Incredible Record Against Top Players Adding to Serena Williams' Historic Run

Lindsay Gibbs@linzsports Featured ColumnistJuly 9, 2015

USA Today

The legend of Serena Williams just continues to grow.

This week at Wimbledon, she defeated three of the best players of her generation—Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova—in rapid succession.

Now, at the age of 33, only 21-year-old underdog Garbine Muguruza stands between the American and her second "Serena Slam."

Throughout the years, some have implied that Williams' lack of a true rival in women's tennis harms her stellar reputation. For me, it's exactly the opposite.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 09:  Serena Williams of the United States celebrates at the net after winning the Ladies Singles Semi Final match against Maria Sharapova of Russia during day ten of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Te
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Serena's ability to find an extra gear on the biggest stages in the sport when facing her toughest competitors on a year-in, year-out basis is the reason she's such a legend. 

As her demolition of five-time Slam champion Sharapova in the Wimbledon semifinals proved once again, Serena Williams has no equals.

Williams and Sharapova met for the 20th time in their careers Thursday. Sharapova came onto the court hoping to flip the script and halt her 11-year-long, 16-match losing streak against the 20-time Slam champion.

And yet, for the 17th time in a row, Sharapova had no answers to the power, precision and greatness of Williams. She lost in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4. 

The American's outspoken and insightful coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, summed it up well after the match on ESPN when talking with Pam Shriver.

"[Sharapova] couldn't apply her game plan because she didn't come into the match with the right frame of mind," he said. "Immediately the match turned into a nightmare for her."

Nick McCarvel of USA Today echoed Mouratoglou's sentiments:

It's a nightmare match-up for Sharapova against Williams, as the two play a similar brand of power tennis. But Williams moves just one step faster – very important on the grass courts here – and serves much stronger, two aspects clearly on display on Thursday afternoon during the Centre Court match.

The last nine meetings between the two stars have been in the semifinals or finals of big events, and Sharapova has only won one set off of Williams in that time. That is simply absurd considering how talented the Russian is.

Sharapova can beat any other player on the WTA Tour on any given day. She has a Career Slam and 58 singles titles. She has as many singles titles as Martina Hingis and has been in 20 major semifinals, more than Venus Williams, Hingis, Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport.

Still, she didn't have a shot against Serena. SI Tennis quoted Sharapova:

But Sharapova isn't the only one struggling. Azarenka and Venus have had more luck against Williams lately than Sharapova, but at majors, they are still treated like second-class citizens by the all-time great.

Venus has beaten her sister 11 times, more than any other player, and yet she hasn't beaten Serena at a major since the 2008 Wimbledon final.

Azarenka, meanwhile, is seen as the player most likely to knock Williams off of her throne, but despite pushing Serena to the brink in thrilling three-set affairs, the Belarusian has lost to her all 10 times they've played at majors.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06:  Serena Williams of the United States hugs Venus Williams of the United States after their Ladies' Singles Fourth Round match  during day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croque
Julian Finney/Getty Images

The truth is, once she makes it to the second week of majors, Williams becomes Miss Automatic. Pressure makes her more focused. Talented opponents make her more powerful.

In the past 15 majors, dating back to the 2012 Australian Open, Williams has won seven titles. In the other eight Slams, she failed to make it to the quarterfinals seven times, with the only exception being her quarterfinal loss to Sloane Stephens in the 2013 Australian Open.

Serena hasn't lost to a top-10 player at a major since 2011, when she fell to No. 9 Marion Bartoli in the fourth round of Wimbledon and No. 10 Samantha Stosur in the final of the U.S. Open.

Muguruza, Williams' opponent in the final, has actually beaten her at a major before, in the second round of last year's French Open.

On that day, Williams was a step slow, but the Spaniard played a flawless match, repeatedly hitting the ball flat, deep and into the center of the court with power and taking angles away from Serena. 

Muguruza will try to stop the inevitable on Saturday.
Muguruza will try to stop the inevitable on Saturday.Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press/Associated Press

Muguruza has a game that can rattle anyone—even Williams—but it's safe to say that she's never faced anything like Serena in Grand Slam final form. This will be the American's 25th Slam final, and she's only lost in four of them. That's absurd.

Serena is trying not only to win her sixth Wimbledon title on Saturday at the All England Club, but she's also trying to set herself up for the ultimate feat at the U.S. Open.

If Serena wins Wimbledon, she would have a shot to go for her Steffi Graf-tying 22nd major and her first Calendar Slam in New York. She is a boulder of greatness picking up steam as she goes downhill, and it's going to take a gigantic effort for Muguruza to stop her.

If Williams' run over the past few years has proven anything, it's that while she's not unbeatable, she is peerless. That's been reinforced this week, as she knocked out three straight former No. 1s and a total of 13 major titles on her way to the Wimbledon final.

Serena's biggest rival right now is history, and the way she's going, history doesn't stand a chance.