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Poll: Who is the Goatess?
This poll is closed.
Steffi Graf 23.81% 10 23.81%
Martina Navratilova 23.81% 10 23.81%
Chris Evert 11.90% 5 11.90%
Margaret Court 2.38% 1 2.38%
Serena Williams 33.33% 14 33.33%
Somebody else? 4.76% 2 4.76%
Total 42 votes 100%
* You voted for this item. [Show Results]

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The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
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britbox Offline
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The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
No board is complete without a GOAT thread (or Goatess thread for that matter), so let's keep it in this thread.

The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time?

I know some would like to include Serena in this, but I've narrowed it down to a shortlist of four:

Steffi Graf
Martina Navratilova
Chris Evert
Margaret Court

They are my tier 1 players where I consider a healthy argument can be made for each and every one.

My Goatess? Singles alone... Steffi Graf. Everything... Probably Nav.
(This post was last modified: 25-Apr-2013 11:27 AM by britbox.)
25-Apr-2013 11:01 AM
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tented (09-08-2013)
jhar26 Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
Chris Evert for no other reason than that she's my fave, I admit. But as britbox said, you can make a case for all of them.
25-Apr-2013 03:08 PM
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shawnbm Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
Chrissie--because she is from my hometown! How is that for a good reason? Smile

Virgil Cane is the name ...
25-Apr-2013 03:25 PM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
I'll go with Martina. She had Chrissie and then Steffi in her career, as great rivalries. She revolutionised the sport - and she was still playing Wimbledon near fifty years old. She was the best all rounder too...
25-Apr-2013 05:15 PM
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Kiu Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
I voted Martina, her accomplishments are just unimaginable.
25-Apr-2013 06:29 PM
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tented Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
I also voted for Martina because of the length and breadth of her achievements, yet I questioned my decision immediately.

Basically, I agree with what Britbox pointed out in the OP: Graf for singles, Martina if everything counts.

But what should count? When discussing the GOAT for men, the conversation almost exclusively focuses on their singles careers. Every now and then someone will bring up McEnroe's doubles titles, for example, but when debating among guys like Federer, Nadal, Sampras, and even Laver it's all about what they accomplished in singles.

Ultimately, what I'm wondering is why several of us have felt the need to bring into the conversation non-singles achievements when discussing the women? Or, more specifically, when mentioning Martina?
26-Apr-2013 01:12 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
I guess some would argue that the sport is more than just Singles, but I think when you measure players, then Singles provides the level playing field. That's why I would argue for Graf. I disagree with Kieran's observation that Martina was the best all-rounder if we are focusing on singles - Steffi won all four majors at least four times each. That's four career grand slams!
26-Apr-2013 02:47 AM
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shawnbm Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
Good point britbox. I believe Graf is the only one who topped Chrissie's three career grand slams. Am I right? I know Chrissie won SW19 3 times and I think she won 3 Aussies too, even though she did not play it always. I believe that makes 18 with 7 French titles and 5 US Opens--unless she won 6 of those (I can't recall now).

Virgil Cane is the name ...
26-Apr-2013 09:16 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 09:16 AM)shawnbm Wrote:  Good point britbox. I believe Graf is the only one who topped Chrissie's three career grand slams. Am I right? I know Chrissie won SW19 3 times and I think she won 3 Aussies too, even though she did not play it always. I believe that makes 18 with 7 French titles and 5 US Opens--unless she won 6 of those (I can't recall now).

Without looking it up, it sounds roughly correct. Chris Evert actually has a good a claim as anyone to the mythical title. I think some if it boils down to the fact Martina turned the H2H around and won most matches (in golf terms) down the back nine. But if you look at Nav's total lack of commitment to playing clay events (the European clay swing and at the time, the American clay season) then the cynic would suggest she was avoiding Evert on Chrissie's best surface.

Chris was more of an all-rounder than Nav IMO and didn't pick her battles. She went everywhere.
26-Apr-2013 09:31 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
I think it's a bit unfair to say that Martina 'picked her battles'. We have no proof of that. Once Martina reached her prime, post-1981, she had a good record on clay against Chrissy: 3-4.

