Trouble in Women’s Tennis(Guest Post)

Hello, folks. One of my newest readers, Matt, contacted me about an article which I thought was a great read. So I offered him to use it as a guest post on my blog. I wasn’t planning on a post today and wanted us to keep discussing the upcoming Wimbledon men’s semi-finals, but I thought the timing and relevance of this article was such that I could post it here now. And besides we can still discuss the men’s semis on my last post. This article is about something that bothers me too, and Matt is a much better writer than me =D>   Let us know what you think!

I enjoy watching tennis; my mom and grandfather brought me up in the game.  I have enjoyed playing the sport and really enjoy watching the best in the game perform.  The sport, especially singles, pits athletes mano-a-mano where specific skills are needed to overcome an opponent.  We see great feats of power and finesse, supreme strategy and jaw-dropping otherworldly championship clutch.  The game has an inherent complexity at the highest level of performance and history often elevates a tournament’s and match’s drama and meaning.  I would argue to really enjoy the game (like almost anything else in life), one needs context.  To understand the present, one needs to know about the past. This context (awareness) also enables one to predict the future.  Somewhat.

Obviously, Wimbledon is underway, nearing its dramatic conclusions.  The women’s semi-finals are going on now.  In one semi-final is a match-up between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.  These two are pretty much the best in the women’s game today and Serena owns this non-rivalry.  Serena owns everyone right now.  In fact, she is up a set and up a break in the second set (as I write this).  If she wins this championship, she will have completed her second “Serena slam” (in possession of all four majors) and if she also wins the U.S. Open in September, she will have completed the calendar Grand Slam, where a player wins all four majors in the same calendar year (Serena did not win all four majors last year but she did win the U.S. Open; a win here at Wimbledon this week will mean she is in possession of the 2014 Open and the other three consecutive majors of 2015).  Either way, she’s on top of the game right now.

Part of the enjoyment of watching tennis is listening to the commentators (other than the buffoon Chris Fowler of ESPN – he’s their big college football honk, but as the behemoth network gobbles-up more sporting events, naturally they put their staff to work on these events even if they’re clueless about the game.  Fowler is clueless.  I mean, CLUELESS.  But I digress).  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, is waxing on Serena’s historical tennis greatness.  She is being called the greatest women’s player of all time by a lot of these talking heads. Completing a calendar Grand Slam is very difficult.  Obviously.  Only three women have ever completed a Grand Slam: American Maureen Connolly (1953), Australian Margaret Court (1970), and the German Steffi Graf (1988).  That’s pretty elite company.  Most of us tennis fans today are, of course, more familiar with Graf’s accomplishments.  She went on to win 22 majors and has been considered by most, probably, GOAT.  A pretty telling stat of her claim at GOAT, aside from her work in the majors: she was world #1 for a record 186 consecutive weeks, and a record total 377 weeks overall.  That, my friends, is consistent dominance.

As I said, the tennis world is drooling all over Serena, who, by the way, is no where near the class act that is her sister Venus.  Frankly, Serena is a jerk.  Her temper and lack of class precedes her.  She has humiliated (racially) line judges, boycotted tournaments over petty matters.  In other words, we have a kind of Barry Bonds of women’s tennis here.

Well, I’m going to make another suggestion that echoes the life and times of Barry Bonds.  What REALLY bugs me is that no one is asking a very sensible question.  How is Serena Williams on the verge of winning a Grand Slam at the age of 34?  Is the WTA field that shitty?  Is she playing in a very down market right now, an historical low-point of women’s tennis?  Because at 34, this kind of dominance does not generally work. Graf won her Grand Slam at the age of. . . wait for it. . . 19.  Connolly was about the same age, and Court was in her twenties.  But Graf is probably a better comparison.  Winning all four majors is a huge athletic achievement.  If you look at the career arc of other tennis greats (just to keep things close to home here, but you could look at the natural athletic life-span of most athletes in most sports), the “greatness” of this kind (dominating every tournament, the majors, etc.) wanes as one reaches her 30s.  Even Martina Navratilova, whom some accuse of taking PED, won her final major at the age of 31.  Just go look at the life-span of these athletes.  It’s not very difficult to see that Serena Williams is a massive outlier.  She’s playing this kind of tennis at the age of 34.  34!  And she’s untouchable.

If you had a graph (damn, that would be illustrative) to compare these players’ career arcs, you would see a problem with Serena Williams.  We all sat around watching Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and then Barry Bonds do things with the home run in baseball that defied common sense, logic and history.  That’s because those guys were juiced out of their minds on PED.  One’s athletic career doesn’t work that way; the body starts to concede to time and all of the hard work one has already put-in through out his or her career.

