Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Serena Aiming to Pass Chrissie, Martina on All-Time Slams List
NEW YORK — At 31 years old, Serena Williams is the oldest woman ever to be ranked No. 1 in the world.
And while that achievement is important, perhaps of more significance is that Williams is closing in on a couple of tennis legends on the all-time Majors list.
Williams owns 15 career Major singles titles and remains three behind Hall of Famers Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who won 18 apiece.
“It’s very close but it’s extremely far away,” Williams said before beating world No. 2 Victoria Azarenka, 6-4, 6-3, Monday nightin the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden.
“I would love to get there but my goal right now is 16 and hopefully I can get there. Sometimes something can be so close but yet almost impossible to reach that I try not to think that far.”
Williams won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year to jump from 13 to 15 on the all-time Majors list. If she were to repeat that feat in 2013 — which she is certainly capable of doing despite being ousted in the Australian Open quarterfinals by fellow American Sloane Stephens after suffering a back problem — she would be one shy of Evert and Navratilova.
Steffi Graf won 22 Majors in her career, and Margaret Court is the all-time women’s leader at 24.
To add to her total, Williams may well have to get past Azarenka in at least another Major final. They played an epic U.S. Open final last year, with Williams prevailing, 6-2, 2-6, 7-5.
“She’s such a great champion and she’s the best player I’ve ever played,” said Azarenka, who has lost 11 of 13 tour matches to Williams. “I always think about her not only as a player but as a person off the court. And she’s a great girl, so I definitely enjoy being around her. She definitely motivates me to work harder and I’m honored to part of this rivalry.”
Cliff Drysdale, the longtime ESPN tennis announcer and recent inductee into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, thinks it’s inevitable that Williams will at least tie Evert and Navratilova.
Drysdale believes that because Williams started her career late and has also missed time with injuries, family tragedies and outside interests, that should help her stay fresh going forward.
“If she stays healthy, there is no doubt in my mind that she’s going to make it,” he told SNY.tv. “Notwithstanding the fact that she’s closing in on what should be the twilight of her career.
“Remember, she started late, she’s been out a lot, that helps her in the latter stages of her career. I don’t think she’s burnt out by any means. Her only issue is her health, and as long as it’s good she will definitely catch Chrissie and Martina, in my opinion.”
HINGIS CHOSEN FOR HALLMartina Hingis, the five-time Grand Slam singles champion, headlines the 2013 International Tennis Hall of Fame class. Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell and Ion Tiriac were also selected.
“I’m happy for her, she obviously had a Hall of Fame career,” Serena Williams said of Hingis. “She had a great game and achieved so much at such an early age, did so much for the sport, inspired me a lot to play. We’ve had a lot of tough matches. It was definitely inevitable and I think she’s so young to be in Hall of Fame, it’s pretty awesome.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.