But what do have proof of is that she overcame huge personal obstacles at the beginning of her career, had Chrissy as her first huge rival, then Steffi later on. It's impossible to call anyone GOAT, but if an alien came to earth and threatened to take our water if the greatest female player couldn't beat their tentacle-limbed bug-eyed feminine equivalent, I'd call Martina out of 1983 or 1984 to take her on.

But it's a subjective measure. Steffi was awesome later on and Chrissy had a huge career too. The numbers on these girls show they were all magnificent...
26-Apr-2013 09:38 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 09:38 AM)Kieran Wrote:  I think it's a bit unfair to say that Martina 'picked her battles'. We have no proof of that. Once Martina reached her prime, post-1981, she had a good record on clay against Chrissy: 3-4.

But what do have proof of is that she overcame huge personal obstacles at the beginning of her career, had Chrissy as her first huge rival, then Steffi later on. It's impossible to call anyone GOAT, but if an alien came to earth and threatened to take our water if the greatest female player couldn't beat their tentacle-limbed bug-eyed feminine equivalent, I'd call Martina out of 1983 or 1984 to take her on.

But it's a subjective measure. Steffi was awesome later on and Chrissy had a huge career too. The numbers on these girls show they were all magnificent...

Kieran - there is plenty of proof she picked her battles. For large parts of her career, she didn't even show up during the clay court season(s) - (referring to the European red clay and the American Har-Tru circuits) preferring to focus on Wimbledon and the USO - other than a cameo at Roland Garros (sometimes). Chris showed up everywhere and took her lumps.
26-Apr-2013 10:08 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
This isn't proof that she was avoiding Evert, as you said above. It just meant she was maximising things on her better surfaces. And she didn't like clay.

Which is a lot different to saying she avoided showdowns with Chrissie...
26-Apr-2013 10:10 AM
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El Dude Online
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
When speaking of "GOAT" I think, first of all, it almost always means singles only - so I'm sticking with that. Secondly, I see it as a combination of peak level and overall career; exactly what combination, I don't know, but I think you have to consider both. If we're talking peak level - that is, how well a player played during their best year and few years, as well as how well they could play in any given match - the Serena enters the conversation, and even Monica Seles is worth a mention. But given that neither had careers on par with Navratilova, Evert, Court, or Graf, I don't think they're true candidates.

Without going into extensive research, one way to narrow this down further is to compare Evert and Navratilova to each other and they're very, very close. A lot of folks love Evert's ridiculous streak of SF appearances, while Martina had more #1 finishes. I'd have to give both an edge over Court, although it is hard to say.

I don't think you can go wrong with Evert, Navratilova, or Graf. But given that I think Graf was a bit more dominant at her peak, and her total career isn't that far behind the other two, I'm going with Graf. For me the kicker is those five years with at least three Slams; Martina only did it twice and Chris never did. So I'd probably go Graf then Navratilova then Evert then Court, but it is very, very close.
26-Apr-2013 10:12 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 10:10 AM)Kieran Wrote:  This isn't proof that she was avoiding Evert, as you said above. It just meant she was maximising things on her better surfaces. And she didn't like clay.

Which is a lot different to saying she avoided showdowns with Chrissie...

So in a nutshell, not quite the all-rounder as originally suggested?
26-Apr-2013 10:27 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 10:12 AM)El Dude Wrote:  When speaking of "GOAT" I think, first of all, it almost always means singles only - so I'm sticking with that. Secondly, I see it as a combination of peak level and overall career; exactly what combination, I don't know, but I think you have to consider both. If we're talking peak level - that is, how well a player played during their best year and few years, as well as how well they could play in any given match - the Serena enters the conversation, and even Monica Seles is worth a mention. But given that neither had careers on par with Navratilova, Evert, Court, or Graf, I don't think they're true candidates.

