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Marcelo and Jelena 10/02/2008 - 2:55 PM

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by Pete Bodo

On the face of it, you couldn't come up with two individuals more different than surly Marcelo Rios, the former ATP  world no. 1 who still retains the distinction of being the only male player who's been ranked no. 1 but never won a Grand Slam event, and the girl who stole so many hearts at the US Open while doing splits, dressed as a daffodil,  Jelena Jankovic.

But Jankovic may accomplish what just eluded Rios's grasp in 1988 - when he also came within a few matches of securing the prestigious year-end no. 1 ranking, rather than merely taking advantage of a seam in the calendar to sneak into the top spot. Rios was no. 1 for six weeks, which may seem a short time, but is a month longer than the tenure Carlos Moya enjoyed at the top (the "least weeks ranked no. 1" record will never be broken, although somebody might one day share it with our favorite bunned-out, zinc-oxide samurai warrior, Pat "Stinky" Rafter).

Pat Regular readers know that I hold the year-end no. 1 ranking in high esteem, and it me it's partly because the ATP has always produced worthy year-end no. 1s. To me, securing the annual top spot is the top accomplishment in the "general excellence" category - that body of achievements that can't be linked to performance a single event. Let's face it, in any given year, any of about a dozen or more candidates can play lights-out tennis for two weeks and take advantage of a confluence of circumstances to win a major (see "J" for Johansson, or "G" for Gaudio). I wouldn't belittle the effort it takes too win a major, but in order to be considered a great player you need to be consistent and able to step up and assert yourself on big occasions, too.

For that reason, I've always had a bone to pick with the women's ranking system, or perhaps it's just with the inconsistency (commitment or performance-wise) of the top women players of this era. Lindsay Davenport finished no. 1 on three separate occasions (2001 and '04 and '05) when she failed to win a major. But then, Lindsay' has been a Grand Slam semifinalist (or better) on 17 occasions, and won just three titles (by contrast, Justine Henin won 7 majors in 16 trips to the semis or better (feel free to fact check my math). I'd be tempted to call her the exception that proves the rule, but not when she's turned the same feat three times.

Now, Jankovic is poised to follow in Davenport's footsteps, following Li Na's upset of Serena Williams in Stuttgart. And if that happens, it will further de-value the idea of the year-end no. 1 ranking. The Kremlin Cup, which starts on Monday, is the last Tier 1 event on the calendar. Serena is entered in it, as well as the YEC in Doha - but that's it (as of now) for her. Jankovic also is entered in both, and Zurich as well - and she has almost no points coming off from 2007. Just about anything she earns will be gravy and padding for what seems more and more like an inevitable top-ranking for 2008. And let's face it: Jankovic is many things, almost all of them delightful. But she's not a great player - not yet.

And let's not forget Dinara Safina in this conversation, either  - she's defending semifinal points in Moscow, and a handful from Zurich and Linz. A strong finish capped with a win in Doha could vault her to the top, especially if Serena doesn't make a big push for the top spot, or if Jankovic doesn't have great results. The thing is, Jankovic almost always goes deep in events. So she's in the driver's seat. So we have three strong contenders for the year-end no. 1 slot,but only one of them has bagged a major this year.

Among the men, every year-end no. 1 in the Open era won at least one major before he collected the top annual ranking, and Lindsay did, too. But we're now in a position to have a female year-end no. 1 who's has yet to win a major. Compared to the realities coughed up by the ATP system, it's clear that the WTA is rewarding consistency and commitment to a degree that skews most people's sense of performance-based justice - or am I wrong about that? The WTA seems wedded to a ranking system that is more of a consistency rating than an accurate reflection of competitive ability, and one other unfortunate thing about that is the way it diminished the value of the year-end ranking . I prefer a rankings system that demands that you win a major in order to finish no. 1 for the year, although unusual circumstances could certainly conspire to create the exception - as they almost did in '98 i the ATP tour.

That year, the defending no. 1 Pete Sampras got to semis or better in only the last two majors, while Rios built his strong showing on back-to-back wins at Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. He was also a finalist at the Australian Open, losing to Petr Korda, who later that year was convicted of a doping offense following his Wimbledon drug test.

You have to wonder how long Korda was able to get away with doping, and how much illicit drug use might have affected the final in Melbourne. Had Rios won that Australian final, Sampras might not have even bothered trying to catch him in the rankings. As it was, Sampras made a Herculean push in the fall to retain his year-end no. 1 ranking for a record sixth straight year, and even then the top spot was up for grabs until Rios pulled out of the year-end championships (with a bad back that helped cut short his puzzling career), averting a potential showdown match for the top spot.

I'm glad Sampras ended up with the top ranking in '98, because it's hard to argue that a guy (or woman) who can't manage to win a major ought to be considered the best player of the year. And while neither tour claims that the year-end ranking boils down to that, to my mind it does - and should. There's always room for argument on that, especially when there's no clear-cut, dominant player on the scene. That's fine, too. The New York Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, and hence the best team in football - even though the New England Patriots had complied a perfect season going into that ultimate game.

