Chris “Mad Dog” Russo Doesn’t Think Serena Williams Is The GOAT | But That’s Not Tennis’ Only Problem

Chris “Mad Dog” Russo said Serena Williams’ GOAT status is questionable on a recent episode of ESPN’s First Take.

On the eve of potential retirement, Serena Williams will always be remembered as a complicated GOAT in tennis, although her story has been told cinematically on the highest level, with Will Smith even playing her iconic father, Richard Williams.

However, although Serena’s athletic prowess is stamped in history, the nuances of her greatness brought consequences and exposed more about the sport’s implicit bias than celebrating her excellence. Take Chris “Mad Dog” Russo, aka “Bad Dog,” per Draymond Green. The performance artist of broadcast journalism created a fake take out of thin air to minimize Serena’s impact on the sport. Russo also challenged her GOAT status just because it hurt too much to give her flowers.

“No, it’s debatable, and it’s debatable because you have to put Martina Navratilova in the mix, who for my money, pound-for-pound, the best tennis player I’ve ever seen; and you have to put (Steffi) Graf in the mix. Graf won a Grand Slam in one year; Serena never did that.”

Russo then went on a rant about all the accomplishments he feels Serena didn’t match up against from players, not even in her era.

“Her period of tennis in the ’80s, in my opinion, from a women’s tennis standpoint, was much deeper and much better than who Serena’s been able to beat in the last 20 years. Now Serena’s great, and you want to put her No. 1. You can debate it, no problem. Serena, in this period of her dominance, which has been remarkable, there has never been, in my opinion again, a top ten player in historical purposes that she has gone up against. Venus (Williams) is not a top ten all-time player. She’s beating a lesser crew of opponent than who Martina beat.”

Serena’s work is undeniable, earning 23 Grand Slam singles titles and 73 career singles championships. She will turn 41 in a few weeks and gained ten major titles after turning thirty years old; that usually is retirement age in tennis.

After spending 319 weeks as the world’s top player, she made another record returning to the top spot after nearly 15 years, winning four Olympic gold medals and more.

Comparing incomparable eras is as common as the exhaustive LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan debate, but Jordan didn’t come with the racial audacity that Serena and LeBron have. From the Compton upbringing that shocked the world when two braided and beaded polished Black girls took the tennis world by storm, Serena’s success has been an insult to the culture of tennis from the outset.

Their father challenged the status quo and made their daughters annihilate the country club energy of tennis. The world debated her muscularity as she grew and began to look like the GOAT. The rumors about her physical structure were downright disrespectful, and the fact that she kept winning amid the distractions only solidified her greatness.

Much like Jordan revolutionized basketball shorts and Allen Iverson’s freeing ghetto-centric expression, Serena changed how women players dress and display their physical beauty. If Serena is the GOAT of tennis is not a debate; it’s more like an examination of why people think she isn’t.

Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.