Who would win in a match between Serena Williams and Steffi Graf? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
The answer is not that hard. The winner would be Serena Williams.
Let me start off by saying that I feel it's really unfair to compare players of different eras. Any such comparison has too many variables that are hard to control. This is true especially in tennis where the racquets, shoes, fitness regimens, nutrition etc. continuously improve over time. As a result, the top players today are much fitter, stronger and have much bigger serves than the top players ten years ago.
If you were to ignore the variables and focus purely on gameplay and compare Steffi in her prime against Serena in her prime, then Serena easily comes out on top. Let's compare them both across various facets:
Service: Steffi had the best service of her time. But Serena is clearly better than Steffi if you compare average speeds or any other meaningful service stat. Steffi's fastest serve ever was at 180 km/hr, but Serena consistently hits 200 km/hr serves in a lot of her matches. 1 - 0 Serena
Forehand: Steffi Graf had the best forehand of her time and was head and shoulders above her opponents. But if you look at her old videos and compare her forehand to Serena's today, it just doesn't match up. Serena's forehand is way bigger than Steffi's. 2 - 0 Serena
Backhand: Serena wins this one easily. Steffi mostly used a slice backhand, which would have been no match to Serena's thunderous double-hander. 3 - 0 Serena
Court coverage: Steffi might win this one. Serena is no slouch when it comes to court coverage, but Steffi was amazingly quick and agile. 3 - 1 Serena
Mental toughness: This one is hard to call. Both are very strong mentally and have pulled out quite a few matches from the brink of defeat. Graf v Novotna at Wimbledon 1993 or the recent Serena Williams vs. Heather Watson at Wimbledon 2015 are great examples. I'll call this a tie. 3.5 - 1.5 Serena
Serena's gameplay is just too dominant and she would have won this matchup easily, probably in straight sets: 6-3, 6-3.