With the win over Angelique Kerber in Saturday’s Wimbledon final, Serena Williams tied Steffi Graf for most Grand Slams in the Open era, further making her case as “one of the greatest athletes of all time”. While it’s unfair to compare eras, we take the help of numbers to answer the burning question – Serena or Steffi?
Graf won her first Grand Slam -- the 1987 French Open – at the age of 17 and the last of her 22 titles 12 years later, again in Paris. While Serena’s winning span is five years longer, nine slams after turning 30 say a lot about her longevity.
Graf bested opponents such as Martina Navratilova, Gabriela Sabatini and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario. Her biggest nemesis however was Monica Seles, who dominated Graf from 1991-1993 -- winning seven Slams to the German’s two. It’s hard to guess what Seles could have achieved if it wasn’t for the stabbing incident.
On the other hand, Serena has seen off three eras of rivals – outgoing Graf and Seles, contemporaries Lindsay Davenport, Kim Clijsters, Justin Henin Hardenne and sister Venus, and fresh faces Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza.
Graf is the only player to have won each major at least four times. And while Serena has won more on the Australian and US hardcourts and equal at Wimbledon, she has three fewer titles on the clay of Paris.
Graf holds the record for both total (377) and consecutive (186) weeks as No 1. Serena, who has now been on top for 177 straight weeks, will begin her 301st week from Monday. Given her current form, the American has a chance to catch up on both fronts.
While Graf won 11 titles in doubles -- including the 1988 Wimbledon with Sabatini -- the German’s focus remained squarely on singles.
Serena has won 14 Grand Slams with Venus (the latest merely hours after her singles triumph on Saturday) and two in mixed competition. A singles Olympic gold at 2012 London cancels out Graf’s at 1988 Seoul, and further three in doubles make this a no-contest.