I am a traditionalist when it come to the big four tournaments in tennis. The Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open are Majors, not Grand Slams, no matter that they’ve been reclassified as such. For me, a Grand Slam is all four Majors in a year or a career. Where I am more flexible is in recognizing one other kind of Slam, holding all four Majors in a row over two years. Martina Navratilova did it. Tiger Woods did it in golf. Serena Williams did it. In 2002, Serena won Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open. She added the 2003 Australian Open to complete the Serena Slam. Slight correction, she completed the first Serena Slam. There hasn’t been a second Serena Slam, but with her 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-2 victory over Lucie Safarova in the 2015 Roland Garros Women’s Singles Final, added to her wins at the 2014 US Open and 2015 Austtalian Open, Serena stands one Wimbledon title away from a second Serena Slam. She’s also half way to a calendar year Grand Slam. While she has been very dominant, and tennis fans should prepare themselves to witness history, nothing is a guarantee in sports. She was taken to 3 sets four times at Roland Garros. Understanding that clay is not her best surface, maybe the field is starting to get a wee bit closer to the world #1.
The Grand Slam and second Serena Slam are not the only historic achievements Williams is chasing. She also has reached 20 singles Majors, just two shy of Steffi Graf and four shy of Margaret Court. Steffi’s 22 Majors marks the Open Era record. With all due respect to the all-time greatness of Margaret Court and her 24 overall singles Majors (Open Era and non-Open Era combined), I favor Steffi’s record. Not only did Graf amass hers during the Open Era, but Court won 11 Australian Opens during a time where many of the top players didn’t even make the trip to Australia. All that said, many think Serena is already the best player ever. I reserve the right to hold judgement if and until she reaches or surpasses Graf’s mark. I also think there is a case to make for Martina Navratilova, who had another all-time top 5 player, Chris Evert, with whom to contend during her career. Steffi’s potential rival, Monica Seles, was sadly derailed and never the same player after being attacked on court. Justine Henin, before her first time retiring, had the game and moxie to push Serena but left the tour twice. Had there not been a Chris Evert, who knows how many Majors Navratilova might have won. Nonetheless, Serena is already on my Mount Rushmore (along with Graf, Navratilova and Evert) as the best players ever. And there is certainly a very valid argument to be made that she is the absolute best already. I’m just not quite ready to make it myself.
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1 SERENA WILLIAMS (won 6-3 6-7 (2) 6-2 vs 13 Lucie Safarova)