Without going into extensive research, one way to narrow this down further is to compare Evert and Navratilova to each other and they're very, very close. A lot of folks love Evert's ridiculous streak of SF appearances, while Martina had more #1 finishes. I'd have to give both an edge over Court, although it is hard to say.

I don't think you can go wrong with Evert, Navratilova, or Graf. But given that I think Graf was a bit more dominant at her peak, and her total career isn't that far behind the other two, I'm going with Graf. For me the kicker is those five years with at least three Slams; Martina only did it twice and Chris never did. So I'd probably go Graf then Navratilova then Evert then Court, but it is very, very close.

That's exactly as I rank them to be honest, but you could slide a piece of paper between the differences. Graf was the greatest singles player I had the privilege of watching.
26-Apr-2013 10:29 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 10:27 AM)britbox Wrote:  So in a nutshell, not quite the all-rounder as originally suggested?

All-rounder meaning doubles too. I thought you got that part? You mentioned it yourself in the OP. Wink

But yes, she was a great all-rounder. 6 FO finals - five of them against Steffi or Chrissy. That's not shoddy. She may have wished for lesser opponents in the finals, but she met the best head-on.

It's true she avoided a lot of FO's early and very late in her career. She avoided a lot of AO's too. I wonder who she was avoiding there? Big Smile

But this makes her record very impressive indeed. She avoided Paris early on because it wasn't her priority, Wimbledon was. Nobody would argue it was her best surface, but at that stage she wasn't looking to compete as an all-time great. She was young and aimless and over-weight and thought if she'd win a slam, then Wimbo was her best shot. She famously kissed the turf at Wimbledon in 1973, as if it was a religious relic.

When she reformed and straightened out her game and fitness, she turned up every year until she was 33, which is okay, isn't it? Like I say, 6 finals isn't shoddy, and at a time when you had in Graf and Evert two of the best ever.

But there's nothing in her career that suggests she was nursing a favourable H2H with Chrissy by avoiding her on clay...
26-Apr-2013 10:41 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 10:41 AM)Kieran Wrote:  
(26-Apr-2013 10:27 AM)britbox Wrote:  So in a nutshell, not quite the all-rounder as originally suggested?

All-rounder meaning doubles too. I thought you got that part? You mentioned it yourself in the OP. Wink

But yes, she was a great all-rounder. 6 FO finals - five of them against Steffi or Chrissy. That's not shoddy. She may have wished for lesser opponents in the finals, but she met the best head-on.

It's true she avoided a lot of FO's early and very late in her career. She avoided a lot of AO's too. I wonder who she was avoiding there? Big Smile

But this makes her record very impressive indeed. She avoided Paris early on because it wasn't her priority, Wimbledon was. Nobody would argue it was her best surface, but at that stage she wasn't looking to compete as an all-time great. She was young and aimless and over-weight and thought if she'd win a slam, then Wimbo was her best shot. She famously kissed the turf at Wimbledon in 1973, as if it was a religious relic.

When she reformed and straightened out her game and fitness, she turned up every year until she was 33, which is okay, isn't it? Like I say, 6 finals isn't shoddy, and at a time when you had in Graf and Evert two of the best ever.

But there's nothing in her career that suggests she was nursing a favourable H2H with Chrissy by avoiding her on clay...

Ok, we're splitting hairs regarding the definition of all-rounder - I'm taking it more in the context of all surfaces rather than splitting it between singles/doubles.

With regard to avoiding clay for large portions of her career, of course it impacts the H2H. Chris Evert was the greatest clay courter in tennis history. To put in context, if Federer chose to avoid clay he'd be leading Nadal in the H2H.

Why else would she avoid clay other than feeling more vulnerable on it? Chris Evert didn't avoid any surface and ended up playing Nav more than 20 times on fast indoor courts. Put it this way, Chrissie was playing away from home (in soccer terms) more often that not.
26-Apr-2013 10:49 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 10:49 AM)britbox Wrote:  Ok, we're splitting hairs regarding the definition of all-rounder - I'm taking it more in the context of all surfaces rather than splitting it between singles/doubles.

