Serena Williams, and to a lesser degree her sister Venus, saved American tennis.
It sounds egocentric to pull out the fact that the Williams sisters are American right after Serena captured a historic 23rd grand slam title to reaffirm her status as the greatest female athlete of all-time, but for a nation that has little hope in tennis for the immediate future, appreciating the present is all the more necessary.
The sport’s future prospects in general aren’t the most exciting, with a dearth of stars and rivalries left to follow some of the most memorable names. But without Venus and especially Serena continuing to captivate, America’s interest in tennis would have decidedly waned by now.
No disrespect to the likes of Coco Vandeweghe, Sloane Stephens, Steve Johnson, John Isner, Jack Sock and Sam Querrey, but none of them have either the star-power or potential to be a multi-grand slam winner worth the full attention of casual American fans.
Madison Keys, who became the first American woman to debut in the top-10 since Serena, appears to be the only one capable of taking up the torch at the moment, but for all her talent, the 21-year-old still has a long way to go to become a household name.
Winning, at least to the benchmark Serena has set, isn’t a prerequisite though. No one expects another American to come along and achieve the same level of success, winning major after major and being the top player in the world.
You can still be a star and capture America’s attention without the glossy resume. Look no further than Andy Roddick for proof, with the big server, despite winning a single grand slam [and claiming the world no1 ranking] in his underachieving career, managing to draw eyes and interest.
Roddick followed legends Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras and took advantage of a gap that had no other American men in contention. On the women’s side, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati were having success during the same time, but Roddick’s potential to be bigger than what he ended up being made him compelling.
Serena, however, became a gravitational force. If not for her, there would be no bridge carrying along American hopes until the next one emerges. Her longevity hasn’t just been essential to re-writing the record books, but in keeping tennis alive for a country that would otherwise care less.
And the way she’s done it has been just as significant. Yes, it matters that she’s a strong, African American woman who takes no prisoners and isn’t afraid to show her confidence. Her charisma and style, in both her play and attire on the court, show personality that runs counter to the clean-cut, white tennis stereotype.
It’s undoubtedly inspired younger players, even if it won’t translate to her eventual successor.
There will come a time when America won’t have the Williamses as a lens to follow tennis through, but until that day comes, there shouldn’t be a second in which we take them for granted.
It is back to the Future and time to roll back the clock as old foes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal compete for the 2017 Australian Open trophy on Sunday.
The pair will battle it out for a 35th time in the Melbourne showpiece at the iconic Rod Laver Arena.
Battling injuries, overcoming layoffs and defying all odds, the Fedal rivalry is all set to take over the Tennis fraternity again and in turn treat everyone to perhaps the biggest blockbuster final in history.
Will Federer end his four-and-a-half-year wait for a major or will Nadal end his own two-and-a-half-year drought?
Here, Sport360 provides an in-depth analysis of all the numbers, stats and records ahead of the big showdown.
6 – Federer is through to his sixth Australian Open final (winning four and losing one to Nadal in 2009), joining Djokovic for the most Aus Open finals in the Open-Era (2004, 2006-07, 2009-10, 2017).
28 – Federer has reached his 28th Grand Slam Final (17-10) further extending his all-time record for most Grand Slam finals (AO – 6, FO – 5, WIM – 10, USO – 7).
5 – With a victory over compatriot Stan Wawrinka, Federer ended a five semi-final losing streak Down Under (2011-14, 16). The Last time Federer reached the final was in 2010 (defeated Murray to win his fourth Aus Open title). Federer also ended a four-match losing streak in five-setter semi-finals.
100 – On Sunday, Federer will become only the second man after Jimmy Connors to play 100 matches at one event. Connors has achieved that at two events – USO and Wimbledon.
Connors→US Open – 115 matches (98-17)
Connors→Wimbledon – 102 matches (84-18)
Federer→Aus Open – 100* matches (86-13*)
3 – Since winning the 2012 Wimbledon crown, Federer is on a three-slam final losing streak (his longest streak without a win in major finals). All his losses have come against Djokovic (Wimbledon 2014-15, US Open 2015).
5 – Federer is through to this fifth Grand Slam final after turning 30. Rosewall is the leader with eight slam finals after turning 30 (Rosewall: 8, Federer: 5, Laver: 4, Agassi: 4).
