Thursday, September 12, 2013

Serena: Dominant?

Serena Williams has won 17 out of 60 majors from 1999 to 2013 (28%). Of the 43 majors she did not win, Williams only came in second four times (9%).

There is a distinct all-or-nothing quality in Serena’s play. A lack of consistency and effort. Either she goes all out to dominate and win or she does not enter the tournament, or loses in an early round. How can she win 28% of the time but come in second only 9% of the time? Serena is dominant, but only when she chooses to be. Does the tennis press not report this for fear of the Williams’ response?

I am fully aware of how hard it must be to win a major championship. Injuries and many other factors stand in the way. Tiger Woods has clearly dedicated his life to being a dominant golfer and winning majors. Tiger would never give less than his all when competing, particularly in a major. Despite various setbacks, both controllable and uncontrollable, Woods has assembled a record of wins in tournaments and majors second only to one golfer. Like Serena, Tiger has fewer second-place finishes (unlike Jack Nicklaus). Golfers compete against the entire field while tennis players are matched against one-on-one.       

Champions like Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert did not have the extreme physical advantage Serena holds over her opponents, but still achieved remarkable records over an extended period of time.

I am all for an athlete pursuing other interests and having a well-rounded life. The effect of this is, as in Serena’s case, the athlete is not as consistent and dominant as they would be otherwise. There is a tradeoff. Consistency is one of the hallmarks of a champion. I cannot call Serena dominant, consistent, or the greatest of all time.

1999: US Open
2002: French, Wimbledon, US Open
2003: Australian, Wimbledon
2005: Australian
2007: Australian
2008: US Open
2009: Australian, Wimbledon
2010: Australian
2012: Wimbledon, US Open
2013: French, US Open

Australian: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010
French: 2002 & 2013
Wimbledon: 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012 (runner-up 2004 & 2008)
US Open: 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013 (runner-up in 2001 & 2011)

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