Our sport doesn't have a Super Bowl, although some constituents have tried mightily to turn the YECs into just that. What we have, instead of a final showdown of that magnitude, is a year-end no. 1 ranking. And make no mistake about it - the prestige of the year-end no. 1 spot was ingrained in the sport long before we had quantifiable results via a points system. Back in the day, various entities (including Tennis magazine), issued a year-end Top 10, usually based on the vote of a panel of experts   (much like the college football rankings in the US). The system was a little too subjective, but it existed not to create confusion or stoke the egos of "experts" as much as to produce something for which everyone longed - an annual "champ" of tennis.

The WTA has struggled in recent years to promote the YEC, and build up its prestige. Now, with a move out of the media spotlight to Doha, it needs more than ever to make it seem as if the YEC matters. Here's an intriguing question: Will Serena make a Sampras-like drive to capture the top ranking, adding events to her schedule, or targeting Jankovic in a potential showdown in Doha. I hope she will. In addition to any other positive outcome, it would make the annual ranking something more than a laundry list of who compiled the most performance points.

Given the recent history of the WTA YEC, as well as the vagaries of the ranking system, Serena may be tempted to take a pass on Doha, especially if odds on snatching back the ranking from Jelena seem remote. In the bigger picture, one way to make the YEC more than "just another tournament" held at a time of year when everyone is tired and eager for a break is to tweak the system to try to ensure that whoever wins the YEC will also have won at least one major. It's a change from which everyone would benefit.


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Posted by Rosangel 10/02/2008 at 03:02 PM

Here's a related question - looking at the way the points are weighted (for the ATP - I'm not so familiar with the WTA's points), are Slams weighted highly enough in the mix? Should a Slam be worth more than twice the points for a MS event? Should the TMC have as many as 750 points on offer, worth three-quarters of a Slam? Obviously these relative weightings can affect the rankings pretty significantly. I think maybe the Slams should get a bit more weight; not sure whether the TMC deserves as much weight as it gets. I''m open to opinions on the latter, though, given the strength of the field.

Posted by Emma (murray's mint, but he's not rafalicious!) 10/02/2008 at 03:08 PM

great post pete, as always.
i hope that serena will make a sampras-esque push for the top spot, but tbh i doubt it very much, in my opinion whether safina, jelly or serena take the year end number one spot, they will deserve it, as i feel they have been the most consistant players on the tour this year. however, my money's on jankovic.

Posted by Emma (murray's mint, but he's not rafalicious!) 10/02/2008 at 03:10 PM

interesting point ros,
i think the slams should be worth 1500, leaving TMC as it is.

Posted by ND 10/02/2008 at 03:16 PM

I don't agree with the suggestion to require at least one major win. Jankovic has made reasonable runs at the slams, and it is good for the sport that the top players (in ranking) show up at a lot of tournaments. If the Slam winners can't be bothered to show up or put up a fight at smaller tournaments, do they deserve the No. 1 title? By drawing a distinction between the two, the WTA will have more promotional material.

Posted by Arthur 10/02/2008 at 03:31 PM

i can think of 1975, an unusual year in the ATP rankings, in that Connors ended up number one although he didn't win any majors. He did, however, make it to three grand slam finals (losing to Newcombe, Ashe and Orantes). Arguably, making it to three finals is quite impressive.

Btw, how could the WTA's ranking system be changed so that someone that hasn't won a grand slam event, or at the very least, performed admirably (making it to multiple slam finals) end up number one for the year?

Posted by tmf rules - USO 2008 10/02/2008 at 03:31 PM

Pete, I am in total agreement with you. At the end of the day, the WTA is rewarding quantity over quality. The benchmark by which players are judged is not by the ranking that you held (at least in some quarters) but the distinction of how many majors you were able to win - quality of wins. When comparing the ATP with the WTA, it is like buying something that is of lesser quality. You look at what Rafa who has been No. 2 for so long, and you look at what he had to accomplish in order to dethrone Roger. All Jelena had to do was show up at tournaments and try and get as many points as she could. Before everyone jumps down my throat, she has been consistent in getting to the latter part of tournaments, which is a plus to her tenacity and her fighting spirit (did I just say that), but when you end up at the end of the season with 2 titles so far - 1 final of a major and 2 semis, how does that make you the best player in your field. Someone please enlighten me, because I certainly do not think that she is the best. The most consistent, yes, but certainly not the best.

Posted by Andrew Miller 10/02/2008 at 03:32 PM

Rios is always an upsetting topic.

Because of Rios, I always marvel at magical players like Baghdatis,

but because of Rios also, I know that players like Andy Roddick - who puts everything he has into 99.9 percent of his matches - is a player to emulate and applaud. Roddick will go down as a superior player to Rios in the history books. It did not have to be that way.

Diddo for Nadal and Federer. It's their desire to compete, every time out, that makes tennis exciting.

Posted by Master Ace 10/02/2008 at 03:40 PM

" But then, Lindsay' has been a Grand Slam semifinalist (or better) on 17 occasions, and won just three titles (by contrast, Justine Henin won 7 majors in 16 trips to the semis or better (feel free to fact check my math). I'd be tempted to call her the exception that proves the rule, but not when she's turned the same feat three times"

Venus Williams 7 titles in 17 semifinal trips or better
Serena Williams 9 titles in 14 semifinal trips or better

Posted by Pete 10/02/2008 at 03:43 PM

Well, ND, I wouldn't make it a requirement, but the system should be adjusted so that being the YE1 without having won a major is an aberration, not a common occurence. . .

