Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tennis Talk

by Savannah

Jelena Jankovic
is the number one ranked player on the WTA Tour and once again the argument rages as to whether she is a worthy number one. To define the sides in this debate. Does the number one player mean that said player has racked up the most points and is by that measure number one? Or does being number one mean that said player has played the best tennis, won at least a major during the last fifty two week period, and shown the mental and physical skills in their matches to make them worthy of being called best in the world?

To quote "Oswald56" from Tennis Forum

Of the current top ten only Serena, Sharapova, Venus, Ivanovic and Safina (just) have winning records against the rest of the top ten, Jankovic doesn't (25-31). Whether she wins a slam or not she's certainly not a great player. Her high ranking is due to her racking up a lot of victories against lower ranked players.

Jankovic is not the first player to inspire this debate. Kim Clijsters ascension to number one was also widely questioned. She was called by some tennisheads "Cupcake Kim" for the soft draws she received. Those draws allowed her to rack up a lot of points and propel her to number one. She did eventually win a Slam - The US Open - but soon after retired to marry and start a family.
Lindsay Davenport was also number one without benefit of a Slam victory for quite some time.

On the ATP side I remember when Marcelo Rios became number one and the firestorm it caused. He is still considered one of the best never to have won a Slam.
I don't think Jankovic will ever be put into that category. And that is where the problem lies.

As the poster above says she is not a great player. The deficiencies in her game are many. But over the last couple of years she has played a lot of tennis and piled up the points. It's why when the better players lose, as happens in tennis, she was poised to take over the number one spot. No one can doubt that Serena Williams and
Dinara Safina (for the second part of the year) have been the dominant players. Ana Ivanovic is in a slump right now. Maria Sharapova pulled out with injury for the rest of the year. Venus Williams is playing indoors this year which says to me she wants it too. With the exception of Sharapova I would say all of these women have better all around games than Jelena. They just don't play as many tournaments. For example Jelena is now on her third tournament in a row, the Tier I in Moscow. Win or lose she's going to pad her point total.

As long as ranking is determined by a point system, with no weighting of wins in terms of the tournament's importance, there will be number one players who are there strictly on points. Several fans are advocating a return to some sort of "quality point" system where it's not only that you won but who you beat getting there. There are problems with that system as well since it was scrapped in favor of the present one.

Fans don't like Jelena's on court behavior, the "medical" time outs, the whining, the gamesmanship. You don't see the best act that way on court. Despite that I don't think all the noise is about her on court behavior it's about her level of play. With the WTA switching to a two tiered tour, something I've been against from the beginning, we are likely to see more of this kind of number one. Unless the fans, and players, rise up against the point system I don't think Larry Scott and his minions will change things from the way they are now.

The Roadmap

I mentioned the Roadmap above. Just so we're clear about why it's called "RoadKill" in many circles here is the WTA 2009 schedule. Thanks to tennishead "Missinandre" for the information.

The # in parentheses indicates how many top 10 players that tourney is allowed to have

Jan 05 - Brisbane (no Top-10 players)
-------- Auckland (no Top-10 players)

Jan 12 - Sydney (no restrictions on the number of Top-10 players)
-------- Hobart (no Top-10 players)


Feb 02 - Fed Cup I

Feb 09 - Paris Indoors (one Top-6 and two Top-13 players OR two Top-6 players)
--------- Pattaya City (no Top-10 players)
--------- Vina del Mar (no top-10 players)

Feb 16 - Dubai (seven Top-10 players)

--------- Memphis (no Top-10 players)
--------- Bogota¡ (no Top-10 players)

Feb 23 - Bangalore (no top-10 players)
--------- Acapulco (no Top-10 players)

Mar 02 - Antwerp (no Top-10 players)
--------- TBC (no Top-10 players)

Mar 09 - Indian Wells (MANDATORY)

Mar 23 - Miami (MANDATORY)

Apr 06 - Amelia Island (no Top-10 players)

Apr 13 - Charleston (one Top-6 and two Top-13 players OR two Top-6 players)

-------- Barcelona (no Top-10 players)