At 34, Serena Williams should not be playing this kind of tennis. At least ask the questions, you idiots!  The headline, as I write this line, on the obnoxious ESPN website reads “Serena Crushes Maria to Reach Wimbledon Final.”  Really?  The public made the same naive play on other drugged-up athletes in the moment, only afterwards feeling somehow shocked at the truth.

There are other factors that contribute to this argument that Serena Williams is not clean.  Her inability to stay at the top of the game (world #1) consistently throughout her career speaks to this skepticism.  She has battled injury often (like a Nadal), dominating at times and disappearing for stretches.  The true greats (Roger and Steffi) maintain a consistent dominance, defend titles, create strangleholds on their respective fields IN THEIR PRIMES. Roger is 33.  And sure enough he is struggling to win majors at this point.  Why?  Because winning five set wars with other (younger) great athletes is very difficult.  Again, not to be too controversial here, but when you age, you begin to fade.  Roger is fading.  All athletes fade in their 30s.  Except certain kinds.

Lastly, even Serena’s style gives me pause.  She sits at the baseline and literally HAMMERS her opponents with ground strokes that transcend the women’s game.  I watched her play Azarenka, a big hitter.  Serena toyed with her.  Sure she lost the first set, but the match was never in doubt.  And watching her sit there and out hit another opponent was head scratching and uninspiring.  It’s all power.  The tennis is not beautiful.  I can hear people say Yeah, but she’s had more three set battles in this run than easy, dominating wins.  How many times has she come back after losing the first set?  Watch the matches.  It’s never in doubt.  I haven’t even brought-up her odd-ball antics on the court that paint her as weird drama queen. Read between the lines, people.  At least ask the questions.  34 years-old.  In a global sports culture riddled and jeopardized by the preponderance of PED use and abuse.  Is she simply the great outlier of women’s tennis, of all time?  Explain to me how she is so dominate right now and even more, why no one is asking these questions.

https://mcshowblog.wordpress.com/2015/07/09/trouble-in-womens-tennis/

Ps. Don’t forget to predict for the upcoming semis. It’s you last chance for double points and to make a big move in the rankings!

The is in your court.

Posted in Guest Posts.

42 Comments

  1. You know, I take real offense to this post. To accuse Serena of using PED’s just because of her unexplainable physical dominance is discriminatory and sexist, based on nothing but conjecture and hate. I challenge the writer to dig deeper and consider the true reason for Serena’s prowess, a reason which I have stated on this blog several times over the past years. Here it is again. Serena is A MAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Forget PED testing, just pull down her pants and behold. Bwahahahahahahahaha.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Lol? I don’t think she is a man Eric. Not sure if you were joking or what but I think that is taking it a bit far. That would explain a lot but I don’t think it’s true.

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    Eric Reply:

    Haha, of course I’m joking!!! But that would explain a lot!!!

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    Ru-an Reply:

    =))

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    Ajay Reply:

    I think Ruan should get in here. You told me before and I think I now agree that the reason Monfils is so physical is because of his genetic make up. Don’t you think the same argument works for Serena ? I really hope she is not doping because this kind of dominance is literally shattering the careers of all women around her. Its really sad to watch a beautiful player like Azarenka have literally no answers to the pace and power of William’s shots.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Good question Ajay. Yes, I do think her race genetics gives her an advantage. She is way stronger than any of the other girls out there. I’m not accusing her of doping by allowing this post. But as a person I dislike her and don’t trust her. She doesn’t strike me as a moral woman. She behaves extremely poorly on the court when things don’t go her way. She has a kind of entitlement attitude which is flat out embarrassing.

    I have similar feeling toward Nadal, but I still have way more respect for him. He doesn’t do the disgraceful outburst Williams did at the USO for instance where she was racist, violent, and out of control. That kind of behaviour makes me think she would have no problem at all to cheat and dope.

    But the main thing I want people to admit is that either there is something very suspect going on here or that the WTA is a massive joke. No other possibility exists anyway.

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    Rogiee Reply:

    Hi Ruan

    Congrats on the new blog!

    You are right— it is either of the two.

    I don’t like the way Serena conducts herself on and off the court as well.

    At the moment I’m leaning towards WTA being a massive joke because even in Serena’s younger years, no one has seriously threatened her game. She has been consistently winning when it matters.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Thank you Rogiee!

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    Veronica Reply:

    :)) Ru-an, I can’t decide whether your enquiring after Eric whether he is serious or not is more funny than Eric’s actual kidding!!! :))

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    Ru-an Reply:

    =))

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    Joe Reply:

    =))

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    jason Reply:

    Do you remember she once wanted to join the ATP early in her career? She should have been allowed with the caveat of it being a one way trip. I want to see challenger level players demolish her completely.

