GOATS: Roger Federer and Serena Williams Set Highest Standard for All of Sport
By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief
FLUSHING MEADOWS – Selling newspapers in this town is a challenge, so as the United States Open tennis tournament plowed into its third round of play, the headlines read “CUCKOO for COCO” and other assorted 60-point nuggets to capture a youthful imagination and coax a buck-fifty from the typical New Yorker.
Coco Gauff played her way into the hearts of tennis’ toughest fan base and she earned a Saturday night, primetime date against the WTA’s No. 1 in Naomi Osaka. However, the 15-year old Gauff’s mesmerizing rise to tennis glory, further proven on Thursday night, overshadowed today’s most brilliant sports story.
Today, tennis’ two “Greatest of All-Time” players each stepped out to the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium to play consecutive matches in the same arena, and the same surface, to little, if any, fanfare.
At Noon, Switzerland’s Roger Federer began a straight set dismantling of Great Britain’s Daniel Evans as fans streamed into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on a gorgeous Friday morning. Federer needed only one hour, twenty minutes to take the match, 6-2, 6-2, 6-1, winning the way he so often does as the most accomplished male tennis player in history.
At 1:30pm, on the same Arthur Ashe Stadium court, Serena Williams of the USA dispatched Carolina Muchova of the Czech Republic. Williams, needed one hour, 14-minutes to take the match, 6-3, 6-2 after Muchova competed mightily for a 3-3 tie in the first set before Williams turned-it-on for the win.
And, there it was – the two GOATS – back-to-back on the same court in the same joint. Just when has that ever occurred in any other sport?
After considerable research and discarding worthwhile suggestions such as Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam playing at the 2003 Colonial golf tournament in Fort Worth, Texas or an obscure boxing card of 1977 when Roberto Duran was on the undercard (vs. Javier Munez) before the greatest, Muhammad Ali, took on “The Lynx of Montevideo” in Alfredo Evangelista in a May 17th boxing card at the Cap Centre in Landover, Maryland, the only possible comparison to today’s Roger Federer – to – Serena Williams tandem of greatness was the track and field events of the XXIII Olympiad in Los Angeles (1984).
At the Summer Games of 1984, 400m hurdler Edwin Moses won a Gold Medal as he dominated the event for some nine years, nine months and nine days to gain the lofty title of the Greatest Hurdler of All-Time. Meanwhile, Carl Lewis stepped out to the same Olympic Stadium, the Coliseum in LA, to win Gold Medals in the 100m, the Long Jump, the 200m and as the anchor of the United States track team in the 4x100m relay. Lewis’ performances surely rank him as the greatest sprinter and, in nearly all precincts, as the greatest track & field athlete of all-time.
The interesting comparison of Roger & Serena to Edwin & Carl comes with a very apt recognition of the length of time all four athletes have excelled. Quite simply, they’ve all “brought it” time-and-time again.
While the Olympic Athletics stars performed with much fanfare and a 93,607 capacity venue and global Olympic TV audience, the two tennis greats today performed in a 23,771-seat love-fest at Ashe, each having earned the lofty title of the greatest while performing in what sports historian David Goldberg so properly described as an epic event of “quiet enormity.”
Such is the struggle of the USTA as it stages the greatest tennis tournament of the year, each and every year, as NCAA College Football kicks-off and the National Football League tees-up a season, this year cranking the promotional engines behind its special NFL 100 season.
The PGA Tour folded its deck and its tents, condensing the complicated and confusing FedEx Cup Playoffs into consecutive three weeks to avoid any conflicts with the NFL.
Tennis holds forth at this wonderful venue in Queens and record, capacity crowds now fill the grounds where Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova and Chrissie Evert volleyed tennis balls back and forth in stadiums gone bye.
Bill Russell and Michael never played together, nor did The Great Gretzky and Bobby Orr. While the Great One and Earvin “Magic” Johnson might’ve played in the same Fabulous Forum, only one of those two can be considered the GOAT.
Jack Nicklaus all-time greatness certainly disqualifies anything Woods and Sorenstam might’ve done at The Colonial, right? Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were New York Yankees teammates but only one can be the GOAT. And, of course, Tom Brady never shares the turf of Gillette Stadium when the New England Patriots perform.
Nearby, New Yorkers might reminisce about the time 50 years ago, just across Roosevelt Avenue, at Shea Stadium in 1969, as Joe “Willie” Namath led the Jets and Tom “Terrific” Seaver pitched the Mets to the World Series, but any Mets fan worth his weight in Mr. Softee knows Jerry Koosman won the two most important games in Mets franchise history, not Seaver.
So, thoughts of the GOATS begin and end today.
The two GOATS playing back-to-back, and barely a soul noted the epic moment in sports.