Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Question of Ranking and Rumors

by Savannah

Rumors are swirling about Venus Williams possibly announcing her retirement today. At this time nothing is confirmed. According to a Russian friend of mine there is an article in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere dello Sport that was referenced on a Russian sports website. The article does not appear on the Il Corriere's website. Venus was photographed this week on crutches and finally released a statement saying that she has been ordered to keep weight off of her knee and that therefore she will not be playing anymore in 2010. Does this mean she has had knee surgery? We won't know unless we see post op proof - a scar of some kind - on her knee. Venus has said more than once this year that she is not retiring. If the situation changes I'll update.
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Meanwhile Serena Williams, seen on the beach in Miami, was reported early this morning to have been spotted in Linz, Austria. Soon after that the tournament organizers announced that she will indeed begin her come back at their event. People are saying that Serena decided to come back after losing her number one ranking but the official website for Linz posted a players list with the number one seed blank. Never ever seen that before.
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I don't think Serena is foolish enough to jeopardize her career by coming back too soon. I'm sure all eyes will be on her play but I don't expect much. Practicing is not playing.

Simply the Best?
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As I'm sure everyone and their brother knows by now Caroline Wozniacki will be ranked number one on Monday. Due to the way ranking is determined in the WTA (see below) she is indeed the number one player at this time. In an age where being consistent trumps being the best I don't think Ms Wozniacki will be the last slamless wonder to sit atop the WTA rankings.
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An enterprising fan posted the above screen cap showing the stats from today's match. Yes Petra Kvitova had a high UFE count but the new World #1 could only manage to hit three winners. Three.
The American tennis establishment is especially happy about this turn of events since Wozniacki trains at the fabled Adidas center run by Gil Reyes, former fitness coach/trainer for Andre Agassi in Las Vegas. Brad Gilbert, on Twitter, said that tennis is about winning and that is what Wozniacki has been doing. He admits that her record against the top players is poor but as the saying goes you can only play who's in front of you. It helps when you play every tournament known to the Gods and man too I'd say. I believe her win/loss record against the top players is 13/24 admitting I could be off a little either way. But oh yeah, she's consistent. She's made one Grand Slam semi and one final.
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Gilbert also said that he's sure that Wozniacki will win a Slam "soon". I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict it'll be the U.S. Open with the Australian coming in second.

It's going to be interesting to see how the press handles Sunshine's ascension to the throne. The same Russian friend cited above feels that Dinara Safina was broken by the constant pressure from the press, and fans, to win a major to justify her ranking. I don't see it that way - if you're ranked number one you have to deal with the close scrutiny the ranking brings. I do hope that Wozniacki gets the same treatment Dinara and Jelena Jankovic got but somehow I don't think she will. Why? She has close ties to the Axis as I call it here (The USTA, The Australian Tennis establisment and the LTA) through the above mentioned Las Vegas facility. Darren Cahill, ESPN announcer and one of the Grand Poobah's of Australian Tennis, is associated with the facility. Stacy Allaster, head of the WTA, is known to be a big fan of Caroline. I think we're going to have consistency rammed down our throats, the same way it was when Dinara was on top of the heap.

Someone posted that the debate about who got the worse of the Federer/Nadal era may now be clear and that it was the WTA. I couldn't agree more.

Meanwhile read the following and see how you feel and why the Tweeter who posted the above may have hit the nail on the head.

The WTA Ranking System - Can It Be Fixed?

The WTA ranking system is once again being called into question. Is this, the solution?

FIXING THE SYSTEM

Although we’re probably beyond the point of hoping that quality points and an averaging system will be reintroduced to the rankings, the WTA system could definitely do with a little tweaking and streamlining to better represent player performance and make it easier for fans to follow. A wise step would be to rank the women according to the ATP World Tour system.

Men’s rankings throughout the ages have not always been so well respected. The old “Best 14 system”, which counted the players’ best 14 results from various events in the past 12 months regardless of the level of tournament, allowed Chilean Marcelo Rios to reach No. 1 in March 1998 having never won a major title. In May 1999, Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov ascended to the top spot after six consecutive first-round losses. But since the ATP Tour debuted its current system in the early 2000s (it has been altered in minor ways since then but remains essentially the same), there have been few arguments. The current Top 4—Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray—are indeed the best four players on the planet in the past year.