6 – Roger could become only the sixth man in the Open-Era to win two or more Grand Slam titles after turning 30. Rod Laver (4), Ken Rosewall (4), Jimmy Connors (2), Andre Agassi (2) and Stan Wawrinka (2)
LONGEST TIME BETWEEN FIRST GRAND SLAM TITLE TO LAST
Federer (13y 7m) will attempt to become the first man in the Open-Era to win slams across 13 years (Wimbledon 2003→Aus Open 2017 with a win). Peter Sampras (12 years) currently holds the Open-Era record for Longest Gap between first major title and last major title (US Open 1990→US Open 2002).
LONGEST TIME BETWEEN FIRST GRAND SLAM FINAL TO LAST
Federer (13y 7m) will attempt to become only the second man in the Open-Era to reach slam finals across 13+ years (Wimbledon 2003→Aus Open 2017). Andre Agassi (15y 3m) currently holds the Open-Era record for the longest gap between first major final and last major final (French Open 1990→US Open 2005).
13 – Federer is the first man to reach the Aus Open finals across 13 years (2004→2017). He could also become the 1st man to win the Aus Open title across 13 years. The record is jointly held by Andre Agassi (1995→2003) and Novak Djokovic (2008→2016) at eight years.
13 – This will be Federer’s 13th hard-court final joining Djokovic.
Djokovic 6 AO, 7 USO
Federer 6 AO, 7 USO
10 – Federer will be attempting to win his 10th hard-court major further extending his record (5 USO, 4 AO).
5 – Federer could become only the first man in history to win five titles at three different majors (7 WIM, 5 USO, 4 AO). Only three other players have achieved this (in singles).
Margaret Court – 11 AO, 5 FO, 5 USO
Steffi Graf – 6 FO, 7 WIM, 5 USO
Serena Williams – 6 AO, 7 WIM, 6 USO
Oldest Slam Winner – At 35y 5m, Federer is bidding to become the second-oldest man to win a major (Open-Era) after Ken Rosewall. Rosewall won three Majors post his 35th birthday and is the only man to win a major after his 35th birthday.
1972 Aus Open – 37y 2m
1971 Aus Open – 36y 4m
1970 US Open – 35y 10m
Oldest Finalist – Federer is the oldest Grand Slam finalist since Rosewall (39y 10m) at the 1974 US Open.
Agassi was the last man to reach a slam final post his 35th birthday (2005 US Open, lost to Federer).
4 – Federer is the fourth man to reach a major final after turning 35, joining Rosewall, Mal Anderson and Agassi.
4 – Federer will be looking for his fourth top- 10 win of the tournament (3R – Berdych (10), 4R – Nishikori (5), SF – Wawrinka (4)). This is the first time Federer has posted three top-10 victories at one major en route to the final.
3 – Federer (35y 5m) is the third-oldest man to reach the Aus Open final after Rosewall (37y 2m) and Anderson (36y 10m).
No.17 Seed – A No17 seed has played in two Grand Slam finals (1 WIM, 1 USO). Both were winners; Sampras (2002 USO) and Richard Krajicek (1996 WIM).
Federer is the lowest ranked player to reach the Aus Open final since Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (ranked 38 and unseeded) in 2008 (lost to Djokovic). He is also the lowest ranked player to reach a major final since Swede Robin Soderling (ranked 25 and seeded 23) at the 2009 French Open (lost to Federer).
15 – Nadal will go for this 15th Grand Slam title and take sole ownership of the second spot on the all-time Grand Slam leader board. He is currently tied with Sampras at 14 Slams, behind Federer (17).
21 – Nadal is through to his 21st slam final (14-6), putting him in joint second with Djokovic (21) on the all-time Grand Slam finals list behind Federer (28).
AO – 4, FO – 9, WIM – 5, USO – 3
Multiple Career Grand Slam – Nadal will attempt to become only the third man after Aussie tennis legends Roy Emerson (1967) and Rod Laver (1969) to achieve multiple career Grand Slams (win all slams twice). He will become the first man to achieve this feat in the Open-Era if he wins.
13 – Nadal won his 13th straight Grand Slam semi-final (last loss – 2009 US Open SF, lost to Del Potro).
3 – Nadal is through to his fourth Aus Open Final. He’s on a two-final losing (2012→lost to Djokovic, 2014→lost to Wawrinka) after winning in 2009 (defeated Federer).
1R→Title – Nadal could become the second man to win the Melbourne title after losing in the 1R the previous year (lost to Verdasco→2016). Petr Korda was the last man to win the Aus Open title (1998) after losing in the 1R the previous year (1997). Tsonga was the last man to reach the Aus Open final (2008) after losing in the 1R the previous year (2007). Stan Wawrinka was the last man to achieve this feat at a major – the 2015 French Open (lost in the 1R→2014 French Open).
