With devastating performances in winning Wimbledon and Olympic singles and doubles gold medals this summer, Serena Williams has had some in the tennis world whisper that she could make a claim to being the greatest woman tennis player of all time.
Tennis historian and journalist Steve Flink, in his May-released book THE GREATEST TENNIS MATCHES OF ALL TIME (28.95, New Chapter Press, available here on amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Tennis-Matches-All-Time/dp/0942257936/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1345565182&sr=1-1&keywords=the+greatest+tennis+matches+of+all+time) places Williams safely in the top 10 of all time in his special chapter ranking the greatest tennis players of all time. Flink’s top 10 women of all time are laid out below in this special book excerpt.
1. STEFFI GRAF
The game’s greatest female player for eight years, she recorded twenty-two major championship victories beginning in 1987 and ending in 1999. She became only the third woman (in 1988) to win a Grand Slam, and yet her presence was felt for more than a decade thereafter. Although Margaret Court won more majors, Graf is the only player— male or female—to win every Grand Slam event at least four times in singles. Her incomparable forehand, her extraordinary coordination and an unmatched zest for competition lifted Graf to her preeminent level.
2. MARTINA NAVRATILOVA
No woman player has had a more complete game. A magnificent athlete, she was virtually unbeatable for five years in her prime. From 1982-86, she lost only fourteen matches. She secured a record nine Wimbledon singles championships, accounting for half of her Grand Slam singles crowns on that celebrated ground. No woman packaged the serve with the first volley so unremittingly.
3. CHRIS EVERT
Her durability and determination set Chrissie apart from all rivals. In fifty-six career Grand Slam tournament appearances, she missed the semifinal cut only four times. In nineteen consecutive U.S. Open appearances, she never failed to advance to at least the quarterfinals. For thirteen consecutive seasons—1974 to 1986—she set a record that may never be broken by winning at least one major title every year. She collected a record seven French Open championships and won 125 straight matches on clay courts to establish herself as the premier player of them all on that surface. No woman in history has played the game better for longer than Evert.
4. HELEN WILLS MOODY
In a much honored career, she won nineteen Grand Slam tournaments, one more than both Navratilova and Evert. Her eight Wimbledon singles tournament triumphs have been eclipsed only by Navratilova. Although the majority of critics placed Suzanne Lenglen above her as the best female player of the first half of the Twentieth Century, she is the better player in my estimation because she sustained her talent in top-flight tennis for longer than Lenglen or any other woman of her time.
5. MARGARET SMITH COURT
The best Australian female tennis player of all time, she has collected more Grand Slam singles titles than anyone, securing twenty-four majors from 1960 to 1973. Eleven of those triumphs were at her native Australian Championships, however, where her opposition was frequently undistinguished. Nevertheless, the towering serve-and-volleyer managed to rule on the red clay courts of Roland Garros five times, demonstrating her versatility and resolve indisputably.
6. SERENA WILLIAMS
On ability alone, Williams would be much higher on this list. A prodigious athlete universally admired for her unshakable drive and immense willpower, she has won majors in three different decades. Heading into 2012, she had won thirteen majors, including a career Grand Slam. A good many experts believe that, at her best, Williams could defeat any woman player in history. She is an overpowering physical force, with an overwhelming serve and a sizzling ground game. All she has lacked is consistency, but who knows precisely what is in store for Serena in the years ahead?
7. SUZANNE LENGLEN
A fragile and emotional competitor, she never lost a match at Wimbledon or her native French Championships. But in her only appearance at Forest Hills in 1921, she retired after losing the first set to Molla Mallory and did not return to the U.S. Championships. A ballerina on a tennis court, she soared gracefully past one opponent after another through a glorious career. Most who watched her during her prime, including the esteemed tennis historian Ted Tinling, were convinced she was the greatest female tennis player of all-time.
8. MAUREEN CONNOLLY
The first woman to win a Grand Slam (1953), she seemed destined then to dominate the game for as long as she wanted. An accident when she was riding a horse the following year ended her career, but did not diminish her stature. A hard-hitting, unrelenting baseliner, she cut down her foes with powerful shots off both sides and an immense will to win.
9. BILLIE JEAN KING
Much like Gonzales in men’s tennis, she was the competitor you would select to play for your life in a one-match situation. Devoid of fear on the big occasions, she won six Wimbledon singles championships and twelve majors altogether, joining the career Grand Slam club. A brilliant volleyer, she controlled points with an intelligent attacking style and a powerful personality. Had she not been driven by a multitude of causes, she might have added even more luster to her record.
10. MONICA SELES
Before she was stabbed in the back at a German tournament in the spring of 1993, she seemed certain to take the women’s game into another realm. Her two-fisted strokes off both sides were devastatingly potent and her intensity was unmatched. At nineteen, she had already won eight major titles. After the stabbing, she did not return for nearly twenty-eight months. Despite securing one more major singles title in 1996, she was never the same player. Yet she must be graded among the ten best of all time.