Posted by Kiwi 10/02/2008 at 03:44 PM

I wonder how important the no.1 ranking is to the women players? The likes of the Williams sisters who really just seem to concerntrate on the Slams and know they have the talent to be able to do that appear content to forgo the world ranking without too much concern. Where as on the mens side they fight tooth and nail for evey point at every tournament.

Perhaps if the level of competition in the womens side was as intense as the mens we would see a better desearving year end no.1??

Posted by Master Ace 10/02/2008 at 03:47 PM

Jelena has had an incredible consistent year making the quarterfinals in 18 out of 19 tournaments played (lone exception was Wimbledon when she was playing on a hyperextended knee against a hot grass court player in Tamarine Tanasugarn in R16). Only player to make R16 or better in all Slams, only player to make 3 SF or better in Slams. She made the QF or better in Tier I events and above 12 times. She is the only player (not counting Sharapova and Davenport) not to lose their first tournament match in 2008.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 04:01 PM

Well JJ's majorly stated goal is no. 1 and now the year end no. 1 ranking and she is simply just following through with that.

"Of course, I would like to regain that No. 1 position," Jankovic said. "For me the goal is to end the year as the No. 1 player in the world. I'm really working hard, really trying to win as many matches as possible, win titles."

"I'm close to gaining the No. 1 spot again, but I'm just trying to focus on playing one match at a time and working on my game," Jankovic said after winning the China Open. "I would love to come back to No. 1 and end the year at No. 1."

"It's a goal of mine to return to the top spot," said Jankovic. "You can go back and forth between the top three spots, but it's always nice to finish at No. 1."

"I would like to be number one again," Jankovic told reporters. "But the most important thing is to finish the year as the number one player."

Rosangel - As for the WTA ranking, the WTA is a bit different from the ATP as they have different points for Miami, IW, and other tier I tournaments

GS - 1000 W, 700 F, 450 SF, 250 QF, 140 4th rnd
Miami - 500 W, 350 F, 225 SF, 125 QF
IW - 465 W, 325 F , 210 SF, 115 QF

Other Tier Is: Berlin, Rome, Tokyo, Montreal, Moscow
430 W, 300 F, 195 SF, 110 QF

Posted by ND 10/02/2008 at 04:03 PM

Pete, Looking through the WTA Ranking system, I don't see any substantial differences from the ATP. A heavy emphasis is placed on good results (consistency) at slams and Tier I tournaments. Jankovic seems to be the only No. 1 in the open era without a slam win, which does seem to be the aberration, yes? (Haven't checked carefully) With injuries to Sharapova, Ivanovic, and Serena's poor performance in the first two slams, its certainly been a strange year.

Posted by 10/02/2008 at 04:06 PM

I actually think the Williams sister's lack of consistent match play has a lot to do with this topic. here you have two of the greatest players in their generation who routinely through either injury or other interests play limited schedules over the course of a year. They do however come in and gobble up a slam or two sometimes completely out of the blue. When another dominant player such as Henin is in the mix this acts only to make her the clear favorite but with no other dominant players the Williams sisters likely prevent someone (like Jankovic this year or Davenport in some of her #1 years) from winning a Grand Slam or two but because of their inconsistent commitment to the rest of the tour's tournaments they don't compile enough points to end the year at number one.

Personally it would be just as off for Serena to be the clear number 1 at this point because of two slam finals and one win with little else to back it up as it is for Jankovic to be in the hunt for #1 without a slam.

Posted by Tari 10/02/2008 at 04:07 PM

Andrew Miller! You've been missed here. :)

Posted by Kiwi 10/02/2008 at 04:19 PM

Couldn't agree more!! Neither player can be critized as both have had great results with a very different approach. But it just seems very inconsistant in comparison to the mens side.

Posted by J-Block 10/02/2008 at 04:26 PM

Pete, I'd argue that Jelena has been the best player throughout the year, and thus ought to be the year end #1. Most of the women are just too inconsistent. I think It'd be much worse for the WTA to have a year end champ that is considered by some to not be completely devoted to tennis.
It's hard to criticize the WTA for the Williams sisters completely destroying any notion of rankings-they are unequivically the two best players in the world when they play at their best. The problem is they don't always play, and they seldom play at their best outside the Slams. Heck, even the French Open hasn't seen the best from them in quite some time.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 04:32 PM

While many will want to blame this on the Williams sisters, I disagree with this. The reason being that these two turned pro since 1994 (Venus) and 1995 (Serena). They may be 28 and 27 but they have played their own share of tournaments and matches and had been consistent when they were completely healthy which is why they got to the top in the first place. After injuries and major surgeries, I think it is wise for them to reduce their schedule and not play a high number of tournaments if their bodies cannot take it. Also when they were at the top, their normal schedule without injuries has been in the range of 10-13 for Serena, and 14-17 for Venus and those numbers are exactly what they are still hovering around now. So why would they now increase their number rof tournaments at this later stage?

