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SERENA - Best NOW or Best EVER..?
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Every player has a moment, atleast the ones who make it at all, and being in that moment is everything in Sports. For some the achievement is for a lifetime and for others, it's the moment, which is big enough for an entire lifetime. And then there is the third kind, the rarest of them all. Ofcourse this is one kind that is hard to classify. However, in order to make an attempt, let's think of a possible answer to this question - What do Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Serena Williams have in common? Apart from the multiple Grand Slams and the myriad of records, it's their ability to generate on-court, the enormous amount of hatred towards losing, which brings them out of situations, which most players dread.
The 2009 Wimbledon final witnessed Serena Williams excel over Venus Williams, one of the most talented and gifted players of all times, who came down tumbling like a house of cards in front of the Serena's steely performance. This raised the inevitable question, once again - Is she the best ever..? With Roger Federer already being labelled by many as the BEST EVER, the world media turns its' attention to find out the Best female player, the sport has ever seen.
With 22 Grand Slams titles in her kitty, Germany's Steffi Graf comes as a natural favourite for the title. Steffi broke into the tennis scene in 1986 and with a Grand achievement in Paris in 1987, she found herself replacing Martina Navratilova for the top honour. The rise of Monica Seles and the resurgence of Martina Navratilova tested Graf to limits before she finally reached the orbit of her own. Even the innumerable personal tragedies did not reflect in Graf's performance on court as she continued to add one title after the other. From 1987 to 1999, Graf only stayed away from 'Grand Slam Glory' for two years (1997, 1998) and with such a phenomenal record, she became the poster girl for women's tennis. Winning every Grand Slam atleast four times is not a child's play, nor is it something that can easily be emulated. But many consider Graf's big tally of Grand Slams to be the result of the cushion that Monica Seles' long absence provided due to the unfortunate Hamburg incident.
Similar were the life and times of Martina Navratilova, who reached the 12th Wimbledon Singles final in 1994, where she finally gave way to young blood Conchita Martinez but ensured she had wins in 9 out of 12 Wimbledon finals along with 9 other Grand Slam trophies from Paris, New-York and Melbourne. Also she is the only player to have won Wimbledon in three different decades along with a total of 59 Grand Slams ( 18 singles, 31 doubles and 10 mixed doubles ) spanning from 1974 to 2006. Famous Tennis historian Bud Collins considers Navratilova to be 'arguably the greatest player of all times'.
Although we take into account a lot more than one opinion in order to see if it can even be determined who is the BEST EVER. Serena Williams' rise to the international tennis scene was no less than a 'Cinderella Story'. 1995 was the year that welcomed Serena into the professional arena and in a span of 4 years, she won her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open at the young age of 17 years. And with her 11th Grand slam on the grand stage of Wimbledon, she really seems to have put herself in the same league.
From a mere look at her resume, Serena can easily be discarded from the race for the best ever in the Sport. If we look closely, however there are certain facts that support Serena's stakes for the coveted title. It will be pivotal to take into consideration the things that go against Serena's contendorship. Serena has only won 34 Sony Ericsson WTA Singles titles as opposed to Steffi Graf's 107 and Navratilova's 167. She hasn't been an equally as dominating force in tournaments other than the Grand Slams. Her most impressive performance has been in Miami, which is close to her home in Palm Beach Gardens. Her record tying 5 singles titles in Key Biscayne confirm her supremacy on the bright southern beach courts. And finally she trails Venus Williams as the active player with most singles titles, who has 41 of them to her name, including the 5 Wimbledon singles wins.
The truth is, no matter how many facts and figures may go against Serena, she is such an invincible force currently that she is simply ahead of everyone else. Serena does not trail in a head-to-head record against any active player and has 4 more Grand Slams than the second in race, Venus with 7 titles. If we see, Serena has fought off players from two different eras. Her longtime on court rivalry with Jennifer Capriati produced some of the best tennis of the decade. Then there was the talented Swiss Martina Hingis, who considered the tennis court to be her Chessboard and finally the Classic Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles. With the arrival and destruction of players like Dinara Safina and the Serbians, Jelena Jankovic and Ana Ivanovic, Williams looks set to rule the arena for as long as she wants, or should we say for as long as the motivation drives her. Unlike her contemporaries including big sister Venus, Serena has chosen to create new records with every tournament passing, for the simple reason that she can..! She has positioned herself in such a way that she can actually think about surpassing the tennis greats.
She may not win 22 Grand Slams or 9 Wimbledon titles, but she is certain to end up with a lot more than a whole bunch of Grand Slams. There is no emulating Graf when it comes to the number of weeks on top, and there is no comparison with Navratilova when it comes to the humongous list of title wins, but gradually Ms. Williams is approaching that place in her career which will make her a lot more than just a name - A champion so fiesty, that snatched victories from the brink of defeat. No one knows how many Grand Slams Serena will finish her career with, but with such a steely determination, there is no stopping Ms. Williams.
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