The greatest? Memory can play tricks but it's still Serena Williams for me | Kevin Mitchell

by Theguardian

Tennis

Alongside our choices, BJK and Goolagong Cawley deserve a mention, but Williams has been on top for close to 25 years

Five years ago on the clay of Brindisi, Serena Williams and Alison Riske lost against Sara Errani and Flavia Pennetta in a doubles match that cost the US a place in the Federation Cup world group. A blip, perhaps? At the end of that summer in New York, another veteran Italian, Roberta Vinci, beat Williams in the semi-finals of the US Open and then lost against her compatriot Pennetta.

A cursory reading of those results might suggest that, for fleeting moments at least, Vinci could claim to be the best player in the world. So, too, could Pennetta – the first woman older than 30 to win her first major – because she beat the player who stopped the peerless American two wins short of a calendar grand slam. Heather Watson came desperately close to breaking the spell at Wimbledon that year.

Related: The greatest: Serena Williams broke through barriers and shattered records | Andy Bull

Williams has longevity and an inner strength that has often rescued her from ignominy

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