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Sat, Sept. 21

Howard: The women greats of open tennis - now and in the past
My Point

Women’s tennis on the WTA tour currently is open season. By that I mean there are about 10 good female players and a few dark horses that could jump in and win any of the grand slams, unlike men’s tennis where Djokavic, Nadal and Federer still have a firm grasp on most of the major titles on the ATP tour.

The current top 10 is a turn over of relatively new names.

Ashleigh Barty/Naomi Osaka/Karolina Pliskova/Kiki Bertens/Angie Kerber/Petra Kvitova/Simona Halep/Elina Svitolina/Sloane Stephens and Serena Williams.

Outside the top 10 are recognizable players like:

Madison Keys, Caroline Wozniacki, Gabby Muguruza, Danielle Collins, Victoria Azarenka and Venus Williams.

And there is no country that is dominating the tour with their players.

Wimbledon has just begun and anyone would be hard pressed to say who the real favorite would be to win, maybe even to make it to the second week.

And in many ways that’s kind of exciting and certainly refreshing. It peaks your interest in keeping an eye on things, watching more matches and learning about players we don’t really know that much about. A changing of the guard with no dominant talents that at one time would have been the likes of Serena Williams now in her 25th year on the tour, or her older sister Venus.

No doubt that if Serena Williams ranked #10 in the world is in good health and match tough she has the potential to add a few more majors to the 23 Grand Slams she owns. Unfortunately she’s made it to a couple finals the past year and fallen short. Up to this point and at the age of 37, married, with a child, 72 career titles, 259 weeks at #1, does she have the drive, will power and body to be the force she once was?

The last 2 ½ years of Grand Slam titles have been won by: Barty, Osaka, Kerber, Halep, Wozniacki, Halep, Stephens, Muguruza, Ostapenko and Williams. Definitely open season.

As Serena Williams, who has been touted the greatest woman player ever, winds down her career, other than her sister Venus who rivaled each other to a small degree, when she has lost (it’s been noted) it was not her opponents that beat her so much, it was Serena beating herself.

We loved the rivalries of Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, or Steffi Graff and Monica Seles.

And if we go back a little further the mix of Margaret Court (Smith), Billie Jean King, Evon Goolagong, and so many others who brought the game of “Open” tennis, it’s professionalism and the trials and tribulations of sticking their necks out there to make the game what it is today.

Billie Jean King was and still is a moving force in bringing the game into modern times. With her zest for life, women’s rights, titles, personality, innovation and dedication.

Margaret Court Smith and Martina Navratilova showed what getting in great shape could do to push the women’s game to a new level.. In today’s world it’s not just being a great tennis player. It’s on the court, in the gym, nutrition, good mental health with a balanced schedule.

Martina was winning Grand Slam doubles titles into her late forties.

Steffi Graff probably could have played another 5 years. With 22 Grand Slam titles and 377 weeks at #1, the last woman to win a calendar Grand Slam along with an Olympic Gold in 1988...all you can say is WOW!

It takes a special person to do what the players on both tours go through. They aren’t paid a salary by a team and it’s a nomadic life. These tennis gladiators have the respect of most all of us who are in the wings and we enjoy watching their difficult, day to day journeys.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 45 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or choward4541@gmail.com.

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