The 'Slice Girls' carve out their place in tennis history

Sports Illustrated called them the Slice Girls in a Feb. 2, 1998 story because of the way the two young women cut up opponents on the tennis court in the Australian Open.

Like the Spice Girls, who were on top of the music world at the time, Serena and Venus Williams had star power. However, unlike the Brit pop girl group, the Williams sisters had staying power.

And now, 20 years after Venus, then 17, beat 16-year-old Serena in the second round in Melbourne, it should be a summer to savor. We’re not getting any younger, and neither are the Williams sisters, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

But let’s just sit back and enjoy the summer. We will never see the headliners this generation has produced. The talent, the personalities and accomplishments have been more colorful than a pair of Bud Collins’ trousers.

Serena Williams is the greatest female tennis player ever, although Steffi Graf might have an argument. Williams is 36 and a mother now, so her priorities have changed. But what a run she’s had.

She’s the best ever in the big events with 23 Grand Slam titles in the open era. She is the only tennis player in history (male or female) to claim at least six titles in three of the four majors.

And then there’s older sister Venus. She’s won seven Grand Slam titles, which is good enough for eighth place on the open era list. She would be higher on the list if not for Serena. They have batt
led in nine Grand Slam finals with Serena owning a 7-2 record.

On the men’s side, there’s the Big Three: Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

No other trio in the sport’s history has been as dominant. Combined, they have won 45 of the last 53 last majors heading into this weekend’s finale at Wimbledon.

Federer, who arrived at the top after winning Wimbledon in 2003, is the best ever. He’s No. 1 on the list of all-time greats with 20 Grand Slam titles, including this year’s Australian Open.

And then there’s the King of Clay, Nadal. He’s No. 2 on the all-time list with 17 Grand Slam titles despite some injuries that slowed him a few years ago. His win in Paris last month was his 11th c
hampionship on the red clay of Roland Garros.

And then there’s the third best player of his generation, Djokovic, who just happens to be the fourth greatest player in the open era. All he’s done is fashion 12 Grand Slam titles, which places him in the upper stratosphere of greatness. True, Pete Sampras had more Grand Slam titles with 14, but he was average at best on clay.

Imagine the drama at the All England Club this weekend if Serena can capture her eighth Grand Slam title on grass in a tournament marked with major upsets. And what if Nadal and Federer serve it up in the Wimbledon finals?

It could happen.

Or better yet, it could happen in New York when the U.S. Open gets underway on Aug. 27.

Stay tuned. And in the meantime, savor the summer.

Daniel Island Publishing

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