Serena Williams’ victory at the just concluded US open tells us about the powerful force, with which she continues to dominate the Women’s Professional Tennis Circuit. It is now her fourteenth year and she shows no signs of leaving just yet. In 2013 she played 61 singles matches and lost just 5 of them, including two defeats in this year’s Grand slam Tournaments. In the Australian Open she lost in a quarterfinal match to the American Sloane Stephens, while the German Sabine Lisicki was responsible for Serena’s fourth round exit at the Wimbledon. But despite these odd losses, Serena’s dominance is a continuation of a set pattern of Women’s Tennis in the last five or six decades.
The last 50 years of professional women’s tennis have been dominated only by a handful of players, whose awesome game left other contenders too far behind. In 20 years between the sixties and seventies, Margaret Court, Billie Jean King, Maria Bueno, Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova ruled the women’s tennis to the extent that these six players alone accounted for 68 out of 80 grand slam titles. While Court and King left the circuit in later years, Navratilova and Evert continued through the eighties. In the decade of eighties, they were joined by another awesome player, Steffi Graf, from Germany. Graf began by defeating Navratilova in the final of 1987 French Open and did not look back for about 15-16 years. At her prime, she became virtually unbeatable. Between 1980 and 1990, women’s tennis acquired power and muscles but the 10 years were completed commanded by Navratilova, Evert and Graf, who between themselves accounted for 32 grand slam titles out of a total of 40. By the beginning of 1990, while Steffi Graf continued with her sensational and powerful game, Navratilova and Evert almost exited the circuit. It is to the credit of Navratilova that at age 34, she won another singles title at Wimbledon in 1990. This was a superlative performance for someone who, 12 years earlier, had lifted the coveted Wimbledon trophy in 1978. There is something amazing about Navratilova, who also kept competing in the doubles matches, both women’s and mixed. In the latter category her first grand slam title was at the 1974 French Open, where she along with her Colombian partner Iván Molina, won the grand slam final. She continued playing the mixed doubles for an astonishingly long period after 1974 and won her last grand slam at the US open, 32 years later in 2006 with Bob Bryan of the US. It was Navratilova’s swan song and she was just a few days short of her 50th birthday. Three years earlier, partnering with India’s Leander Paes, Navratilova also won the Australian and Wimbledon mixed doubles trophies in 2003, while finishing up as runners-up in the other two grand slams of the same year. For someone in her late forties, it was a commendable effort by any standards.
In the decade of 1990, Steffi Graf was joined by Monica Seles, Martina Hingis and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and these four players stamped their authority with a vengeance. Of course the William sisters also made their presence felt when Serena Williams won the US open in 1999. But Graf, Seles, Hingis and Sanchez Vicario collectively won 31 grand slam titles out of 40, which were on offer.
Even in the new millennium, women’s tennis did not have a very large number of grand slam winners. Other than the powerful William sisters, women’s tennis in the last 13 years has had only a few players. They include; Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters, Jennifer Capriati and Maria Sharapova. In 13 years since 2000, there were 56 grand slam titles to share and these six ladies have collectively won 41 of them.
We do not know the future trend but with women’s game becoming more powerful and fiercely competitive, it is unlikely that the future could mirror the years gone by.