Apr 20 - Fed Cup II

Apr 27 - Stuttgart (one Top-6 and two Top-13 players OR two Top-6 players)
-------- Fes (no Top-10 players)

May 04 - Rome (seven Top-10 players)
--------- Estoril (no Top-10 players)

May 11 - Madrid (MANDATORY)

May 18 - Berlin (no restrictions on the number of Top-10 players)
--------- Strasbourg (no Top-10 players)


Jun 08 - Birmingham (no Top-10 players)

Jun 15 - Eastbourne (no restrictions on the number of Top-10 players)
-------- s'Hertogenbosch (no Top-10 players)


Jul 06 - Budapest (no Top-10 players)
-------- Stockholm (no Top-10 players)

Jul 13 - Prague (no Top-10 players)
-------- Palermo (no Top-10 players)

Jul 20 - Portoroz (no Top-10 players)
-------- Warsaw (no Top-10 players)

Jul 27 - Stanford (one Top-6 and two Top-13 players OR two Top-6 players)
-------- Istanbul (no Top-10 players)

Aug 03 - Los Angeles (one Top-6 and two Top-13 players OR two Top-6 players)

Aug 10 - Cincinatti (seven Top-10 players)

Aug 17 - Toronto (seven Top-10 players)

Aug 24 - New Haven (no restrictions on the number of Top-10 players)

Aug 31 - US OPEN

Sep 14 - Guangzhou (no Top-10 players)
--------- Quebec City (no Top-10 players)
--------- Tashkent (no Top-10 players)

Sep 21 - Seoul (no Top-10 players)
--------- Kolkata (no Top-10 players)

Sep 28 - Tokyo Indoors (one Top-6 and two Top-13 players OR two Top-6 players)

Oct 05 - Beijing (MANDATORY)

Oct 12 - Linz (no Top-10 players)
-------- Japan Open (TBC) (no Top-10 players)
-------- Singapore (no Top-10 players)

Oct 19 - Moscow (seven Top-10 players)
-------- Luxembourg (no Top-10 players)

Oct 26 - WTA Tour Sony Ericsson Championships - Doha

Nov 02 - Fed Cup Final
--------- Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions - Bali***

***Best seven performers in the international level tournaments (who have not otherwise qualified for the Sony Ericsson Championships), along with one wildcard will participate in a Round Robin format.

Note the pattern here? Some venerable tournaments will die. Newer tournaments, which should have to compete for players and fan loyalty like the others did in the past, will thrive because they've been made mandatory. I was taken back by the Pilot Pen now having no restrictions on the number of top ten players since it comes right before the US Open and at the end of the grueling US Open series.

I don't like it. There should be one tour and every woman should have her choice of where to play. You will have a Second Tier tour champion and a Main Tour champion. Let's hope this schedule goes the way of Round Robin in the ATP and quickly.

Sony Ericsson Race to the YEC
Top Ten Only


ATP News

To absolutely no one's surprise Carlos Moya was voted by fans to receive the first wild card for the Madrid Masters.The poll is conducted every year by a Spanish newspaper. Here are the vote totals.

Poll Results:

Moyá - 73.39%
Gulbis - 8.74%
Baghdatis - 8.07%
Ljubicic - 7.11%
Dancevic - 2.69%

The Race to Shanghai Rankings

Top Ten only

01 (01) Rafael Nadal (ESP) 1265 (15)
02 (02) Roger Federer (SUI) 921 (--)
03 (03) Novak Djokovic (SRB) 899 (03)
04 (04) Andy Murray (GBR) 520 (11)* * 0 pointer included as one of optionals.
05 (05) Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) 417 (22)
06 (06) Andy Roddick (USA) 354 (22)
07 (07) David Ferrer (ESP) 337 (15)
08 (08) James Blake (USA) 309 (15)

09 (10) Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) 307 (--)
10 (09) Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 286 (03)

Idle Chit Chat
Some pics from Moscow.

Svetlana Kuznetsova

Flavia Pennetta and Potito Starace

Alize Cornet

Marat and his latest.