If JJ is the only one that through consistent QF performance and better at more tournaments is the one with points enough to get the year end no. 1 ranking, then so be it. Note that JJ has already reduced her number of tournaments which is why she has the better results she has had this year of course plus improving her game too. If she runs deeper (Wins/F) in more tournaments I am sure she will further slightly cut down on her schedule at some point too.

Posted by abybaby 10/02/2008 at 04:38 PM

I would like to see Serena end the year as #1 as she has the best slam numbers and is the 'player of the year' for me. But JJ did beat Serena at Aus open in quarters, plus did quite respectably in her Miami and US open losses to Serena. Also, Safina did beat Serena at Berlin, has won 3 tier 1 events, olympic medal. So if the either of them overtake Serena, they are not exactly 'undeserving'. Plus it does not hurt that both JJ and Safina have pleasant personalities/families and have not created many enemies on/off the tour.

Posted by CuMA 10/02/2008 at 04:39 PM

"... it's clear that the WTA is rewarding consistency and commitment to a degree that skews most people's sense of performance-based justice - or am I wrong about that?"

YES! YOU ARE WRONG, peter.

Is the major everything?? Maybe it is in the prospect of yours. You trying to deny hard work throught the season by denying the #1 spot to the player who didn't win a major??
Would you give it to Ivanovic, cuz she WON the major???

Gimme a break. You hate Jelena, that's why you deny the giorl is the best player of the year!

Take a break, Mr. Peter. You never won a major, either.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 04:40 PM

And really I don't think we can compare the TAP and the WTA in this regards because the ATP has far more mandatory tournaments than the WTA at present (that would change from next year) and the top players play in most of these (sometimes they withdraw from one or two MSs) such that with the GSs and the masters series the ATP top layers will have at least 13 tournaments already if they play all. This is unlike the WTA that up to this year had just the GS and Miami as mandatory.

Posted by Second Serve 10/02/2008 at 04:43 PM

The the WTA, this is an unusual year. Justine Henin retired just before the French Open leading the field by almost 2000 points (It is so hard to check now that all online ranking sites remove JH from their tables and charts). Sure she had a few bad losses, but at that point in time few people were picking another player to win the French Open. In a long season anything can happen, but the discussion of whether or not someone deserves to be the year end #2 without winning major is just not as interesting.

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/02/2008 at 04:43 PM

Pete, this is a great article and I enjoyed reading it so much. I love the line"it will further de-value the idea of the year-end no l ranking".Bravo Pete! I couldn't agree more. This is my very favorite line. "But she's not a great player." She is an embarrasment to the WTA because there are so many better players than someone who has never won a GS. Thank you Pete for saying what everyone knows is the truth. Go Caroline, Scandinavia's #1!

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/02/2008 at 04:46 PM

Cuma, leave Pete alone, what is he suppose to do, deny the facts. He's an objective writer doing his job. Go Pete go!

Posted by J-Block 10/02/2008 at 04:46 PM

I was going to say the best anology to these players would be Kolya and Safin, but another situation that actually occured is perhaps more realistic. From the end of 2001 to the end of 2003, Lleyton Hewitt spent 80 weeks at number 1, including ALL of 2002. Was he really the best player during that span? Tough to say. Sampras, Aggasi, and Federer (probably 3 of the 5 best ever)all won majors during that time frame, but none were at their best. See Williams, Serena; Williams, Venus; and Henin, Justine.

Posted by J-Block 10/02/2008 at 04:53 PM

Great call, Second Serve! Even if Henin really had lost it, she probably still had enough in the tank to get to the quarters in the majors, and with her lead, no one would have caught her. None of us would have had a problem with an obviously in decline Henin as the year-end number 1 (in this scenario).

Posted by McNeck 10/02/2008 at 04:54 PM

What you're "talking" about is in contrary with WTA ranking system, Peter. Year end has nothing to do with winning or losing major, Mr analysys. Had Jelena won major two years ago, would you give her credit for ending #1 this year???

What a green comment by an old comentator!??

Posted by sonya 10/02/2008 at 04:58 PM

oh samantha, well you're still too funny even though a little bit insulting. it's that massage stole again isn'it? i get, trust me, at least i think so...
hi avid "waves and smiles:, see:). how are you doing?

Posted by Jenn 10/02/2008 at 04:58 PM

Good article, and Rosangel raises an interesting point about the relative weight of the slams v. TMS. I remember around 2 years ago (has it been that long?) on this site there was an effort led by Andrew and Sam to identify and distinguish first tier players from second and third tier players and that exercise included a lot of discussion about the relative weight that a GS win, Final appearance, semifinal appearance, QF appearance should have vs. a Masters Series win or even a second tier ATP tourney title. Its very tough to say, because if you overweight the grand slams, you risk rewarding a player to heavily for brilliance in one or two tournaments but not year-long consistency. This is a year-end ranking, and there is a lot to be said for players who show up every week and go deep into every tournament they play, even though they do not come away with most of the big prizes. The TMS fields have all of the top guys there, barring injury. Although it is a best of 3 format only, you have to beat 5 or 6 (if no bye) guys in 5-6 days to win one of those tournaments. Those titles are major accomplishments. 1/2 of a GS does not seem like enough, although 3/4 of the slam points probably seems like 2 much. 2/3 anyone??

