Tennis Elbow: Legen…(wait for it)…dary!
October 1, 2012 · Print This Article
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, a new column that will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon wonders which of the current WTA Tour players will live on in history.
The current era of women’s tennis, dominated by American Serena Williams, started unofficially with the retirement of the great Steffi Graf in 1999, and it’s a weird one.
It’s a weird one, because it’s so wide-open. While Serena is the signature player, it’s difficult to identify who’s second to her. Still, let’s try it.
In 10, 20 or 30 years from now, who will tennis pundits remember when they look back on this period? Another way of asking this same question is to wonder which of the current players is timeless. There are plenty of gifted players with relatively impressive accomplishments–but how many of them will be legends by the time that they retire?
(On the men’s side, the answer is more obvious, as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will all definitely live on in history–and so might Andy Murray. A few others are also great players will lasting resumes.)
The first name, of course, is Serena. By now, the 30-year-old’s reputation is well assured. Most of her biggest accomplishments were listed in last week’s column, and for now let’s simply say that Serena is among the best in history. Her 45 singles titles, including 15 Grand Slams, and one Olympic gold medal are unequaled in today’s tennis. Her career results put her closer to the immortal (i.e. Steffi Graf, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova) than the merely great (i.e. Monica Seles and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario).
Staying in the Williams family, Venus will also likely be remembered as a great player of the 2000s. Though she’s mostly seen as Serena’s older sister these days, it’s easy to forget how accomplished she is in her own right. At 32 years old, Venus’s best days are behind her, but she has won 7 Grand Slam tournaments, and 43 career titles so far in her career. Because of health problems, Venus doesn’t play as much as she used to and when she does, she’s not at her best. And yet, she remains one of the greats.
(Beside the two Williams sisters, Martina Hingis and Justine Henin-Hardenne are two contemporaries who will live on–but they’re retired now so why bother, right?)
The current World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka could make a case that she will be this decade’s signature player, especially after her strong showing against Serena Williams at this year’s US Open. She is still young at 23 years old, and has a Grand Slam title under her belt unlike her predecessor at No. 1, Caroline Wozniacki. More importantly, she seems hungry for many more–that’s why she could very well impose her will on the rest of the Tour once Serena retires.
Maria Sharapova’s case is interesting as well. The 25-year-old Russian has 27 career singles titles and, most importantly, was twice ranked World No. 1. Though she only has four career Grand Slam titles, she has one of each and has completed the career Slam. It’s not quite the Williams resume, but it’s pretty great.
Are there still others? Probably not. Na Li became the first Chinese female player to win a Grand Slam title after winning Roland Garros in 2011, but she’s not likely to do much more to trump that–and that’s not to minimize the magnitude of her accomplishment. Meanwhile, though Wozniacki was once ranked No. 1, it seemed more because nobody else could. Finally, a player like Ana Ivanovic seemed overwhelmed from the moment that she broke through by winning the 2008 Roland Garros title and becoming World No. 1.
As for the rest, well, they’ll have careers that ranges anywhere from middling to forgettable. And there’s nothing wrong with that–it’s still much better than many. Really, that’s the lesson here.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG