Monday, July 6, 2009

The Sisters and the WTA

by Savannah

1 1 Safina, Dinara RUS 10521
2 2 Williams, Serena USA 8758
3 3 Williams, Venus USA 6617
4 4 Dementieva, Elena RUS 6591
5 5 Kuznetsova, Svetlana RUS 6071
6 6 Jankovic, Jelena SRB 5980
7 7 Zvonareva, Vera RUS 5400
8 8 Azarenka, Victoria BLR 5066
9 9 Wozniacki, Caroline DEN 4780
10 10 Petrova, Nadia RUS 3300

The WTA rankings for this week are out and once again Dinara Safina sits on top of the heap as the best female player. Wait, you mean to tell me that the rankings don't mean she's the best but only the most consistent?

I'm a tennis nerd. I follow this sport a lot more than a normal person would so I ask those of you who push the "consisency" argument to put yourselves in the position of a casual fan who after seeing some of the modest hype the sport of tennis gets did the normal thing and look to see who is the top ranked player. Is he or she going to know that Dinara has been the most consistent or draw the conclusion that she's the best? Let's be truthful now. It's only we tennis nerds who know about the whole "consistency" thing.

I can only imagine what Joe or Jane Casual Fan thought when they watched the Wimbledon semi final where the top women's player took on the number three ranked woman and was only able to win one game in a match that really wasn't that close. I'm speculating here but could the reaction have been "Why is she the best and she can't beat number three?" Or would Joe and Jane have wondered why the best could only win one game in a semi final match.

Some fans are arguing that Dinara is to be applauded for reaching the semifinals and thus going further than she ever has at the tennis worlds most sacred shrine but aren't some rather inconvenient facts being ignored? When did Dinara win her first tournament this year? Who has she had to face to get as far as she did at Wimbledon? How reliant is she on her coach to do her thinking for her? How does she handle pressure situations? Are these questions unfair? I don't think so.

As for "The Sisters" themselves the argument being put forward is that it's their own fault they're not ranked 1 and 2 in the world. Why? Silly wabbit. They don't play enough. It's obvious isn't it? If they played more tournaments instead of always play the same events maybe they would gain some more ranking points and be able to claim their rightful positions in the world of women's tennis. Sure sounds like a legitimate argument doesn't it? Except that because of the way they plan their year they are relatively healthy at their advanced age(s) and when things are going well they can outthink and out play any of the blondes with braids that they face now.

The generational thing is not talked about much as it relates to the WTA but it should be. Venus was born in 1980 and Serena in 1981. (Elena Dementieva was born in 1981 and Nadia Petrova in 1982). These women came of age when to be a complete player you had to not only have the shots you had to be able to think your way through a match and adjust your play when your opponent changed hers or simply saw through what you were doing. There was no on court coaching and while a lot was done with a wink and a nod from the stands no one would dream of calling her coach down to the court to guide her through a match. You were expected to be an all court player and while you would be stronger on some surfaces than on others your ability to think was your strongest asset.

Of the four women listed above the one who looks to her coach the most is Elena Dementieva.

Today it's widely accepted that a WTA player needs the crutch of coaching consultations, something that to me is an insult to the greats who went before today's crop of young players. Sure it's interesting to see father Wozniacki speaking in Polish to his daughter, or Krajan berating his charge as one would an unruly child but what do these spectacles bring to the sport of tennis? We know Victoria Azarenka is an emotional woman. Do we have to watch her disrespect and ignore her coach on a changeover?

But all of that is diversionary in the final analysis. When the WTA overhauled its ranking system and dropped quality points it was because these pesky sisters were executing a scorched earth policy and leaving all their "betters" in their wake as they headed for the top. The new system was meant to reward consistent and frequent play not better quality play against better quality opponents. That's why two of the last three women ranked number one reached the top without having won a Slam. It's why there is such resistance to quality points being returned to the mix. It's why players like young Caroline Wozniacki are playing events they really shouldn't be if they want to be playing ten years from now. The younger women look at Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina and say why not me? Retired players are coming back because they see who is at the top of the sport and say "Really?"
It's why male commentators who have always disrespected women's tennis can label a performance by the top player in the world the worst and no one call them on it because it's true.

