After months of anticipation and increasing pressure, reigning American World number one Serena Williams has finally equalled the long- standing record of 22 Grand Slam singles title held by German tennis icon Steffi Graf . The record feat thus ends the rather tense last few months and puts and end to the questions when will she? or will she be able?
The record of 22 Grand Slams was definitely on the radar but there were some jitters on the way. The three unlikely defeats at US Open 2015 (loss in the semis to Roberta Vinci), Australian Open 2016 (loss to Angelique Kerber) and French Open 2016 ( final loss to Garbine Muguruza) added to her woes.
But undeterred by last three shocking losses at Grand Slams, it was only a matter of time that one expected Serena to bounce back and silence the critics. And predictably she did exactly that and going on to equal Graf’s record at a place that is a dream for every tennis player – the hallowed Centre Court of the All England Club grass courts at Wimbledon 2016. To be on par with another legendary name of the game, there could not have been a better venue than Wimbledon. It is in fact a perfect icing on the cake.
In a fiercely contested final, Serena Williams had to summon all her experience to ward off a stiff challenge by German fourth seed Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3. The match was much closer than the scoreline suggests. The quality of the match was high class. Both players gave it all. There were sensational long rallies, amazing passing shots and superb court coverage from both players. Kerber should not feel dejected at all. She was brilliant. It was just the Serena had that extra to win. This point was highlighted unanimously by the commentary team that had Indian tennis legend Vijay Amritraj amongst them.
It was Serena’s 7th Wimbledon title, Graf too had won seven titles at Wimbledon. Only Martina Navratilova is ahead of her with nine Wimbledon singles titles. After equalling Graf another target now beckons Serena is Aussie Margret Court’s tally of 24 Grand Slam singles titles. If Serena is able to overhaul Court’s feat, then she could find herself being named as the greatest player of all time.
Moreover over, having watched both Steffi Graf and Serena Williams and their incredible tennis careers one can find similar attributes in them. Here are those :
Both Serena Williams and steffi Graf towered over their rivals as they both had a very formidable first serves. The rivals could do nothing except watch these two players pounded serves through the middle or angled so wide to make returns virtually impossible. Many a time the big serve came in handy when facing break-points. It was the advantage they had much to the despair of the rivals.
If Graf in her heydays had the fearsome first serve clocking often 180 km/h. Serena too has a booming first serve. At 2013 Australian Open she in fact set a record of clocking an astonishing first serve of 207 km/h .
At 5’9 Serena is a power athlete. And in full form is literally devastating. Her athleticism allows her to hit powerfully from both sides of the court. Take a look at her physical attribute. Those rippling muscles, power shoulders and those strong legs.
German tennis icon Steffi Graf on the other hand too was a fantastic athlete. At 5’9 the German had fantastic speed on court due to her athletic ability. She covered the court brilliantly from both sides and could hammer winners with ease. Her training regimen was tough many a time she would often practice with fellow German tennis superstar Boris Becker.
Ruthless Power Game
Serena Williams in full form and fitness is unbeatable. She never allows her opponents to settle down. It is sheer brute force from her court literally – big serves, powerful winners, sharp volleying and sometimes when in angry mood takes the ball full and hitting it as hard as she can.
Steffi Graf too had similar qualities when she reigned supreme. She was ruthless too. Outclassing her hapless rivals with her speed, strength power and stamina. The biggest attribute in her game for which Steffi Graf is always talked about and always remembered is her forehand – such was the power and consistency of her forehand she was aptly nicknamed fraulien forehand. It was simply devastating.
Outclassing their Rivals
Serena Williams has raced ahead of her rivals. Leaving them bemused how to stop her. Her next rival in terms of Grand Slam wins is now banned Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova with 5 Grand Slam wins. Serena has made a mockery of her so-called rivalry with Sharapova by having a one- sided head to head record of 19- 2 against the Russian diva. It is not that women’s tour is dearth of talent. There are players like German Angelique Kerber, Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic (reportedly dating German national football team skipper mid-fielder Bastian Schweinsteiger), Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova, Danish Caroline Wozniacki Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard. But what separates them from Serena is their inconsistency.
Steffi Graf too with her arrival ended the long reign of Americans – Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert and remained number one for a record 377 weeks. Such was the dominance that it was rare that one could see Graf lose. Yet there were players who could halt the German with their own game. Amongst her most competitive rivals were – Yugoslavia born American tennis player Monica Seles (once was stabbed by a die- hard Steffi Graf fan at Hamburg), Spaniard the gutsy Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the serve and volleyer from Czech republic Jana Novotna, and the and beautiful Argentine Gabriela Sabatini (who was voted many a time as one of the sexiest players on tour). These players gave Graf tough fight but the German always seemed to have the answers to the gauntlet thrown at her. Proving whey she was the numero uno before bidding adieu to the game. As Graf was on her way out, the Williams sisters – Venus and Serena – had just arrived and gave enough hints where the power will go on the future on the women’s tour.
It is absolutely fitting that German icon Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slams has been equalled by a worthy player like Serena Williams. Serena truly deserves all the accolades that is coming her way as she has played outstanding tennis and her rivals need not be disappointed because they have lost to a player who is playing tennis altogether at a different level.