Serena Williams' easy victory in today's women's final made me wonder: Has there ever been a better clutch player in women's tennis? The stats say yes, but you have to go back a long way to find her.
Of the women who have won five major titles or more in the history of tennis (and I mean history, not the Open era, which began in 1968), three have a better winning percentage in finals than Williams, according to the WTA tour: Maureen Connolly (9-0), Helen Wills Moody (19-3) and Margaret Smith Court (24-5). After today's victory, Williams is 13-3. She's lost to two women in Grand Slam finals: her sister (twice) and Maria Sharapova.
Essentially, there's almost no chance to beat Serena at a major unless you do it before the last round (the earlier the better). She has taught this lesson to her sister six times. Here are the other seven women she has beaten in major finals: Dinara Safina (1), Maria Sharapova (1), Jelena Jankovic (1), Justine Henin (1), Lindsay Davenport (1), Martina Hingis (1) and of course Vera Zvonareva (1). Aside from Zvonareva, all of those women have reached No. 1 in the world; four of them have won multiple major titles.
Serena confirmed that she's a different player—and a much more dangerous player—with each round.
"I'm nervous every time I play in the first round," she said. "I was super nervous in my first round in Paris. I played horrendous and after that I actually started playing better because I was like, I can't do this. I was so nervous. But every time I play the first round I get a little shook up, every time."
Serena has never lost a first-round match at a major tournament, a record that was extended to 43-0 at Wimbledon this year. She said that certainly doesn't calm her nerves.
"I know records are meant to be broken and I don't want it to happen yet," she said.
I asked Serena if she liked tennis more now than she once did.
"I don't think anyone can like tennis more than your first two years on tour," she said. "Then it's just like, everything is new, you see all the people you grew up watching and you might even end up playing a few of those people. I don't think anything can kind of match that atmosphere the first couple of years on tour. It's really an amazing feeling."
Well, the rest of the tour can take heart. At least she didn't say, "Yes."