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Serena Williams wins greatest female player poll

February 1, 2017

Serena Williams has been voted the greatest female tennis player of all time in a poll of BBC Sport readers.

The survey, carried out in the wake of her Australian Open victory, gave Serena 49 per cent of the vote, with previous holder of the Open Era record of Grand Slam titles Steffi Graf getting 35 per cent and Martina Navratilova ten per cent.

Having regained the world number one spot with her triumph in Melbourne, Williams will now be aiming to level the all-time Grand Slam record of 24 won by Australian Margaret Court. If she wins the French Open, it means tennis lovers booking corporate hospitality at the Championships, Wimbledon could be watching her attempt to put herself clear of the whole pack and potentially set a record that may not be broken for a lifetime.

Comparisons between different eras are invidious, although some have argued that Graf had it relatively easy, not least because her biggest rival, Monica Seles, only won one Grand Slam after the age of 19, hampered by the mental scars of a knife attack that derailed her career.

Others might suggest that Martina Navratilova was the greatest because she won 18 titles in an era she shared with Chris Evert, who won the same number, and Billie-Jean King.

However, BBC commentator and former French Open champion Sue Barker said she believes that Serena is the best because the competition in her time has been the strongest of all.

She said: "Serena is the greatest because this era is so much more competitive than previous eras.

"The pace she generates - her serve is without question the greatest ever - combined with her movement and her power, she pushes her opponents constantly on the back foot."

Navratilova still holds the record for singles titles at Wimbledon with nine, while Serena is level with Graf on seven. Victory this year would bring the younger Williams sister level with Helen Wills-Moody's eight titles, won during the 1920s and 30s.

The Melbourne final ensured that the Williams sisters have now won 30 Grand Slams between them and there is nobody else in tennis history of whom it can be said that they have won seven Grand Slams and yet are not even the best player in their own family. However, while Venus Williams has won neither the French nor Australian Open - last Saturday was her second appearance in the final down under - she has won Wimbledon five times and after her encouraging performance in Australia, Venus must be among the contenders when she returns to her favoured grass surface.

For fans of the men's game, the statistics are more straightforward. Roger Federer's 18th Grand Slam simply extended his own record and ensured Rafael Nadal remained in joint second with Pete Sampras on 14.

The big motivation for Federer at the All England Club will be to become the first man to win it eight times, finally taking him past the seven he shares with Sampras and 19th century star William Renshaw.

Andy Murray, meanwhile, will be looking for a third Wimbledon title to bring him level with Fred Perry. 

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