Why Serena Williams is greater than Steffi Graf?

Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player of all time. Greater than Steffi Graf.

This is not just down to the fact that Williams has more grand slams to her name, there are other factors which justify my case. Let’s take a look at their careers.

Without doubt, Graf was the most dominant player of her generation. She captured more grand slams than anyone else winning 22 of the 56 grand slam tournaments she competed in.

Likewise, Williams has been the stand out player of her time. She has won a professional era record 23 grand slams, and is still trying to break the all-time grand slam record of 24 held by Margaret Court. Court won many of her major titles when tennis was an amateur sport and there was less competition, whereas Williams and Graf’s grand slams have all come in the professional era. So, Court is dismissed from this debate.

While Williams holds more grand slams than Graf, Graf has done something that Williams has never done. In 1988, Graf won all four grand slams in the same year known as the calendar slam, and she is the only player in the open era to have attained this. Williams narrowly missed out on the calendar slam in 2015 when she lost in the semi-finals of the US Open, and at 38-years-old, she is unlikely to have many more chances to achieve this feat.

Nevertheless, Williams has twice won all four grand slams consecutively, albeit not in the same year, and this referred to as the non-calendar year grand slam.  She racked up four majors between 2002-2003 and between 2014-2015. This shows that Williams has displayed a great level of consistency in the big tournaments at both the early and late stages of her career. Graf too won all four grand slams in a row on two occasions, however she did not have the long span Williams did between her non-calendar year grand slams.

Williams is superior to Graf on two of the three playing surfaces – grass and hardcourt. Williams has accumulated 13 hardcourt grand slams compared Graf’s nine, and even though both players have won seven titles at Wimbledon on the grass, Williams has an 88% winning percentage on grass compared to 85% for Graf.

Williams has also dominated her sport for a longer period of time, as she is the only player – male or female – to have won a grand slam in three separate decades, which demonstrates her ability to keep elevating her level to stay on top.

Between 1998 and 2002, Williams competed with the likes of grand slam champions Venus Williams, Martina Hingis and Monica Seles. From 2003 to 2010, Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Maria Sharapova were just a few of the game’s best that Williams had to contend with. And since the start of this decade, Williams has encountered big challenges in Victoria Azarenka, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova. She has a winning record against all of those names, and most of the top rivals throughout her career.

Sure, Graf had great competition with Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles all posing a threat, but Williams has been tested for a longer time span. In addition, Williams has reached more grand slam finals than any other female player over the past two years, and she has done this after having a baby at 36-years-old. She has yet to win a grand slam since her return from maternity, but Williams regularly making it to grand slam finals considering the depth in the women’s tour, is an accomplishment in of itself.

Did I mention that Williams has 14 doubles grand slams to Graf’s one? She has also saved match points in three different grand slams: Australian Open 2003, Australian Open 2005 and Wimbledon 2009, before going onto win those tournaments and this highlights her ability to rise to the occasion on the big stage like no other player in history. 

I argue that Williams’s grand slam record is just one of the many reasons why she is greater than Graf. Her longevity and dominance over top rivals for a lengthy period of time are key factors as to why she is the best of the best. Williams is still playing and has said she does not plan on retiring anytime soon, so she has the chance to not only add to her grand slam collection, but equal Graf’s achievement of winning each grand slam at least four times. However, even if Williams were to retire right now, she would still go down as the greatest. 

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