Go to Google and enter “most major tennis titles in the open era.” What you will see is information singing the praises of Roger Federer, whose 20 major titles are the most of any male player in history.
But that’s the wrong answer. The tennis player with the most major titles in the Open era is Serena Williams with 23.
What’s more, the player with the most major titles of alltime—that is, before 1968 when the Open era of professional tennis began and prize purses replaced under-the-table payments for certain stars—is Margaret Court with 24.
There is blatant sexism in the algorithm used by Google to identify themost prolific champions in tennis history, who happen to be women. And the same sexism is gumming up the search engines used by Yahoo and Bing.
Why should a male athlete be the default answer for, say, a child working on a school essay who simply wants to know who is the most successful tennis champion? Why treat women’s sports as if they are inferior or less than?
It’s a slap in the face to Serena who has won tournaments in four different decades. It’s the kind of disappointment that lingers; it’s not a temporary setback like her stunningloss to China’s Wang Qiang in the third round of the 2020Australian Open.
Serena, at age 38, is still chasing that elusive 24th major title, which would tie Court in the record book—although, by any objective measure, Serena’s 23 trumps Court’s 24.
Here’s why: Court won 13 of her 24 majors when tennis was an amateur sport. The Australian legend captured seven of her 11 Aussie Open titles before 1968, when stars from other countries wouldnot bother traveling Down Underduring winter to play a two-week tournament for no money.
Serena has played her entire career in professional tennis, against those who have had the same opportunity to train, be coached and commit themselves to perform at their absolute best. Not long after Serena began to consistently defeat her older sister Venus a decade ago, she became tennis’s G.O.A.T.—the greatest of all time—except to those who write algorithms.
To see the best serve, most lethal power game and most fiercely determined player in women’s tennis history, watch Serena. To see a player whose fans are the most rabid her sport has ever seen, watch Serena.
And to find the biggest inspiration for today’ssuperstars—such astwo-time major champion Naomi Osaka of Japan, 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada and 15-year-old American sensation Coco Gauff—watch Serena.
In 2002–03 and 2014–15, Serena has held all four major titles (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, U.S. Open) simultaneously. Those were her coveted “Serena Slams.” (A Grand Slamis achieved only when a player wins all four majors in the same year.) No other player, male or female, has held all four major titles twice in the 21st century.
At least, Serena is being well-compensated financially. She’s the first athlete to make Forbes magazine’s list of the richest self-made women.She began the 2020 season with $88.2 million in career prize money. Her net worth, including endorsements, stands at $225 million. But money isn’t everything. The G.O.A.T. also deserves more R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Whenever you ask the world’s most used search engines for information on tennis’s most celebrated champion, Serena’s name should appear—not a male player with fewer achievements.