In a first of it's kind, ESPN urged it's viewers to vote in a bracket with the aim of zeroing upon "The Greatest Female Athlete of All-Time", which included legends from both the present and past era. In the final round, MMA star Ronda Rousey beat tennis ace Serena Williams to take home the prestigious title. Serena Williams, who recently missed out on a Calendar Slam at Flushing Meadows, was ranked one in the bracket challenge but only managed to obtain 48 percent votes in the final round, losing out to the UFC bantamweight champion.
The bracket challenge consisted of 32 all-time greats from various sports, with each one being an icon in their own right. The top eight athletes were assigned rankings, and each round consisted of a head-to-head 'match' with a proper draw. The player with the most votes in each round earned a passage to the next round.
It made for an interesting spectacle with statistics from different sports being compared, from serves to armbars, from goals to golf handicaps. It included footballers like Hope Solo, Mia Hamm and current American soccer striker Abby Wambach; track and field stars like Wilma Rudolph, Babe Zaharias, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Florence Griffith Joyner as well as Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin and champion skier Lindsey Vonn. Tennis legends like Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King and Steffi Graf also featured in the draw.
The rounds proceeded pretty much as expected until the quarterfinals until unseeded Rousey toppled seed two, Diana Taurasi to storm into the semifinals. Another notable quarterfinal was Steffi Graf - Martina Navratilova, which made for an interesting rivalry in real life too (with the head to head standing at 9-9 each). However, Graf won this fantasy contest to set up a clash with current world number one Serena Williams. And here is a match up that's truly fascinating. Although Steffi Graf has won 22 slams as compared to Williams' 21, it's assumed that she didn't have much competition in the era she dominated in after Monica Seles got stabbed. The Serena-Graf rivalry would've been spectacular though, sheer power versus a fantastic forehand. However, due to Serena's current popularity, she edged past Graf in a mouthwatering contest to set up a duel with Rousey in the finals which Rousey ended up winning in a bout that accumulated over 13,000 votes.
However, there are a few discrepancies in this system of voting. Firstly, barring a few exceptions, all the athletes selected here are American and not from all over the world, which results in a misleading title. The right name for the bracket should have been "The Greatest American Female Athlete of All-Time". Secondly, ESPN has most of it's viewership rooted in the USA, which may cause these results to not be valid on a world stage; tennis is more popular than MMA worldwide, but less popular in America. Finally, this bracket was more for fun than for actual statistic analyzation, since it's almost impossible to compare such varying sports. However, not taking any credit away from Rousey, she's definitely a deserving winner here, and an exceptionally inspiring woman.