There will be a new head of the WTA named by the end of summer. I doubt my two cents matters in the great scheme of things but it is my hope that the powers that be take the blinders off and realize that they've cut off their noses to spite their faces. The current system disrespects all of the women who work and fight so hard to be the best they can be at their chosen sport. It rewards mind numbing and body destroying schedules and ridicules those who don't buy into the insanity and plan schedules that allows for rest and recuperation of both body and mind. Get rid of the idiotic on court coaching. Respect that each player has her specific needs and that coercion, financial or otherwise, dilutes the player pool and makes for draws at the Tour level that resemble those of Challengers. I may be grabbing at straws here but I think some sanity has to be brought back to women's tennis. A big step in that direction would be fixing the ranking system.


I'm sure no one is surprised Andy Roddick withdrew from the US vs Croatia Davis Cup tie, on clay, in Croatia later this month. The official reason is a hip flexor. That was a very hard fall on the exposed dirt of the baseline. Not much was made of it because he kept playing. If you were paying attention though you noticed how gingerly and tentatviely he played after that fall.

Mardy Fish is taking his place on the DC squad and he has pulled out of Newport where he was the top seed.

The USTA has announced that Andre Agassi will be Guest of Honor at the opening night ceremonies for the US Open this year.

Ratings Down

From Sports Business Daily

NBC's coverage of Wimbledon men's final yesterday, which featured Roger Federer defeating Andy Roddick in an extended fifth set to capture his record-breaking 15th Grand Slam title, earned a 4.2/12 overnight Nielsen rating. The 4.2 rating is down 8.7% from a 4.6/12 for last year's Rafael Nadal-Federer final, which was delayed by rain and contained an extended fifth set. Outside of last year's final, Federer-Roddick is the highest-rated men's final since a 5.0/14 overnight in '00 for Pete Sampras' final Wimbledon championship. The previous two Federer-Roddick Wimbledon finals earned a 2.8/5 overnight in '05 and a 3.6/10 in '04. Serena Williams' win over her sister Venus in the women's final on Saturday earned a 2.7/8 overnight rating, down from a 3.4/10 for the same matchup last year, which aired on July 5 (THE DAILY).

Serena Williams will be on David Letterman tonight. Charlie Rose is reportedly going to have a mystery guest during his segment on tennis tonight.

Junior Wimbledon

Andrey Kuznetsov 2009 Junior Boys Wimbledon Champion

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Kevin Krawietz 2009 Junior Boys Wimbledon Doubles Champions

Sally Peers and Noppawan Lertcheewakarn 2009 Wimbledon Junior Girls Doubles Champions

Mixed Doubles

Mark Knowles and Anna-Lena Groenefeld 2009 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Champions

The Championship Ball

Mr. and Mrs. Roger Federer

Serena Williams

The Wimbledon Champions

End Note
I'll be taking a break for a few days to catch up on some sleep and non tennis life. If something is worth mentioning or any news breaks I'll post it. Grand Slams are wearying.


U said...

I don't think that the problem is the ranking system. Or, that it's the only one.

Players also make the problem. I'm sorry, but Serena should play more tournaments, insted of claiming "who's the REAL #1". Because, season include many more tournaments beside Majors. Great players, like Steffi, Martina, Monica... they have played all season long to get #1 place.

Look at the atp ranking system - it works in the same way as wta. Why don't they have a problem with the "real #1"? Because best atp players PLAY ALL SEASON.

If Serena's body can't hold on that rhythm, I suggest to shorten season to: 4 Majors and Miami. Then, she'll be #1, and the problem will be resolved. :)

vw said...

Does anyone know what goes on at the champs ball? Who is allowed to attend?

calle said...

If Nadal had played Wimbledon this year and reached the semifinals, he would still be world no1 despite mr Monogram (great name btw) having won 3 of the last 4 GS. How sick! And Federer is really popular with the casual fans! We must change the ATP ranking system! Or not, Nadal has simply won a lot of masters tournaments, something Federer hasn't.

Serenas record outside the 4 majors and Miami is really poor, if she wants to regain the no 1 spot she has to get some points from the other tournaments as well, not play a Jankovic schedule but do some results in the US Open series for example. It is the WTA rankings, not the Grand Slam rankings.

Sure we can discuss how different achievements are rewarded pointwise and how many tournaments should be counted, but you seem to start with "Serena should be no 1, how to create a ranking system that makes her that" instead of "how should a good and fair ranking system look like".

My last comment about this, promise :) Guess we never agree on it, but we can agree that we don't agree, as Roddick put it during last years US open.