Serena Williams and Roger Federer set the benchmark for women’s and men’s tennis, said the 1987 Wimbledon champion Pat Cash during a media interaction on Saturday.
Cash, who is in Chennai as coach of Chinese world number 102 Qiang Wang for the WTA250 event, said, “Serena certainly changed the game. She brought in a real power element to the game that really forced everybody to bring their level up.”
“Quickly after Serena and Venus became dominant, you saw other players working harder and better athletes coming through. Justin Henin for instance and players like that who may not have had a lot of power, but they had to develop power. The rackets helped the other girls stay in touch with the Williams sisters with power, but it’s very hard to outpower them.”
Despite Serena’s imminent retirement and the Big Three – Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – in the twilight of their careers, the 57-year-old Australian feels the standard of modern tennis has continued to improve.
“Serena and Roger Federer set the benchmark and the other players caught up and overtook them. You’ve seen (Bianca) Andreescu and (Naomi) Osaka, for instance, come through and beat Serena playing like Serena and, there’s a lot of girls who play like that now.
“You could say the same thing about Roger and to a certain extent, Rafa, though he was there earlier as well. Novak had to catch up, Andy Murray had to catch up and they’ve caught up and been as good if not better than some of the great players.”
Former world number four Cash thinks there will be a gap with great players retiring in a group on the men’s side but the current US Open has seen a change of the guard.
“I can see Rafa, maybe to keep going for a little bit longer, but he’s had quite a lot of injuries. At some stage, he’s going to have to stop. Novak will maybe continue a little bit longer since he’s having breaks, unfortunately, because of stupid vaccine rules some countries still have. Roger probably won’t be around much longer, and neither will Andy,” he said.
“When you have a group like that, there’s going to be a gap. There’s going to be an opportunity for some players to come through and this US Open has shown that it has been the changing of the guard.
We’re missing some players but with (Frances) Tiafoe breaking through and you’re obviously going to see a final between two young players (Carlos Alcaraz and Casper Ruud).”
On what to expect from the US Open men’s final between Alcaraz and Ruud, Cash said, “Ruud has a great chance because Alcaraz has had very long, stressful matches and that can take a lot out of you. There will certainly be a lot of running and good power shots from these guys.”