Serena Williams: What Olympic Singles Gold Would Do for American's Legacy

Marc Weinreich@QuestionMarcsCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 07:  Serena Williams of the USA lifts the winners trophy and celebrates after her Ladies’ Singles final match against Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland on day twelve of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 7, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
Julian Finney/Getty Images

Serena Williams looks poised to win her first Olympic singles gold medal this summer in the same city where she took home her fifth Wimbledon Grand Slam victory a few weeks ago.

Winning at the Games will simply reinforce one truth: Serena Williams is the greatest women's tennis player ever.

Yes, ever.

If you want to simply compare numbers, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert each had better careers. It'll be hard to argue otherwise if you're stuck on numbers alone.

But if we could've frozen each of the greatest women's tennis players in time, and thus prevented them from the perils of aging to pit each of them in a match today against Williams, we'd all see why they're amateurs compared to her.

I won't argue that LeBron James is a better basketball player than Michael Jordan, but you can't help but wonder who would've gotten the better of the head-to-head matchups, seeing that James is so much bigger, faster and stronger than MJ.

Again, I'm not debating that Jordan isn't the greatest of all time. And I know comparing basketball to tennis, or any team sport to individual sports, is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison.

But Serena is the LeBron of tennis. She's physically more dominant than every other player in the history of the sport. You can safely say for both Williams and James that no one has seen an athlete in their respective sport with that kind of combination of athleticism, size and sheer power.

As Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim pointed out in a July 12 argument for why Williams is, in fact, the greatest ever, it's not just her skill set as a tennis player that would get her past the likes of Graf and Co.

It's her physique on the court that gives her such an advantage over opposing players that would dwarf the competition:

[I]f you matched tennis's female legends head-to-head—all at their best, with identical equipment—Williams wouldn't just beat the others; she would crush them. Graf's scythelike slice backhand? Williams would bend her knees and tee off on it. Evert's consistency? Serena would simply overpower Chrissie. Navratilova's attacking game? Williams would whistle returns by the peerless serve-and-volleyer before she got to net.

Williams looks poised to win her first singles gold this year. She steamrolled through her opening round against Serbian Jelena Jankovic 6-3, 6-1, and owned another member of the Radwanska family by defeating Urszula 6-2, 6-3 in Monday's second-round match. A month earlier in the Wimbledon final, Williams defeated Urszula's older sister Agnieszka 6-1, 5-7, 6-2.

Serena is playing some of her best tennis right now. Even her sister Venus, with whom she won doubles gold in 2000 and 2008, can't stop her, and Agnieszka has already bowed out and won't get revenge. This is Serena's year for her first Olympic singles gold.

And yet when it's all said and done, we'll know nothing new; the greatest of all time will have just won again, this time with the entire world watching.