Serena Williams is the Sting of tennis…and that’s a good thing


How many more decades do Serena and Sting have to toil and dominate before we stop treating them like the belt loop for which society hangs its mobile device and start giving them their due as today’s GOATs?

By Andrew Pridgen

It’s like there should be three 30 for 30 documentaries about Serena Williams. One for each generation of tennis she’s dominated.

Serena: Straight Outta Compton (1995-2001)

Serena: Venus Wasn’t Her Name (2002-2007)

Serena: Acid Wash in a Grand Slam Final is the Fountain of Youth (2008-2015)

serenadenimISaturday, Serena Williams took down 21-year-old Spaniard Garbine Muguruza 6-4 6-4 on Centre Court to complete the second so-called Serena Slam—winning four straight majors—of her career, three so far in 2015.

On her way to hoisting up that shiny-ass tea tray, Serena also passed Martina Navratilova as the oldest women’s grand slam winner in the Open Era. The last woman to string together a quartet of slams in a row was…her, in 2002-’03. And if she can curtain call at Flushing Meadows in September, Serena—the three-time US Open defending champion—would be the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to complete the calendar-year grand slam.

It would also be her 22nd major, which would tie her with Graf. Only Australian Margaret Court (24) has more. And while Court is the Godmother to both, it’s Serena and Steffi that are going to give tennis historians fits as the modern-era’s best.

But who’s better?

Consider this:

  • Both Steffi and Serena won their first slams at 17.
  • Steffi went on to have nine slams by age 20. Serena, four. (Steffi also didn’t have to get by Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati…or her top-5-ranked older sister Venus to get them.)
  • Aged 24, it was Steffi 13, Serena seven (Steffi didn’t have to get by Anastasia Myskina or Kim Clijsters or…again, Venus…to get there.)
  • By the time Graf turned 29 she’d banked her 22nd and final slam title and retired to Vegas. Serena few signs of fatigue at 33 (Steffi didn’t have to get by Justine Henin, Jelena Janković, Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitová…or, um, yep, Venus to get there.)

The arguments also collect like a drunk’s foamy spittle at the edge’s of tennis historians mouths: Steffi was more competent on multiple surfaces. Steffi had better footwork. Steffi was faster. Steffi retired in her prime. Steffi had that un-hittable backhand. Steffi got to marry Andrew Ridgeley Andre Agassi and live happily ever after off-Strip.

But Graf also didn’t outlast three (yes, three) generations of women’s competition.

Generation I (1995-2001):

  • Martina Hingis has retired twice and come back twice. She owns a management company called Octagon with her boyfriend, appeared in the UK version of Dancing with the Stars and recently made her third tennis comeback complete with a women’s double’s championship at this year’s Wimbledon.
  • Lindsay Davenport is the coach of current no. 16 singles Madison Keys. Keys advanced to the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time at the 2015 Australian Open, where she upset Petra Kvitová en route. Davenport investment banker Jonathan Leach and they have four children.
  • In 2013, Jennifer Capriati was charged with battery and stalking after reportedly following and striking former boyfriend, Ivan Brennan. Stalking and battery charges against Capriati were later dropped after Capriati had completed 30 hours of community service and four hours of anger management counseling. She’s tweeted that she’s contemplating a comeback in 2015.

Generation II (2002-2007):

  • Anastasia Myskina is the mother of three and sued GQ (and won) for selling topless photos of her taken during a photo shoot to a Russian magazine. She retired from tennis in 2008.
  • Kim Clijsters is Tournament Director for Proximus Diamond Games in Antwerp. She has two children and is married to former basketball player (American Brian Lynch)
  • Justine Henin retired for the second time in 2011. She and her partner Benoît Bertuzzo have a daughter.

Generation III (2008-2015):

  • Jelena Janković is still in tennis but has me struggled to maintain ranking since she was no. 1 in 2007.
  • Caroline Wozniacki is Serena’s bestie off the court and is still a top-5 women’s singles competitor.
  • Petra Kvitová is currently ranked no. 2 in the world.

Oh, and at 35, sister Venus is still playing too. Ranked no. 16, the winner of 7 slams was ousted by Serena en route to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

Serena has been ranked number one six times during her career. The longest stretch on top is her current one—124 weeks from Feb. 18, 2013 to present. Nobody in the sport—men’s or women’s—has played at that high a level for that many years on so many surfaces…much less wearing that much hair or that many rhinestones.

No female tennis player steadily improved this much year-over-year in her teens or twenties. And nobody has held number one in her 30s.

And yet, Serena’s still not given her due as the best. Not only of her generation and the two before her, but of all time.

As for the headline and Serena’s only real peer walking this earth: Sting, like Serena, is also currently dominating Spain. As a solo musician and a member of The Police, he received 16 Grammy Awards across four decades starting in the early ’80s. His shelves also buckle under the weight of three Brit Awards, including Best British Male in 1994 and Outstanding Contribution in 2002, a Golden Globe award, an Emmy Award, plus he’s three Oscar noms for Best Original Song to stir in his tea. And like how the fuck did he and Clapton not win for this for Lethal Weapon 3:


Sting was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2003, he received a CBE from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for services to music, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Police and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording. He was a Kennedy Center Honoree at the White House in 2014. Sting has sold more than 100 million records can have sex for eight-plus hours at a time and got in a knife fight with Kyle MacLachlan in front of Patrick Stewart with a mullet in fucking Dune.

I guess it’s going to take that fourth 30 for 30: The Tennis Temptress and the Tantric Minstrel for history to declare this the era of Serena and Sting—the rest of us are just lucky enough to live in it.



  1. Pigpen,
    I’ll will give you that I the second half of Serena’s career she has faced much tougher competition than Steffi did, best don’t throw in Jennifer Capriati as a top tier talent. Yes she won 3 majors but

    • 2001 was her only real year of dominance. And don’t forget that Steffi faced Martina and Chris Everet in the later part of their careers when tennis was a finesse game and so they were still relevant.
      She also had Monica Seles, Jana Novatna, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, among others. She also faced the same competitors as Serena in the twilight of her career which was her late twenties. She retired at 30.
      Serena is the batter athlete and better player overall, but Steffi should not be dismissed so easily.

  2. Well hello there my favorite purveyor of fine confections.

    1) Don’t tell me that first SI cover of Capriati (March 19, 1990) that said ‘She’s only 13’ didn’t get the blood moving for you almost as much as Kathy Ireland (or Sinbad) in Necessary Roughness. Sure there was the meth and the shoplifting ring to follow, blame Florida. But for her time, Capriati was as formidable as anyone who’s ever pulled balls from those far unknown reaches of the tennis skirt. Think of her as the first time Mario met Bowser or breaking the 50-second mark on level 1:1 of Excitebike. 15 years on, it may seem like child’s play. At the time, it was the most formidable of all foes.

    2) I never inferred that Steffi didn’t have to run a gauntlet. You make a compelling point with her competition, especially Seles (pre-stabbing) Novatna and Sanchez Vicario and whenever she sneaks out and rallys around in the backyard against Andre’s old wig in 108-degree heat. But there’s no denying Serena’s longevity and how she’s continuing to win and improve two decades into her tenure as a pro.

    3)…Kind of like how Sting’s most recent work with Ivy Levan…is the best of his storied career. And nobody. NOBODY, has ever looked better in a v-neck sweater no shirt underneath.