Thursday, July 12, 2012
Serena Williams won the Wimbledon Ladies Singles final on Saturday, July 7. The win gave Williams her fifth Wimbledon title (tying her sister Venus) and her 14th Grand Slam title overall. While she also plays doubles, fans will remember Williams as a singles player.
After Williams' win, I tweeted on @jfpsports that this win puts her in the discussion of who reigns as the greatest American-born tennis players ever, male or female. This discussion has to be limited to just U.S. players because the greatest overall tennis player is the seemingly ageless Swiss Roger Federer, while German player Steffi Graf is the greatest women's player ever, in my opinion.
By winning her 14th Grand Slam title, Williams tied the great Pete Sampras. But Williams' record has something Sampras' doesn't have—she has won a title at all four Grand Slams: the Austrian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Williams is four titles away from catching Chris Evert, who won 18 titles in the 1970s and '80s, and five away from matching Helen Wills Moody's 19 titles in the 1920s and '30s. Catching Evert would be big for Williams because women's tennis became harder to dominate since the 1970s with influx of more good women's players.
Women's tennis has gotten even stronger as a field since 2000. Williams burst on to the title scene by winning the U.S. Open in 1999, but she dominated the 2000s with 10 titles. Since 2000, 16 women have won a Grand Slam title, showing just how crowded the field is for top women players.
On the men's side since 2000, 13 men have won a Grand Slam title but, since 2004, only three men not named Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic have won a title, meaning only six men have dominated men's tennis over the last eight years. Over that same time period (2004-2012), 12 women have won titles, not including the Williams' sisters.
Williams, and to an extent her sister, Venus, ha had the pressure of carrying American tennis. Since 2002, the only other American woman to win a Grand Slam is Jennifer Capriati. Only one American man, Andy Roddick, has won a Grand Slam title since 2003.
Over the last decade, Williams has been the bright spot of U.S. tennis in major tournaments. She might have won even more major competitions if she had not been so often injured.
Williams came from a nontraditional tennis background and has had to face her sister to win tournaments. Both those factors have to bump her up the list for the title of best U.S.-born tennis player.
At 30 years old, Williams is closer to the end of her career than the beginning, but in my opinion, she has a place at the table when we talk about the best American tennis players. The final chapters have yet to be written but, so far, Serena Williams has a really strong story.