Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.
Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

‘Serena is the GOAT’: Federer ends debate

IT'S the debate that rears its head every time Roger Federer or Rafa Nadal wins a Grand Slam title.

Who is the greatest of all time? The tennis GOAT.

Well, the Swiss maestro himself has had his say and, according to Roger, it's neither of them.

While they both boast career stats, bank accounts and trophy cabinets to make your eyes water, Federer says the overall greatest player of all time is Serena Williams.

Serena Williams is just four matches into her return to tennis.
Serena Williams is just four matches into her return to tennis.

"She had a totally different upbringing - I came up through Switzerland with the federation, she did it with her dad and her sister," Federer told the Wall Street Journal.

"It's an amazing story unto itself - and then she became one of the greatest, if not the greatest tennis player of all time."

It's hard to argue when you look at the numbers.

Yes, Federer is the most decorated male player of all time with 20 grand slam titles to his name.

But look at Williams, who, with 23-grand slam singles titles has more than any other player in the Open era and is second on the all-time list behind Australian Margaret Court. She also boasts 14 doubles titles.

While many would argue Williams is a more complete athlete than Court, Federer insists comparing players across different eras is a futile process.

"Given the differences in technologies and travel since tennis's earliest days, it's not fair to compare," he said.


"But we know (Serena) is all the way up there.

"I'm probably up there with somebody, somehow. Maybe there's a group, a best of five - and if you're in that group, you should be pleased and happy. Tennis is a funky sport when it comes to that stuff.

"I'm in full admiration of Serena," he says.

"And Venus, too, by the way."

Williams returned the compliment earlier this month in her documentary series "Being Serena" when she said: "I think we can say that about both of us (her and Federer), respectively.

"He's done amazing things in his career-I have the utmost respect for him. He's a wonderful athlete, a great guy."

Federer was speaking ahead of the French Open which gets underway in Paris on Sunday.

Roger Federer has a big fan in Serena Williams.
Roger Federer has a big fan in Serena Williams.

Organisers sparked renewed debate on the sport's policy towards female players and parenthood this week when it announced Williams would not be granted a seeding on her long-awaited Grand Slam return.

"French Open is punishing Serena Williams for having a baby" read a USA Today headline, arguing an exception for the 23-time major winner should be made.

At 36, the American is looking to regain her top form following the birth of her daughter last September. After sitting out of competition for over a year, she no longer had a ranking upon her return to the WTA circuit in March.

She has played just four matches this season across appearances at Indian Wells and Miami.

But her results, far from convincing, have only been good enough to climb to 449th in the world rankings.

With a ranking so low, no player would typically even be able to take part in qualifying for the main draw. That is unless benefiting from a wildcard or using a protected ranking, which has at least allowed Williams direct entrance into the field.

Rafael Nadal will be hard to beat at Roland Garros yet again.
Rafael Nadal will be hard to beat at Roland Garros yet again.

It is a system that lets a player retain, for a transitional period, a former ranking upon return from a long absence - between six months and two years - due to injury, illness or pregnancy.

But it does not guarantee them a seeding, leaving Serena vulnerable to an encounter with leading title contenders as early as the first round.

At Miami, Williams ran into Indian Wells champion Naomi Osaka in her opening match and was easily beaten.

"She has won this title so many times (eight) that she needs protection," Miami tournament director James Blake said after the WTA refused to alter its rules despite conceding that they would be "further reviewed" going forward.

"It's not as if she left because of injury and lost her passion for the game," Blake said.

"She had a kid, which we should all be celebrating, so when she comes back there should be a grace period where she can still be seeded."

Victoria Azarenka returned at Wimbledon last year after having a baby.
Victoria Azarenka returned at Wimbledon last year after having a baby.

Maria Sharapova also spoke up in support of her long-time rival last week.

"It's a tough call, I would like to see that change," Sharapova said.

"I think that would be nice."

At Wimbledon, which runs from July 2-15, the All England Club could elect to seed Serena using its unique system that favours grass-court specialists, given she is a seven-time champion.

But at Roland Garros, an event she has won three times, organisers are not ready to take such a step with the French Tennis Federation (FFT) reaffirming the seedings will reflect the latest WTA rankings.

Tournament organisers have been equally unmoved in the past when faced with similar situations.

Victoria Azarenka was unseeded at last year's Wimbledon in her first Grand Slam since giving birth in late 2016, while Kim Clijsters was in a similar position at the 2009 US Open.

However, that didn't stop Clijsters, who needed a wildcard just to compete in New York, from going on to lift the second of four career Grand Slam titles