Hold your horses, don’t compare Serena Williams with Roger Federer

Princy G. James

 

GQ magazine has incurred the wrath of Twitterati for calling Roger Federer the G.O.A.T. On its official Twitter page, the magazine shared a picture of Federer, who recently won his 18th Grand Slam title in Melbourne, with a caption that read: “We caught up with the greatest tennis player of all time.”

The April issue of the magazine features an exclusive interview with the tennis legend, where he gets candid about his life and career from his mansion in Valbella, an Alpine village far from the madding crowd. Needless to say, the maestro looks dapper in all the photos .

But the description didn’t go well with everyone. Some took offense in calling Federer the G.O.A.T when Serena Williams’ all-time Grand Slam record stands at 23.

Some of the tweets go like this:

It’s all much ado about nothing.

Such absurd comparisons started soon after Federer and Serena emerged winners at the Australian Open this year, where they both made history; for Federer, it was further asserting his dominance by taking his all-time conquest to 18, while for Serena, it was the tournament where she eclipsed Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of most Grand Slam singles titles.

There is still room for debate whether Federer is greater than Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic, or whether Serena is better than Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf. But it is ridiculous to say that Serena is greater than Federer just because she has won five Slams more than the latter.

Grand Slams aren’t the only yardstick to measure the greatness of a player. Several other factors should be taken into consideration if you really want to compare Federer with Serena. Male players have to play best of five sets match in the Slams, which can be more taxing on their bodies. If you look at Serena’s tournament schedule from the past couple of years, it’s clear that she has wisely picked the events, focussing all her energy on the Majors, a strategy that apparently worked.

Last year, when Federer skipped the French Open, it was his first Grand Slam miss in 17 years, i.e. since the 1999 US Open.

Compared to that, Serena’s career is marked by significant breaks. In 2006 and 2011, she had to stay away from the circuit for several months owing to injuries.

Mentioning about rivalry, it should be noted that Federer’s two main rivals — Djokovic and Nadal, have won a combined 24 Grand Slams in the last decade. That alone shows how challenging his career has been.

When veteran journalist and author Jon Wertheim was asked to pick between Serena and Federer in the G.O.A.T debate, he responded: Different fields, different set of demands, different external pressures, different dimensions to rivalries with opponents. Enjoy them both. Consider them the male and female GOATS, a billy and nanny, so to speak.”  (Courtesy: Sports Illustrated)

With the advent of social media and its platforms offering people a chance to voice their opinions, outrages and wordy duels have become one of the most dominant mode of engagement.The otherwise harmless comments —  like calling Federer the greatest tennis player of all time —  are subjected to intense scrutiny, making controversies commonplace.

By mentioning so, GQ was not showing gender bias or belittling Serena’s achievements, but only paying tribute to one of the greatest sportspersons in the history. Comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges, and let’s stop doing that.