Author: Alexis

The Only Match Yet Played on Clay

The Only Match Yet Played on Clay

Jessica Pegula Is Peaking Just in Time for the WTA Finals


Daniel Gallo and

Johanna Kleynambe is a tennis correspondent for with an obsession for the sport. He’s also the author of the book “The Best Game of My Life.”

Daniel Gallo

Johanna Kleynambe

LONDON — When the final round begins on Sunday afternoon at the WTA Championships in New Haven, Connecticut, Serena Williams’s match with Maria Sharapova will be the only match yet played on clay.

This is just as it should be, because Williams has been the greatest player in the history of the sport and is on the verge of becoming the first woman to win four consecutive WTA Finals. That’s three more majors than Venus Williams, who won the championship five times, most recently in 2006.

To make the case that Sharapova isn’t the best player ever, Williams needs just one more day to win all four tournaments. In tennis, that is an extraordinary feat.

Only a few players ever have accomplished this. They’re not even the greatest on grass, the top of clay’s equivalent. In fact, clay is the only surface on which women can still win the season-long title.

In women’s tennis, the only player to have won four slams in five years is Serena Williams. To beat her, Williams must beat Sharapova. That will be hard.

It should be the easiest of her career. A four-time champion, Williams will have beaten nine of the top 10 players in the world already this year (with one loss to the fifth-ranked player in the world). She has won one of four top-10 tournaments this year, in the French Open and Wimbledon. She has just defeated three of the four top-10 players left in the tournament, and she will have done so all with only six wins. That’s far fewer than Nadal has won in any other year.

Sharapova doesn’t get any easier. She will have made only two finals all year, and while both were at WTA Tour events, neither was in the round of 16. She also lost in the second round of the Australian Open and the French Open.

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