Using the ATP system as a guide for ranking female players, two things improve. One is points distribution. Male and female Grand Slam winners each receive 2000 points. But the WTA Tour awards finalists 1400 points, while the ATP Tour gives the equivalent player only 1200. Female semifinalists are awarded 900 points, but male semifinalists receive 720. And down the line it goes. The same applies for Masters events—the points are halved, but the same difference in point ratio and structure exists. Dinara Safina was able to reach No. 1 after reaching two Grand Slam finals in 2009. Under the men’s system she would have had 400 points less in her total, and may not have hit top spot without actually clinching a major title.

The second improvement is the type of tournaments counted in the rankings. To yield a points total under the ATP system, players must include their results from Grand Slams, the year-end Tour Championships, the nine Masters 1000 tournaments (except Monte Carlo) and a small handful of their best results from lesser 500 and 250 events. The significant majority of events being included are majors and Masters—the most prestigious events. Chasing points at smaller events becomes a less effective strategy, and players are rewarded for good performances on the biggest stages.

THE RESULTS

I ranked the Top 16 female players according to this system. Players ranking points were accumulated over the past 12 months through their results at the four Grand Slams, Tour Championships in Doha and the top nine Premier events—a combination of the “Mandatory” and “Five” events—in Dubai, Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Madrid, Cincinnati, Canada, Tokyo and Beijing. This equated to the group of nine “Masters” events on the men’s tour. The rankings also included their best five results at other events—the smaller Premier level events were given ATP 500 status, and International events were treated as ATP 250s.

Although there was surprisingly little change to the order of the top 16, there were enough differences to justify railing against the current system:

Serena Williams remained atop the rankings, but increased her lead over Wozniacki to 1500 points (compared with the 1,000 that separates them now). There would be far less chance for Wozniacki to overtake Williams until at least after next year’s Australian Open. And that’s only if Williams doesn’t play. Under the WTA system, the Dane could reach No. 1 by year’s end.

Clijsters moved from No. 5 to No. 3, ahead of both Venus Williams and Zvonareva. She sits just 200 points behind Wozniacki, and unlike the Dane, has no points to defend between now and year’s end. Being ranked No. 2 or 3 paints a more realistic picture of Clijsters’ stellar season.

Francesca Schiavone swapped places with Sam Stosur, ranking No. 7 ahead of the Aussie’s No. 8. Most people would agree that Stosur has had the better year, but this is a great example of how the ATP system rewards winning major titles. And that’s what has separated Schiavone from Stosur in 2010.

Maria Sharapova rose three places to No. 12, her superior performances in several Masters-level events helping her leapfrog several players.


You be the judge.

Miscellany
Joan Rivers, who is still pee your pants funny, has coined a new expression she uses on her weekly "Fashion Police" show on E!. I'm going use it and say to Gael Monfils. Make it stop.
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I.Just.Can't.

14 comments:

vw said...

Ha! Yes, the axis. I don't think Safina and JJ got any wonderful treatment when they were number one. But then again they are "eastern" evil empire types. Sunshine will be treated like a queen.

Wayne said...

As far as I know, Darren Cahill has nothing to do officially with Australian tennis. He coached Lleyton Hewitt and, when ESPN allows, calls matches on 7 during the Australian Open but that is as far as it goes. I really don't agree that Tennis Australia is part of your axis at all.

Caro is attractive and that is what sells. It was the same with Kournikova and even Sharapova when she first came onto the scene so it's not like this is something new. I hate she is 1 in the world as much as you do but I can see why the WTA is so in love with the idea. Can Serena get it back this year if she plays Linz and continues through to the YEC?

kraa said...

Is the ATP ranking system really that good or are we simply used to one or two players dominating? When was the last year with no one winning more than one slam or reaching more than two finals?

Savannah said...

Wayne you're right Cahill isn't involved with Australian Tennis right now as far as I know. You would know more than I would here but since Australia is his country of origin even if the ties are informal now they're still there.

I have read comments that Serena can get the top ranking back this year but I don't know how ready to play she is and that is why I don't see things changing until the AO.

Kraa the question you raise is valid. I think that Marcelo Rios was the last slamless ATP #1. As the article points out the ATP system is rigged so that it's almost impossible for the slamless #1 to occur. It's an interesting situation and one I'll probably look deeper into after both year end events.

Savannah said...

VW I think the press would've laid off of JJ and Safina publicly if the fan reaction hadn't been so strongly negative. It's equally negative now but Little Miss Sunshine will not be treated as harshly as the the other two women precisely for the reason you cite.

