years later, what strikes you is that gangly, playful, slightly uncertain lightness. She smacks off-balance bullwhip forehands in midair. She hits bloopy lob winners from 4 feet behind the baseline. Against Monica Seles in the ’99 quarterfinals, she keeps getting caught in slightly awkward backhand positions, and to compensate she flicks one leg up behind her like she’s playing hopscotch. And in a way she might as well be.
To reach the final, she plows through Kim Clijsters (just 16 but a future four-time major winner), Conchita Martínez (a former Wimbledon champion), Seles (a nine-time major winner), and Lindsay Davenport (the defending champ and an eventual three-time major winner). In the final, she tosses aside world no. 1 and five-time major champion Martina Hingis in straight sets, 6-3, 7-6(4), and there’s an element of revenge here, because Hingis has both taken shots at the Williams family in the press, saying the father, Richard, has a “big mouth,” and beaten Serena’s sister Venus in the semifinals. But in her victory speech, Serena doesn’t seem angry or self-consciously triumphant. She’s artless, radiant. She thanks her parents, her sisters, the crowd — standard stuff — but the look on her face is like: springtime.
TENNIS: US OPEN 1999 Mark Sandten/Bongarts/Getty Images
It’s a little hard to watch this now, even, because you’re thinking of everything that’s ahead of her — the hostility from fans, the overt and subtle racism, the fallout from her own on-court freak-outs, the moral hauteur of the media. She’s seen glimmers of all that already, in the sniping from Hingis, in the way Venus has been treated,1 but here, she’s not thinking about it. Here, she’s a kid who’s finally made it to the place where she knows she belongs, and she’s looking to the crowd to ratify the moment for her; she’s inviting it to accept her. She’s trusting in a way that kind of breaks your heart. Everything is so new. At one point the announcer has to tell her which way to look to have her picture taken. She makes big eyes at the winners’ check, and they hand her the trophy, and she cries a little. That’s how it starts.
I’ve been thinking about Serena as a kid because I’ve just been watching Serena as an adult, as the 33-year-old who just won her 20th — 20th! — major title at the French Open, beating Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 in the final. She’s nearly half her life removed from that first win in Flushing. (Think about that for a second; think about how astonishing that is.) During her run at Roland Garros, she wasn’t light or uncertain. She was exhausted and clinical, struggling through a flu that left her, in her semifinal match against Timea Bacsinszky, hunched over and panting on her racket. When she saw an opening, she annihilated the ball, and when she didn’t see one, when a drop shot looked a little too far away or an angle a little too acute, she let the point go. It was, in other words, a win enabled by supreme experience, a master class in high-stakes resource management by a player who’s won 20 of her 24 Grand Slam tournament finals and who’s lost only once since November. And when she took the microphone after the final, she didn’t stammer or blink. She addressed the crowd in confident French, a worldly, sophisticated woman who spends much of each year in Paris.
It’s so rare, in tennis, to watch a player really grow up. I don’t mean “mellow out” or “stop partying” or whatever grow up usually means in sports; I mean develop a fully adult self, distinct from the kind of prolonged high-stress adolescence that most stars, for obvious reasons, inhabit throughout their twenties. To succeed in professional tennis, players have to keep obsessively honing a set of skills that they’ve been perfecting since childhood, and they have to live at the center of a network of coaches, trainers, and PR reps whose livelihoods they control. It’s no wonder that a certain frozenness tends to accompany all of this, that players can sometimes seem like a strange cross between the CEOs of medium-size companies and high school students on a never-ending trip.
The easiest thing to do with Serena’s incredible late-career dominance is to describe her as a force of nature, something irresistible and transcendent. She’s a supernova, an atom bomb. I do this all the time myself, and it’s not even inaccurate, because Serena is that good. You run the risk, though, of turning her into a sort of impersonal pulse of destruction, which is a weird thing to do, because there has seldom been a tennis player who was as compelling a personal presence as Serena. When she’s needy, angry, amused, disdainful, awkward, whatever she’s being in the moment — well, there’s always a person there who’s more obviously complex, more textured, than most of what shows up on TV. Serena has layers. And looking at her and going “SKYNET QUEEN FLAMETHROWER” has the strange effect of obscuring the fact that watching her grow up has been one of the signal experiences of 21st-century tennis.
