Las Vegas has witnessed its share of heavyweight bouts, but British tennis player Andy Murray on Thursday held out the prospect of a tantalizing sporting contest to rival any staged in Sin City, challenging Serena Williams to a competitive tennis match which she later agreed “would be fun.”
Murray first made the suggestion in response to a tweet from a tennis fan on Wednesday, when user @tomcarswell1 wrote: “I reckon Serena Williams could beat u on grass ... And I’m not even joking.” “Me too!” replied the player. “Maybe we can set it up one day and see how close I get.”
After sleeping on it, Murray seemed even more serious, repeating his offer in a column for the BBC Web site — and suggesting the Nevada gambling capital as a suitable venue for the showdown.
“I’ve never hit with her but she’s obviously an incredible player,” he wrote, “and I think people would be interested to see the men play against the women to see how the styles match up. It’s happened in the past with Jimmy Connors and Martina Navratilova. How about Las Vegas as a venue?”
“He’s challenged me?” Williams asked journalists after her second-round defeat of France’s Caroline Garcia. “That would be fun. I doubt I’d win a point, but that would be fun.”
Murray, she said, was “probably one of the top three people I definitely don’t want to play, but yeah, maybe we can have a little bit of a showdown. That would be fine.”
Connors and Navratilova staged an exhibition match in Las Vegas in 1992, which was narrowly won in two sets by Connors, though he played with a number of handicaps. While both players in that contest were past their prime, both Murray and Williams are reigning Grand Slam champions, raising the prospect of a fascinating head-to-head between men’s and women’s tennis at its best.
Williams jokily stressed, however, that if the match were staged, she would insist on being allowed to hit into the “alleys,” or tramlines, using the full width of the doubles court, while Murray should be denied serves, or even the use of his legs. As for her favored surface, she initially suggested an indoor grass court, before changing her mind and opting for clay.
“He loves grass. I do, too. But I’m going to definitely go clay,” she said.
It would not be Williams’ first male-female contest, after she and her elder sister Venus were defeated one after another by the German Karsten Braach in 1998, when they were 16 and 17 respectively.
Referring to that defeat, Williams told reporters: “I probably would still lose to Karsten.”
The most celebrated tennis battle of the sexes took place in 1973 between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, months after the 55-year-old Riggs had defeated Margaret Court, at 30 the leading female player in the world. King, who was 29, avenged Court’s defeat with a crushing 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win, pocketing the US$100,000 purse for her efforts.