Saturday, January 22, 2011

Serena Williams vs Kim Clijsters: Who is the better player?

When an interviewer asked Kim Clijsters about how open the draw was because of the vacuum Serena Williams has left in the tournament, she responded with a bit of venom, saying that she "did not pay attention to the other parts of the draw."

Let me tell Kim, and her supporters, that the absence of Serena Williams made the act of winning her US Open last year, and potentially the Australian Open this year, so much easier.

She was stretched to three sets by Samantha Stosur, who failed to capitalise on her mental lapses, and win the match. She was again pushed to three by an under prepared Venus Williams, who could have won the match, had it not been for her errant serve.

Let's make it clear, that had it been Serena Williams who faced Kim Clijsters at the US Open, her competitive spirit would be clamouring for Clijsters' blood. Serena is a better player than Venus and Stosur, we cannot doubt what she would have done to Kim had she faced her at the Open.

And again in 2011, Serena is the Australian Open defending champion. She has won the tournament five times. Her absence might as well have been the biggest Christmas present Clijsters has ever received.

Stroke by stroke, Serena Williams beats her in spades.

1. Serve

The most important stroke in tennis. The only stroke that only the player can control. Between Clijsters and Serena, there's absolutely no competition here. Serena's serve is the best of all time. Clijsters' serve is not even in the top 20. Clijsters' serve is a liability. Serena's serve is her best weapon, and her most reliable stroke. Clijsters' serve and toss fail her many times, like in the Sydney Final, where she served three doubles in a row. Serena's serve is her get out of jail free card.

Better Serve: Serena Williams

Serena's Serving Score: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Kim's serving score: B

2. Forehand

This was much tighter than the serve. Both players have great forehands. But I have to go with Serena's. Her forehand is the more explosive, the more powerful, more accurate and has more oomph. When that forehand is on, she will rip winners left and right, with amazing power, control and precision. While Clijsters' forehand is good, it's just generically good. Lots of the players on tour have amazing forehands, and while Clijsters has a good one, it's not the best forehand, when it's on, it's very good. But it's extremely erratic, and hits a lot of unforced errors.

Better Forehand: Serena Williams

Serena's Forehand Score: A+
Kim's Forehand Score: A-

3. Backhand

While still not as uncompetitive as the serve, the divide between their backhands is bigger than the forehand. Serena can place her backhand anywhere on the court. From extreme angled cross court to right up the line. Very natural timing on her backhand as well. Kim Clijsters has a good backhand, not really in the top five of the tour today. Not even in the top 10 really. Vika and Masha have much, much, much better backhands than Clijsters.

Serena's backhand score: A+
Kim's backhand score: B

4. Overall Groundstrokes Score

Both of these women have consistent, deep, well placed groundies, but Serena comes up on top.

Serena's score: A to A+
Kim's Score: B+ to A-

5. Movement

Something that Kim has over Serena in spades. Kim's a much better mover than Serena, more natural and a great defender. Serena's not bad, she's just not the best in the game.

Serena's Movement Score: B+ to A-
Kim's movement score: A, on her best days, A+.

6. Volleys

Both have been world No. 1 doubles players, but Serena has the edge in slams in doubles and mixed doubles. This is really tight, but I'm giving Serena the slight edge because she approaches the net much more and plays doubles much more. Both players have good transitional play, but again, Serena moves to the net to volley much more than Clijsters. Clijsters usually approaches the net only to return short balls or end with the overhead. Both players are almost inseparable, but Serena shows more willingness to volley in singles.

Serena's Score: A-
Kim's Score: A-

7. Returns

Serena wins here.

Clijsters has consistent returns, and gets the ball back into play. Serena injects enough venom in her return to kill an elephant. can hammer back a 200 kilometre per hour serve for a winner. Clijsters'? She'll get the ball back. Serena just attacks the ball so early, leaving her opponents no room to manoeuvre.

Serena's Score: A to A+
Kim's Score: B-

8. Mental Toughness

Did you really expect anything else other than this woman? Someone like Clijsters still can't claim to be mentally strong, even in her second career. Pre-retirement, she was second only to Amelie Mauresmo and Daniela Hantuchova. In her second-career, she's better, but she still choked in the Sydney Final against Li Na. Serena Williams is the Queen of Comebacks. Whether it was her spirited wins over Shahar Peer and Nadi Petrova in 2007, or her saving of three match points against Clijsters in 2003, or saving one against Elena in 2009, or the way she saved another three match points against Maria in 2005 or coming back 15-30 down on her own serve down a set and love 4-0 against an Azarenka on fire. Take your pick, but I doubt any woman could come back from the brink of defeat the way she did then. The closest would be Maria Sharapova, but Kim Clijsters doesn't have the tenacity and fight these girls do.

Serena's Score: A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Kim's Score: B-

9. Overall

There's a reason that Serena Williams has won a "Serena Slam." There's a reason she's in the GOAT talks. There's a reason she has 13 Grand Slams. There's a reason she's the best in her generation. And there's a reason why Kim has only won three US Opens, two of which had substandard competition.

Serena Williams is a far better player.

Serena's Player Score: A to A+
Kim's Player Score: B to B+


Anonymous said...

Although Kim would never say it publicly.. I think she's still a little miffed at Serena for her US Open tirade. Kim wanted to beat her fair and square yet had to take the disqualification route.

The above is of course only my opinion. However, Serena is deathly afraid of the post retirement Kimmie -- TRUST ME!

Emily or as Carlos likes to call me "Captain" said...

I think Kim may be a little miffed at Serena for the US Open '09 but I think that if Serena hadn't done what she did IMO Serena still has a chance to win that match, just being who she is.

Serena may be afraid of the post retirement Kimmie, but Serena is still hands down the better player!

Anonymous said...

I agree, Serena is much more consistent and of course has many more grand slam titles.

Emily or as Carlos likes to call me "Captain" said...

Serena is defiantly more consistent which has lead to her have greater results.

Carlos said...

Took me a while but finally got to this article. That was a great breakdown Captain! Serena is the best player of her generation there is no question about that. In sports when the question who is better arises, I look at how many important titles have been achieved. In this case easily Serena wins. I have used this example a few times before: U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) during the 90's the Atlanta Braves won more games than any other team in baseball, and only one world series win. The New York Yankees won three world series during the 90s. The team of the decade were the Yankees. Kim has more titles than Serena however Serena has a higher winning percentage than Kim. Serena leads Kim in head to head 7-2. Serena owns all the "7 Rings of Hell" Kim doesn't and even if Kim did Serena would have more important titles than Kim. I agree with you Captain 100% Serena's mental toughness is above everyone else and that alone puts her in a class of her own. I've seen Kim choke, but I can't recall seeing Serena choke. A person can tell a player is great by the number of comebacks not by number of chokes.

Emily or as Carlos likes to call me "Captain" said...

Thank you Carlos, but not only is Serena by far the greatest of her generation, possibly the Greatest Of All Time, considered by some. Serena is head and shoulders above the rest, in her generation! Serena has more of the big titles, more variety of title surface, and has had great success in all aspects of the game. Yes you have used that example before but it is such a great example, it doesn't matter how many matches you win, its what matches you win. Serena lead Kim in head to head, she has all the "7 Rings of Hell" Kim has four of them, the three she lacks are all Slams as well! Also Serena could easily have more titles if it wasn't for the shocking Indian Wells incident! I have seen many Serena matches in my life, and I can not recall a choke, just many comebacks! She has greater mental strength than any other player ever!

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