2015 French Open - Serena WilliamsMustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Careers are short in this game. Agassi had a distinctive late period. Federer is having one. Who else? It’s a short list, and if you ask who else has had a distinctive late period while dominating the sport to a greater degree than they did in their earlier period, it’s an empty one. Consider: When the Williams sisters first arrived on the scene, they caused a panic because they broke the flow of women’s tennis. The WTA was an orderly universe, a continuity where change happened according to a set cadence: first Chris and Martina, then Steffi and Monica, etc. Then the Williamses arrived, and it wasn’t. Suddenly legacies were being cut short — Hingis, who declared in a not-all-that-passive-aggressive-for-her-runner-up-speech at the ’99 U.S. Open that she expected to face Serena in many Grand Slam finals to come, never won another major. And the revolution was being imposed from what felt like the outside, by players who looked and acted nothing like the (say it: white) norm. Now, though? Serena is admired because she’s become the order of women’s tennis, virtually by herself.2 She’s the player whose gravity holds everything together — but there, see, I’m doing it again.
What’s she like as an adult? She’s changed, I guess, in the ways you’d expect. She’s been both chastened and confirmed by the world in ways that most of us can only imagine. She’s lost a half-sister in a shooting. She’s nearly died herself. She’s been booed and called names. She’s been ripped by the media for a thousand nothings (Crip walking on TV after winning an Olympic gold medal) and a few somethings (quasi-blaming the victim in the Steubenville rape case). And then, she’s heard her name chanted in her sport’s biggest stadiums. She’s seen her face in lights on multiple continents. She’s made millions of dollars. Oh, and she’s won 20 majors.
She’s not sad, but she’s a little sadder. She’s less trusting, as you would be too. She still has that blazing smile, but what you see from her now more often is a serious, faraway look: chin up, narrowed eyes, like someone gazing out at a distant mountain. It’s a look of conscious dignity, of marshaling inner strength, and it tends to spell the end for her opponents. It’s the look she put on during the rest break after she dropped the second set to Safarova. She was broken once more to start the third set. Then she won six straight games to finish it.
If this sounds mythologizing, I don’t really mean it to: She’s also still the goof who Instagrams endless dog snapshots and selfies with her BFF Caroline Wozniacki. She’s 33, not Queen Victoria, and she’s as conscious of her own brand as a top-level global athlete in 2015 has to be. Still. She goes somewhere in moments of duress. It’s written on her face. And wherever that place is, it’s as far away from that kid in Flushing as are the French victory speech, the apartment in Paris. I don’t know where she found that, I really don’t. In its own way, it’s as stirring as any of her forehands.
Here’s what hits me the hardest, and what most completely undermines the Serena the Destroyer cliché. When she faces the crowd after a major win now, her look still has a hint of 1999 in it. That openness. That invitation to share in her moment. It’s a warier thing now, and more carefully managed; she lets herself go, but not completely. But it’s there. I think more and more that Serena always wanted to be embraced, not so much for its own sake as to confirm her place in tennis. As a kid, she knew she belonged to the game. The unfair lesson she’s learned as an adult is that she had to make the game belong to her before everyone would accept that she did.
After winning the French Open, Williams moves closer to Steffi Graf's Grand Slam mark. And shows she's more unstoppable than ever
By Juan Jose Vallejo
June 8, 2015
The Australian Open: Serena Williams' Red Wedding »
The 33-year-old is just three months away from her 34th birthday, yet she will continue to be the overwhelming favorite in every single match she plays for the foreseeable future. Why? Well, for starters, Serena is an astonishing 32-1 in 2015. That record includes her 19th Grand Slam singles title at the Australian Open in January, and now her 20th, won Saturday at the French Open, where she defeated a game Lucie Safarova 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-2.
Slam number 20 didn't come easy, and that's not even mentioning the flu she battled during the last few matches, or the fact that, that in the final, she had to overcome a deadly case of – well, she said it herself:
Serena is referring to the fact that she lost a two-break lead in the second set, failed to serve out the match at 6-5 in that stanza and was down 0-2 in the third. This third Roland Garros title was a monumental struggle, both physically and mentally, which likely will make the celebration all the sweeter (provided Serena is feeling better, of course).
With her triumph over Safarova, Serena became just the second woman in the Open Era to reach the 20 Slam title count, the other being Steffi Graf. Speaking of the legendary German, Serena is now just two titles away from matching her total Slam count, which has long been the gold standard not only in women's tennis, but the sport in general.
