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Charlie Garfinkel’s Racket Sports: In their primes, Serena would beat Graf

Tennis players have asked. Here are the answers:

Question: Although you ranked Serena Williams as your No. 1 women’s tennis player of the Open Era in a recent column and Steffi Graf No. 3, wouldn’t Graf beat Williams in a one-on-one matchup?.

Answer: I was somewhat surprised by how many tennis aficionados felt that Graf would defeat Williams. Some players felt that Graf’s speed of foot, her devastating forehand and court coverage would neutralize Williams’ power game. Williams’ serve is unanimously regarded as the finest women’s serve in the history of tennis, sometimes being clocked at 130 mph – unprecedented on the women’s tour and as good as many men’s serves.

Her serve in the recent Wimbledon final was the deciding factor in her win over Angela Kerber, 7-5, 6-3. Williams hit 33 first serves, which led to her winning an outstanding 28 points.

As quick as Graf was, she would have had no chance of winning if Williams’ serve was on. Williams’ return of serve off both sides is as good as any woman who has ever played on the pro tour.

Although Graf’s devastating forehand would earn her many points, Williams would concentrate on hitting as many shots as possible to Graf’s vulnerable slice backhand. Graf and Williams are tied for most Grand Slams for women with 22 each in the Open Era. However, Graf never won another Grand Slam after turning 30. Serena, age 35, has won a mind-boggling eight Grand Slams singles titles since she turned 30. As for who would win in a head-to-head match between the two greats, I would pick Williams over Graf by the scores of 6-3, 6-3.

Q: Novak Djokovic recently lost to Sam Querry in the third round of Wimbledon. Djokovic was a 30-1 favorite and had defeated Querry eight out of nine times. How was it possible that Djokovic lost this match?

A: In all sports upsets appear much more than one realizes. On this day it was evident that Djokovic was not at his best, physically or mentally.

Conversely, Querry played far above his usual level. The result was that the match turned into a virtual toss-up. All of the pressure was on Djokovic, and Querry, sensing this, played the match of his life and deserved his great win.

Q: Roger Federer is recognized by many as the greatest male tennis player of all time. He lost a heart-breaking match at Wimbledon to Canadian Milo Raonic in five sets. At 35, can he still win some Grand Slam singles titles?

A: Although he is still playing great tennis, Federer has been sidelined for long periods with assorted injuries. Even though he is still capable of greatness, I firmly believe he has won his last Grand Slam singles title due to his age and recurring injuries.

Q: What does the term “sandbagging” mean in regards to tennis?

A: This occurs when a tennis player doesn’t have a rating as to what level they should be playing at (2,0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 etc) for a USTA team. When a person wants to know their official USTA ranking, they must be observed playing by a certified tennis pro. Unfortunately, some players purposely don’t play their best when they are observed in order to get a lower ranking than they really are. For instance, a player who really is a 4.0 player will purposely play at a 3.5 level when being observed so they can placed be on a 3.5 team to ensure that they will be able to win their matches. Hence, the term “sandbagging.”

Q: What are your overall feelings about the USTA?

A: Generally they do a fine job. However, there are two circumstances that should be changed. First, there are usually three doubles teams on each USTA team (first, second and third doubles) When a team observes that their opponent’s team is far better, they move their No. 3 doubles up to first doubles to be the sacrificial lambs, move their No. 2 doubles down to third doubles, and first doubles down to second doubles. I don’t feel that this is a fair representation of their teams and they should play their team according to their ability, not to try to ensure a win.

Second, draws are done at most 3.0 tournaments and higher players’ ages can run any where from 30 to 65. Yet players in both the younger and older groups have the same rating. It is virtually impossible for an outstanding 60-year-old to defeat an outstanding 30-year-old rated the same. Therefore, I would like the USTA to rank the younger players as 3.0, 3.5. etc. The older players would be ranked as Senior 3.0, 3.5, etc. This would ensure that older players would be playing against other tennis players in their same age group, not players 20 to 30 years younger.


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