At this year’s US Open, Serena Williams came agonisingly close to becoming only the second woman in the modern era to win all four Grand Slams in a year. Her defeat to Roberta Vinci in the semi-final was the greatest upset I can remember seeing in tennis. How does this affect her place amongst the tennis greats?
It was perhaps the greatest shock the sport has ever seen. The world no.1, winner of 21 Grand Slams and on course to win her fourth of the year, Williams was beaten by a player outside the top 40 and playing in her first semi-final at the age of 32. An unheralded doubles specialist, who had not had a very good season, had ended a dream run by one of the most dominant athletes in the world. It was a humbling defeat, to say the least.
So where does this leave her legacy? Has missing out on such an achievement damaged her standing as a great? In my opinion, she will still be a strong contender for the greatest of all time. Williams was so dominant this season I cannot possibly see her having a bad 2016. She is certain to add her 21 Grand Slams and, should she continue for a few more seasons, she should win the most ever. The fact is, even if she were to retire now, I would not revise this article and would still champion her as the best ever. The main reason for this is her longevity. There are many extraordinary things about her career, but the length of her dominance is the most incredible.
Williams won her first Grand Slam at the age of just 17 and is the oldest female Grand Slam winner in the modern era. This achievement is most impressive when you compare her to the rest of her generation. Roger Federer, now 34, is still no.2 in the men’s game but fell behind his rivals some years ago. Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova, the best of the rest in the women’s game, have failed to win anywhere near as consistently or remain on top for as long as Serena Williams has done. Watching her outmuscle, outpace and outplay her opponents at Wimbledon, I would never have guessed she is now 33.
Serena is peerless in today’s tennis. Steffi Graff is probably the only player that can stand up to her achievements. Despite her US open setback, I am confident that if she carries on for a couple more seasons, she can eclipse her and stand alone as the best tennis player of all time.