2 – Nadal is looking to become only the second left-handed player in the Open-Era to win multiple Aus Open titles after Argentine Guillermo Vilas (1978-79).
5 – Since winning his last hard-court title in Doha (2014), Nadal has lost his last five hard-court finals (including his loss to Wawrinka at the 2014 Aus Open final).
No.9 Seed – The No.9 Seed has played in 11 Grand Slam finals (7 AO, 2 FO, 1 WIM, 1 USO). The ninth seed owns a 1-10 win-loss record in finals. The only win was for Jim Courier (1991 French Open defeated Andre Agassi). The ninth seed is 0-7 in Australian Open finals.
Last ninth seed finalist at Aus Open – Marat Safin (2002)
Last ninth seed finalist – Andy Roddick (2006 US Open)
ATP Rankings Move
Federer – Wins title (10), runner-up (14)
Nadal – Wins title (4), runner-up (6)
LONGEST GAP BETWEEN AUS OPEN WINS – Nadal will look to add an Aussie Open title after an eight-year gap (2009). Federer will look to add an Aussie Open title after a seven-year gap (2010). Becker (1991→1996) and Agassi (1995→2000) won their titles across a five-year gap.
12 – This will be the 12th slam meeting for Fedal (9-2 Nadal) which puts them in third spot for most major meetings in the Open-Era.
Djokovic-Federer – 15 meetings (9-6 Djokovic)
Nadal-Djokovic – 13 meetings (9-4 Nadal)
6 – Federer is on a six-match losing streak against Nadal in slams (last winning at 2007 Wimbledon final). He has also lost the four major finals against his big rival (2008 FO, 2008 WIM, 2009 AO, 2011 FO). Nadal is undefeated against Federer at the Rod Laver Arena (2009 F, 2012 SF, 2014 SF).
OVER 30 MAJOR FINALS
The last over-30 final (both players aged 30+) happened at the 2002 US Open when Sampras (31y) defeated Agassi (32y). At the Aus Open, the last Over-30 final happened in 1972 when Ken Rosewall (37y) defeated compatriot Malcolm Anderson (36y).
LOWEST RANKED CHAMPION – The Winner of Sunday’s championship match (No9 seed vs No17) will become the lowest seeded Aus Open champion since Swede Thomas Johansson’s victory in 2002 (ranked 18 and seeded 16). Marin Cilic (ranked 16 and seeded 14) was the last man to win a slam ranked (and seeded) outside the top-10 (2014 US Open). Federer could become the lowest-ranked player to win a slam since Argentine Gaston Gaudio (ranked 44 and unseeded) at the 2004 French Open.
MULTIPLE SLAM FINALS – Federer and Nadal will become the first pair to feature in multiple finals at three different majors.
AO – 2, FO – 4, WIM – 3
CAREER GRAND SLAM RIVALS
They are the only pair in history to meet in the final of a major after completing their career grand slam (2011 French Open and 2017 Aus Open). The only other to meet in a major (not final) after completing their career grand slam was Roy-Emerson and Laver (1969 Aus Open & 1969 US Open).
Five-Setter – The Last time Nadal won two five-setters to reach a major final was at the 2010 Wimbledon (2R & 3R). He ended up winning the title (defeated Berdych). The Last time Federer won two five-setters to reach a major final was at the 2009 French Open (4R and SF) – He ended up winning the title (defeated Soderling)
Thursday SF vs Friday SF – Since 2003, the winner of the second semi-final (Friday) is tied 7-7 with the winner of the first (Thursday) in the championship match (5-4 in favor of Friday’s SF winner since 2008)
It was back at the 2008 Wimbledon when Venus Williams played Serena in the final (Venus won) and Federer played Nadal in the same tournament’s men’s final (Nadal won). With Serena winningthis year, can Federer complete the reverse of 2008’s results?
The younger of the two siblings, Serena Williams beat sister Venus in straight sets to win the Australian Open 2017 crown and an Open Era record 23rd Grand Slam title.
Serena cruised to a 6-4, 6-4 win over Venus, to register her seventh Australian Open title win that takes her past Steffi Graf's previous Open Era record of 22 Grand Slam wins.
It was the ninth time the Williams sisters competed in a Grand Slam final and the game began rather unusually, as the first four games of the first set were all breaks.
Serena eventually held serve and clinched a 6-4 first set win that she never looked back from.
The second set began with both holding serves, until Venus' unforced errors and Serena's impressive performance completed the victory in one hour and 22 minutes.