Serena Williams is, of course, one of the best, if not the very best female tennis player ever. For years, she knew little opposition in women’s tennis. As a result, people began to think more and more about how she would perform against men, so the question arose: how would Serena Williams rank in men’s tennis?
According to John McEnroe, Serena Williams would rank somewhere around No. 700 in men's tennis. Others claim that her ranking would likely be lower and that she would play just above the level of male college tennis players. She would have a hard time getting into the top 1000 in men's tennis.
Of course, it is very difficult to answer the main question of this article with certainty. However, in this article, I try to include different aspects in my substantiation to give the most honest answer possible. In addition, I address more questions regarding Serena Williams vs male tennis players.
It is not a secret that Serena Williams is a great tennis player. With 23 Grand Slam singles titles, she can easily be named one of the best female tennis players around.
But how does this compare to men’s tennis?
Back in 2017, John McEnroe shared his thoughts on this difficult topic. He claimed that if Serena Williams were to get a male ranking, she would be ranked around number 700.
However, not everyone was happy with this statement, and it started quite some discussions. Whereas some people considered this ranking to be too low, others thought it was outrageously high.
Serena Wiliams is a mentally and physically strong player. Besides, she is very athletic, but does that compare to the strength male players often have?
Serena herself reacted to John’s statement in a tweet, saying that even though she adores and respects him, she hopes he will keep her out of his statements, which are not based on any facts in the future.
Others claimed that it would be hard for Serena Williams to get a male ranking at all.
If she switched to male tennis right now, she would start out having no ranking at all.
This means she could only enter the qualifier rounds for the ITF professional tournaments, where she would have to win several matches even to get a point.
And with just one point, she would not be very high up in the rankings.
Therefore, she would need to win many matches against men to get even remotely close to the top.
So, what would Serena be ranked as a man?
Even though there is no evidence to get to an honest answer, most people seem to agree she would have a hard time beating the top 1000 professional male tennis players.
This means Serena Williams would play just above the level of male college tennis players.
At the professional tennis level, Serena Williams is no better than male tennis players. The physical difference between men and women is too significant at this level. At a lower level, men do not stand a chance against Serena Williams.
This is a complicated question to answer. Comparing males to females has caused many debates over the years and will most likely keep on being a topic of discussion in the following years.
Some might say Serena Williams can’t be better than male tennis players because of the differences in physique and body strength.
Men tend to be more muscular and are built differently in general, which often gives them more strength and power to hit the balls.
When we look at serve speeds, for example. The fastest serve ever hit by a male tennis player was by Sam Groth at the 2012 Busan Open Challenger Tennis.
This serve went as fast as 163.4 mph, or 263 km/h.
Georgina García Pérez hit the fastest serve in female tennis at the 2018 Hungarian Ladies Open. This serve was 136.7 mph or 220 km/h.
As you can see, this is quite a big difference and can significantly impact a match.
However, power is not the only important thing when it comes to tennis. Stamina and fitness are essential as well.
Players have to be able to keep running after balls and keep playing long rallies throughout the whole game.
Even though Serena Williams possesses a lot of stamina, female matches generally last a maximum of three sets. Men’s matches, on the other hand, can last up to five sets.
This means that most men are used to playing for a longer consecutive period of time than women.
So can Serena Williams beat a man?
It seems unlikely. Not because Serena Williams is not a great tennis player, because she is.
It’s because the differences between men and women are simply too significant when it comes to their physique.
To decide if Serena Williams is a better tennis player, we would have to look at how good she is compared to other women.
Then compare how good a male player is compared to other men, and compare those results.
But suppose Serena Williams was to play a match against a professional male tennis player. In that case, I’m afraid the odds would not be in her favor.
Another take on this debate would involve asking the following question:
What makes a tennis player a good tennis player?
Is the player who wins a match necessarily the best player? Besides that, a ranking is very dependent on the moment.
The player ranked number one won’t be ranked number one forever, and sometimes as little as one match can make the difference.
To be a good tennis player, you have to be physically fit, of course. Still, you also have to master different kinds of shots and understand the game’s tactics.
Those last factors might be less dependent on gender.
At the moment of writing, the top 5 ranked male players are Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, and Rafael Nadal.
Novak Djokovic has ended the year at the first rank seven times already, which is a record. He is the only player who has won a Career Golden Masters.
Since we established before that even though Serena Williams is a fantastic tennis player, the physical differences between men and women might be too significant.
Serena Williams would not be able to beat Novak Djokovic. Nor would she be able to beat any of the other top 5 ranked male players.
However, this does not make her any less of a tennis legend in female tennis.
At the 1998 Australian Open, Serena Williams claimed that she could beat a professional male tennis player with a ranking lower than 200. She ended up playing one set against Karsten Braasch, who was ranked 203 at the time. Serena Williams lost the set against Karsten Braasch 6-1.
Even though most of this article consists of guesses, since we haven’t actually seen Serena Williams play against the top male tennis players, there has been one instance of her playing a professional male tennis player.
In 1998, during the Australian Open, both Serena Williams and her sister Venus Williams claimed that they could beat any male player ranked lower than 200.
Karsten Braasch was ranked 203 at the time and decided to put this claim to the test. He challenged the sisters to a game and beat them quite easily.
Both sisters played a set, and Karsten Braasch managed to win the set against Serena Williams with 6-1 and the set against Venus Williams with 6-2.
The sisters admitted they did not expect the match to be so difficult.
They played shots that would have been winners in a female match, but Braasch returned them anyways.
After this, the sisters adjusted their claim, saying they could beat any male player ranked lower than 350. Still, Braasch thought they wouldn’t stand a chance against anyone ranked higher than 500.
It is important to mention that so far, the comparison between Serena Williams and male tennis players has been based on professional male tennis players.
YouGov, an international data and analytics group, did a survey in the United Kingdom asking people if they thought they would be able to win a point against Serena Williams.
Most people thought they would not be able to. However, one in eight men thought they could.
In a fun video by the guys from Dude Perfect on YouTube, they wanted to see how many of them it would take to score one point against Serena.
Serena Williams beat them without even having to try hard.
It is very unlikely that Serena Williams would be able to beat Roger Federer. Both players are among the best within their gender. But because the physical differences between men and women are too significant, Serena Williams would not win against Roger Federer.
Roger Federer might not currently be a top 5 ranked tennis player anymore, but he is certainly worth mentioning.
He is the oldest tennis player to have a number one ranking, and he has won 20 Grand Slams. It’s safe to say Roger Federer is one of the best male tennis players in the history of the world.
Even though Serena Williams has won her share of tournaments, it is very unlikely that she will beat Roger Federer.
Yet again, the difference in physique between men and women, unfortunately, cannot be overlooked.
Serena herself has mentioned during an appearance on Late Night With David Letterman that she views male tennis and female tennis as two completely different sports.
It’s such a different game between two men than between two women. She mentioned Andy Murray would most likely beat her easily.
Most people would consider Roger Federer to be a better tennis player than Andy Murray, so even Serena Williams would probably agree that it is unlikely she would beat Roger Federer.
Even though it’s hard to give a good answer to what rank Serena Williams would have in the male’s rankings, it is unlikely that she would be ranked above 500.
Men and women are just too different physically to make a fair comparison.
So, for now, we will have to enjoy watching Serena Williams play other female tennis players because those matches are still enjoyable to watch.