As Serena Williams teeters on the edge of history – a calendar slam just 7 matches from her grasp on her home courts at the US Open – some Serena skeptics have emerged to voice the not-at-all-racially-charged and completely objective point that the American has won her slams in a period of weakness in women’s tennis.
This WTA dry-spell is well worth discussing, and it’s best to do so by running through some of the main “competition” that have offered Serena an easy path on her crusade to 21 (possibly soon 22) grand slam titles.
Venus Williams is a former mediocre world number 1 and seven time grand slam champion, and current old fragile lady who is just happy to be around. She may be considered the best grass court player of the last 20 years but this should not fool you. Her hard hitting forehand, the elegance and speed with which she navigates a court and the stretch and instinct at net that have seen her lift the Wimbledon trophy 5 times should not be held in too high esteem.
She is, after all, Serena’s older sister. So, she’s probably thrown a few matches here and there to give the young one a chance. Fiercely competitive, I hear you say? Well, yes, that is true. Maybe we should look at some evidence. To see Venus kindly handing Serena a match, please enjoy this point from their US Open quarter-final in 2008:
The “ice queen” from Russia was a teenage sensation when she fluked her way to the Wimbledon title in 2004 at the age of just 17. On that occasion she got the better of Serena Williams but over the course of the last ten years she has barely succeeded in winning a set over the American. Fortunately, for the Russian, she has been able to vulture several slams kindly left available by Serena, which is why her current slam tally stands at 5.
Some would argue that Sharapova’s power, accuracy and ability to open up the court to produce a winner are signs that she maybe isn’t a hack. Others would suggest that she has grit and survival instinct that is unmatched in the sport. They’re wrong. All she can do is hit hard from the baseline. Behold, the uselessness of her tennis:
What will Sharapova do once she steps off tennis courts? Will she use her startling business acumen to build a lasting career? Maybe. But mostly she’ll be remembered as one of those weak WTA girls.
This diminutive Belgian was once known for being Williams’ fiercest rival on the tour. The 117 weeks she spent at number one in the world and the seven grand slam singles titles she has to her name are all entirely a result of Williams’ outside interests, and not at all to do with her being a bloody good sportsperson.
There is something to be said, possibly, for her one handed backhand – a rare beast on the tour that was able to dish out incredible damage – or perhaps for the fact she stood at only 1.67m (5’5″) in a sport otherwise comprised of giants but really…are we going to give her credit for being short?
One big problem of Justine’s was that she could never show caution. Some people would call this shot, two set points down, “brave”. Let’s be honest, she was just reckless:
It says a lot about this era that we have to look to one tiny little country to try and find good “competitors” to Serena’s crown. It was also Belgium that offered forward Kim Clijsters as a rival, though really her three US Open titles and one Australian Open title should not be overrated.
Clijsters had a knack for moving her opponents around the court, sure, and she had variety in her game that allowed her to sneak out of the most difficult looking of points. But the big secret of Clijsters was that SHE WAS PLAYING THE WRONG SPORT. You can’t call somebody who does the splits mid-point that often a “world class defender”, what you have to call them is a “lost gymnast”. Just look at her here, what sport is she even trying to play?
Look, Li Na has billions of fans, we get it. She’s charming and funny and she won two grand slams and she defied the anti-individualism of one of the world’s most powerful countries to carve out a career she designed in her own image etc. etc. That’s all fine. It’s fine enough to be listed on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World list. That, we can accept. Being respected as a formidable athlete, though? Meh.
Li Na was flashy, sure. She could hit ridiculous winners from anywhere in the court and draw out great play from her opponents, but was she ever consistent enough to be considered good? Won’t somebody please think of the consistency? Besides, put her on a court with Serena Williams and what could she possibly do? I mean, just look at her trying:
In Azarenka, Belarus produced a player who quickly ascended up the rankings to world no.1 and won the first grand slam title of any player from her home country, over on the hardcourt of the Australian Open. A year later she followed this up with another Australian Open victory, successfully defending her title. She has also been able to sneak 7 WTA Premier Mandatory & Premier 5 titles, three of which she had to defeat Serena Williams in the final to win.
SHE ONLY WON BECAUSE SHE’S SO LOUD, THOUGH. Don’t you just hate it when women make noise? They’re not meant to do that. So ignore the statistics and just look at how awful and unwatchable her tennis is:
Terrible, awful tennis player:
Pfft, she ain’t nothing:
Two slams? Please, anyone can do that.
Might as well hang up her rackets.
Can understand from these two points why even her fans don’t like her:
And don’t even get me started on how terribe Jelena Jankovic is, how bad Lindsay Davenport was at tennis, why people even care about Amelie Mauresmo, Nadia Petrova or Mary Pierce, how people could sit through a Jennifer Capriati, Elena Dementieva or Anastasia Myskina match, the utter lack of talent of Samantha Stosur and Marion Bartoli or the snooze-fests that are Martina Hingis and Francesca Schiavone.
These were and are Serena Williams’ great rivals? My goodness, what a weak era we live in.