The times are lengthy and the nights are heat however, sadly, we should wait till subsequent 12 months to see the good gamers of our time compete at Wimbledon. With that in thoughts, we’re spending the Wimbledon fortnight debating which of the greats is the best of all of them. This week our writers have made the case for Steffi Graf, Chris Evert, Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles.
Now it’s time for the readers to supply their verdict. Greater than 500 of you have been in touch to argue your case and – as with our writers – it has confirmed to be a sport of opinions. Steffi Graf was your clear favorite, choosing up practically twice as many votes as some other participant. Serena Williams (the selection of our tennis correspondent, Kevin Mitchell) and Martina Navratilova had been additionally common decisions – and also you added some new names to the dialogue.
Steffi Graf had essentially the most sleek sport of any feminine participant in historical past. Her emblems – the footwork of a ballerina, the velocity of a gazelle, the impeccably carved backhand slice and that monstrous bazooka of a forehand – coalesced right into a uncommon model of athleticism, as lovely because it was brutal. Being the best isn’t merely a case of getting the numbers (although any means you spin it, Graf is within the dialog). She operated on a degree of inventive class unmatched earlier than or since. At full flight in her imperious pomp, she embodied what was doable with a tennis racket, doing so with incomparable poise whereas dragging her sport ahead into the trendy period.
There have been so many nice Graf matches. That final, dramatic French Open triumph against Hingis in 1999 is up there for the surprising delight of all of it. Her demolition of her arch-rival Monica Seles at Wimbledon in 1992 – after shedding a heartbreaker at Roland Garros simply weeks earlier – was notably fulfilling. However I’d should go together with her first Wimbledon victory, in 1988 over the good Martina Navratilova.
She had misplaced her final two matches in opposition to Navratilova – the Wimbledon and US Open finals of 1987 – and this was her first assembly in opposition to her fellow GOAT candidate throughout her legendary Golden Slam-winning 12 months. There was rather a lot on the road. Regardless of enjoying nice tennis for the primary hour or so, Graf one way or the other contrived to lose the primary set from a profitable place, after which discovered herself a break down within the second. From that time on, she raised her sport to one thing otherworldly – most likely the very best sustained degree of excellence I’ve ever seen from a feminine tennis participant.
She smacked forehand winners from in every single place, retrieved balls that had been unimaginable to get, threw down second-serve aces, and – most thrillingly of all – displayed uncommon audacity on her backhand aspect with the intention to go for topspin winners. She received 12 of the ultimate 13 video games. In doing so, she elevated herself from nice to biggest. Reehan Miah
Martina Navratilova’s athleticism, energy and dedication to succeed had been really astonishing. She raised the bar by way of physicality within the girls’s sport and recognised the benefits of assembling a assist group, every of whom had a selected function to play.
Her model of play – that relentless serve and volley strategy the place she would assault the web at each alternative – stood out among the many sea of baseliners and her rivalry with Chris Evert is the soundtrack of girls’s tennis on this period. Her vary of volleys was distinctive as was her dedication to play her sport in her model and impose her will upon her opponent and upon the court docket, irrespective of which floor it was.
At her greatest, she was unbeatable. In 1983, she performed 87 matches and misplaced solely considered one of them. Even the good Serena Williams would have struggled to get the ball previous a major Navratilova on the internet. Brave, indomitable and in addition cussed, she refused to bow to the press, who handled her with suspicion. She performed on.
Navratilova conquered all the grand slams – profitable singles, doubles and blended doubles titles in any respect 4 slams between 1975 and 2003 – however it was at Wimbledon the place her volleying prowess brought on essentially the most injury, not solely in titles however in finally profitable the respect of the group. Nick Gannon
Serena Williams has been dominant for such an extended time frame. She has received 23 grand slams – essentially the most of any energetic tennis participant, male or feminine. She has been world No 1 for 319 weeks. She has redefined athleticism in girls’s tennis. And she or he has transcended her sport.
