Can the GOATs graze again?

Serena Williams has 23 Grand Slams, while Roger Federer has 20.

Last weekend, Serena lost in the Wimbledon final to Simon Halep, very quickly, 6-2, 6-2.

Federer went down, but it was very close, super close. He lost 13-12 in the fifth set against Novak Djokovic. He had two match points at 8-7 in the fifth, and he couldn’t do it.

Serena wants to tie Margaret Court at 24 Grand Slams, and over the past two-and-a-half years, she has had an opportunity, but she couldn’t convert. And if she does so, then for sure, she will be the best player ever.

The Swiss is one of the best player ever, for now, but in the next few years, Rafa Nadal (who has 18 Slams) and Djokovic (who has 16 majors) could pass or tie him. They both are still playing, and the 37-year-old Federer might retire at the end of 2020. Maybe not, but he is aging,slowly, but still aging.

Serena is also 37-year-old, and next year, she might wave goodbye. Her older sister, Venus Williams, is still playing, and maybe she will continue to play until she is 40 years old. Clearly, they love tennis, which is why they can run forever, but that doesn’t mean that their bodies are wearing down. It happens for everyone. The heart might want to play but hurt legs end careers.

Years and years ago, like it is now, the best competitors wanted to play on the tour almost forever. For some, it didn’t really matter anymore if they were winning a title; they only wanted to hit the ball, anywhere, anytime. That was their mantra.

But two of the fantastic players, Pete Sampras and Steffi Graf, decided to retire fairly early. American Sampras hadn’t won an event for two years, and then, at the 2002 US Open, the huge server won it all. Twelve months later, he called it quits. He owned 14 Grand Slams, and at that time, that was enough.

Graf did much the same thing. In 1999, she won it at Roland Garros, and three months later at San Diego, she retired because her knees were totally wrecked. She was “only” 30 years old. She had won 22 Grand Slams, but she didn’t want to continue anymore. It was time to have a baby, and to have a new life. And she did, and now she has two children, and is married to Andre Agassi, another great player.

But that was a different era.

There have been a number of Grand Slam winners who continued to play after their prime: such as Sergi Bruguera, Thomas Muster, Petr Korda, Helena Sukova, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and Nathalie Tauziat, among others. They believed that they could do it again, somehow, someway, but they weren’t even close. Eventually, they had to stop.

With Federer and Serena, they both have a chance to win it a Slam next year. Oh, sure, both of them have won the US Open, but to win it again, which will start in five weeks, I cannot see it. Last year, Federer lost to John Millman in the fourth round. Serena lost in the final against the rising Naomi Osaka. Federer was upset, and Serena was extremely upset, with a now infamous meltdown.

The last time that Federer won it was in 2008, 11 years ago. Serena won it 2014, which it wasn’t so long ago.

But, both of them aren’t quite as fast as they used to be, which is why over the past two years, they still look very good, but not great-great anymore. There was a day they were winning almost everything. However, to think they will shine forever is foolhardy.

In 2020, both Federer and Serena have a real chance to win just one more time. Perhaps at the Australian Open, and Wimbledon again. But after that, at the end of the season, both of them will walk away and retire. It will be time.