What is even more remarkable is that Serena is now only one French Open title away from matching one of the most incredible Graf feats: winning every Major at least four times, a.k.a. the Grand Slam of Career Grand Slams. When Steffi sealed that mark at the 1999 French Open, it really felt like one of those landmarks that could never be touched. Serena would win her first French Open just three years after that, but it would take her 11 long years before she reached the title match in Paris again. Clay has long been recognized as Serena's weakest surface, yet here she is, riding an unbelievable, Nadal-esque 69-4 mark on the crushed stuff since she turned 30 in 2011. Like many of Serena's accomplishments, you can only smile and shake your head in disbelief.
For years the narrative about Williams was stained by hypotheticals: What if she had been just a little luckier with injuries? What if she had possessed Steffi Graf's laser focus and maniacally chased every Slam when her body was in its prime? In 2006, when Serena played all of 16 matches for the year, former great Chris Evert was so compelled by Serena's perceived lack of interest to chase glory at every turn that she wrote this infamous open letter. The consensus among many in the tennis world was that Serena would never reach the kind of heights her once-in-a-solar-lifespan talents merited. By age 27, her Slam count was still in single digits. Serena didn't win a single Major in the year she turned 30, and at that point she was still nine Slams behind Graf.
However, given where Serena is now, those "what ifs" can be countered with questions from the present: Would Serena be as fresh and hungry today if she had run herself into the ground in her twenties? Would her desire burn as brightly at age 33? How many miles would she have left had she played grueling schedules early on? Who knows. But what we should always remember that Steffi Graf retired from tennis not long after turning 30. The competitive flame can only burn that brightly for so long.
The point is, Serena managed to reach the destination many foresaw, even if her route was highly unconventional. She's entered a new prime, at an age when tennis players usually begin looking for post-career employment doing something other than hitting the yellow ball. Serena Williams will beat the mark for oldest woman to win a Slam should she take home any other Major from here on out. But what is crazy is that if she manages to win Wimbledon in five weeks, she also complete a second Serena Slam (winning all four Majors consecutively, though not within the same calendar year).
The first Serena Slam started at the French Open in 2002, culminating at the Australian Open in 2003. Those four Major titles brought Serena to a total of five, and she was only 21 years old when she completed the outrageous feat. Accomplishments like that had a lot to do with the expectations heaped upon her. To see Serena today, with 20 Slam titles to her name, feels appropriate, something like Manifest Destiny. The Serena résumé finally matches the Serena eye-test.
The trophy cabinet matches the talent, and it doesn't feel like the silverware haul is stopping anytime soon. Heck, not even flu can stop Serena Williams.
Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/…/serena-williams-astonishing-s…
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May 22, 2015
FIVE REASONS WHY SERENA WILLIAMS IS THE WORLD'S NUMBER ONE:
(CNN) It's a verdict which will send shivers down the spines of the world's top female tennis players -- Serena Williams has been tipped to continue her domination at the very top for years to come.
That's the view of her coach Patrick Mouratoglou who says Williams is well set to surpass Steffi Graf's Open Era record of 22 grand slam singles titles.
The 33-year-old will go into the French Open, which starts Sunday, aiming to secure a third title on the clay courts of Roland Garros and the 20th grand slam success of her career.
"How many can she win? I don't want to give her a limit," Mouratoglou told CNN.
"Since she wants to keep on playing and winning, she can do it. I think she's still the world No. 1.
"She's still winning grand slams, she won the Australian Open a few months ago. Why not keep on winning?"
Williams has suffered just one defeat in 2015 and while she was forced to pull out of the Italian Open with an elbow problem, there are few who would bet against her in Paris.
Mouratoglou, who previously worked with Grigor Dimitrov, arrived on the scene after Williams had crashed out in the first round at Roland Garros three years ago.
It was the only time Williams had lost in the opening round of a grand slam and led to questions over her ability to remain at the top of women's tennis.
Injury and illness also played its part in her frustrations as her ranking sunk to 175th in the world.
Her comeback is well documented -- the whispers of her demise silenced in emphatic style.
In 2013 she won 11 titles -- including the U.S. Open, French Open and the end-of-season WTA Championships -- the best record in the women's game since Martina Hingis in 1997.
Last year was a rather more difficult affair -- her victory at the U.S. Open her only success at a grand slam.
The busy life of Serena's coach 03:52
It was not just the defeat which shocked the world of tennis but also the nature of it.
Williams, the world No. 1, was beaten 6-2 6-2 in just over an hour in a contest where she made 29 unforced errors.
She also won fewer games than in any of her 288 previous grand slam matches.
Such a performance led to her conqueror, Muguruza, telling reporters that "the new generation [has to] come through and I think now is the moment."
That bold prediction quickly fell flat in terms of Williams having her power curtailed.
