After the US Open, tennis fans all over the world were debating one thing: who had the better year, Serena Williams or Novak Djokovic? Serena Williams takes the cake for me, and here’s why.
When it comes to the bare-boned 2015 tennis season statistics, Djokovic does appear to have a leg up on Serena. Djokovic is 63-5 for the season, while Serena is 53-3. When converted to winning percentages, Serena pulls a little ahead at 94.64% to Djokovic’s 92.65%. The statistics tend to favor Djokovic a little more though when you realize that only one of Djokovic’s losses came before he reached the finals. Ivo Karlovic is the only man this year to stop Djokovic from making it to the last day of any tournament that he played this year. Serena may only have three losses, but those losses all came in the semifinals: Petra Kvitova at the Madrid Open, Belinda Bencic at the Canadian Open, and Roberta Vinci at the US Open. She also had three withdrawals thrown in there, which in many ways should be considered a loss. Though Djokovic may have made it farther in each tournament that he played than Serena, there is so much more that must be considered when debating on who to give the 2015 crown over to.
The men’s top ten, especially the top five, is stacked. Nobody can really argue with this statement. Djokovic may have a substantial first place lead in points, but this does not mean that he has had an easy path to the almost perfect finals attendance that he has had this year. He has to compete against Roger Federer’s unreadable serve and SABR tactic, Andy Murray’s speed and endurance, and Stan Wawrinka’s incredible 100 mph one-handed backhand that he can hit from any angle on the court. This doesn’t even take into account the 145 mph serves and baseline power from the top twenty players that he encounters before even taking on the top five.
Serena does not really have the same competition on the women’s side. Maria Sharapova has not given Serena a good match in a while, Simona Halep can give her a little bit of competition but has only beaten her once, and Petra Kvitova’s first win over her came this year on clay. One of Serena’s most competitive matchups is against Victoria Azarenka, but without fail Serena digs deep to amp up her game and continues widening the already ridiculous head to head gap (17-3 at this point). While Serena comes out on top of most of her matches, it does not mean that she does not come across great competition. Azarenka can force her to three sets most of the time, Safarova and Bacsinszky gave her a run for her money at the French Open, and Venus Williams is always tough competition for her, because of her tennis capability and for the psychological difficulties that would go along with playing your sister on center court. It may not be like the high caliber of competition that we see on the men’s side, but let’s be real, what can we compare to that right now?
Rising Above Body Shaming
Earlier this year, Novak Djokovic revealed to the world that he incorporates ballet lessons with his wife into his training to stay strong and flexible. The internet’s response to this news has mainly been positive and supportive. He is applauded for taking up the dance to get into the best shape to the be the best athlete and tennis player that he can be. There appears to be a complete lack of gender stereotyping and shaming surrounding his training tactics, and I love it. But why is it that Djokovic can exclaim to the world that he takes ballet, while Serena Williams gets blasted for being strong and muscular?
News flash to the world, Serena Williams is a professional athlete, and as such she should be doing everything that she can to maximize the athleticism that her body provides her. I would take Serena’s body over anyone else’s on the tour, plus the 22 major titles and the consideration of being one of the best athletes of all time that go along with it. But instead of celebrating her hard work on and off the court, society attacks her. Her Instagram shows a constant argument between her adoring fans who defend her and all those who still are calling her a “man.” In a recent NY Times article, she admits that she used to feel self-conscious about her body, especially her arms, and she constantly wanted them covered up.This year, though, we saw total confidence. Serena unleashed her complete athletic prowess to win the Wimbledon title, and then showed up in one of the most jaw-dropping princess dresses that even accentuated her toned arms. When she is asked about all her haters, she now responds, “I just don’t have time to be brought down. I have too many things to do, you know. I have Grand Slams to win. I have people to inspire. And that’s what I’m here for.” This is just scratching the surface of all of the things she has done this year (think NYFW runway show, inspirational Gatorade and Beats By Dr. Dre commercials, etc.). She is helping show the world that women can be everything: incredible athletes as well as stunning women. They can be successful and beautiful.
Djokovic will probably always be the other guy when competing against Roger Federer and his loyal fan base, who tend to step over the line of appropriateness in attempts to support the Maestro when on the court, but Serena seems to have to compete against the world every second of the day. She is fighting and winning bigger battles than just the ones she faces on the court.
Serena went into the US Open with all eyes on her. She was going for her 22nd major title, her 5th major title in a row, and a Grand Slam, something that hasn’t been done since 1988. To top it all off, she was forced to defeat her sister and best friend Venus at not one but two of the majors. In contrast, Djokovic went into the US Open to try to get his 3rd major title of the year and his 10th major overall. I am not saying that Djokovic was not feeling pressure. He is always going to feel pressure, especially when he is the world no. 1 in such a competitive landscape that is men’s tennis right now. But, can you really say that it was on the same scale? His Grand Slam chances were blown when he came across Stan Wawrinka playing the tournament, especially the final, of his life back in June. The US Open was just another major for him. Serena put herself in a position to take it all at the US Open…and almost did. She might have lost one more match at the majors than Djokovic, but she made it quite a bit farther during the year than he did.
Serena Williams had a lot of challenges to overcome this year, and she almost did it all. She was arguably in the best shape of her career, she was playing some of her best tennis, and she was as or more mentally tough than any athlete out there. She combatted the best tennis opponents, the harshest societal attacks, and her own mental demons. She is proving that strength is beautiful, that there is more than one way to be feminine, and that women need to inspire each other rather than tear each other down. So while Djokovic technically won one more tennis match in the majors, Serena won more battles than we can count this entire year.