Women's tennis will survive post-Serena, says Chris Evert
Chris Evert believes the likes of Muguruza, Kerber and Keys can take up the mantle after Serena retires
She turns 35 in September, but Serena Williams still seems an unstoppable Grand Slam force.
The American world No. 1 collected her 22nd Major when she captured a seventh Wimbledon singles title last Saturday, and popular opinion is she will overtake Margaret Court's all-time Grand Slam singles mark of 24 by the time she ends her remarkable career.
Chris Evert says the women's game will suffer for a while when Williams does hang up her racket, but insists the sport will quickly bounce back.
"I was in the same era as Bjorn Borg and he was a rock star of tennis, bigger than (Roger) Federer and (Rafael) Nadal," Evert said yesterday morning, in a tele-conference call from Florida.
"When he (Borg) retired, I thought to myself, 'what in heaven's name is going to happen to men's tennis? It's just going to go down the tube'.
"But sure enough, (John) McEnroe started playing well after that, as did Jimmy (Connors), (Ivan) Lendl and (Boris) Becker.
"For a year or two, Serena will definitely be missed, but life goes on. One player is not bigger than the sport."
Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion, believes that in Williams' absence, the likes of Garbine Muguruza, Angelique Kerber and Madison Keys will come to the fore, and even create enduring rivalries that have been missing during the great American's era.
Evert, who will return here for a third time in October as an ambassador for the WTA Finals Singapore, said: "Serena was so good that she never had a big rival who made it more interesting.
"After watching closely the Australian and French Opens, as well as Wimbledon, I think the difference is really Serena's serve.
"Her serve is the greatest that we have ever seen in women's tennis and it really does win her some easy points."
The likes of Muguruza and Kerber, who beat the hot favourite in the French Open and Australian Open final, respectively, this year, are coming up quickly and, with age catching up, Williams will have to be at her best to continue winning Majors.
"I don't think you can count Serena out as long as she is healthy and motivated; she still can win Grand Slams in the next couple of years.
"But I like the way the younger generation, like Muguruza and Kerber, are starting to challenge her and are not as intimidated as they have been before.
"Once players get into a rally with Serena, they have a pretty good shot at winning, but they have to get past that serve, and she is really hard to break... no one really seems to match her serve yet.
"It's going to be tougher and tougher for her to win Slams, but I still think she can win two or three more."
Up next for Williams are the Olympic Games in Rio and the US Open in New York, and Evert insists it will take a "herculean" effort for her to win gold and also bag a seventh Major at home.
Evert said: "A lot will depend on how Serena is feeling at the time. Muguruza won the French Open and lost in the first round of Wimbledon.
"Even if she is hungry and can get back psyched up for both tournaments, it will (still) be almost superhuman of her to win both the Olympics and the US Open.
"But, if anyone can do it, she can do it."
With 22 Slams to her name, Williams now ties Steffi Graf's Open era record.
Following her Wimbledon win, tennis legend Billie Jean King hailed the powerful American as the greatest women's player of all time.
While Evert agreed with King's assessment, she said it would be difficult to compare players from different generations.
She said: "If you look at tennis and sports in general, every decade, every generation gets better and better. I dominated my generation and was the best of all time, as did Martina (Navratilova) and Steffi.
"Every generation becomes better because of better equipment like rackets and strings, as well as training and science.
"Serena is definitely the greatest of all time now, but in 20 years, maybe someone else will replace her as the greatest."