True she exited Wimbledon and suffered a viral illness which forced her to withdraw from the doubles tournament with her sister, Venus, but Serena quickly returned to form by winning the U.S. Open.
Then in January she took her tally of grand slams to 19 by winning in Melbourne.
Her victory over world No. 2 Maria Sharapova was the 16th time in succession she had beaten the Russian.
"I think she can improve a lot," said Mouratoglou. "It's incredible to say that when you look at how good she is and all the achievements she's made for so many years.
"Everybody can improve -- even the world No. 1 can improve and she can."
Williams turns 34 in September, but Mouratoglou has tasked the American with improving her volleying.
"I think her game at the net for sure can improve and the transition from the baseline to the net can be improved a lot," he said.
"Her swing volley can be better, sometimes she's hesitating to move forward and she plays one more shot when she could come up and finish it with a swing volley."
If there is work to be done on her volleying, Mouratoglou pinpointed her serve and tactical nous as the bedrock of her game.
"There are a lot of areas but of course she's the best server, she's the most powerful player, she probably has the strongest ground strokes on both sides.
"People see her as a powerful player which is true, but she understands the game really well."
Serena's grand slam triumphs:
Australian Open 6
2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015
French Open 3 (as of June 6, 2015)
2002, 2013, 2015
2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012
US Open 6
1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014
More than a decade separate Williams' triumphs at Roland Garros -- her first victory coming in 2002.
This year she will face her foes once again with Romania's Simona Halep hoping to improve on last year's runners-up spot.
Halep's progress has not gone unnoticed -- the world No. 3 has impressed Mouratoglou over the past year with the Frenchman extolling the virtues of her movement on the court.
The likes of Halep and American Madison Keys are two players who Mouratoglou has picked out to become stars in the coming years -- but they may have to wait their turn.
He remains determined to ensure Williams dominates while her body remains able to withstand the rigor at the very top.
Not that she requires much persuasion.
"I don't do so much to motivate her -- she's unbelievable," he says while laughing.
"She's just a champion and I think the difference between champions and other players is this ability to always look in front of them -- they never look behind."
Williams' opponents may not be so fortunate -- they might be looking over their shoulder for a little while longer yet.
Serena Williams: 20 Stats For 20 Slams
In honor of her milestone 20th Grand Slam title, check out 20 of the freshest stats on Serena Williams. Has anyone else won each of the Grand Slams three or more times?
Published June 07, 2015
PARIS, France - Serena Williams is a stats lover's dream. She keeps piling on the numbers as she wins and wins, setting records left, right and center - and she keeps creeping up on all the other ones.
In honor of her 20th Grand Slam title, here are 20 of the freshest stats about the World No.1:
1) Serena is the third player in tennis history, male or female, to win 20 majors (Margaret Court won 24, Steffi Graf won 22). To put that in perspective, all four events have been "majors" since the 1920s.
2) Serena is the first woman to win three straight majors since herself during her famed Serena Slam (when she won four majors in a row from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003).
3) Serena is the first woman to win the Australian-French Open double since 2001 (Jennifer Capriati).
4) Serena is just nine days off the record for oldest woman to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era, winning the 2015 French Open at 33 years and 254 days (Martina Navratilova was 33 years and 263 days when she won Wimbledon in 1990). Serena will break the record if she wins any other major.
5) Serena rallied from a set down to win four of her seven matches during the tournament, the first time she's ever done that (against Anna-Lena Friedsam in the second round, Victoria Azarenka in the third round, WTA Rising Star Sloane Stephens in the fourth round and Timea Bacsinszky in the semifinals).
6) Serena went to three sets in five of her seven matches during the tournament, the most three-setters she's played en route to a Grand Slam title in her entire career (in addition to the four comebacks from a set down, she also went to three sets against Lucie Safarova in the final, 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2).
7) Serena is 12-0 in three-setters this year and has actually won her last 15 in a row - the last time she lost a three-setter was to Venus Williams in the Montréal semifinals last August (6-7(2), 6-2, 6-3).
8) Serena has still only lost once to a lefty at a Grand Slam (Ekaterina Makarova in Australia in 2012).
9) Serena is now 240-7 in Grand Slams in her career when she wins the first set.
10) Serena's even got a winning record in Grand Slams when she loses the first set: 33-32.
11) Serena's now 32-1 this year, the only loss coming to Petra Kvitova in the Madrid semifinals.
12) Serena is now 69-4 on clay since coming back from her year-long injury and illness lay-off in 2011 (the only losses coming to Virginie Razzano, Jana Cepelova, Garbiñe Muguruza and Kvitova).
