The Dynasty Known As Serena Williams…and the Spurs

8 06 2013

Just as all the greats can do, she has the ability to go into a different zone. She goes into a place where she can’t be stopped. She doesn’t see “losing” as a reasonable outcome.

Williams showed the French what it means to be a force of nature.

Serena Williams won her second career French Open title by taking down Maria Sharapova 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday. Just as Serena saved her fastest serve of the day—123 mph—for the last serve of the day when she claimed her 16th Grand Slam, the oldest ever #1 ranked female tennis player in the world seems to save her best tennis for the biggest of stages.

As much as the sports media loves to analyze the reasoning behind one player/team winning a championship over another player/team losing a championship, it can’t be done with this match. Sharapova played some great tennis and stuck with Serena throughout the entire match…but it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because Serena is on her own level of tennis that can’t be touched by any other woman playing the game. Sharapova is deservingly ranked No. 2 in the world and was the field’s best chance of taking down Serena. She might have played great tennis but Serena played flawless tennis.

At 31, Serena is sports-old. It would seem with the amount of pressure she puts on her body with her rough style of play, Serena would be on the decline, especially since she went through a plethora of injuries in 2011—including a life-threatening one—that kept her from winning a Grand Slam for that year for the first time since she went major-less in 2006.

But looking at Serena cruise through this French Open as she only lost one set the entire tournament, this tennis player is as dynamic and fit as she’s ever been. She no longer tends to sit back and pound the ball down her opponent’s throat while moving as little as possible. She’s chasing balls. She’s covering the baseline. She’s playing solid defense. She has become more active while still maintaining the strongest pair of arms in the game. By far.

Let’s take a second to reflect on what this Grand Slam means for Serena and just how the word “dominant” might not be enough to describe her tennis playing:

  • Won 31 consecutive matches
  • Holds a 16-4 record all-time in Grand Slam finals (two of those were lost to her sister Venus Williams)
  • One of only four women to win all four majors twice (Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chrissie Evert)
  • Since last year’s 1st-round loss in the 2012 French Open, has a 74-3 record
  • At 31, oldest woman to win a major title since Navratilova won Wimbledon at 33 in 1990
  • Only one Grand Slam away from matching Roger Federer‘s 17 titles.

So what does all of this mean?

It means Serena Williams is like the San Antonio Spurs.

Reader: Wait wait wait…you’re comparing a tennis player to an NBA franchise? You’re stretching things, Jay.

Let me explain myself.

Since the beginning of this millennium, San Antonio has won three championships (2003, 2005, 2007) and is currently up 1-0 in the NBA Finals. This team should be considered a dynasty, even though you must stretch the definition a bit.

Due to the fact that the Spurs’ big four—Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Gregg Poppovich—have won their championships over such a long period of time unlike other sports dynasties that gathered championship trophies all at once, they don’t necessarily define a certain period. You can’t say they define the 2000’s era of basketball when five other teams have taken home the title.

However, they persevered through an ever-changing league when it is an anomaly to keep hold of a core group of players. They persisted time and time again when they were proclaimed by experts as being too old and were advised to break up their core. They won three titles in a methodical manner with the same three players and head coach being the foundation to their success.

And now, these four men are on the verge of adding one more banner to their stadium—winning their first one exactly 10 years ago.

Serena has persevered through the same level of change and scrutiny. Since 2006, five men have won a major and two of them only won it once. During that same time period, 13 women have won a Grand Slam, including 2011 when four different women—none being Serena—won the four majors.

Obviously, these numbers make it seem as though no one woman has been able to take command of the game—how else can you explain Kuznetsova winning a Grand Slam in 2009? I mean, really?

Things eventually hit rock bottom for Serena in her own country in 2011 followed by two early exits in her next two Grand Slams in 2012. It seemed it might be time to start reflecting on her career and how impressive she had been.

But just like the Spurs, right when you think Serena is done being a force, she decides to prove you wrong. Winning three of the past four majors, Serena is right back atop of the women’s tennis world and doesn’t look to be coming down any time soon. San Antonio is up one game on the favored Miami Heat and is only three wins away from being atop the NBA world yet again.

(Also—Serena doesn’t get talked about very much because of the nation’s general lack of interest in her sport while the Spurs don’t get much press because of their style of play and location; neither of them get their deserved national media coverage.)

Both are more than dominant—they are resolute. When everything around them is changing and they are being talked about in the past tense, they continue to do the only thing they know how to do: win. There may be hard-to-swallow first round exits along the way (Spurs lost to the 8th-seeded Grizzlies in the 1st round of the 2011 Playoffs and Serena lost to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the 2012 French Open), but that doesn’t deter these steadfast champions from continuing their course of superiority and success. They continue forward.