Late News
Hamburg isn't finished with the ATP. Here is a translation of the original German:

The German Tennis Federation will appeal together with the Qatari Federation the verdict in the lawsuit with the ATP. This announced the president of the German Tennis Federation, Georg von Waldenfels on Tuesday at a press conference at Hamburg Rothenbaum.

The objective of the appeal is beside the preservation of the Masters Series status the assertion of amends. "We want to save the value of the tournament and that's why we appeal together with the Qatari Federation", says von Waldenfels, who can't comprehend the verdict.

The court in the US-state Delaware entitled the ATP to downgrade the Hamburg tournament. The traditional event at the Rothenbaum will be downgraded from 2009 into the second category. Now it is planned to play a 1.2 million$ 500-points-tournament from July 20th until July 26th.

I think they want to be monetarily compensated.


Des said...

"Fans don't like Jelena's on court behavior"

You've asked every fan? Or even most fans?

Considering this auspicious begining, I didn't bother reading the rest, to be honest.

Savannah said...

For the fans that take the time to post on fanboards dedicated to tennis not to the individual player the reaction to her on court antics has been decidely cool. I'm sure that there are fans of Jelena who find what she does adorable and that is their right. For fans of tennis the whining and her "medical" time outs along with Ricardo "Flava Flav" Santiago's antics during her match against Venus grate.

I'm sorry you didn't read the rest of the blog and find out that my opinion of Jelena has devolved along with her on court behavior.

Please don't be a stranger. All opinions are welcome. It's no fun if everyone agrees all the time.

Helen W said...

OK I'll weigh in here. I don't watch much WTA tennis, but the last time I watched JJ, I found her drama-queen attention-seeking antics unwatchable.

That being said, I also think it unfair that she gets criticized for "playing too much." Sheesh. And I don't agree that she is one-dimensional, etc. I've seen her play excellent tennis.

Shali said...

Jelena may not be a 'great' player in the grand sense of the term; nor does she have a game that can be compared to many of the 'greats' but her number 1 ranking is nevertheless deserved. Womens tennis has been in a constant flux since Justine's retirement and it looked as if Ana could take her place; however her performance in the last few months suggests that she too cant be regarded as a 'great' player; no great player can have such a long and dismal slump. The rest of the top 5 have been not been able to take Justine's place yet because they haven't been consistent - just when they look spirited and flowing, they suddenly loose - that is the virtue of Jelena's game. She tries hard in every match, grinds it out and is consistent. In the top 5 as it is, I feel that until one of the 'greats' becomes consistent, her consistency should be rewarded with the no. 1 spot. If the so-called greats are better, its up to them to play more consistently and take the no. 1 spot. Sometimes greatness comes in the form of consistency! As for her game, it may not be as techniquely good as some of the others but she does amazing things from far back behind the baseline getting the ball back into play when it looks impossible and her gutsy changes of direction in vital points when the stakes are high indicates great courage. She may not be the most adept volleyer, nor does she possess an all-court game but she tests her opponents in ways they rarely get tested; she tests their patience, focus and resolve and often they submit. Until they can pass her tests consistently, she deserves to be no. 1. She may play more tennis than others thereby earning some so-called cheap points, but her dedication to tennis and the WTA tour I feel is an aspect of her career that should be applauded, not criticized. Her win against Venus at Stuttgart was a tough nailbitter till the very end yet she came out as the better player not only because she won, but because she played better tennis! She returned well, hit low percentage shots when it was all on the line and kept the ball in play despite the aggressive game that we all know Venus plays so well. As for her on-court behavior it might be annoying to some, no doubt, and we might all prefer the on-court sophistication and composure of a Roger Federer but I think a little bit of drama now and again doesn't hurt!

Savannah said...

Welcome Shali and thanks for your comments.

I don't disagree totally with you. Jelena is number one because the ranking system is the way it is. She can only play by the existing rules and for that no one can fault her.

As for her on court behavior that can be faulted. Let her tennis speak for itself. There's no need for her coach to imitate Flavor Flav and wave a stopwatch all over the place. There's no need for all the "medical" time outs that are taken just to throw off an opponents rhythm. I criticized Sharapova for her bath room breaks too btw so don't think I'm singling out JJ.

Welcome. Don't be a stranger.