13) Serena has three French Opens, most among active players (Maria Sharapova is next with two).
14) Serena has 12 WTA clay court titles, most among active players (Sharapova is next with 11).
15) Serena's win over Azarenka in the third round made her the first woman in the Open Era to have 50 match wins at every Grand Slam (and Roger Federer is the only man in the Open Era to do it).
16) Serena now has 273 career match wins at Grand Slams - the fourth-most in the Open Era, and creeping up on the third-most (Navratilova had 306, Chris Evert had 299 and Graf had 278).
17) Serena is just the second player in the Open Era to have won each of the Grand Slams three or more times, with six Australian Opens, three French Opens, five Wimbledons and six US Opens (Graf is the only other player to achieve the feat, with four, six, seven and five, respectively).
18) Serena has been winning majors for more than 15 and a half years now, the time between her first (1999 US Open) and most recent (2015 French Open) majors. Before this, the longest Grand Slam winning span in the Open Era was a three-way tie between Evert, Navratilova and Graf at 12 years.
19) Serena now has 67 WTA titles, tied for sixth-most in the Open Era with the great Billie Jean King (the Top 5 are Navratilova-167, Evert-154, Graf-107, Court-92 and Evonne Goolagong Cawley-68).
20) She'll keep trying to pile on the numbers at Wimbledon - her next scheduled event. Stay tuned!
This article used insights from WTA partner SAP, a worldwide leader in enterprise software.
Topics: 2015, roland garros, tournaments, wta rising stars, news, serena williams, french open
Does The French Open Make Serena Williams The Greatest Tennis Player Of All Time, Male or Female?
by Allen St. John
It wasn’t quite as easy as it seemed like it would be, but Serena Williams defeated Lucy Safarova in three sets to win her 20th major championship. And maybe, secure GOAT status, as the game’s Greatest of All Time.
Let’s do a thought experiment. What if Serena simply decided that enough was enough, and she hung up her racket right now, not even playing Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. Where would her current resume rank her? Not only among female players, but also among the men.
Let’s look at the other contenders for GOAT status.
Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Helen Wills Moody: They’re great players and Serena’s run gives them some much deservedrecognition. But with her 20th win, Serena is putting daylight between herself and Evert and Navratilova, the two greatest players of the earliest days of the Open Era, tied with 18 slam wins. It’s also nice to remember Moody and her 19 wins, but she played back in the 1920s and the game was different–and easier–then.
Between 1990 and 1993, Graf’s main rival, Monica Seles was the best player in the world, winning eight of the 11 grand slams in which she played. Then she became the victim of one of the most horrific moments in sports, being stabbed on court by a mentally ill Graf fan at a small event in Germany. Seles missed two full years, and was never really the same again, winning only one major the rest of her career.
The irony is that Seles’ attacker accomplished exactly what its perpetrator set out to do. At the time of Seles’s stabbing, Graf had won only 11 career slams. After Seles’s career was derailed by the attack, Graf would go on to win 11 more majors. During the three years before Seles’s attack, Graf won three of 12 slams that she played. She won six of the next ten slams that Seles missed while recuperating from her injuries.
It’s only reasonable to speculate that if Seles hadn’t been attacked, she, not Graf, would have won many, if not, most of those 11 titles, and both Seles and Graf would have ended up somewhere in teens in total titles.
It’s not Graf’s fault, of course, but it also doesn’t seem fair that she benefitted from this strange and horrible attack that all but ended her main rival’s career. Add the asterisk, slide her below Serena.
Margaret Court: With 24 majors, Court was the best player of the transition years between the Amateur and Open eras. But 11 of those 24 titles came at the Australian Open, where, because of the difficulty of travel in the early days of jet travel, the field wasn’t nearly as tough as at the other majors. The seedings in the early 1960s were dominated by Australian players with only one or two top foreign players even competing. Court’s first four Aussie Open wins came against countrywoman Jan Lehane O’Neill, who never got past the quarterfinals in any of the other slams. Between 1960 and 1973 when Court won 11 titles in 12 tries, her main rival Billie Jean King played the Australian only three times, and handed Court her only loss.
Put aside her 11 wins in Australia, and Court’s record is a little less impressive. A record of 13 slams in 33 tries is impressive, but it’s not quite GOAT material.
