Tennis: Women on a grand stage

Tennis: Women on a grand stage
Serena Williams of the United States poses with the road to Singapore sign post after her straight sets victory against Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in the final during the Miami Open Presented by Itau at Crandon Park Tennis Center on April 4, 2015

I'm sure many older tennis fans remember fondly the days of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

When the two tennis stars had just exploded onto the scene, Margaret Court and Billie Jean King were still playing and winning.

Later, during the early and mid '90s, there was the battle for supremacy between Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, with the likes of Lindsay Davenport and then Justine Henin following quickly to vie for the world No. 1 spot.

I am convinced, however, that this era - the era of the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena; Maria Sharapova and several promising young players - is the most exciting period for women's tennis.

The sport is in such a healthy position right now, and you just have to look at the depth of talent in the women's game as proof.

We have come such a long way from the time 42 years ago when Billie Jean founded the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

At the time, 19 other players signed a US$1 contract to form a Tour. Now, the WTA boasts US$118 million in prize money as it expands across the globe.

Forty per cent of tournaments reside in the Asia-Pacific, and the fact that the crown jewel - the WTA Finals - is now an annual affair in Singapore says a lot.

This is also a really "high time" for Asian tennis.

Of course, it helps so much that many tennis fans are locked in the debate of whether the current women's No. 1 Serena is the greatest of all time.

It's tough to compare across eras. Each of the names on the list of greats was a game-changer of her time.

Serena and Venus certainly changed the women's game when they burst onto the scene.

Seles was the leading player at the time and she was someone I looked up to because her focus was unbreakable.

When the Williams sisters began their rise, all eyes were on them. Observers knew they were going to be great.

Chris Evert is confident that Serena will go on to increase her tally of 19 Grand Slam singles crowns and surpass Graf's record of 22. Serena has my vote, too. Despite being 33, she is still so dominant.

Her serve is remarkably strong, as is her consistency and relentless ability to stay on top.

Is she the greatest of all time?

That's a tough question.

But the one thing I can say is that Serena has a couple of attributes in common with all the greats - their confidence during the big moments and their ability to make the big points.

I think those gifts are what separate a champion from the rest - consistency, relentlessness and focus.

I hope Serena eclipses Graf's record. We at the WTA certainly want to see her around for many years more.

Tickets for the BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore (Oct 23 to Nov 1) presented by SC Global will go on sale from April 23.

Prices start from $16.90 - same as last year. OCBC Bank, the official cards partner, and StarHub, the official telecommunications and broadcast partner, will offer their customers early access to specially discounted tickets until April 16.


This article was first published on April 10, 2015.
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