This is something I have wondered about for a long time. With the ascent of Roger Federer the debate about the Greatest of All Time (GOAT) has been full-blown and passionate. However, why is it that there is no debate talking about women? I am not talking about a unisex comparison, because that is more difficult to do, but in general, why is it such a big deal when a man completes a career Grand Slam, while there are three women who have completed calendar Grand Slams? (To be fair there are two men who have calendar Grand Slams as well)
Take a look at some statistics:
Margaret Court and Steffi Graf each have more than 20 Grand Slam singles titles. Court has 24 and Graf has 22. Other players like Helen Wills has 19, while Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert each have 18. By contrast, among men Federer and Sampras have 14 (Wimbledon 2009 is on as I write this), Roy Emerson has 12 and Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg have 11 each.
If you consider doubles and mixed doubles titles too, the margin becomes a gaping chasm – Court shoots to a humungous 62, Navratilova has an almost as high 59 (and she is still playing!) and Billie Jean King has 39. If you combine the lists across the two genders, the first man would be Roy Emerson at #9, with 28 titles.
Donald Budge was the first man to win all 4 singles titles at the Grand Slams in one year (1938). Rod Laver followed him by repeating the feat twice. Laver first won as an amateur in 1962, then as a professional in 1969 and remains the only male player to win a calendar Grand Slam in the open era. Others like Fred Perry, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi and Roger Federer did win all four titles, but not in one year. On the women’s side, however, Maureen Conolly, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf have all completed calendar Grand Slams, in 1953, 1970 and 1988 respectively. In addition several women have career Grand Slams – Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Doris Hart and Shirley Fry.
Statistically speaking Margaret Court was exceptional in her career – she had won a “boxed set” (career Grand Slams in Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles) twice – once before the Open Era and once during. Doris Hart and Martina Navratilova have their own boxed sets, but only once. No male player holds this distinction.
Steffi Graf is the only player to have won singles titles at all four Grand Slams at least four times each. She also spent 377 weeks at #1 – 91 weeks more than Pete Sampras.
Althea Gibson was the first African-American, male or female, to win a Grand Slam (French 1956, Wimbledon 1957 & 1958, US 1957 & 1958). Yet the stadium got named after Arthur Ashe. This isn’t to demean Ashe – he was a great player in his own right with three Grand Slams and a pioneer with his social efforts.
I agree that people like Federer and Laver represent a perfectly orchestrated symphony, that the men’s game of 5 sets is more physically taxing, that most top men would whip the top women players of their time (I don’t say “all” because of Billie Jean King’s famous whipping of Bobby Riggs) and that Roger Federer is one of the most statistically impressive players ever. But somehow I feel that women have been shortchanged in GOAT discussions. Maybe we should start calling it GMOAT, just to be specific. Maybe we should start giving Wonderwoman too some credit, just like Superman.
Update on 5th July 2009: Roger Federer has now added Wimbledon 2009 to his collection, raising the total Grand Slams to 15 – the highest among men.
In the history of sports there have been a few incidents where a hand has been dealt in a rather unusual manner
The most famous such incident of course, was Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 FIFA World Cup Quarter Final in Mexico against England. The goal was the first of two made against the English (the second was an equally memorable goal, often dubbed the “Goal of the Century”). Maradona acknowledged 19 years after the incident that he had deliberately hit the ball with his hand and knew it was illegitimate, but the goal still stands. The England fans have never forgiven him for this transgression.
Three years later in a different sport, Michael Chang was playing Ivan Lendl in the 4th round of the French Open at Roland Garros. Lendl was the reigning World #1 and Chang was the 15th seeded 17-year old upstart. Lendl comfortably took the first two sets 6-4, 6-4. Chang then started suffering from severe leg cramps. That is when he changed his strategy. He started killing the speed of the ball and started repeatedly lobbing them to the baseline (moon balls) and generally unsettled Lendl. This way he managed to win back the next two sets 6-3, 6-3. Then, serving at 4-3 in the final set, Chang suddenly hit an underhand ball (a perfectly legitimate way to serve, if you are wondering) that had a typically calm Lendl become atypically flustered and the World #1 eventually lost the point and his temper.
I was trying to break his concentration. I would do anything to stay out there.
Michael Chang, about the match
The third incident, was chronologically the first among the three that I have listed. This happened in the 3rd final of the World Series Cup of Cricket at the MCG on 1st February 1981. This involved serial troublemaker Greg Chappell and his brother Trevor. New Zealand required 15 runs off the last over and had 4 wickets in hand. Greg tossed the ball to Trevor and the first ball was belted for 4. Trevor picked up Hadlee LBW the second ball. That brought Ian Smith to the crease, while Bruce Edgar was at the non-striker’s end, batting on 102. New Zealand 7 for 225, with 11 runs needed off the last 4 balls. Smith picked up a couple of 2s off the next two balls, bringing the equation down to 7 runs from 2 balls. Then he was bowled. This brought tailender Brian McKechnie to the crease with 6 needed off the last ball to tie. That was when Greg advised Trevor to bowl underarm, to ensure that the six couldn’t be hit. The incident triggered massive outrage among players, fans and officials alike and underarm bowling was outlawed after that.
Quotes about this incident:
No, Greg, no, you can’t do that.
Ian Chappell, during the match commentary
Fair dinkum, Greg, how much pride do you sacrifice to win $35,000?
Ian Chappell, in a newspaper column after this incident.
It was an act of true cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow
As far as likenesses go, nothing gets better than Arbaaz Khan and Roger Federer. People outside India almost certainly don’t know the Bollywood actor Arbaaz – heck, I will be surprised even if they know his more famous brother Salman Khan. Arbaaz’s acting skills are nothing to write home about, but he does have a few hits to his credit.
Federer, on the other hand will probably go down as the best tennis player ever and I will be surprised if any follower of any sporting event is not familiar with him.
I had written about Nadal and Federer at this year’s Australian Open, applauding the spirit displayed by Nadal after his victory. Today I came across an article in the Guardian (yes, I read all the British and Australian newspapers whenever India does well in Cricket, just to see what other countries think of it) that talked about the author’s top 10 favourite sporting gestures on the field. While a few readers have commented that Nadal’s act should have made the list, I was happy to see Andrew Flintoff consoling Brett Lee figure in the top 10 – that was something I had appreciated in my post.
I will be keeping my posts short till 24th April. The 7-day work weeks clubbed with a work-related repetitive stress injury has severely hampered my capacity to write here or to work on Aquoid.