With regard to avoiding clay for large portions of her career, of course it impacts the H2H. Chris Evert was the greatest clay courter in tennis history. To put in context, if Federer chose to avoid clay he'd be leading Nadal in the H2H.

Why else would she avoid clay other than feeling more vulnerable on it? Chris Evert didn't avoid any surface and ended up playing Nav more than 20 times on fast indoor courts. Put it this way, Chrissie was playing away from home (in soccer terms) more often that not.

Of course we're splitting hairs - we're arguing about wimmins tennis! Finely groomed hairs too, no doubt. Big Smile

It's one thing to say she avoided her least favourite surface and another to say she avoided an opponent. I would say you're right at the start, she avoided her least favourite surface during the lowest parts of her career.

But she didn't do this to avoid Evert.

As for the all-rounder thing, I was referring of course to her longevity and doubles too. She holds so many records it's ridiculous.

As a singles player, I would say she had two great rivals, whereas Steffi came along later and had an aging Martina to dethrone, plus sporadic firefights with other lesser lights. But this is neither here nor there. We can't pick a GOAT without being unfair to Little Mo, Suzanne Lenglen, Margaret Court, etc, as well as Chrissy, Martina or Steffi.

Interesting stat I just noticed. Martina and Steffi finished at nine each in their H2H. How sweet is that? Wink
26-Apr-2013 10:59 AM
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britbox Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
(26-Apr-2013 10:59 AM)Kieran Wrote:  
(26-Apr-2013 10:49 AM)britbox Wrote:  Ok, we're splitting hairs regarding the definition of all-rounder - I'm taking it more in the context of all surfaces rather than splitting it between singles/doubles.

With regard to avoiding clay for large portions of her career, of course it impacts the H2H. Chris Evert was the greatest clay courter in tennis history. To put in context, if Federer chose to avoid clay he'd be leading Nadal in the H2H.

Why else would she avoid clay other than feeling more vulnerable on it? Chris Evert didn't avoid any surface and ended up playing Nav more than 20 times on fast indoor courts. Put it this way, Chrissie was playing away from home (in soccer terms) more often that not.

Of course we're splitting hairs - we're arguing about wimmins tennis! Finely groomed hairs too, no doubt. Big Smile

It's one thing to say she avoided her least favourite surface and another to say she avoided an opponent. I would say you're right at the start, she avoided her least favourite surface during the lowest parts of her career.

But she didn't do this to avoid Evert.

As for the all-rounder thing, I was referring of course to her longevity and doubles too. She holds so many records it's ridiculous.

As a singles player, I would say she had two great rivals, whereas Steffi came along later and had an aging Martina to dethrone, plus sporadic firefights with other lesser lights. But this is neither here nor there. We can't pick a GOAT without being unfair to Little Mo, Suzanne Lenglen, Margaret Court, etc, as well as Chrissy, Martina or Steffi.

Interesting stat I just noticed. Martina and Steffi finished at nine each in their H2H. How sweet is that? Wink

Because she quit the clay court season on Steffi also Smile

Joking aside, I actually rank Nav by the width of a piece of paper above Chris Evert and below Steffi Graf. But Chris Evert gets badly underappreciated IMO. You could argue a case for her as much as anybody else.... and the same goes for Margaret Court.

I could end up arguing for any of them as I just did for Chris Evert. One thing is pretty clear in my eyes though - these four are the ultra elite in womens tennis history. I don't really buy into the legend of Little Mo or Suzanne Lenglen at that level. These four are the greatest players ever. Graf for me tops it, but can't complain about cases made for the others really.
26-Apr-2013 11:13 AM
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Kieran Offline
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RE: The Greatest Female Tennis Player of All Time
Well that's true, but the thing about Little Mo and Lenglen - and Helen Wills Moody - is that they can't be blamed for being born when they were. And if GOAT refers to 'all time' then is their era disqualified? They can't have been any better than being the best of their own time.

But I agree, it gets messy and just highlights how hard it is to choose anyone over another...
26-Apr-2013 11:16 AM
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