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Roger Federer and Serena Williams: The tennis twins

A look at the similarities in the careers of both Roger Federer and Serena Williams.

Roger Federer and Serena Williams, the greatest among the greats (Courtesy: Wilson)

Maybe not identical ones, but fraternal tennis twins for sure!

Roger Federer and Serena Williams are undoubtedly the two most celebrated tennis players in the history of the sport. They have scripted history time and again, making their legacy so formidable that at times they seem indispensable and almost bigger than the sport itself.

While one is the best from a handful of great tennis players from his nation, the other is the torchbearer of a pantheon of champions from her country. When you study their journey, you realized that they have competed with a zeal so humungous and a passion so unwavering, it is hard to not take note of the similarities between the two greats!

The serve

The serve, the most potent weapon of both Federer and Serena, not only starts a point but also finishes it on more occasions than one. They both possess so much power and venom in their serves that opponents seldom have any answers to them. Federer and Serena often get themselves out of trouble by serving aces – down the T, out wide or the kicker. You name it and they “serve” it to you on a platter with a lot of ease and élan.

Their service motions are natural and effortless, high on impact and easy on the eyes. Martina Navratilova considers Serena as the greatest server of all time. And, of course, the serving extravaganza that Federer displayed in the Wimbledon final of 2009 against Andy Roddick can never be forgotten. He ratcheted up 50 aces, equivalent to 12 games, in that match – which is the longest ever final (in terms of games) in the history of Wimbledon.

Earlier this year Federer surpassed the 9000 aces mark for his career, and is just the fourth man to have achieved this feat.

Serena emulated something similar to Federer’s Wimbledon 2009 performance when she bulldozed her opposition with a total of 102 aces in the 2012 edition of Wimbledon. Their serves are also very well placed. While Federer, of late, relies more on accuracy than power. Serena is mostly raw power.

Watch Serena obliterate the ball as she sends one down the T at 207 kmph!

Playing smart

The games of Federer and Serena are purely cerebral. Their court sense is so supreme that they use every inch of it, including the outer edges of the tramlines. Court craft, driven by sound strategy and executed with finesse, is core to their styles. Both of them believe in first strike tennis!

They take the initiative and dictate points in their matches, more often than not. Of late they both approach the net quite frequently to keep the points short. This has helped add to their aggression and contributed, over time, to their longevity and relevance in the sport.

Their choice of shots and ability to play committed tennis have helped them maintain their perch at the pinnacle of the sport.

Planning smarter

It has been observed that Federer, at his peak, skipped quite a few events to guard himself from burnout. He skipped the Rome Masters in 2014 and skipped the Davis Cup as well as the Miami Masters in 2015 to keep his body intact and capable of winning an 18th Grand Slam title. At the Barclays World Tour Finals 2014, Roger withdrew from his finale against Novak Djokovic due to a back injury, and the decision to do so helped him reap rich dividends a week later as he added to his impressive resume – the elusive Davis Cup!

Serena also chooses her tournaments wisely. She withdraws from the smaller tournaments, like she did at Indian Wells this year, if she has even the smallest of niggles. She focuses a lot on the Grand Slams, playing them big and winning them often. This has worked wonders for her so far as she is making an attempt to breach Steffi Graf’s Open Era record of 22 Grand Slams.

The aura

Whether they are on the court or off the court, Federer and Serena have the aura of The Boss! On court. while Federer is regal, Serena is brutal. While the Swiss embodies swagger, the American exudes invincibility.

Federer was the ATP Player Council President for six years. He managed to accomplish a lot for the players and the sport during his tenure. In the fourth round of Roland Garros 2014, Ernests Gulbis even asked Federer’s permission before taking a medical timeout!

And this video shows why Serena is the boss!

The entertainment quotient

Not many players on the circuit provide 100% entertainment whenever they play. Apart from a few names like Gael Monfils and Agnieszka Radwanksa, even big-time players like Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych rank low on the entertainment quotient.

But Federer is a sheer joy to watch and is often described as poetry in motion. Serena, on the other hand, is the warrior queen. Their entertainment quotient stems from the variety of shot-making that is part of their repertoire. Almost every shot is different from another in pace, length, angle, trajectory, spin and power.

Unlike many other players who only prefer to club the ball from the baseline, these greats have a game style that comes as a whiff of fresh air. 

Doubles expertise

Federer and Serena are blessed with tennis instincts that not many players can boast of. They have not only excelled in singles but also have achieved a lot of impressive feats in doubles. Their supreme net play and court sense are what help them be very effective and suitable for doubles.

Serena has an inherent advantage in the form of a sister and doubles partner, Venus, whom she grew up hitting with and learning from. Serena has to her credit 13 Grand Slam doubles titles and 3 Olympics gold medals that she won alongside Venus.

Federer, on the other hand, also has found success in doubles while partnering compatriot Stan Wawrinka. They won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics and also helped Switzerland secure their maiden Davis cup title last year.

Achievements and riches

No matter how much time and effort you may want to dedicate to chronicling their achievements, you will always fall short of doing justice to the Herculean task. While Federer is already considered, by many, to be the G.O.A.T among the male tennis players, Serena is just three Grand Slams shy of being called one. Both these legends also feature in the Forbes’ list of richest athletes year after year.

Africa – at the heart of their philanthropic activities

South Africa is very special to Federer as his mother Lynette Federer hails from there. He spent a few of his formative years, albeit on and off, in South Africa. Along with UNESCO the Roger Federer Foundation has done commendable work over the years in countries like Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Their focus has largely been on education.

The Serena Williams Foundation has also laid a lot of emphasis on Africa and education. Her foundation has built schools in Kenya and along with a non-profit organization called Build African Schools aims to build one school every year in a different African country.

Their numbers of destiny

Many athletes around the world are superstitious and believe in lucky charms. For astrology and numerology buffs, it is interesting to note that both Federer and Serena are ruled by the number eight. Their birth number is eight, as Federer was born on August 8th and Serena on September 26th (2+6=8). Even their names start and end in the same letter – Roger FedereR, Serena WilliamS.

As per a recent article written by a fellow Sportskeeda author, Federer supposedly carries eight racquets with him, sets up eight bottles of water courtside, wants to serve eight aces during his pre-match warm up and makes sure of eight towel rubs at the end of a set.

The run of dominance

Federer and Serena were born just a month apart. At 33, the run of dominance that they have had over the years is mind boggling.

Both have achieved the career Grand Slam. 

Federer has been No.1 for a record 302 weeks, and is still doing well enough to hang on to the No. 2 ranking. With 85 ATP titles to his credit, he stands third in the total number of titles won in the Open Era. In 2006, Federer said that he felt like Pacman as he won almost every tournament he played.

Federer won 15 out of his 17 titles between 21 and 28 years of age. He secured his 1000th win at the Brisbane Open final this year.

Meanwhile Serena, the current World No. 1, has strengthened her stranglehold on the top position, having held it for almost 240 weeks now. Serena dominated 2013 as she held a win loss record of 81-4 for that season. Her titles are spread out quite evenly over the years and she has managed to win at least two of each Grand Slam. Serena recently secured her 700th win.

The good news for us tennis fans is that neither of these tennis twins shows any signs of stopping. They have won almost every title possible, raked in truckloads of moolah and have had their place in the sun. Making age seem a mere number, the one common factor that still keeps them both going is their undying love for the sport. 

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