In sports, we love to rank. It gives us a way on how to gauge a team or athlete. College sports are driven by rankings, professional leagues have power rankings, and pundits are constantly debating over their "Top Five" list of anything.
A popular debate is the most dominant athlete ever but it also avoided sometimes. One reason could be because it is hard to compare achievements between sports. How do you compare an athlete playing in a team sports to one that is playing individual sports? In team sports, an athlete could be a dominant player, a la 2017 Russell Westbrook, but they will have to rely on others to achieve success. It would unfair to those who participates in sports like Boxing, Tennis, Track & Field to compare.
Another reason why that debate is dodge is because the most dominant might actually be a woman and a black woman at that. Serena Williams has been vocal about her gender being the reason that she is not considered the greatest tennis player ever. If a male tennis player had her resume, it's no question they would be revered as the greatest.
I want to take it a step furthter: Serena is not only the greatest Tennis player ever, she is the most dominant athlete ever.
My top 5 most Dominant Athletes
- Serena Williams, Tennis
- Michael Phelps, Swimming
- Floyd Mayweather, Boxing
- Tiger Woods, Golf
- Usain Bolt, Track & Field
During her streak of 26 matches in the Majors, in pursuit of the first calendar year slam since 1988, I wrote an article about how Serena is the most dominant athlete in current day sports. Serena's 2015 campaign was nothing short of amazing. She won 3 Majors for the first time since 2002 (entering all four ranked #1 in the world) and earned over $10 million dollars, the second most in her career. This is at the age of 34 but 2015 wasn't her most dominant season. In 2013 she won 11 finals, the most in her career while taking home two majors. She finished with 21 victories over top ten opponents, two Double Bagels (6-0, 6-0), and was the first woman to earn $12 million in prize in a single year.
Throughout her career, Serena has always been viewed as one of the best athletes in the world but after she turned the age of 30, she's getting better as she gets older. Her most dominant seasons are coming in her "30-fun" years, as she and Venus like to call it. After defeating her older sister in the Australian Open, she became the oldest player to win a major and the oldest player to be ranked #1. Since 2013, she entered 23 of the 24 Majors at #1 during that time, winning 7 of them. And since she has turned the age of 30 in 2011, she has played in 11 Major Finals, walking away with 9.
When you look at other dominant athletes, their quest for longevity sometimes is the end of their dominance. Players in the latter years of their career begin to look for ways to keep playing, instead of dominate like they did in their prime careers. Instead of competing against their opponent, they are competing against father time. Tiger Woods, who many considered as the most dominant athlete during the pinnacle of his career, is now struggling to get back on the course - struggling with wear and tear, the corollary of a great career - let alone be competitive. Serena has shown us no signs of her slowing down. It looks as if she is getting stronger and healthier as she gets older. She may not participate in every tournament but she competes in the ones that matter, where the best rises to the top, and the lights are the brightest. In those moments, she reminds us of what a dominant athlete looks like.
As the only player in the history of the sport to win at least 10 Majors in two different decades, what else can be said to explain her dominance? The only comparable athlete to sustain this level of dominance for this long is Floyd Mayweather. The difference between Floyd and Serena is Floyd wants to win the fight, Serena wants to dominate the field. She is not looking to just beat you, she wants to physically and mentally assert her dominance on you. For the longest, women tennis players were seen to be elegant, graceful and finesse, the terms expressive, strong, and powerful were seldom used. Serena crushed that narrative with her tree trunk thighs and smashed it with her 100+mph serve.