TennisAce said...

Wozniacki will never get the treatment that Jankovic and Safina got and that is for one reason and one reason only. She is friends with the first family of women's tennis. She has played doubles with Venus and had dinner with Serena and word is that Venus has actually been something of a mentor to Wozniacki when she just came on Tour.

The difference for me between Wozniacki and the other 2 Slamless No. 1s is her mental toughness. For me, a big Serena fan, she thoroughly deserves this ranking. She has gone 25-2 since Wimbledon. That is an amazing stat. She has won 5 titles this year and her game has improved in leaps and bounds. She got hammered in the majors this year, but so did a lot of other players who were considered contenders (come on 1-0 for Clijsters in Australia by Petrova).

In her first Grand Slam final she handled herself well. No beatdowns like Safina. No yelling at herself. No screeching. Nothing. Yes, her game is boring but this morning if I closed my eyes and just listened to the ball against the racquet I could have sworn it was 2 power players out there today in her match against Ivanovic. She served big, returned big and played aggressive power tennis.

One thing that seems to be getting the silent treatment from the media is how in the name of all that is good does Ana Ivanovic get a WC into a year end tournament when Klebanova who won 2 international tournaments does not get in? That to me is a bigger story than Wozniacki getting to No. 1 on the back of hard work.

Savannah said...

"One thing that seems to be getting the silent treatment from the media is how in the name of all that is good does Ana Ivanovic get a WC into a year end tournament when Klebanova who won 2 international tournaments does not get in? That to me is a bigger story than Wozniacki getting to No. 1 on the back of hard work."

You don't think she's purty enough?

TennisAce said...

Sav, I guess Klebs is not purty enough. LOL. Klebs has played very well this season. Bali was instituted to reward those players who played and won international events. Klebs did that and then gets shafted for a player who cannot even maintain a ball toss for an entire tournament.

I dont know why I am surprised by this seeing as Adidas gave her a lifetime contract when her results were as poor as anything I have ever seen.

The mask of niceness slipped off her face recently when she lost to Wozniacki. When Woz went down injured, Ivanovic went over looking all concerned. Woz, as she does, toughed it out and went on to win the match. The handshake at the net was colder than Siberia in winter.

No eye contact, no kissing at the net, no smiles. I guess she felt since she had always owned Woz she felt that her purtyness would have gotten her that win.

Did not help that Verdasco was there watching Caro's matches during the week and not Ana's. LOL

Savannah said...

Maybe Klebas wasn't consistent enough.

Savannah said...

That's Klebs. Sorry.

vw said...

Are Verdasco and Wozniacki an item?

Savannah said...

vw to be honest I don't think so. When pics surface of her being ridden hard and put to bed wet I'll think they are. ;)

I remember a year or two ago when she was claiming to be Rafa's girlfriend.

vw said...

This friendship with the Williams, I wonder if it is more someone maybe asking Sisters to be friends with Woz? To make her look like a wonderful girl who is friends with everyone and they can pass down the baton to her? Friendly tweets with Isner lately too. Saying she wants to attend Yale. During the USO she was tweeting about how she went and stayed at the Djokovic rented house in NJ and the fun she had, blah blah blah. Seems she might be kissing a lot of butt and her excellent PR firm is telling her how it all works.

TennisAce said...

vw you make some good points. However, I think ever since she came on the main Tour she has befriended Venus. She seems to have a genuine respect for her.

I think a part of the reaching out on the Tour is being done by the Williams family as well. It used to be that they were not that friendly with other members of the tour, but over the past few years, mainly since the advent of twitter there seems to be more of an outward sign of friendliness that the fans are getting to see. We all knew that Sveta and Serena were as tight as ticks (and have been for a long time) but seeing Venus playing doubles with Woz and being very friendly with Azarenka etc it really makes me think that the friendship is on both sides.

In addition, a lot of the younger players have said in numerous interviews that I have read how much they admire the Williams Sisters (and especially Venus) for their contribution to women's tennis.

I recall in Madrid this year that Rezai almost wept when she turned to Venus and told her how much respect she has for her. It was a really good moment.

The media only publishes the negatives about these 2 women but the women on the Tour really do know the real deal.

I am always amazed how come the WTA does not have a sportswoman award along the same lines like the ATP has?

Did anyone else see the tweet from Wozniacki asking Clijsters to vote for her to be on the Players Council?