Posted by bluesunflower 10/02/2008 at 04:59 PM

Hello all,

I ve been thinking about this problematic wta no1 position and the problem is not the WTA rewarding consistency. The problem is the pool of talent. looking at the top 10 (year end race)they have all played approximately the same no of tournaments apart from the Williams and Sharapova

1 JANKOVIC, JELENA 4055 18
2 WILLIAMS, SERENA 3680 11
3 SAFINA, DINARA 3553 18
4 DEMENTIEVA, ELENA 2965 15
5 IVANOVIC, ANA 2952 14
6 SHARAPOVA, MARIA 2515 9
7 KUZNETSOVA, SVETLANA 2512 16
8 WILLIAMS, VENUS 2106 10
9 ZVONAREVA, VERA 2060 20
10 RADWANSKA, AGNIESZKA 2056 20


1 Nadal, Rafael 1265 17

2 Federer, Roger 921 15

3 Djokovic, Novak 899 16

4 Murray, Andy 520 19

5 Davydenko, Nikolay 417 18

6 Roddick, Andy 352 18

7 Ferrer, David 337 20

8 Blake, James 309 19

9 Wawrinka, Stanislas 286 18

10 Del Potro, Juan Martin 272 15

On the mens side all the top ten have played at least 15 tournaments this year. On the womens of the top 10 only 6 have played 15 tournaments or. Funnily enough the 4 who have played the fewest are the 4 grandslam winners. Were the grand slams given any more points it would be even easier to have a high ranking with little commitment to the tour. The problem is not the ranking system the problem is a lack of talent or disparity of talent. Rafa/Federer/Djokovic and now Murray are far ahead of the pack but they are ahead with comparable schedules. If they let up the following pack would make inroads into their leads.

At the moment Venus Serena and Sharapova have played an average of 10 tournaments each. If any of them had played a few more tournaments they clearly esp Serena would be no 1. Henin was a comparable talent to the 3 and the reason she was streets ahead was because she put in the tournaments. Imagine a situation in the ATP where Rafa/Federer/Djokovic all played 10 tournaments. They would have still won the three slams but the no1 would not be so clear cut.

This is why the no1 position should not be so much a goal for a player as playing to the best of your ability. Becoming no1 does not suddenly mean you are a great player. In the WTA were the top 10 to suddenly retire PATTY SCHNYDER would be no1. In the ATP Fernando Gonzalez would be no1 were the top 10 to retire.

So in short the number 1 ranking does not measure ability. It simply measures results achieved. If it went on ability then probably Serena would be number 1. Thats why seedings as well probably dont mean anything. That is why Serena could win AO 2007 unseeded and Venus Wimbledon seeded 23rd.

JJ has worked very hard to achieve her no1 ranking. Dont balme her for not having the talent that more talented players have and dont fully utilise. It is not a critisism to say Venus and Serena who dont play more. They have their own interests and priorities and well done JJ for stopping them achieving no1 with minimal tournaments. I am a big fan Venus and Serena but I think a bigger farce would be Serena being number 1 having played less than 2 thirds of the tournaments played by JJ and Safina.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/02/2008 at 05:01 PM

The race is going down to the wire this year precisely because there hasn't been a clear #1 this year. JJ is as deserving of the title as anyone else. If it were easy to perform well and post good results consistently throughout the season, more players would be doing it.

I like and respect the fact that JJ has publicly stated she WANTS the #1 spot and is going for it! I'd like to hear that attitude and desire expressed by more of the women.

Now if someone had won 2 or 3 slams without finishing #1, that would be a big problem. But considering that the slam titles went to four different women, none of whom were dominant for long stretches of the season, I think JJ is a perfectly legitimate #1.

I really do think this is more a reflection of the lack of consistency of the top players rather than an inherent flaw in the system.

As a fan, I find it fun to follow a player who can usually be counted on to be around in the latter stages of a tourney vs. a player who goes MIA for big chunks of the season.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 05:01 PM

For those interested, here is a link to the ranking points at the time that Justine retired. She had 5695 points.

http://www.justine-henin.be/public/rankings.asp?lang=en

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/02/2008 at 05:02 PM

Sonya, yes she's a massage stealer and she should have apologize to Sofia and maybe I would have been easier on her. Go Sofia, Sweden #1!

Posted by Jenn 10/02/2008 at 05:04 PM

Andrew Miller... I second what Tari said. And I wondered about one of your comments: You said "Because of Rios, I always marvel at magical players like Baghdatis." I love Bhaggy, and wondered if you could expand on what you meant by that? I think he is one of the most fun players to watch, but not sure if I get the connection to Rios, unless you were talking about some "magical" shotmaking, in the midst of inconsistency.

