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Serena Williams Already Among All-Time Greats, But Can She Enter an Even More Elite Class?

It is likely that this weekend Serena Williams will win the French Open. If she does it will be her second title at Roland Garros and 16th major championship. Going back to the 2008 U.S. Open she has won seven of 18 grand slam titles plus the Olympic Gold Medal. There is no doubt she is among the greatest players of all time. However, she seems poised to enter a class even more elite than that.

During his prime Tiger Woods dominated golf. Starting with the 1999 PGA, and concluding with the 2002 U.S. Open, Woods' won eight of 11 grand slam titles. Besides Woods', and  Roger Federer, who won 10 of 14 major titles between his 2004 Wimbledon title and 2007 U.S. Open championship, no athlete in any sport has been as dominate in recent memory as Serena.

Only seven women's tennis players have ever won more than 10 grand slam titles. If Williams, who turns 32 years old in September, can win five more championships, she will become one of three players to capture 20 Grand Slam titles. Margaret Court, who's 24 career slams is number one, won 11 times in Australia. This is a somewhat deceiving figure since most premier players did not travel to Melbourne in the 1960's and 70's when Court was dominating that event.

Winning five more slams is a serious challenge. However, besides Williams and Victoria Azarenka, who has captured back-to-back Australian Open titles, no other active player has won more than one major title dating back to early 2008. Williams has beaten Azarenka 13 times in 15 career meetings including all seven match-ups in majors.

The only other player on tour who consistently competes at a very high level is Maria Sharapova. A career grand slam winner, Sharapova has won each major title once. She has captured just one slam since early in 2008. In 15 career matches against Serena, Sharapova is 2-13. She's last beat Williams in 2004.

Anything can happen to an athlete whether it be physically, or outside the playing field, just ask Tiger. However, Williams seems poised to pass Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert's 18 major titles. At that point, she will have only Helen Wills Moody and Court, from a different generation, to chase, plus Steffi Graf.

Graf won the grand slam in 1988, and put together a run of 10 major titles in 15 tries from the French Open in 1993 to the U.S. Open in 1996. She won 22 grand slam titles. It is possible Serena could be her closest rival in the Open era of tennis.

Wherever she ranks in history, and whatever the future holds, for a player who was overshadowed by her sister Venus early on in her career, and has battled injuries and perhaps motivation issues at times, to emerge as among the greatest ever is an incredible achievement.


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