    Women’s tennis is so screwed, I just change my TV channel everytime there is a slam final with her in it. It’s too ugly a sight to have the beautiful trophies in the embrace of a terrible person.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    An ex-challenger level player Karsten Braasch did demolish her, but he wasn’t playing seriously. He smoke and drank before the set and then donated 2 games because he felt too bad to give her a bakery product. Look it up.

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  2. Very good article. I fully agree, her behavior on the court is brutal, swearing after each and every point during French open final after she lost few games was just cherry on the top. There is always big drama when she is losing and I don’t give a… how many grandslams she can win,she will never be in the same league as Steffi Graff for her behavior, like Nadal never would be in the same category as Roger even if he overtakes him (which I doubt will ever happen.) Long time ago it was kind of agreed here that we won’t accuse anyone of doping if no prove(which we will never have) but I agree with the writer. 34 and untouchable? Roger is tennis genius and can’t dominate tennis anymore (I know men’s tennis is bit different but still) and she is destroying everyone.?
    Also Armstrong was this perfect role model sportsman and look where he ended up now – biggest cheater in sport of all time. I never trusted him after so many scandals in cyclist world. If he could do it, anyone with big bank account can.
    I never trusted Serena nor Nadal,one day it may prevail, might not, but people will have and have their opinions.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Federer is a genius and he hasn’t won a slam in 3 years at 34. Williams is the furthest thing imaginable from a genius and at 34 is about to do the Serena slam =))

    So there are two explanations. Williams is doping or the WTA is the biggest joke of all time. Either one is fine with me :-)

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    Eric Reply:

    three possible explanations… LOL

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    Ru-an Reply:

    =))

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    Peter Reply:

    Even 4

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  3. It’s important that we dare to talk about the big fat elephant prancing around on the centre court. (No, by elephant I’m not referring specifically to Serena, I’m talking about the metaphorical elephant. Lol) This issue has been on my mind for some time, and there several players on my radar. However, I don’t want to be the guy to throw out accusations against specific individuals without anything solid to back it up with. That can really hurt the reputation of a player, and it would really be a pity if an innocent player is subjected to suspicion. People also tend to direct their suspicion at the players with bulging muscles, while those who look less muscular but have endless energy reserves go under the radar.

    If the anti-doping work had been taken seriously then maybe this wouldn’t be much of an issue, but money talks and that’s the way of the world. I don’t remember exactly, but I think Federer said at some point that the anti-doping procedures are pretty much a joke. There was also the incident when Dr. Fuentes was in possession of incriminating blood samples which were ordered destroyed. How are we supposed to take it seriously after something like that? It really is a joke.

    I notice that some players are more outspoken and critical than others. That’s really all we have to go on. We are left reading between the lines and draw our conclusions from that.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    ‘It’s important that we dare to talk about the big fat elephant prancing around on the centre court.’

    =))

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  4. Thanks, Ru-an for giving this some space and thanks everyone for reading and commenting. I think there’s a lot to be bothered by with Serena if you’re a real tennis fan. But I just glanced at the numbers (age, consistency, etc.) and this became at least something we should talk about. And the fact that no one in the media seems to care. WTF. As someone said, others’ careers and legacies are hurt/mangled if she’s doping and smashing records and opponents.

    I have heard people say specifically (and I agree) that they notice when she in effect tanks a game or two (or a set). When she’s aiming to win, she is obliterating the match. It’s embarrassing for the game, imho.

    Thanks again.

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  5. I disagree that there is no “proof”. The panic room story was beyond bizarre…and only much later was it reported that Serena stayed in this panic room for several hours, never submitted to a drug test at all that day, and the media gave her a total pass on it. The few bloggers or posters who dared to suggest something was amiss were destroyed, even worse than those who have dared to suggest that Nadal and his stamina, mysterious injuries, always changing physique, long absences from the game, etc, might be due to some form of PED’s…known or unknown at this time. People’s livelihoods, and even their LIVES, have been threatened over attempts to dig into or expose this issue…and you may be laughing, but it’s true.

    http://thebiglead.com/2011/11/02/serena-williams-hid-in-her-panic-room-when-a-drug-tester-showed-up-at-her-home/

    Sadly, in today’s culture, fraudulent or even criminal behavior done by athletes is forgotten by the time the next news cycle hits. Baseball just calls those “good old days” the steroid era, yet players are still suspended all the time. Tennis has absolutely exploded globally in the past 15 years, and the money at stake is staggering. FIFA is a total fiasco of greed and corruption. Just as sad, fans of just about every sport have helped elevate athletes into God-like status, and even the most objective person is thrashed and belittled if they even dare suggest something unethical might be happening with player/sport xyz.