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 10/02/2008 at 05:10 PM

I'll admit it, I'm a Jankovic fan so my opinion might be a bit biased, but I think that it is a good thing that the WTA ranking system rewards consistancy. Doesn't every body hate how the top women players pull out of events or don't compete very often? The number one ranking should be extra incentive for WTA players to go out week after week and showcase their tennis for fans by rewarding consistancy. The problem is that the number one ranking doesn't have any real value to the top players. We talk about depreciating the value of the number one spot, but to the Williams sisters and Sharapova it already doesn't have any value. The problem is this mindset in these female players. To the men the number one ranking does mean something so they fight for it. But I guess you're right, no matter how much I like Jelena it is tough to think of her as the year end champ if she has such a tough time beating a lot of the other players in the top ten. Although, Jelena doesn't often lose the headscratchers like Serena did the other day.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 05:12 PM

Bluesunflower - Thanks for the data on tournaments played and you have a point about Serena playing less and still ending the year as number one. But her schedule has always been like this even when she was at the top. The highest number of tournaments Serena has played in one season is 13 and that was in 2002 where she reached 10 finals and won 8 of them. This is why I cannot see her even now that she is older would increase her schedule to anything more than 15 or 16 tournaments.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/02/2008 at 05:13 PM

Hi bluesunflower!

Thanks for all that great info. Nicely done.

I echo what you said about the #1 ranking not measuring ability. That prize is not automatically rewarded to the most talented player but instead the one who has PERFORMED the best.

I am tired of all the JJ bashing. What crime has she committed that so offends some tennis fans? She has worked hard and done the best she can with what she has. That is to be applauded, IMO.

If more talented players are not rising above her, whose fault is that?

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 05:13 PM

*waves and smiles to sonya* - how are you? I'm doing good :)

Posted by Sherlock 10/02/2008 at 05:15 PM

"She is an embarrasment to the WTA because there are so many better players than someone who has never won a GS"

Samantha, good grief. Is JJ somehow cheating or playing by different rules than the rest of the women? As Tangi said, if consistency is so easy, then why don't more women do it?

If you hate the system, fine. That's a legitimate discussion. But JJ plays hard and does what she has to do. Singling her out and callling her an embarrasment makes you look ridiculous.

Posted by aussiemarg{true lover of all things spanish also learing the lingo} 10/02/2008 at 05:16 PM

peter great piece and observations as usual, is the question who should be no 1 player or who deserves to be no 1 player,in my mind there lies two different endings.Serena has had a stellar year in terms of winning titles and us open,then regaining the no1 position,we have had this year so far,so many no 1 at the top,but these ladies just cant seem to either handle the pressure,get injured or other reasons.Ana also no 1,roland garos winner,injured now,coming back,her game,well for a better word,she seems lost to me,then jj well i think for the most consistant and playing more tornumants,even when injured,she has to get some credit,i was impressed with her game against kuzzy,in that final,if she can reproduce that form,say on a week to week basis,wow,look out,yes she sure loves the drama,the glitter,but i think we need players like that,hey,it keeps us interested,dosent it?,you question is she good enough? is she a good enough player to be the years no 1,well we goona see......?.

Then we have in my mind,the most improved player, in the wta merry go round,as i like to put it,safina,she has got her mind and game where is should be,taken a while,for sure,some of its genial as you are aware,but at the moment,she is tied with serena,they have both won as many titles,she is on the rise,hasn't won grand slam,so far,look out world for next year.

in mind view Serena,hopefully her ankle injury,that she has just sustained,wont damage her cause,she be no 1 player of the year,a great champion,already proved that,comback after injuries and the like,when she wants something,look out,great mind,isnt that what champions are made of!

Posted by tommy 10/02/2008 at 05:21 PM

I don't even remember who was YE #! in the WTA.
2003, all Williams slam finals
2004 was Sharapova at 17 winning Wimbledon
2005 was Kim dominating on HC and winning the USO
2006 was Amelie's year
2007 Justine pulled away from the field.
2008, 4 different slam winners, and a 5th player winning Olympic gold. A 6th player being YE #1, and a 7th player, Safina, having a much better run than Jankovic from Berlin on.
So 2008 was wide open with Justine retiring and Sharapova having a torn rotator cuff.

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/02/2008 at 05:23 PM

Hi Tangi, Nobody is bashing JJ, sometimes the truth isn't pretty and the truth is simple, JJ isn't the best player in the WTA. I also don't like the way she disrepects other players like the incident with Sofia and how she rudely interupted Serena during the award ceremony at the U.S open, faking injuries when she's losing, diva behavior. To me, it just seems like JJ thinks it's all about her. Go Caroline, Scandinavia's #1!

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 05:23 PM

year end no 1 players since 1997:

1997 Martina Hingis
1998 Lindsay Davenport
1999 Martina Hingis
2000 Martina Hingis
2001 Lindsay Davenport
2002 Serena Williams
2003 Justine Henin
2004 Lindsay Davenport
2005 Lindsay Davenport
2006 Justine Henin
2007 Justine Henin

Posted by Sartiralist 10/02/2008 at 05:26 PM


what about kim clijster?
outstanding player, one GS.
at the end of her career.

Posted by jewell 10/02/2008 at 05:30 PM

I wonder if JJ and Sofia are still spitting at each in the locker room?

They've probably forgotten the whole "dispute" by now.

Posted by jewell 10/02/2008 at 05:31 PM

I don't think rewarding all-round consistency over a whole year is stupid, either.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/02/2008 at 05:32 PM

Hi avid,

Very interesting to see that only four players have held the year end #1 title over the last 11 years! More amazing is that Serena's only landed there once and Venus not at all. Wow. Thanks for the info.

