Stephen Huss blog: The GOAT debate

February 9, 2017 08:10 AM

Stephen Huss currently serves as a USTA National Coach for Women's Tennis in the USTA Player Development Department. Huss (pictured above left) competed on the pro tour for 11 years and, in 2005, teamed with Wesley Moodie to win the Wimbledon men's doubles title, becoming the first team ever to qualify into the tournament and go on to win the championship. Huss, a native of Australia, played college tennis at Auburn University from 1996-2000, earning All-America honors in doubles in 1998 and singles in 2000.

After retiring from tennis following the 2011 US Open, Huss moved on to coaching and has had a successful career ever since, highlighted by working with the women's doubles team of Abigail Spears and Raquel Kops Jones and serving as an assistant coach for the Virginia Tech men's tennis team. Since joining the USTA in January 2016, he has worked with up-and-coming players Caroline Dolehide and Kylie McKenzie.

For the next several weeks, Huss will be blogging for about his life as a coach. In his latest blog, he writes about who he thinks is the greatest player of all time.

By Stephen Huss

Since Roger Federer’s stunning victory over Rafael Nadal in the final of the 2017 Australian Open, there has been a lot of talk of him finally putting to bed who is truly the greatest tennis player of all time. To do it by winning three out of his last four matches in five sets, at his age, and not having played competitively for such a long time is truly remarkable.

For me, it is so hard to compare different eras, and although I never saw Rod Laver play, for him to win the calendar Grand Slam twice but be banned from competition for seven years in between those achievements because of amateurism rules is amazing. I think it is pretty safe to say he would have at least doubled his Grand Slam total of 11. Like everyone, I have an opinion, but I base it solely on what I have seen in my own lifetime of watching tennis since the early ’80s. I do not believe Federer is the GOAT.

There is a player who is 23-6 in Grand Slam finals – 23-6! Talk about playing your best tennis in the biggest matches! Federer is 18-10. This person has won doubles and mixed Grand Slam titles, Olympic gold in singles and doubles and consistently won on all surfaces in a career spanning almost two decades. That player is Serena Williams.


Serena is the biggest champion of the game that I have ever seen. Apart from her obvious tennis skills, her demeanor and mental toughness stand out to me. She truly rises to the occasion and plays her best tennis at the most important times. In 13 of her 23 Grand Slam victories, she was within five points of losing a match at some point during the tournament. She has been challenged, and she embraces that moment and comes through.

There are numerous arguments for and against, and the debate will rage on. I consider myself very lucky to have stood across the net and played against both of these players at one point in my life. Federer’s skills were sublime, unmatched by anyone, in my opinion, and it was the only time in my career that I was truly overawed. I found myself watching him, totally distracted from my task of competing to beat him. It did not go well for me, but I treasure the memory and wish I could have it over again.

Serena was a teenager when I hit with her – bubbly personality, friendly and chatty. She was starting her ascent, but I did not know then what I know now. If I had to put one player out on court to play for my life, it would be her.

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