    Where there is smoke, there is often fire. I have to agree with the author of the article: at least ASK the question. And anyone who points to the WTA or ATP drug testing policy…please. The officials throughout that sport, on a local, national, and even global level, have also profited greatly as the sport of tennis enjoys huge television contracts, record attendance at tournaments, ET AL, which is due in part to the planet’s fascination with all things Roger Federer. Anyone within the “tennis community” would feel a ton of pressure, if they even dared to ponder exposing flaws in the system or outright cover ups, from peers, superiors, and even players/entourages.

    I suspect that one day, someone with personal knowledge of what has gone on with respect to PED’s and steroids during this “golden era” of tennis, will write a tell all book, but it will be well after the suspects have retired, and they’ll deny, deflect, attack…same thing they do now. So as someone already stated, people will believe what they want to believe. Very sad that real investigative journalism is dead, and moral relativism has taken over most every culture…especially in the world of sports.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Where does it say that Williams did not submit a urine sample?

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  6. This has turned out to be a fascinating conversation. I agree w Matt that it seems like she can turn it on pretty much anytime she wants to and demolish any opponent. WTF? I joke about her because a really can’t stand her. Her brutish arrogance, cursing, petulance all drive me crazy. Watching the WTA for me is like a nightmare of the men’s game in which Nadal wins every tournament without any competition. And I am with Ru-an completely in that I have a ton more respect for Rafa than I do for Serena.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Glad you enjoy the post, Eric. I can see I did the right thing by posting it. Watching the WTA is like undergoing surgery without anesthesia. Painful enough to make you pass out. That’s why I NEVER watch it. I would be traumatized for life if I did :-P

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    Veronica Reply:

    “Surgery without anaesthetic….painful enough to pass you out…traumatised for life”. I didn’t wanna get into this thing coz I’m a …… woman :-) And I kinda wanna let you boys have your fun but those words of yours, Ru-an, =))

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  7. I’ve watched her live many, many times. She is a character with flaws no doubt but the animosity is uncalled for. I find the article offensive. The reason she can turn it on and off is because she is exceptionally gifted and determined.

    Matt, why not listen to the BBC sports commentators – sue barker, Tracy Austin and Lindsey davenport Break down the winning elements logically inst ad of ascribing to drugs.

    Roger is my idol which is why I signed up for Ruan’s blog at the start. Now I watch him for sheer joy and applaud the other players. The depth in the me ‘s game is far deeper and they have to play 5 sets vs 3 for women.

    Sharapova has a good game but far from great. When at that level you double fault consistently, have poor lateral movement, how can you expect to win? Muguruza will give Serena a good fight if first time jitters don’t affect her. Azarenka was excellent. Unlike Matt (and I was watching .wi by live too), I thought that Serena was in serious trouble until mid-way of the 2nd set. What caused the change in balance? No good first serves by Azarenka.

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    Matt Reply:

    Rose,
    I appreciate the feedback. Other than my comment about her sometimes lack of civility, my article is urging people to look at the facts, the numbers, her age alongside the dominance. That’s not animosity.

    She is undefeated in 2015. People can say she looks vulnerable, dropping sets, struggling etc., but that kind of micro analysis gets trumped by the macro analysis of her overall dominance at the age of 34. I watched the quarter final with Azarenka. I didn’t see the “serious trouble.”

    Tracy and Lindsey (like Johnny Mac and the rest of them) are praising Serena, breaking down the game, so it all sounds great. But at least acknowledge that this is pretty wild coming from someone who is 8-10 years older than her competition. She’s winning a GS at 34. You don’t think that’s quite remarkable?

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  8. I don’t enjoy watching Serena play that much. Like you said, it’s just all power. No variety and beauty. Her serve is her best and most elegant shot, but it’s only shot I like. Backhand is the most ugly looking stroke I’ve ever seen (sorry if I offending anyone, but it’s just horrific). Radwanksa is never boring, the variety in her game makes her one of the only bearable WTA players. Li Na also, her game is based on the baseline, but its a much nicer and elegant game than Serena and Ivanovic’s winding beautiful forehand is the best in the women’s game, especially during her glory days.

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    Ru-an Reply:

    Not a fan of Serena’s game either Conal. Her groundstrokes look mechanical and untalented. She is definitely no genius on the tennis court. She is like Nadal in the sense that she wins due to a physical advantage. Nadal is obviously 10 times stronger physically and mentally and 10 times more talented than Serena but there is a similarity if we look at it in context of the two vastly different sports that is men’s tennis and women’s tennis.