Hi Samantha,

Maybe you could petition the WTA to put "#1 massage stealer" on JJ's trophy? :)

Posted by Arun 10/02/2008 at 05:32 PM

ASF: Interesting to see Serena (though she has been the most successful woman @ GSs in this decade) has finished YE #1 only once..

Posted by tommy 10/02/2008 at 05:33 PM

Thanks for posting those YE #1's. Lindsay winning 2004 and 2005 shows how little they mean.
Would anyone rather have Kim's 2005 or Lindsay's?

Posted by Arun 10/02/2008 at 05:35 PM

Tangi: LOL

Posted by darthhelmethead(lurker in reform) 10/02/2008 at 05:38 PM

We wouldn't even be having this discussion if Henin hadn't retired.

Justine comeback! We need you!

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 05:39 PM

you what is more interesting, Serena has played more matches this year in her 11 tournaments than she has in every other year till date except 2002. So she is really above her usual quota ;-)

Posted by MikeDC 10/02/2008 at 05:43 PM

One thing I've always found interesting with the rankings isn't the relative weight between the slams and other tournaments (I think that's mostly right)...

It's the weight between winner vs. runner up (esp at the slams). I think that it generally falls at the Runner up gets 70% of the points as the winner. I understand that in a grand slam for instance the runner up won 6 matches... and the winner 7... both did great. Fine. But it is that last match that REALLY matters.

I think the rankings would better reflect who we think of as champions if the winners of tournaments were given a boost (at least double points vs runner up)... not just a boost to the slams as a whole.

Feel free to check, but I'm thinking that whatever the difference in points between Serena and Jelena earned for their respective US open performances was probably just about erased by Jelena's Beijing win? Or at least it would be erased by a Tier 1 win.

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/02/2008 at 05:43 PM

avid,

Are you trying to give Master Ace and Tennis Fan a run for their money? :) Then again, the WTA oughta have a female statistician on TW. Go, avid!

Posted by Sherlock 10/02/2008 at 05:48 PM

"She is an embarrasment to the WTA..."

"Nobody is bashing JJ"


If only you had JJ's consistency, Samantha.

Posted by Grant 10/02/2008 at 05:50 PM

"Hi Samantha,

Maybe you could petition the WTA to put "#1 massage stealer" on JJ's trophy? :)"

Look tangi, the truth isn't pretty and the truth is that JJ once pistol-whipped a puppy for looking at her funny.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 06:00 PM

Tangi - LOL. Actually I am learning from both of them ;-) I definitely cannot give them a run for their money!

Posted by greenhopper 10/02/2008 at 06:00 PM

Interesting thoughts everyone.

tangi-- How do you know Tennis Fan isn't female? I don't think that was ever disclosed.

But still, go avid !!! :)

Posted by Emma (murray's mint, but he's not rafalicious!) 10/02/2008 at 06:00 PM

cuma, first of all pete is not a JJ hater, secondly, try to be a bit wiser in future, don't hate on pete, this is his article, in his section of the magazine (site). i think if you read back through pete's posts you'll find that he tries to be well-balanced and fair at all times.


Posted by bluesunflower 10/02/2008 at 06:02 PM

Avid
thanks for the list of year end no1 s.

I think this is the first time I understand the almost universal frustration with the Williams sisters. Its unbelivable that since 1997 Serena and Venus have ended the year as no1 only once between them. It makes a mockery of the rankings when you look at Grandslams they have won in the same period.
Had they wanted they could have dominated the womens tour for last ten years.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 06:09 PM

bluesunflower - I hear ya.

More info:
Total no of weeks at no. 1 to date:

1) Steffi Graf 377
2) Martina Navratilova 331
3) Chris Evert 262
4) Martina Hingis 209
5) Monica Seles 178
6) Justine Henin 117
7) Lindsay Davenport 98
8) Serena Williams 61
9) Amelie Mauresmo 39
10) Tracy Austin 22
11) Kim Clijsters 19
12) Jennifer Capriati 17
12) Maria Sharapova 17
14) Ana Ivanovic 12
14) Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario 12
16) Venus Williams 11
17) Jelena Jankovic 1


greenhopper - thanks ;-) Let me quickly shine before Tennis Fan gets here ;-)

Posted by Angélica 10/02/2008 at 06:11 PM

I'm not agree with that! JJ deserve the nª 1 because she is very consistency and also is a good player I think her time is closer maybe the next year she will win a GS!

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/02/2008 at 06:17 PM

Grant,

Hmmmm ... but will "#1 puppy pistol whipper" fit on JJ's trophy?

greenhopper,

Oooh, good point. I don't know why I assumed Tennis Fan is male. Remember, I am only Ms. Geography Tangi. I haven't even started researching genders yet. :)

Posted by ms. tangerine popsicle (tangi) 10/02/2008 at 06:18 PM

OK, avid, now you're officially out of control. :)

Posted by Ruth 10/02/2008 at 06:23 PM

Two things: First, I was very happy to learn, from reading the Pete/Pete book, that Sampras placed as much importance on breaking the record of consecutive years at #1 as I do.:) Like Pete B., I think that being #1 in your sport at the end of your season -- especially a season as long as the tennis season -- is monumental. And being able to be #1 for several years -- meaning that the player has met and vanquished a variety of fields -- is an even greater achievement.

