Today, on Centre Court, in a beautifully played final, Serena Williams won her seventh Wimbledon singles title. Williams defeated Angelique Kerber 7-5, 6-3. Kerber played very well, and served well, but there were a few factors that kept her from overcoming Williams the way she did in the Australian Open final. Williams was moving better, she served better than her opponent, and she kept Kerber pinned far back in the court, thwarting her forward movement.
And Kerber blinked, just when Williams knew she would. Williams broke Kerber twice, both times toward the end of the set, and both times, she was aided by Kerber's sudden unforced errors. I was a bit surprised--I thought Kerber would be steelier than that. As for the German's break chances--well, she had only one the entire match, and Williams wiped that out immediately with one of 13 aces she hit today.
"I was not the one who lost the match. She won it. She played unbelievable"— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 9, 2016
- @AngeliqueKerber #Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/2VsZbl1don
It was a high quality match, filled with palpable drama as the tennis world (and some of the rest of the world, too) waited to see whether, this time, Williams would get her 22nd major singles title. She missed that opportunity at the 2015 U.S. Open, the 2016 Australian Open and the 2016 French Open.
This is where I get off the train, however. I dislike all talk of GOATs and title counts. I don't think it's possible to determine who the greatest player in history is, and I have no desire to even think about it. As for the numbers--there's no way that comparisons can be made (and that goes for the before-and-after the Open era, too).
Many elite players skipped the Australian Open for a long time because it interfered with the Christmas holidays. Chris Evert skipped three French Opens (and arguably, would have won all three of them) because she was playing World Team Tennis. There was just a different (and in my opinion, superior) way of looking at things then. (Consider that the great Rod Laver wasn't even allowed to play in several majors.)
Someone Tweeted today that greatness in tennis can be measured (meaning, objectively). It cannot. But I don't think that greatness in anything can be measured objectively because there are just too many factors. And sports fans' insisting that "their" player is better than someone else's (elite) player is not about the players at all; rather, it's about the desperate need of many fans to project their own issues onto sports and sports performers.
Having said that, let me now say that winning 22 singles majors is an absolutely marvelous accomplishment, and that even if she didn't win 22, Serena Williams would be a sports icon for the ages. Serena is a world-class athlete, a superlative tennis player, a force of nature, and an inspiration to anyone--woman, man or child--who bothers to look past the hype and chatter and see the commitment, determination and courage she has displayed throughout her professional life. She's a true "larger than life" figure who probably could have made a big name for herself in a number of venues, but--lucky for us--she chose professional tennis.
I hope that Williams and Kerber play many more matches, since they seem to bring out the best in each other. And even though she lost today, Kerber gave the crowd a great show, and demonstrated again why she is such an extremely tough opponent.