Serena Williams is a beast on the court. She has power that the women's game typically doesn't have and she has the attitude to back it. She's a champ. She's the best in the world. No one in the women's game comes close to her. No one. But that's part of the problem isn't it? On the verge of completing something no one has done since the late 80s, the question looms: is Serena just that good, or is everyone else just that bad?
Don't get me wrong, Serena is impressive. Her mere presence allows her to dominate any court she walks on. In most matches, she's won before a serve has even been delivered. She's fierce. She makes Chuck Norris tremble. But what makes her so good? Well, for starters, she oozes confidence out of even her mascara'd eyelashes to the point that when she screams in competition, birds of the rainforest vacate their nests for fear of predatory attack. Her serve is as fast and hard as some men on the circuit, shaming the likes of Nadal and competing with the great Federer. Her forehand is not to be trifled with and her backhand is almost just as good. Her movement is deceptively impressive considering her frame is more suited to women's rugby, and she floats around without being weighted down by her huge earrings, massive necklace and hair Diana Ross would be jealous of.
Making her even more impressive, 7 of her 20 grand slam wins have come after the age of 30 and she's been on the WTA circuit since 1997...since she was 15. It took her 15 years to win 13 majors, but just 3 to win 7. Now almost 34, Serena, seemingly an ageless wonder, is a force to be reckoned with when most of us are considering quitting recreational sports. I'm 32. Serena makes me look pathetic. But then again, what does that say about the competition she's been facing the last 3 years?
Roger Federer is just a couple months older than Serena and is already 34. Arguably the greatest tennis player in men's history has only won 1 major, since the age of 30...and he was 30 at the time. 2012 at Wimbledon was the last major the Fed has won and on the verge of the 2015 US Open, it is certainly questionable if he can pull of another major win. But why? The guy still dances on the court, he still deals with his serve and his veins are as ice cold as ever, why can he not seem to come through with another major?
The answer is in his competition. Unfortunately for Federer, becoming so good only elevated the game of men's tennis to near staggering heights, producing dominant talents like Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal. Oh ya, and then there's Andy Murray and always dangerous players like Tsonga or Berdych or that other Swiss guy, Wawrinka. What Federer has done for the men's game is mysteriously what has not happened in the women's game while Serena has been pushing the pace and leading the pack. No one can keep up with her. Since reclaiming #1 in the world she's won 23 of the 41 tournaments she's entered and has only 14 losses in 196 matches. That's almost 2 full seasons of work.
The gap between Serena and everyone else is huge. She has almost twice as many points as #2 Sharapova which gives her a stranglehold on #1 for likely a while. Once upon a time, Federer was the same...once upon a time...but not anymore. Djokovic was a career #3 until he changed things up. He went gluten free, follows an insane training schedule and is remarkably flexible to prevent injuries. Now he is the most dominant player on tour and is potentially facing the prospect of topping the great Fed's 17. Oddly enough, the Djoker is facing the same luxury Serena has been. No one can keep up.
But we are discussing the women's game, not the men's. The women's game has been hurting for quite some time and Serena has been capitalizing. Who's her competition? Going in to the US Open, there isn't a legitimate threat that can beat Serena on Louis Armstrong currently living and breathing on the WTA. The question of if Serena can win a Calendar Grand Slam should not be one of beating the competition, but one of rising to the occasion and playing her best. No one can beat her when she's playing her best, or even close to her best, or even not quite her best.
Let's consider the competition.
Sharapova...do I bother discussing her? Unless someone else beats Serena for her, Maria is crushed like a bug between Serena's powerful thighs. Wozniaki? Excuse me while I giggle at the thought. Azarenka? She's certainly the most capable, but even she's fallen miserably short despite her attempts to madly scream herself into belief. Belinda Bencic at 18 is the most recent to topple Serena, but even Serena has her off days, which are the only days she loses.
When Serena is at her best, there is no one on the WTA circuit that can beat her. Could you say the same for Steffi Graf? She had the likes of Monica Seles challenging her, plus had to contend with rising Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis in the twilight of her career. In fact, just to make a name for herself, Graf had to beat the likes of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert - two of the greatest of all time. The point is, Graf had someone to catch, someone to keep up with and challenge her, and someone to keep her on her toes and hopefully teach a lesson to as she got older...but there was always someone. The same goes for Navratilova and Evert - they had each other.
Serena hasn't had someone to catch for eons, she hasn't had any serious challengers to keep up with since Hingis, Henin and Clijsters all retired, but she's had many, many, many, many to teach lessons to. Young, old, experienced, rookies, Serena has schooled em all. But is it because all the rest are just that bad? Or is Serena just that good? We can be sure that one things's for certain, she is the boss.
John McEnroe recently said he could beat Serena and that he could never lose to, "god forbid, a woman." Well no one told him that Serena's the boss. Have you seen those legs, John? Have you seen those arms? While Serena is certainly too good for the women on the WTA, she is undoubtedly too good for a 56 year old John McEnroe. But I'd definitely pay to see Serena crush him like a bug, just as she crushes Sharapova any any other XX chromosome that comes into her path. She's just too good.