- Tennis champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams are widely considered to be the greatest tennis players of all time.
- But who would win in a match between the best men’s player and the best women’s player?
- A Quora user asked this very question and it triggered a number of considered responses.
- Here are the most popular answers.
Considering their respective achievements, it is easy to see why.
Both players are respectful of the other’s success. Roger Federer told The Wall Street Journal that he considers Williams the greatest player of all-time. Williams said they both could have that title.
Federer has spent hundreds of weeks at the top of the world men’s ranking, has the most men’s Grand Slam singles titles (20) ever, and has a TV-friendly style that is aggressive and athletic.
Williams is just as impressive. She has 23 Grand Slam titles, has an extraordinarily high career win ratio on all surfaces, and is famed for the pace of her serve and her authoritative playing style.
But what would happen if Federer played Williams?
That is a question that was recently served up by a user on Quora, and it prompted a strong response by a number of users.
This is a “battle of the sexes” – and the winner is clear
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Quora user Aleksa Milovanovic had one of the most upvoted responses by claiming the questions comes down to “what’s known as a Battle of the Sexes” in tennis.
Milovanovic referenced three male vs. female tennis matches of previous years, including 55-year-old Bobby Riggs’ 6-2, 6-1 victory over former women’s number one player Margaret Court in 1973.
Almost 20 years later, 40-year-old Jimmy Connors played 35-year-old Martina Navratilova on a pay-per-view show at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1992. Connors was only allowed one serve, while Navratilova was permitted to hit into the doubles alleys. Despite the handicap, Connors still won 7-5, 6-2.
Completing Milovanovic’s historical perspective were two single set matches between Karsten Braasch and the Williams sisters. Braasch, ranked the 203rd best male player in the world at the time, beat Serena Williams 6-1 and Venus Williams 6-2, despite a training regime that “centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple bottles of ice cold lager,” according to Observer Sport.
Milovanovic concluded: “Federer is the greatest men’s tennis player ever. He isn’t anything like Riggs or Braasch [because] he has some of the best training regimes that anyone could ask for. His strokes are imperious and he hits powerfully.
“Williams was unable to beat Braasch, or even make it competitive. How would she fare against Roger Federer? My guess is she’d be very lucky to win one game in a best of five.”
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Quora user Pratish Ganguly pointed to the technical aspects of the game, rather than the historical, as a way of finding an answer. To beat Federer, Ganguly says an opponent must have all of the following things:
- A very good serve.
- An equally good return.
- Nice strong rallies.
- Ability to either out-hit Federer or find absurd angles.
- A lot of stamina.
Serena Williams recorded a career-high fast serve of 207 km/hr (128.6 mph) at the 2013 Australian Open. Ganguly says this remains 20% slower than the serves Federer is used to returning when he competes against – and defeats – male players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (236.5 km/h or 147 mph) or Andy Roddick (249.4 km/h or 155 mph).
“On the basis of her serve, Serena can definitely not beat Federer,” Ganguly said.
“His movement is much better than Serena’s, [he has] much more stamina having himself played many five setters over his lifetime, [and] knows how to pace his game to defeat an opponent without even reaching the top gear.”
Here’s what the professionals say
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In an NPR interview to discuss his 2017 book “But Seriously,” former tennis champion John McEnroe claimed Serena Williams would struggle to crack the top-700 ranked players if she competed in the male circuit.
“If she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world,” McEnroe said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do… but if she had to just play the circuit – the men’s circuit – that would be an entirely different story.”
Federer’s head-to-head record against Murray consists of 14 wins against 11 losses, so if Williams believes she would lose to Murray, she would likely lose just as badly to Federer.
Ultimately, comparing Federer and Williams is a frivolous task, as they will only ever compete against each other if another “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match materialises.
Ganguly perhaps summarises it best with this statement: “Just enjoy their game as long as they are playing, because you seldom get to see such players, playing [at] such [a high] level of tennis.”