By Amol Ranjan
This Wimbledon, Novak Djokovic came back from an injury which he sustained last year to win his 13th Grand Slam title and joined Roger Federer and Rafeal Nadal in an elite club, where together they have won all the last 7 Grand Slams titles. Since Australian Open 2004, out of the 59 Grand Slam tennis tournaments, there have been only 9 champions (number of people who won the Grand Slams) in the men’s section, compared to 22 champions in the ladies’. Men’s tennis in this period has been dominated by Roger Federer (19 Grand Slams, out of his total of 20), Rafael Nadal (17 Grand Slams), and Novak Djokovic (13 Grand Slams). Although Serena Williams dominated women tennis by winning 17 Grand Slams (out of her total of 23 Grand Slams) in the same period, more number of Grand Slam champions in women’s game shows that they have much more depth than men’s game today.
15 years ago in 2004, the scene was very different. Since the Australian Open 1989 to US Open 2003, women’s tennis had less (15) Grand Slam winners, while the men had more (25) winners. Growing up, I often saw Steffi Graf winning and dominating opponents before retiring in 1999. Men’s tennis also had the famous Sampras-Agassi rivalry that (as it is often the case when two great players compete in the same era) but we often had surprises, especially at French Open (now called Roland Garros), which had 12 champions in that period of 15 years, compared to the period between 2004 and now where there have been only 5 champions, Nadal winning 11 times. From 1989 to now, women’s tennis saw two of its greatest champions in Steffi Graf and Serena Williams, but it’s not the game’s greatest achievement in this period of time. What has been more fruitful for women tennis is that it has witnessed more diversity and more champions. Women’s tennis got three black Grand Slam champions in Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Sloane Stephens, while no black tennis player won a Grand Slam in men’s section in the same period. In fact, Althea Gibson who won her last Grand Slam title in 1958 US Open, Arthur Ashe who won his last Grand Slam in 1975 Wimbledon and Yannick Noah’s win in 1983 French Open have been only other examples of black players winning Grand Slams titles.
These facts only prove that women’s tennis has never been in a better health. Since August 2003, there have been 7 female tennis players who have held no.1 ranking without winning a single Grand Slam title before it – a surprising but an extraordinary feat which never happened before in women’s single tennis. Data shows that since 2008, women’s tennis has witnessed more Grand Slams upsets than men’s tennis. In the recently concluded Wimbledon this year, all the top ten seeds in the women’s draw were knocked out of the tournament even before the quarter finals. I was happy that my favorite 11th seed Anjelique Kerber won the tournament after beating Serena Williams in the final. However, when Serena, at the age of 37, having given birth to a baby just 10 months ago, was chasing her record 24th Grand Slam title, I was wondering whether I should shift my loyalties. I later realized that it was a futile exercise because considering the scenario it was only the women’s tennis which could have won either way.
Amol Ranjan has worked with various media and research organizations after completing his MA in Media and Cultural Studies from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, in 2012. He was previously working with The Centre for Internet and Society as a Consultant.
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