This is the one question, uppermost in the minds of several women players, who hold the top 10 ATP ranks. Serena is a juggernaut, against whom no schemes work and all players succumb to her consistent performance. The sight of the powerful Serena Williams, on the other side of the net is intimidating to most women tennis stars. Of the current breed, only two women players are able to throw a semblance of a challenge to Serena and they are Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova. The only little difference is; while Azarenka is able to enjoy playing Serena and putting her off-balance at times, Sharapova has often wilted under Serena’s relentless consistency. The ambitious Sharapova has a one-dimensional game, in which she often tries to outsmart Serena by some forcefully hit strokes and clever placements. But Sharapova cannot do it for long with Serena, as the lady is capable of overcoming such brief bursts of occasional brilliance and then putting pressure to make Sharapova error-prone.
2013 was one year, when Serena earned over $ 12 million in prize money, the highest earning one-season record for any woman player in tennis history. Last year, Serena clocked a 78-4 match record, which is an amazing winning percentage on women’s tour in the last 23 years. One of those four losses was a shock defeat; Serena suffered at Wimbledon, when the German Sabine Lisicki beat her at Wimbledon 2013.
In many ways, Serena’s dominance of women’s tennis is comparable to two of Game’s greatest women players; Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf. In their heydays, both Navratilova and Graf were nearly as invincible in seventies and eighties as Serena appears now. In 2014, Serena can possibly reach Navratilova’s record of 18 career Grand Slams and place herself in line for aiming Graf’s amazing 22 Grand Slams wins. Navratilova’s Grand Slams include; Australian Open 3 times, French Open 2 times, US Open 4 times and Wimbledon 9 times. Steffi Graf’s 22 Grand Slam titles were; Australian Open 4 times, French Open 6 times, US Open 5 times and Wimbledon 7 times. In comparison to these super ladies, Serena has already won 17 career Gland Slams, which include; Australian Open 5 times, French Open twice, US Open 5 times and Wimbledon 5 times.
It will be a mistake to judge Serena’s current form on the basis of merely the numbers of tournaments won. She has had some personal problems, early in her career, like the murder of her eldest sister, Yetunde Price, in 2003. Then she has had life-threatening blood clots, which required very intense medical attention. Though, such events slowed down her tennis commitments for an extended period, Serena has moved on, regardless. Today she looks unbeatable and her competitors keep devising plans about how to deal with her forceful game. As these lines are penned, Serena is such a dominant force in women’s tennis that even the world no. 2 Victoria Azarenka of Belarus has won only 3 out of 16 matches that they have played against each other. Serena has had a nearly 15-year long career but for personal reasons, she had to perforce curtail her tournament appearances. As a result she has won only 56 career titles as compared to Navratilova’s 167, Chris Evert’s 154, Graf’s 107, Margaret Court’s 92, Eyonne Cawley’s 68 and Billie Jeans Kings’ 67.
Serena Williams once played a second fiddle to her elder sister Venus, who, for some seasons, stayed as the top-ranked women’s player. The two of them together accounted 24 singles and 13 doubles Grand Slam titles. From the time Serena came into her own, she has kept improving her game. However, at 32 she cannot be counted as young anymore. It is another matter that the age still does not show in her game as she reaches to retrieve balls from impossible angles.
To meet Serena’s challenge on court, a woman has to be another Serena herself, in tennis capabilities. In addition to powerful service, the player must have an all-court performance and athleticism. Anyone planning to match Serena Williams must reduce the percentage of her unforced errors and she must be highly consistent. Three days ago, at Thailand, Azarenka recorded one of her rare victories over Serena in an exhibition match. Both players used the game as a warm-up for the Australian Open in less than two weeks from now.
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