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    Emy Reply:

    Serena and Roger are born in the same year. It’s ok for Roger to be in the final but it’s not ok for Serena to win. How ironic? You seem to foget the mileage that Roger had clocked in compared to Serena. It’s only natural that Roger will be more worn out. And yes, some black women do look like Serena. Put in the training and you would expect nothing less than her body. I’m a black African woman, never been to gym, trust me I will knock most while people down with a mere clap. So yeah, do not be so shocked at her physical stature.

    For today’s match, I’m predicting (read hoping) Djoker in 4. 75 64 36 74

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    Ru-an Reply:

    So you agree that women’s tennis is the biggest joke of all time. Good then.

    If you want to be considered for the prediction game please leave your prediction on the prediction page.

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  9. If u play from the baseline with Serena you are bound to lose. If you have a all court game like Justin Henin or Martina Hingis then you make her play. They both had good record against her.

    Wta is full of untalented baseline bashes the last few years. Painful to watch.

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  10. I have watched Serena play a million times..everytime she is about to lose, she fights n somehow wins it. This is really unbelievable..I completely agree with Ruan that she is not a genius..but she is really strong mentally n physically. She believes she is d best and can beat anyone in any day..but believing n doing is different.Venus her sister have d similar mentality but due to age she is finding it difficult to complete. and here is Serena all set to complete second Serena slam n one short of calender slam that too at d age of 34. She uses her serve which is now termed as d best and her power to dominate others n come out of tricky situations. And I also agree the WTA is a joke..from d current lot, I always thought only 2 players azarenka n kvitova have d game to defeat her but they too are really inconsistent and come short everytime..There is no depth in women’s tennis..there r no great shotmakers or good players like d past..but I still don’t think anyone from d past be it Steffi or Navratilova could beat the beast Serena..I always thought what it is..May b its PEDs , but she is unbeatable when is playing her best

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  11. Nice write-up. The US commentators in particular drool over her but sometimes it sounds a bit forced; as if they have to be that way! I’ve heard that outside of the English-speaking world tennis observers are more questioning of her but I don’t know that for sure.

    Speaking of genetics (Ruan mentioned them above) I wonder if they can explain the incredible number of “Yugoslav” players. Even many of the best players from other countries such as Canada and Australia are of south Slavic background (Andrea Petkovic of Germany too on the women’s side) despite being fairly small minorities in those countries. People of Czech and Slovak background have also featured prominently in the sport’s history despite small population base.

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  12. Hey is anyone watching this display form Federer? He squandered 5 set points but put it past him to capture the 2nd set. Really high quality tennis from both.

    [Reply]

    Eric Reply:

    Lovin it!!!!!!

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  13. If you take the racist lenses off your eyes and do a little research you will find out that some of us are born with superior genes. That’s why we can’t all be Einstein’s or Shakespears. I would venture to say that in addition to Serena Williams, Roger Federer has also been gifted with superior sporting genes. They are not alone in sports. You have had folks like George Foreman and Larry Holmes in Boxing, Tim Duncan and Andre Miller in basketball, go to baseball, soccer etc you will find a number of players performing at the highest level right into their forties.The trouble with your article is the very poor research you have done on the history if the Williams Sisters in the sport and the great transparency with which they have conducted themselves. Serena has been criticized for not trying to be politically correct when she quite correctly used to assert from early days that when on her game no one could beat her. She very clearly knew the talent and mental and inner strength she possesed, obviously better than anyone else. If the sisters had top flight coaches from day one heaven alone knows how many grand slams they would have one. We’re it not for some blatant bad calls against her as with Capriati at the U.S. Open and Henin in Paris she likely would have chalked up more slam victories. In fact the terrible calls she suffered at the U.S Open played a big role in ushering Hawk-eye into the game. Serena Williams will go down in history as one of the world’s greatest athletes ever. Sadly you sounded like some medieval ignoramus subscribing superstitious belief to what he could not understand.

    [Reply]

    Emy Reply:

    At least someone making sense around here! Sad what folks here are saying about Serena. Comforted by the fact that this is all just talk and they cant take anything from her trophy cabinet. Just wondering if all this has anything to do with the color of her skin.

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  14. Pingback: Wimbledon Men’s Final and Serena Follow-up | Matt's Blog

  15. Serena actually won her first Grand Slam singles in 1999 when she was 18/19 too like Graf. And she very well may be an outlier, compared to Venus ranking at 23

    [Reply]

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