Pete Sampras: Just how great is Serena Williams? She’s got six more titles than Pete Sampras, the man who previously held the grand slam singles record. Or to look at another way, you’ve got to add Sampras and Boris Becker together to match Serena’s total of singles slams.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal: On the men’s side, this year’s French Open showed how tough life can be for an aging tennis player. Rafael Nadal, who had previously been all-but-unbeatable in Paris, lost in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. Two years ago, Nadal won two of the three slams he played. Now he looks like a guy who’ll be lucky to add to his career total of 14.
And what about the guy in front of him? Roger Federer was seeded second but went out meekly to countryman Stan Wawrinka in the quarters. Federer has 17 slams, but he’s been stuck on that number since 2012, and won only one of the last 21 majors he played. It would be an upset if he could manage to add even one more major, much less make a run at catching Serena.One other way to quantify Ms. Williams’ dominance is to look at Slam Average, a simple but revealing stat that measures tennis greatness. Simply divide the number of slams won by the number of slams played and the result is the percentage of times a player leaves with the big trophy and the biggest check.
Serena Williams 20 wins/ 59 played = .339
Chris Evert 18 wins/ 56 played = .321
Martina Navratilova 18 wins/67 played = .269
Roger Federer 17 wins/ 67 played = .265
By winning three slams in a row, Serena has bumped up her slam average to .339, the highest among Open Era players with 15 or more career slams.
The good news for tennis fans is that Serena’s not retiring. She heads to Wimbledon later this month where she’ll try to add to her total of five titles on the grass, and later this summer, to the hard courts of the US Open, she’ll be aiming for her 7th title and fourth in a row. If she can make history by continuing to dominate the sport in her mid 30s, she’s got a good chance at putting aside all these asterisks and deep dives into history and owing the record for grand slams outright.
But whether she reaches the record for career slams or fall short, with her 20th major Serena Williams has done something even more impressive. She has established herself as Tennis’s GOAT: The Greatest Of All Time.
Where do you think Serena Williams ranks among the greatest women tennis players? Where does she rank among all players regardless of gender?
How many slams will she win before she’s done? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
For the best-curated news about sports and entertainment, follow me on Twitter (@allenstjohn).
Allen St. John is the author of Newton’s Football: The Science Behind America’s Game
French Open 2015: Lucie Safarova says Serena Williams can win all four majors this year
by Leo Schlink in Paris
News Corp Australia
June 07, 2015
LUCIE Safarova predicts Serena Williams can achieve what only three other women in more than a century of tennis have - complete the grand slam sweep.
No player has won all four majors in the same year since Steffi Graf in 1988, but Safarova says Williams can. Already the owner of the Australian Open and French Open crowns, Williams will start favourite this month at Wimbledon, where she has won five times, and also in August’s US Open, where she has triumphed six times.
Safarova believes the world No 1 can emulate Graf, Margaret Court (1970) and Maureen Connolly (1953) in landing the fabled foursome.
“Well, she’s a great player,” Safarova said after her excellent comeback ended 6-3 6-7 (2-7) 6-2 at Roland Garros.
“She has obviously the experience. She won those all grand slams already. I think she can do it. If she’s on her best and great shape, she’s playing the best tennis.”
Runner-up Lucie Safarova holds her trophy at Roland Garros.
Lucie Safarova gave a great account of herself against Serena.
Williams was overjoyed after overcoming illness, nerves and Safarova’s grit to win the last six games of the match.
“When I was a little girl, in California, my father and my mother wanted me to play tennis,” she said.
“And now I’m here, with 20 grand slam titles. This is very special for me. I haven’t always played very well here, but I’m really happy to win the 20th here.’’
Safarova was justifiably happy with how she played in her first major final, recovering from 1-4 in the second set and then surviving as Williams served for the match 6-5.
“I’m proud that I fought back in the second set, because it was looking like it will be an easy match,” she said.
“Serena was really strong out there. I just pushed myself to step up the level. Yeah, I fought. I did my best. It didn’t work out. I just couldn’t find any weapon that could stop her. But when she was on, she was just serving amazing and going for the returns, pressuring me right away. It’s just hard to do anything with that.”
At 33 years and 254 days, Williams is the second oldest grand slam winner in the Open era behind Martina Navratilova, who was nine days older at Wimbledon in 1990.
In adding a 20th major to a bulging collection of spoils, Williams moved into outright third on the highest grand slam winner’s list behind Court (24) and Graf (22).
The champion at Roland Garros in 2002 and 2012, Williams also owns six Australian Open, six US Open and five Wimbledon crowns.
The most dominant player in the world, the American has won the past three majors after failing at Wimbledon last year, when Petra Kvitova took the title.
The last player to win the US, Australian and French Opens in succession was Monica Seles in 1991-92.