Williams is a trailblazer. The face of tennis is notably extra various than when she and her sister arrived. She has risen from humble beginnings in Compton – a world away from the privileged begin of many tennis gamers – and has overcome overt racism to develop into an energetic voice for equal rights for men and women on and off the court docket. She is an absolute legend. Rebecca Joyce
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King has had the most important affect on girls’s tennis up to now 50 years. Not solely did she excel as a participant by profitable 39 grand slam titles – 12 in singles, 16 in girls’s doubles and 11 in blended doubles – however she is a crusader for social justice and girls’s equality in sports activities.
She leveraged her place as a prime participant to spearhead the formation of the Girls’s Tennis Affiliation in 1973 and her achievements on the court docket had been matched by her accomplishments off it. With out her pioneering spirit, there could be no equality in sports activities. An important match of her life was seen by greater than 90 million folks when she beat Bobby Riggs within the now well-known “Battle of the Sexes”. No tennis match had been seen by so many. Domien Takx
Chris Evert received 90% of the singles matches she performed, a document for males or girls. She entered 56 grand slams, reached 52 semi-finals (together with the semi-finals or higher of 34 consecutive slams) and received 18 titles. She dominated on clay, popularising the two-handed backhand and the thought of staying on the baseline. She returned the ball like a human backboard, manipulating her opponent across the court docket. She additionally had superb drop photographs, devastating passing photographs, in addition to nice accuracy and precision. You hardly ever noticed an unforced error from Evert.
I used to be dwelling in New York Metropolis in 1971 when she made a splash on the US Open as a 16-year-old. The native media lined her matches with the identical curiosity they lined Muhammad Ali’s boxing bouts. You possibly can inform Chris would develop into a star. She was calm and had a sport that was superior far past her years. The character and poise had been there from the beginning. Henry Haynes
Monica Seles revolutionised the ladies’s sport together with her energy. As such a younger participant, who received eight grand slam titles as a young person, she confirmed such psychological energy to win matches. Grit and dedication outlined Seles – alongside together with her trademark grunt. There are numerous what-ifs with Seles. Had she not been stabbed in 1993, the historical past books would look rather a lot totally different.
Seles took the initiative in each single match she performed, hitting the strains and depriving her opponents of time. Certain, different gamers have received extra slams, however Seles will at all times be the very best participant to have ever performed the game. Robby J
Justine Henin is among the biggest and most underrated gamers in girls’s tennis. She received seven grand slams and an Olympic gold medal in a vastly aggressive period within the girls’s sport. She had a assorted and delightful all-around model of play and, regardless of being small in stature, was an enormous fighter. Oh, and her backhand wasn’t dangerous both.
Henin’s profession is synonymous with the French Open, the place she was magical. She additionally confirmed her combating qualities in her epic victory in opposition to Jennifer Capriati within the US Open semi-final, when she overcame cramp and exhaustion to win not solely that match however the title. Her victory within the Olympics semi-final in opposition to Anastasia Myskina in 2004 additionally stands out, in addition to her many battles with Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters. Nicola Viggers
Evonne Goolagong Cawley
Evonne Goolagong Cawley was not only a phenomenal tennis participant, she was additionally an individual of color from Australia who succeeded in a sport that was – and continues to be – dominated by the white, center courses. Past the race difficulty, she was a breath of recent air on our TV screens within the 1970s. To look at this younger girl operating across the tennis court docket beating the outdated execs was great.
She actually left a terrific impression on a younger 11-year-old schoolboy when she received Wimbledon for the primary time in 1971. I bear in mind watching her in motion on an outdated black and white TV with my mum and sister. She memorably received Wimbledon once more 9 years later. It was a fairly superb feat provided that she had given beginning to her first daughter within the intervening years. She was such a contented, joyful individual; you can not assist however love her. A terrific ambassador to the sport and her nation. Steve Watts
Due to everybody who took half. Subsequent week: who’s the best male tennis participant of the final 50 years?
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