I have no doubt Serena will continue winning Grand Slams—at least one more this year. There’s no one standing in her way as she took down her toughest competition in straight sets Saturday. San Antonio has the right coach, game plan and original “Big 3” to take home another championship in the next few weeks. Could they win another one after that? It would be tough, especially in a league with Kevin Durant and LeBron James only getting better.

But before you say they’re too old and that this will be their last chance at a ring, remember the 2013 French Open women’s champion. Remember that some dynasties last longer than you think.

Some dynasties like Serena and the Spurs.

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Sharapova Wins Finally and Nadal Wins Again

11 06 2012

As the French Open came to a close this past weekend, Nadal simply went through the motions as Sharapova experienced a new type of victory.


When Maria Sharapova had right shoulder surgery in 2008 after winning the Australian Open earlier in the year, the sport’s second most famous female player seemed to have an insurmountable obstacle to overcome in order to complete her career Grand Slam. The past few years since this surgery, the firepower behind her swing seemed to be nonexistent and the likelihood of seeing the “old” Sharapova seemed more and more unlikely with each successive tournament.

Saturday provided Sharapova with the opportunity to complete this mission, and it was easily accomplished.

With a much stronger shoulder and confident swing, Sharapova effectively implemented a familiar piercing serve to take a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Sara Errani to capture her first French Open title, completing her career Grand Slam. Only nine other women have ever been able to do this.

It became apparent as this game went along that the 5-foot-4 1/2 Errani could not stand up to the pressure of her first Grand Slam single compared to Sharapova’s seventh. The young Italian only produced 12 winners as she seemed uncomfortable playing against an opponent 10 inches taller than her. In the end, Sharapova had the superior strength and experience that gave her the seemingly undemanding championship victory.

Even though Sharapova has plenty of good years ahead of her at the young age of 25, this is the cherry on top of her career so far. It only took 17 years of her life before she was placed in the media spotlight after winning Wimbledon in 2004. She quickly thereafter won the U.S. Open (19) and the Australian Open (20). But then her shoulder surgery took her out of the game and out of relevancy as she dropped all the way to 126th.

The clay has become home for Sharapova as she been dominant every time she steps onto this tough-to-move-around-in red or blue clay. She holds a record of 16-0 on the year when playing on clay.


Men Women
2006 Australian Open Roger Federer (7) Amelie Mauresmo
French Open Rafael Nadal (2) Justin Henin (5)
Wimbledon Roger Federer (8) Amelie Mauresmo (2)
U.S. Open Roger Federer (9) Maria Sharapova (2)
2007 Australian Open Roger Federer (10) Serena Williams (8)
French Open Rafael Nadal (3) Justin Henin (6)
Wimbledon Roger Federer (11) Venus Williams (6)
U.S. Open Roger Federer (12) Justin Henin (7)
2008 Australian Open Novak Djokovic Maria Sharapova (3)
French Open Rafael Nadal (4) Ana Ivanovic
Wimbledon Rafael Nadal (5) Venus Williams (7)
U.S. Open Roger Federer (13) Serena Williams (9)
2009 Australian Open Rafael Nadal (6) Serena Williams (10)
French Open Roger Federer (14) Svetlana Kuznetsova (2)
Wimbledon Roger Federer (15) Serena Williams (11)
U.S. Open Juan Marin Del Potro Kim Clijsters (2)
2010 Australian Open Roger Federer (16) Serena Williams (12)
French Open Rafael Nadal (7) Francesca Schiavone
Wimbledon Rafael Nadal (8) Serena Williams (13)
U.S. Open Rafael Nadal (9) Kim Clijsters (3)
2011 Australian Open Novak Djokovic (2) Kim Clijsters (4)
French Open Rafael Nadal (10) Li Na
Wimbledon Novak Djokovic (3) Petra Kvitova
U.S. Open Novak Djokovic (4) Samantha Stosur
2012 Australian Open Novak Djokovic (5) Victoria Azarenka
French Open Rafael Nadal (11) Maria Sharapova (4)
4 Different Men 13 Different Women


Clearly, the women’s side of this sport has gone through a flux of winners with no established upper tier class of players. There was one time when Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Justin Henin had a grasp of their sport and could be found near the end of every Grand Slam tournament. However, one of these players has retired, another is playing like she is 51 instead of 31 and the other just got knocked out of the first round.

Sharapova has no control over her competition from year to year; however, because of the lack of reliable competition from tournament to tournament, this career Grand Slam has to be considered the most underwhelming one of all time. Not only did she take the most time (nine years) out of both the men’s and women’s side to win all four Grand Slams, she also came out on top of this last Grand Slam during a time when the previous four major tournaments resulted in four straight women winning their first Grand Slam. That’s inconsistency.

