20 Questions On 20-Time Grand Slam Champion Serena Williams
Serena Williams has 20 majors, we've got 20 questions and ESPN tennis analyst Pam Shriver has 20 answers about Serena's legendary career.
1. What word best describes Serena Williams' play in Paris?
Shriver: Determined. Somewhat feisty. And edgy.
2. Will she get major No. 21 at Wimbledon?
Shriver: Every ESPN commentator will be picking Serena to win at Wimbledon, including me. But she has had some extremely nervous Wimbledon performances recently, including against Alize Cornet last year and Sabine Lisicki the year before.
3. Could she actually win the Grand Slam in 2015 and tie Steffi Graf with 22 majors?
Shriver: I'm saying yes. At Melbourne, when she won No. 19, I said, when Serena was with us, that I felt it was possible. Winning the calendar-year Grand Slam is one of the few things she hasn't done, and I think those kinds of lofty goals -- and making more tennis history -- are what motivate her as much as anything right now. But in your mid-30s injuries can creep in at any point, whether it's her elbow, her knee. When you think about the U.S. hard-court season, if she were to have three legs up on the Grand Slam, managing her body and her matches and making sure she's going into the US Open fully fit would be crucial.
4. Both in their prime, who would win on Centre Court at Wimbledon: Serena or Steffi?
Shriver: Let me add one thing to the question: "both in their prime and playing at their best." If they're both in their prime and playing at their best, Serena would win on Centre Court Wimbledon. But Steffi had fewer inconsistent matches. In their prime, over 10 matches on Centre Court, it might be 5-5 because Graf was more consistent.
5. If Serena had been born 25 years earlier, in the era of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, how many majors would she have won?
Shriver: First of all, you'd have to reset everybody's totals. I would take six away from both Chrissie and Martina. They would have ended up with 12 each. Serena would have ended up with 15. So it would be 12, 12 and 15. I'm taking some Frenches away from Serena; I'm taking some Wimbledons away from Serena. And I'm taking a couple of everything away from everybody.
The big thing about Martina and Chrissie is that they were the same age and both had long careers. Their primes overlapped. One of the reasons Serena's number is so big, to be honest, is because she hasn't had that long[time] rival alongside [her] the whole time. Justine Henin retired in 2008. (She made a brief comeback in 2010 and '11 but never won a major after the 2007 US Open.) Martina and Chrissie, to each have collected 18 apiece, is astounding. Especially when you consider that in 1988, Steffi Graf was pretty much the stopper for both of them. For it to be a real apples-to-apples, Serena would have needed Henin to play longer and to have somebody in the past year or two like Graf -- an all-time great -- burst onto the scene. Serena has not had those two things that Martina and Chris had to deal with.
6. How many great years does Serena still have in her?
Shriver: If a "great year" means you win at least one major, I think she could win at least one major for another three years. She could play and win at least one major a year until she's, like, 36. That's with some great care and management of her frame and her schedule. And one of the reasons is there's nobody on the horizon who appears to be ready to take the mantle of dominating at the majors.
7. How many more majors will she win in her career?
Shriver: I think she and Venus want to win a few more doubles majors, too, by the way, and an Olympic gold. But if we're talking just singles, I think she could win five more majors. She will pass Margaret Court.
8. Who is her biggest threat?
Shriver: Serena's bad day. Serena not playing well. Serena getting injured. That's my primary answer. My next answer would be if Victoria Azarenka continues to gain her form and her health ... the Azarenka of two years ago was Serena's biggest threat.
9. How much longer will Serena remain No. 1 in the rankings?
Shriver: If she stays healthy and doesn't have any long injury breaks, two years.
10. What separates her from the rest of the women's players?
Her serve. Her power. And her ability to perform at the end of the majors better than anyone ever.
11. What one word best describes her serve?
Shriver: I can't contain it to one word. One word doesn't do it justice. ... historic? I think it could go down as the greatest single shot in the history of tennis -- male or female. Her record in major finals -- there's one reason she has that: her serve. Why is she the greatest ever? Why has she lasted 16 years? It's because the greatest shot in the history of women's tennis has lasted 16 years. And it's a great clutch shot. To me, it's impossible to do it justice in one word.
12. What has been the greatest achievement of her career?
Shriver: A lot of people might say holding all four major singles titles at one time. But it's her record in finals of majors. It's 20-4 now. Twenty and four. And here's another one, her record against Sharapova since the year 2004. To go more than 10 years without a loss to the person who should be your greatest rival? That is unbelievable.
13. What one thing has prevented Serena from winning even more majors?
Shriver: Injuries. When she hurt her foot after Wimbledon 2010 and missed pretty much an entire year, that definitely cost her three or four majors.
14. Does she still have a psychological edge over her opponents?
Shriver: Yes. She still has that champion's aura that's worth many games each set. When she's playing at her best, she has a huge psychological edge. That said, there are two Serenas, and players do know that. There's the hit-out-freely champion Serena that we saw at the US Open and the way she finished off Sharapova at the Australian. But there can also be the tense and tight, can't-get-out-of-her-own-way Serena.
15. Does she still have a physical edge over her opponents?
Shriver: Yes. Physically, nobody can approach her gifts right now on a consistent basis.
16. At age 33, is there anything she could still improve upon?
Shriver: When she does feel the tension or when she can't -- for whatever reason -- get up for a match, you can always work on the psychological side and find ways to motivate and ways to manage yourself so that you save the best for on the court. I also still think tactically Serena can continue to improve.
17. What one moment in her career stands out most?
Shriver: Her first US Open. When she was 17. Getting it all started in 1999. Being the first Williams sister to win a major. She not only threw down the gauntlet for women's tennis but she also threw down the gauntlet within her own family. She was the first Williams to win a major singles title even though she was the younger of the two. That set the stage for her career. When you think about her record in finals, that set the stage to be a great major-final player. Beating Martina Hingis, in straight sets, in her first major final, she was the underdog. Hingis was a dominant No. 1. That was the moment.
18. Who would win, Serena Williams of 2015 or Serena Williams of 2002?
Shriver: They definitely play a bit differently. If they played 10 matches over a year right now, it would be 5-5. Today, Serena doesn't make as many unforced errors. The Serena of 2002 covered the court better and had a little bit -- just a little bit -- more power. But I think Serena today is a smarter and better player, but Serena of '02 would beat you with athleticism and power.
19. Can you think of another athlete -- in any sport -- who has dominated so completely for this long?
Shriver: Floyd Mayweather comes to mind. And maybe there's somebody else in a combat sport I'm not thinking of. But for Serena, it has now been 16 years since she won her first major. ... If Roger Federer can find a way in the next two or three years to win several more majors, he might be the only tennis player in the debate. Sixteen years of winning majors -- and I know it's not every year -- but 16 years of winning majors, that's pretty unbelievable.
20. Right now: Is she the greatest ever?
Shriver: Yes. Because I include her doubles record, her Olympic record, even throw in the mixed doubles, her longevity, her weeks at No. 1, the oldest player to ever be No. 1. ... Her record in major finals is incredible. She's 20-4 in singles majors, 13-0 in doubles majors. Throw in the Olympics singles and doubles and she's 4-0. That's 37-4. When you throw all that together, she's better than Graf and better than Margaret Court.