First Andy Murray v Serena Williams - now Novak Djokovic says he'll take on Maria Sharapova
Mixed singles? After Williams says 'it would be fun' to play Murray, men's world number one throws down challenge to women's number three
Friday 28 June 2013
Serena Williams has a formidable record for any female - or indeed male - competitor willing to take her on.
She's won 33 matches in a row, and 76 of her past 79. If she wins five more this fortnight, as almost everyone expects, Williams will earn a second consecutive Wimbledon title and 17th Grand Slam championship overall.
But then Andy Murray's hardly unseeded either, rated number 2 by the ATP
As the prospect of a match between the two, begun as a joke, begins to look a touch more real, some tennis pros say that despite Williams's abilities, she would not even be a match for the men's 350th seed.
After number 1 WTA-ranked Ms Williams beat 100th-ranked qualifier Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2 to reach the third round at Wimbledon, the first question at her news conference concerned a suggestion by Murray - prompted by a fan's Twitter post - that the pair play each other.
"Really? He wants to play me? Is he sure?" Williams responded. "That would be fun. I doubt I'd win a point, but that would be fun.
"He's probably one of the top three people I definitely don't want to play.
"But maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown. That would be fine. I get (to use the doubles) alleys. He gets no serves. I get alleys on my serves, too."
Perhaps a little jealous at the thought of the frenzied interest such a match between the reigning Olympic and US Open champions would generate, Novak Djokovic thought he'd get in on the act too.
Asked if he would like to play any of the leading players on the women's tour, the men's number 1 had no hesitation.
"I'll play Sharapova anywhere she likes since Serena is already (playing Murray)," he said.
Djokovic and Sharapova, third-ranked in the women's game, have a playful relationship. During the pre-Wimbledon Boodles exhibition event he took delight in mimicking the Russian.
When he interrupted Ms Sharapova's press conference on Saturday, he was told that his impersonation was not up to scratch. Asked if he would imitate her during the match, he said he would take the contest seriously.
But of the two dream matches, the proposed clash between Williams and Murray seems a little closer to actually happening.
Murray wrote in his BBC Sport column that he fancied the challenge of taking on the American 16-time grand slam winner.
"I'd be up for it, why not?" he said. "I've never hit with her but she's obviously an incredible player and I think people would be interested to see the men play against the women to see how the styles match up."
Pondering the match, Williams added: "Maybe I can get a game. I'm not sure, but I think I can get a game."
But former pro Jeff Tarango, gave a more scathing assessment of Williams's abilities, saying she would have to drop far down the men's rankings - possibly as low as 350th - to find an opponent she could beat.
"She would be tested," said Tarango, famous for storming off at Wimbledon in 1995, in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live.
"She could test a lot of men on this planet, probably seven and a half billion, but Andy Murray is not one of them. He's way too good for her.
"Maybe if they found a handicapping system. I'm sure Andy could come up with something, maybe redraw the lines a little bit...
"Let's go to the depth of it. What they're asking is, 'How low do you have to go in the men's game before Serena pulls off a win?'.
"I'm going to say 300-350, those guys aren't used to playing for $500,000, they might start getting a little nervous and I think on a good surface on a good day, she could maybe take someone out."
And French Open winner Mary Pierce added her voice to the dissenters, saying depth of the men's game means even a low-ranked seed would have a chance against Williams.
"I had a lot of guys as sparring partners and some of those guys were tough for me to beat and didn't make it on the tour," Pierce said.
"They are so strong and like Serena said, every serve would be difficult to get back, it would be impossible to ace return and it would be hard to hit a winner."
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