As the winner of the last four majors, the No. 1 ranked Serena Williams is unquestionably the best player in women’s tennis.
With 21 major wins and counting—trailing only Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22—she may very well end up being regarded as the best women’s tennis player ever. Only time will tell.
But that her latest major sweep (she also won four straight majors in 2002–03) is coming at a relatively advanced age is even more remarkable. She’ll turn 34 in late September.
When she topped Garbiñe Muguruza in the Wimbledon finals last month, Williams became the oldest major winner on the women’s side—besting Martina Navratilova, who won Wimbledon in 1990 at the age of 33 years and 8 months.
But unlike Navratilova, who hadn’t won a Grand Slam event in nearly three years at the time, Williams has won 8 of the last 13 she’s entered, dating back to 2012.
So, why is Williams so dominant these days?
For one thing, there seems to be little competition at the top.
While Serena has 21 major titles to her name, the next closest current player has 7—Serena’s sister, Venus Williams.
But Venus has been slowed by Sjogren’s syndrome for several years now and hasn’t won a major since topping Serena in the 2008 Wimbledon finals. Even if she were healthy, though, Venus turned 35 in June and doesn’t quite have the strength her younger sister possesses.
Yet together the two sisters, through giving up their doubles competition, may have both figured out how to have more individual success.
The Williams sisters, who won an additional 13 majors while playing as doubles partners—in addition to their singles games at these same events—have finally stopped the doubles competition in 2015. And while Serena’s success from the lightened load has been obvious (a 21–0 record in the majors this year), Venus has benefited as well.
Venus made the fourth round at Wimbledon this past summer—her best showing at the All-England Club since 2011—and advanced to the quarterfinals at the Australian Open for the first time at a major since the 2010 semifinals.
Is it a coincidence that both have stepped up their game since giving up the doubles competition? Probably not. But we’ll see more evidence when the final major of the year—the US Open—starts up on Aug. 31.