Archive for February, 2009
Billie Jean King is one of the most aggressive tennis players at the net I have ever watched. When a player is that aggressive at the net, the results of her matches show it; she becomes unstoppable. Any match that I watched with King playing, I knew what she would do if her opponent gave her the opportunity, and they almost always gave her the opportunity. She would rush the net! Once at the net, the advantage she has is fast placement. She would make her opponent rush forward to get a ball just barely over the net or she would make them dash from side-to-side retrieving baseline balls. This technique would wear her opponent right out. By the end of the third match her opponent’s energy levels were shot and King’s were still high. Mastery of this technique is few and far between among women athletes. Many are aggressive and hit powerful shots baseline to baseline, but few have the mastery of play at the net like King.
Her records show the success this technique has, she has won: 12 singles titles, 16 women’s doubles titles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. I love the intimidation factor King brings to women’s tennis!
We all know that women athletes were rare in the early 1900′s. Suzanne Lenglen was one of those rare individuals that set the stage for female athletes to come. She was a French woman who participated in numerous world tournaments from 1914 to 1926. During that time she won 31, yes that does read THIRTY-ONE Grand Slam titles. In addition to her incredible athleticism, she transcended women’s athletic fashions of the time wearing shorter pant and sleeve combinations, all the while creating a buzz about her casual sipping of brandy between sets.
Perhaps her wardrobe distracted her opponents, but I think its safe to say her tennis game was top notch. Her nickname was La Divine (the divine one) and as years have passed since her incredible career she is still in my opinion one of the greatest tennis players in history. I definitely think she set the standard for current female tennis stars. Without Lenglen and other amazing female athletes throughout the years that have exhibited incredible skills and mastery of their games, female athletes today would be lost or perhaps non-existent.
I grew up watching my sister collect everything she could of Maureen Connolly. Connolly inspired my sister because of her tennis achievements at a young age. At age 14, she won 56 consecutive matches. In the 1951 US national championship, at the age of 16, she won the title of America’s most prestigious tennis tournament. I am constantly shocked at the level of play she brought to women and men several years her senior. She had tremendous power in her forehand and backhand coupled with accuracy. This combination made her deadly from the baseline.
Her success only become mores impressive when she continued into the 1953 season when she won the titles to all four of the world’s major tennis tournaments. My sister and I watched in amazement as she defended her title during the 1954 season, also which she suffered a tragic horseback riding accident. Her return was limited and left us with the memory of her early championships.
As we grew up, every tennis athlete has been held to the standard that Connolly set. She was young, determined, and talented. Both my sister and I have found it hard to find anyone that compares to the character of the young woman that inspired us.
I’ve never seen an athlete with more focus on and off the court than Helen Wills Moody. The lack of emotion that she showed during every match is testimony to her incredible focus on the game, not to mention the nicknames she acquired as her career advanced. These included “little miss poker face” (the most endearing), “Queen Helen” and “the imperial Helen”. My parents raved about her athleticism, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized the magnitude of her accomplishments.
She won several Olympic gold medals in the early 20’s and at the age of 17 won her first women’s national title. This made her the youngest champion at the time. Over her 17 year tennis career she won 19 out of the 24 Grand Slam’s she entered!
I think that the most impressive characteristics of Helen’s play are an excellent serve, a powerful forehand, a strong backhand, a killer instinct, and no weaknesses. I can teach the first three to my athletes, but the last two are something that one is born with. No one can teach that.
I hold Monica Seles in high esteem as an exceptional tennis player and a person of extreme courage. For those of you who don’t know, Seles was attacked by a deranged, German fan during a match in Germany against Magdalena Maleeva. The fan ran onto the court and stabbed her between the shoulder blades with a boning knife. The fan was not charged due to a mental condition.
What I don’t think most people realize is that even though Seles physical injuries healed in weeks, the mental injuries took years to overcome. When she finally came back to tennis in 1995 I was awe stricken. Her determination to continue to do what she loves, and do it well proves that she is a true warrior.
As far as her playing style goes, I think she set the stage for power players like Serena Williams. She often grunts due to how much energy she is putting into each shot. This exertion of energy is often claimed to be a distraction to her opponents. Today’s champions like Serena Williams and Venus Williams prove that this ‘grunting’ is merely a by-product of their efforts.
Current tennis players can learn a thing or two from Seles determination and spirit.
Currently Serena Williams is ranked the No. 1 women’s tennis player in the world and with good reason. She holds the US Open and Australian Open singles championship titles and will be defending them this year. I cannot wait to watch her defend these titles! The intensity and focus that Serena has when she is on the court is something I have not seen in years. Any player that is going to actually give her a worthy match will need to exceed this intensity and focus.
Williams also is one of the most aggressive women’s tennis players I’ve ever seen. Her serves are consistently over 100mph, usually clocking in the 120mph range and are accurately placed in the service court. How any player deals with these serves is beyond me, but even when they return her serves, Williams always responds with an equally powerful exchange. Her aggressive baseline play is remarkable to watch. Both her forehand and backhand are unstoppable and incredibly accurate.
I can’t wait to watch her win another round of all four Grand Slam titles. Go Serena!
If I could pick any female tennis player to play a doubles match with, I would pick Margaret Smith Court. She won the mixed doubles Grand Slam title numerous times and with various partners. Court has also won a healthy number of singles Grand Slam titles, winning more than half of the singles tournaments she has played in. She is one of the best women’s players of all time ranking up there with Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. The matches she played against these women in were incredible. I cannot even imagine having the honor to play with all three of these tennis greats!
I don’t think anyone can deny that Court is one of the greats when they realize that she is one of only three players to have achieved a career “boxed set” of Grand Slam titles. This means that she has won the singles, same-sex doubles and mixed doubles titles at all four Grand Slam events! Her achievements are undeniable and the reason that I would chose to have her, at her career high, by my side for any doubles match. As they say, the girl’s got game!
I love sports of all kinds, but tennis is my favorite. Hands down.
So I offer the world my picks of the Top 10 Female Tennis Players of all time and the Top 10 Male Tennis Players.