Andy Murray was one of the few top players to advance without issue on a wacky Wednesday full of upsets at Wimbledon. So instead of focusing on his comments about the win over Yen-Hsun Lu, a potential matchup with Serena Williams is taking center stage.
The Scottish star was talking about the longer matches at Grand Slam tournaments having an impact on the high number of retirements while speaking with Piers Newbery of the BBC. It led him to talk about a potential match against the world's top player on the women's side.
That isn't an argument about men's and women's tennis, by the way, although I have been challenged by someone on Twitter to taking on Serena Williams. I'd be up for it, why not?
I've never hit with her but she's obviously an incredible player and I think people would be interested to see the men play against the women to see how the styles match up. It's happened in the past with Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova. How about Las Vegas as a venue?
Murray is right. Playing against Williams would generate a lot of hype simply due to the unique nature of the match and the fact that both players are at or near their peak. The big question mark would surround the American's chances of giving him a serious challenge.
Serena responded to Murray's comments on Thursday, according to BBC Sport.
There have been three high-profile matches featuring the "Battle of the Sexes" moniker. The one Murray mentioned between Connors and Navratilova took place 21 years ago in Las Vegas. Connors won in straight sets (7-5, 6-2).
The other two matches included Bobby Riggs. He defeated Margaret Court in the first Battle of the Sexes matchup in May of 1973 before losing to Billie Jean King later in the year. Riggs was 55 at the time while both women were still active players.
While those are all well-known encounters between the sexes, there's one that didn't get nearly as much attention, and it involved Serena Williams. Both she and her sister Venus took on Karsten Braasch at the Australian Open in 1998.
The Williams sisters were both teenagers at the time and were no match for the German, who was ranked outside the top 200. Braasch played each sister for one set, won both and dropped just three total games.
He documented his experience in Observer Sport Monthly:
At this point Venus turned up to watch. She had just finished a press conference after a quarter-final loss against Lindsey Davenport. In the end I won my game against Serena 6-1 but by the time we were at the net shaking hands, Venus was on court, ready to have a go against me as well. The game against Venus was very similar. I ended up winning 6-2.
Both sisters are great tennis players and hit the ball extremely well. However, if you've been playing on the men's tour there are certain shots you can play that are going to put them in difficulty. Try and put a lot spin on the ball - I was hitting the ball with a degree of spin they don't face week-in, week-out. Another key is to chase down every shot. In our match, they were putting shots into the corners that on the women's tour would be winners but I was able to return them.
Now, 15 years after the Williams sisters took the loss against Braasch, maybe tennis fans will get a chance to see if anything has changed.
The challenges would remain the same. Although the younger Williams sister certainly features plenty of power — her serve topped out at 123 mph today in her second round win — beating a Top 5 player on the men's side in Murray would be a tall task. He would handle her groundstrokes far better than any opponent on the WTA Tour.
A quick glance at the serving numbers show Murray's biggest serve in his win over Lu was 133 mph. During the season's first major in Australia, Williams struck a serve at just under 129 mph. So the difference there isn't major.
But when it comes to play during the rallies, it would be difficult for Williams to hit winners past Murray on a regular basis. He's one of the best defensive players in the world and more well-rounded than anybody she has faced in the past.
That said, it would still be an interesting match to see. Williams has been playing some of the best tennis of her career in recent months, and there's a gap between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open that could provide an opportunity to play stateside.
Murray sounds ready for the challenge, and Williams sports the competitive fire necessary to make it interesting.
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