What will be the legacy of Serena Williams? Is she the greatest female tennis player ever?
Serena’s dominance of the sport of women’s tennis over a prolonged period of time is unquestionable and the stats behind that dominance are impressive.
But if you start to make comparisons, you look into the archives at the likes of Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Australia’s Margaret Court.
Margaret Court is still hailed as the most successful women’s player because her list of tournament wins is unrivaled. She retired in 1977, aged 35.
She won a total of 62 Grand Slam events which included titles in all forms of the game: singles, doubles and mixed doubles and is also only one of three players to complete what is known as the ‘Boxed Set’ -- winning titles at ALL four majors in these three forms of the game.
Margaret Court’s career win ratio is over 91 percent; Williams’ is not quite 86 percent.
So when we use the word greatest and feel the need to do comparisons there are many variables to be taken into account.
Serena’s longevity and the dominance of her powerful game style are unquestionable. She has literally conquered all who have come before her.
But Court’s record includes all forms of the game because in that er, doubles was a far more prominent and equitable part of the equation of competitive tennis.
There are very few, if any, of the top ranked players in the modern era who will commit to all three forms of the game within a tournament.
It could be argued that Williams has no chance of racking up the sorts of numbers which Court did in terms of titles won. Do we need to reframe our judgment?
She has the numbers in the record books and is still building on them. She plays a style of tennis that few opponents can regularly challenge and when Serena is defeated, a contributing factor is her own play. When she loses, she loses -- it is not always the case that her opponent has bested her.
Starting this week, Serena Williams will be attempting to make history, following in the footsteps of Graf and Court, when she attempts to win the 2015 US Open. It's the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament in the calendar year; if she wins she'll achieve the ‘clean sweep’, which is a rarity and a prized goal among the top players.
This feat is definitely within her reach as she has few challengers within the draw for this US Open. While Maria Sharapova has long been considered Williams’ main challenger at any tournament, the popular former number one has pulled out of the event due to ongoing injury concerns.
Aside from Sharapova, there is only perhaps Romania’s Simona Halep, the second seed, and Lucie Safarova as an outside proposition.
Of course, what all fans love about these big tournaments is the unexpected fairytale that emerges somewhere within the narrative -- there is always one. But will Serena claim the ultimate fairytale?