Williams sisters vs Karsten Braasch: When World No. 203 destroyed Serena Williams and Venus Williams in Battle of the Sexes
During the 1998 Australian Open, Serena Williams and Venus Williams took part in an exhibition event aptly named "The Battle of the Sexes." 25 years after the first "Battle of the Sexes" -- the infamous event where Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs -- World No. 203 Karsten Braasch took on the Williams sisters.
The event came about after the Americans, then mere teenagers, had allegedly declared in the ATP office that they could beat any male player ranked outside the top 200. Braasch happened to overhear the conversation, and having lost both his singles and doubles openers at the tournament already, volunteered to play.
The German, who never won an ATP title and reached as high as World No. 38, first took on Serena Williams in a single-set winner-takes-all event. It should be noted that the entire ordeal took place without any linespeople, cameras or prize money, with pride being the only thing at stake.
Braasch quickly raced to a 5-0 lead. The 23-time Grand Slam champion finally held serve for 5-1 but the 54-year-old then closed things out without a hiccup to take the set 6-1.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Serena remarked that she played just as well as she usually does. The 40-year-old was astounded by how easily the German could return balls that would have been winners on the WTA tour. But in the same breath, Serena claimed that she could beat Braasch next year after putting on some muscle.
"I hit shots that would have been winners on the Women's Tour and he got to them easily," Serena Williams said. "This time next year, I'll beat him. I have to pump some weight."
Venus Williams then walked on court in an attempt to avenger her sister's loss. Unfortunately, she met the same fate. The seven-time Grand Slam champion fared a little better, even breaking the former World No. 38's serve once, but fell 6-2.
In a column Kaarsten Brasch wrote for The Guardian a couple of years later, he stated that male players put a lot more spin on the ball than women, a key factor that led to his triumph. The 54-year-old also agreed with Serena Williams' assessment, noting that male players were capable of chasing down what would have been winners in women's matches.
"Both sisters are great tennis players and hit the ball extremely well. However, if you've been playing on the men's tour there are certain shots you can play that are going to put them in difficulty," Braasch wrote. "I was hitting the ball with a degree of spin they don't face week-in, week-out. Another key is to chase down every shot. In our match, they were putting shots into the corners that on the women's tour would be winners but I was able to return them."
The German also revealed that he took it easy on the former World No. 1s, saying that he served at only 50% of his full capacity in order to "keep it fun." In Braasch's opinion, the event was not serious and all three players just treated it as a casual contest.
"In the end I won, but neither myself, nor Venus or Serena Williams took the game too seriously - we were just having a bit of fun. I took at least 50 per cent off my serve," Braasch said. "I came out with a few hard ones, but not too much because then it's not fun anymore."
The Williams sisters later revised their estimates, saying that they could take on any man outside the top 350, but nothing further materialized.
"Men's tennis and women's tennis are two completely different sports" - Serena Williams
Serena Williams seems to have revised her opinion in recent times. Speaking in an interview years later, the 23-time Grand Slam champion remarked that women's tennis and men's tennis were fundamentally different, even to the extent that they were "two completely different sports."
If she were to go head-to-head against someone like Andy Murray, the former World No. 1 admitted that she would go on to lose 6-0, 6-0 without any semblance of a fight.
"Andy Murray has been joking about myself and him playing a match. I'm like, 'Seriously? Are you kidding me?' Men's tennis and women's tennis are two completely different sports," Serena Williams said. "If I were to play him, I'd lose 6-0, 6-0 within 10 minutes. Men are a lot faster, they serve and hit harder. It's a different game."