Originally published as Serena tipped to win every grand slam this year
Prediction: Serena Williams will break Steffi Graf's record of 22 Grand Slams
by Chris Chase
January 31, 2015
By Ravi Ubha, CNN
June 6, 2015
Serena Williams is closing in on Steffi Graf.
Despite being sapped by a nasty flu for much of the last week, the American beat Lucie Safarova 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-2 to win the French Open on Saturday and claim a landmark 20th major.
"It seems a little bit like a dream," Williams told reporters. "Like, is this really my life? Is this really happening right now? So yeah, it's really kind of weird."
But as the score suggested, this was no walk in the Bois de Boulogne -- a park close to Roland Garros -- for Williams against the Czech. The way the tournament unfolded for the 33-year-old, perhaps it should have been expected.
Williams did the almost unthinkable by blowing a 4-1 advantage in the second set and trailed 2-0 in the third.
She recovered, to no one's surprise, and now only Graf has more majors in the Open Era at 22. With Williams going strong in her early 30s, Graf's record is under serious threat.
The world No. 1 even has a realistic chance of matching the German in 2015, since she's claimed five Wimbledon titles and is the three-time defending champion at the U.S. Open.
Of course that would mean Williams winning all four majors in a season, something not accomplished since Graf did it in 1988.
But who'd rule her out?
Not her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.
"I think it's the most difficult thing to do in tennis," Mouratoglou told reporters. "That's why it doesn't happen often. But as she won the first two, why not believe it's possible? And second, with her, everything is possible."
By winning in Melbourne and Paris, Williams already became the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to claim the first two grand slams in the same season.
Heading into Saturday, it looked as if Williams might be vulnerable against Safarova, the 13th seed who was making her debut in a grand slam final.
Williams said via a question-and-answer session released by the tournament Friday she had been suffering from the flu and "collapsed" after her draining, comeback victory in three sets in the semifinals against Timea Bacsinszky.
She didn't practice Friday, either, opting to stay at her apartment in Paris and rest.
"She had so much fever," said Mouratoglou. "She stayed in bed the whole day. She tried to walk a little bit. It wasn't brilliant so she came back."
The Frenchman added that on Saturday her condition improved and the fever disappeared.
"I hit a little bit today in the morning and I hit them pretty well," said Williams. "I was just like, 'Okay, I have been playing for over 30 years, I know I can at least play tennis.' After that I just went out to play a match."
When Williams went off court just before the final was about to begin, a dramatic afternoon seemed on the cards. It ended up that way, though no one would have predicted it when Williams surged to a huge lead in the second set.
Rallying from a set down to overcome Anna-Lena Friedsam, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens and then Bacsinszky, overturning a 2-0 deficit in the third was merely child's play for Williams.
Of the seven majors they've won together in three years, Mouratoglou said this year in Paris marked Williams' second-most difficult path to glory behind Wimbledon in 2012. Williams, meanwhile, said it topped her entire list.
"Here it was very difficult because she was very sick," said Mouratoglou. "She was without energy in matches, and to find the energy, she found emotions that were very deep."
The malaise, coupled with the aftereffects of an elbow injury that forced her to withdraw from the Italian Open in Rome, led to Williams' usually dominant serve only working in spurts this tournament -- and little changed in the final.
In the first set Williams struck four aces and captured 80% of her first-serve points.
Her return game was working, too. Williams manufactured the first break by ripping a cross-court return for 3-1.
Safarova, 0-8 against Williams prior to the final, saved a set point with a forehand winner that wrong-footed her foe but Williams held serve a game later.
It was the first time Safarova dropped a set all tournament.
When Williams stormed to the double-break lead in the second, the trophy presentation was only moments away. Williams may have thought it, too, given how she celebrated when breaking for 4-1 -- raising her arms in the air.
But Williams inexplicably plummeted, Safarova's level improved and double faults on break points in the sixth and eighth games made the score 4-4. Overall Williams hit five double faults in the second.
She broke with a stunning backhand cross-court return for 6-5 yet once again couldn't complete the job.
Safarova forced a tiebreak with a backhand winner down the line. The crowd, wanting more tennis, approved.
They were even louder when Williams' forehand sailed into the set to officially force a decider.
Williams, not prone to panicking, nonetheless had to be slightly alarmed when trailing by a break in the third.
Asked what he felt when Safarova led 2-0, Czech Fed Cup captain Petr Pala told CNN, "I thought she had a chance. But it's against Serena, so winning is still far away."
Could Williams, used to seeing her opponents this tournament not able to maintain leads, be the one crumbling? Nope.