Winning only a single title from each tournament, it is as if Sharapova has found a way to scrape by in order to have this milestone on her resume. Furthermore, none of these tournaments were won in the same year or in the following year. Of the 17 men and women to take home four different Grand Slam trophies, only Sharapova and Shirley Fry Irvin failed to win more than those four times. Yes, Sharapova still has time. If she can find a way to play at a high level all year unlike every other professional women’s tennis player currently out there, all of this will be moot.

At this point in time, though, with the lack of competition along with her limited victories on the big stage, Sharapova winning Saturday and completing her career Grand Slam should receive a golf clap.


Thanks to some rain that fell at the most opportune time for a certain Spaniard, Rafael Nadal bit yet another Musketeers’ Trophy as he defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5.

The No. 1 ranked player in the world had already strung together two straight matches earlier in the tournament when he came back from a 2-0 deficit. Djokovic clearly has the mental capability to put his struggles behind him and defeat his opponent under any circumstances. With the chance to complete his own career Grand Slam by winning four consecutive tournaments, he clearly wanted this.

Sunday’s match provided him with yet another 2-0 deficit as Nadal looked to be on a cakewalk toward his record-breaking seventh French Open title. Yet, the third set completely changed the feel of this game as Nadal’s play on the baseline stopped working to his advantage and Djokovic began outhitting Nadal on seemingly every play. Djokovic quickly took the third set and broke Nadal immediately to take a 2-0 4th set lead. If the Djoker had been able to capture this set and leave the championship in the hands of a 5th set, he would have the momentum and know-how to finish off his powerful opponent.

But the “tennis gods” began to cry since they did not know what to do with themselves in this situation. Since his professional career started in 2003, Nadal has never lost this clay court tournament other than the three times he had to drop out or failed to play at his normal level due to an injury. After these tears began to really come down, the match was postponed to the next day.

Just as Djokovic looked like a different player in the third set and at the start of the fourth set, Nadal came out Monday with a new focus that allowed him to jump right back into the set as he won the next two games. When Nadal has his feet sunk into the clay he played on growing up, his forehand seems indomitable with no chance of slowing down.

Djokovic seems to currently have a level of play that puts him above Nadal in terms of who is the better tennis player. However, he was not simply playing against the second best player in the world. He was playing against Rafa – the man that has now clearly established himself as the best clay court athlete to ever play the game as he passed Bjorn Borg for most men’s French Open titles. Nadal took that fourth set and was on his way to gnawing on more metal.

It isn’t a coincidence that seven of Nadal’s 11 Grand Slam titles come from the French Open. The Spaniard’s style of forceful play and placement five feet behind the baseline fit excellently in Paris. The clay courts slow down all movement of the tennis ball, allowing Nadal to sit back and play his physical game to perfection. No other player will ever have an advantage like Nadal when it comes to playing on one court over to another.

If 16-time Grand Slam champ Roger Federer was unable to take down Nadal during his own prime when he seemed to hit every angle correctly and win every match he played, Djokovic will clearly need the ball to bounce his way if he ever wants to take down the King of Clay that’s only one year older than him. Once Wimbledon begins in a few weeks, these two (and possibly Federer) will undoubtedly provide some theatrical and captivating tennis.


Even though Sharapova and Nadal are clearly at different points in their career and achieved their respective milestone against different levels of opponents, they both love to grunt, scream and yell when they hit the tennis ball. This past weekend, they both shouted just enough to become French Open champions.


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Aussie Champs

29 01 2012


The 2012 Australian Open had quite a finish this weekend. After Azerenka won one of the fastest and most lopsided victories in Australian Open history, Djokovic and Nadal proceeded to play the longest singles Grand Slam final…ever.


Azaraneka def Sharapova: 6-3, 6-0

Match length: 82 minutes


Djovokic def Nadal 5-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 7-5

Match length: 353 minutes


24-year old Djokovic will obviously retain his #1 ranking while 22-year-old Azarenka will make her fist appearance in the #1 spot. Congratulations to both of them.


Over the past two years, only Nadal and Djokovic have won the men’s Grand Slam titles, while on the women’s side, there have been seven different champions. Both sides have a very talented set of athletes; however, the scope of competition could not be more different at this time.


Men  Women
Australian 12 Djokovic Azarenka
U.S. Open 11 Djokovic Stosur
Wimbledon 11 Djokovic Kvitova
French Open 11 Nadal Na
Australian 11 Djokovic Clijsters
U.S. Open 10 Nadal Clijsters
Wimbledon 10 Nadal S. Williams
French Open 10 Nadal Schiavone


This hasn’t always been the case though. There was a time when only a few women dominated the tennis court. In the early 2000s, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Jennifer Capriati (all 3 American) won 12 of 13 Grand Slam titles. During this same time period, 10 different men won their respective titles. This is just the cycle of dominace in professional tennis.


Can any of the current women step up and win multiple titles? When will Nadal or Djokovic relinquish their rule? We’ll have to wait and see.


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