Tennis Prose



Serena Can Probably Reach Slams 24 and 25, But Does It Really Matter?

For the first time in around two decades, we can say with some conviction that Serena Williams is not the best female tennis player on the planet. Some might still disagree, of course, and you could argue that the American would be considered the best if she gave the game her full attention. But, as things stand, you can make a firm argument that Naomi Osaka is the best in the women’s game.

As with Roger Federer, the question of retirement hangs over the head of Williams. But she proved in the Australian Open that she is still capable of going deep into a tournament. Indeed, would anybody be surprised were she to win Wimbledon in July? She’s third-favourite in the odds to win the Wimbledon women singles championship, which bookmakers believe is her best chance to win Slam number 24. Although, she would hardly be considered an outsider to win at Roland Garros or Flushing Meadow.

For some tennis fans, there is a lot of importance put upon Williams reaching 24 Slams and equalling Margaret Court’s all-time record. After that, they want to see Williams hit 25 Slams, putting her out on her own in tennis history. There are two reasons for this. First, it’s about venerating a modern legend; a woman who towers over the game like no other.

Court has made controversial statements

The second reason is a little more complicated – Court’s own legacy. We don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of Margaret Court’s views. But it’s enough to say that tennis would like to see Williams knock Court off top spot. By “tennis”, we mean fans, players and the authorities. Just google ‘Margaret Court’, and you will see lots of articles of current players condemning the Australian for her controversial views.

But does Williams’ Grand Slam haul really matter beyond being a footnote in tennis’ history? Court is still going to problematic for tennis whether she is first or second in the all-time Grand Slam standings. And with or without those extra two Slams, few in the game believe that Williams isn’t the better player. While Court’s haul of Slams is respected, it is also understood that she played in a weaker era of women’s tennis. Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf are both considered superior by most analysts.

G.O.A.T debates can be fun, but they are pointless

Tennis fans, and sports fans in general, can get a bit bogged down on statistics. In the men’s game, the debate rages over whether it is Federer, Nadal or Djokovic who should be considered the best of all time. Other sports look at Pele, Maradona, Messi or Ronaldo; Tyson or Ali; Usain Bolt or Carl Lewis; Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus. It makes for a fun debate, and it gives journalists a narrative when an athlete has reached a particular milestone. But there is no right answer beyond each person’s own opinion.

When it comes to Williams, though, her legacy should not be whittled down to numbers. She has changed the women’s game in her 20 years at the top. If her career is winding down in 2021, fans should not be too bothered if she does not add to her haul. It would be nice to see, but it does not really matter in terms of her legacy. Perhaps we should just enjoy seeing Williams in action, because her next fleeting appearance might be her last.

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