Pumping herself up with some less than gentle language during the changeover at 2-1, Williams awoke. She surged to nine straight points and moved ahead 3-2.
This time there was no comeback for Safarova, who fell behind 4-2 when her backhand down the line sailed long.
Williams wrapped up her third French Open title -- irrespective of it being her least productive grand slam, Mouratoglou said clay is her favorite surface -- by forcing an error.
She paused for a moment, then dropped her racket in disbelief. Later she exchanged a hug with Mouratoglou.
Novak Djokovic, like Williams a world No. 1 and the champion at the Australian Open, plays in Sunday's men's final against Stan Wawrinka. Djokovic completed a semifinal win over Andy Murray earlier Saturday, 6-3 6-3 5-7 5-7 6-1.
If he triumphs, then Djokovic becomes the eighth man in history to win all four majors.
But Saturday belonged to Williams, even if she wasn't in the mood to do much partying.
"I just want to go to bed," she said.
Read: Djokovic sees off Murray to reach men's final
In tennis, every great champion needs a foil
Don't hold Serena's dominance against her
Cast Your Vote
Nobody talks about Bjorn Borg's 1980 Wimbledon title as much as the great Borg-John McEnroe final. Nor Roger Federer's '07 Wimbledon title, but rather the epic Federer-Rafael Nadal final.
Serena Williams only twice played Steffi Graf, the player whose modern-day record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles she is chasing. Those two matches came the same year (1999) in which Williams would win her first Grand Slam and Graf would win her last, and each beat the other once.
But any semblance of a real rivalry is largely left to our imaginations, which is the same that can be said for Williams' entire career.
Is it just a further sign of her greatness that she will no doubt retire without a player or two having consistently pushed her? Probably. Is it fair to knock her for being born too late to challenge Evert or Navratilova? Of course not. Just as it's not fair to use the horrific stabbing of Monica Seles in 1993 as a way to diminish Graf's legacy.
But the lack of a serious rival is still a void in Serena's career, most of the drama creations of her own making rather than of anyone across the net.
Her one shot at a great rivalry -- with sister Venus -- was complicated and ultimately diminished by the fact that the two are best friends as well as siblings. Serena leads the series 14-11, but arguably 10 of those matches were not competitive. After that, everything else is a stretch.
Serena vs. Maria Sharapova? All off-court stuff. On-court, it's 17-2 Serena. Caroline Wozniacki? It's 10-1 Serena. Victoria Azarenka was considered Williams' toughest challenger for a while, but Serena has beaten her in 15 of 18 meetings.
Sam Stosur has defeated Williams three times, once in the 2011 US Open final, but trails the series 8-3. Kim Clijsters faced Williams nine times and beat her in the 2002 Tour Championships and the 2009 US Open semis. That's it.
And then there was Martina Hingis, who did manage to go 6-7 against Serena. But Williams won two of their three meetings in Slams, with both victories coming in straight sets, including the '99 US Open final.
Just another sign of Serena's dominance? Clearly. But does it still feel like there's something missing from her career? No denying it.
Don't hold Serena's dominance against her
Basing Serena's case for being the greatest of all time on the caliber of her peers is like judging a high-performance car on a go-kart track. Will you say the car wasn't fast enough because the other vehicles around it moved at a snail's pace? I think not. That's because greatness is greatness no matter the mediocrity that surrounds it.
Let's not be silly here, either. It's not like Serena plays against a bunch of scrubs. Her field consists of world-class tennis players who've studied the game their entire lives. Is it Serena's fault their skills are lacking in comparison with hers? Is it her fault they can't get on her level? Is it her fault she makes dominance look easy? No. Then why should her legacy suffer?
If we're using her competition to weaken her case for being the greatest of all time, why don't we go a step further with the crazy talk. Let's say Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert were better players because they didn't have the high-tech equipment Williams plays with. Or Serena can't be the greatest because she has more advanced training techniques available to her than players of the past did. Sounds crazy, right? That's how it sounds when the lack of rivalry conversation pops up.
Let's put it this way: What more can Serena do?
She's been the No. 1 tennis player in the world for 117 consecutive weeks, and for 241 weeks during her career. She's one of the most recognizable athletes, male or female, on the globe. She's a cultural icon. And she has passed Evert, Navratilova and Billie Jean King in Grand Slam titles. And she's still going. Four more major titles, and she will claim the all-time record, surpass Steffi Graf and hopefully silence the haters.
Then maybe, just maybe, we won't have to write another one of these columns for at least a month or two.