Many female players can replace Serena as World No 1, says Navratilova

Mar 19, 2015, 08:30 IST | Amit Kamath

Tennis legend Martina believes many players have the potential to replace the American for the top spot, but feels it will be difficult while Williams is still playing

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who recently joined the coaching team of World No 8 Agnieszka Radwanska, believes many female players have the potential to dethrone Serena Williams as World No 1 but adds that Serena "will have to quit first to give somebody else a chance".

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova 

"Replace Serena as No 1, who knows? There are plenty of players that have the possibility and the capability but who can rise to the occasion? I mean, anybody can be No 1 in the world… but you're talking about pretty big shoes to fill. So who can get to No 1?

It would be interesting if someone could do it while Serena's still playing, but she has to quit first to give somebody else a chance," Navratilova, who is a Laureus World Sports Academy Member, said about the American tennis ace who is in contention for her third Laureus Sportswoman of the Year award this year (she won in 2003 and 2010).

Serena Williams celebrates her win over fellow American Sloane Stephens during the Indian Wells Open yesterday. Pics/Getty Images,AFP Serena Williams celebrates her win over fellow American Sloane Stephens during the Indian Wells Open yesterday. Pics/Getty Images,AFP

Navratilova, who has 59 Grand Slam titles (18 singles, 31 doubles titles and 10 mixed doubles) to her name, also said she would relish the opportunity to face-off against Serena.

She even has a game strategy outlined to tackle the reigning World No 1, who overtook the Czech's 18 Grand Slam titles by winning the Australian Open earlier this year.

"I think I would play my game, which is come to the net, most of all, try to mix it up with uneven rhythm, keep the ball low, hit a lot of slices and run her on the diagonal as much as possible. She's such a big first striker of the ball, so you need to neutralise that. Get her on the run and keep her out of rhythm. Don't give her time to hit the ball," Navratilova added.

It remains to be seen whether the Czech tennis legend has passed on these tips to her understudy Radwanska and if she has, whether she can actually dethrone Serena.

Faster courts and smaller raquets needed: Navratilova
With the sport of tennis becoming a baseliner's game, Martina Navratilova believes that tennis could do with a little tweaks like faster courts and smaller racquets.

"What I would like to see is faster courts and smaller racquets. Limit the size of the head above the racquet where you can just take any kind of a swing and the ball will still go in -- it would put a little more emphasis on technique and ability. By making the racquet head smaller, you are making the sweet spot smaller. So there's more premium on proper technique and not just raw power. By making the courts a little bit faster, you would be rewarding people for coming forward. So you would need more variety.

"Because everybody is hitting the ball so hard, they can still from the baseline but make the courts a little bit faster and make the racquets a little bit smaller, I think that would make the game fascinating. There's nothing wrong with it but I think it would just bring more variety and more skill. The skill would be really a bigger premium," she said.

She also added that many players of the current generation could not play the serve-and-volley brand of tennis.

"It's a hard skill. I think the reason more people don't do it is because they can't. But also, the racquets have really helped the ground skills a lot more than they helped the volley. That's why you don't see more people sort of volleying," she added.

Navratilova on current crop of players
Just his work ethic, diligence, his preparation, his will willingness to keep working on his game and keep getting better is amazing. He deserves that he finished No 1 (at the end of the season).
-- On Novak Djokovic

Always thought that Roger's got (a) chance at Wimbledon. That surface suits his game better than anything. I wouldn't put it past him to win any Slam but I still think the Wimbledon title is where he has the best chance. He came within one set, within maybe a couple points of winning it last year.
-- On Roger Federer's chances of winning another Grand Slam title

He (Nadal) has to be (the favourite to win the French Open). Until somebody knocks him off that perch. Robin Soderling is the only guy that beat him at the French (Open) and he's not playing anymore. So somebody is going to have to get a hot hand. Until somebody beats him, he's still the favourite.
-- On Rafael Nadal's chances of winning his 10th French Open title

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