Second, I part company with Pete B., Samantha, and others who really hate the fact that a player can be deemd the #1 player in a year when he/she did not win a Slam.

Call me a lover of mediocrity if you wish, but I'd have more admiration for a player who didn't win a Slam, but made four Slam finals, did well in some other events, and thus ended up with the most points at year's end than I'd have for a player who shone in a Slam (and won it), but failed to show up (literally and figuratively) in the other Slams and the other Tour events.

At present, the Slams get double the points of the Masters and Tier 1 events. That, in my opinion, is more than good enough for a two-week event in which, except in rare cases, the top players don't meet the really tough competition until the first couple rounds are over. I love the Slams, but I don't think that we should pad the points given to Slams any more so that winning just ONE is enough to push a player into the #1 lane.

Boring as it may seem to some, a consistently high level of play is more important to me that one bright shining moment at a Slam.

Let me be honest and say that I MIGHT be a little upset if a player won TWO Slams and was somehow pushed out of the #1 position by a non-Slam winner. :) But I doubt that that has happened or could happen now. I also like the way that the ATP saves a spot in its YEC 8 for any Slam winner, regardless of his point total at the end of the year.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 06:27 PM

Tangi - LOL!

Posted by mick1303 10/02/2008 at 06:36 PM

It is amusing to see the author of the blog entertaining the same ideas as illiterate thugs on ESPN messageboard. “She did not win a slam, bwaaa, she is undeserving of her ranking”. You do realize how moronic it sounds? The ranking is just some numeric presentation of player’s performance. Everybody can come up with another one, which will factor Slams more, or win-loss ratio or number of tournaments won. Anything. Thing is – this system is a result of certain development of the idea and it is applied equally to everybody.
Those, who preach “it is consistency over quality”, are lying by omission. The fail to specify what kind of consistency. It is consistency of winning matches. Jill Craybas and Shahar Peer are very consistent. They show up in every event, play and never retire in a match, unlike Serena, who retires in more that 25% (!) of her lost matches. Don’t try to mold Jankovic with such workhorses. She has a high ranking not because she is playing a lot, but because she is winning a lot.
For the record – I’m not a fan of her, I cheer for russian ladies.
But to say “she is a disgrace to WTA” – this can come only from [Moderator edited - please make your point without insulting other posters].

Posted by Terrified Tennis player 10/02/2008 at 06:37 PM

JJ to be YE#1??? Terrible!! Not Serena?? Horrible!
The whole system is corrupted, and therefore has to be changed.
We cannot allow anybody else takes American player at the YE!
Then JJ must be not great player. Simple She is nobody!

LET'S CHANGE wta RANKING SYSTEM BEFORE YEAR COMES TO AN END. aND THUS MAKE SURE sw IS THE #1 ye PLAYER!

Let's write more columns that condemn her, deppreciate her #1 as much as possible! Let's start throwing all dirt on her! How dare she??? To be #1 without winning a major?? NO! If she was the least ethical, she should return that position to SW.

Otherwise what a defiant girl!

Posted by Jenn 10/02/2008 at 06:40 PM

Hi Ruth! Great post at 6:23.
Has a 2-slam winner ever not finished the year as #1 either on mens or women's?

This really is an interesting issue. The year-end #1 rewards an entire year of performance, and thus should reward consistency throughout the year on different surfaces. But the barometer for tennis excellence is unquestionably the Grand Slams. You could have a year-end #1 who can only play on hard courts and barely gets out of the first round on clay or grass. Is that person, even with say an Australian Open victory, more worthy of year-end #1 than a non-slam winner who performs consistently well (finals and semis) on big time tournaments on all surfaces? What about someone who makes 2 or 3 GS finals but does not win, vs. one winner who had substandard performances in the other slams? To me it is more about the big picture, and the ranking system does a decent job of rewarding the big picture, IMO.

Posted by bluesunflower 10/02/2008 at 06:43 PM

Its all very well for Pete to write

'I prefer a rankings system that demands that you win a major in order to finish no. 1 for the year, although unusual circumstances could certainly conspire to create the exception - as they almost did in '98 i the ATP tour.'

These are the unsual circumstances. Venus and Serena are Venus and Serena. Always have been. Sharapova has won a major but is out injured. Ana has won a major but is having a crisis of confidence and was injured for a while. Step up JJ and Safina.

It is not rewarding mediocracy or plain consistency for JJ to be no1. Nobody else deserves to be no1. As Ruth says it would be a different situation had someone else won say 2 slams, and was pushed out by someone playing more tournaments.

Say JJ is the best of a mediocre field but dont say she is mediocre and there is someone more deserving for the spot. Take away the Willams and there isnt. Had Safina had better results earlier in the year she would be no1. JJ and Safina have played same no of tournaments so its a race to the finish for both of them.

I ll repeat what I said earlier about how farcical it would be for Serena to end the year at no1 having played less than 2 thirds of tournaments JJ and Safina have and just over half the tournaments other players in the top 10 have played.

I write this as a Serena fan (by default actually, the one I love is Venus). I dont really like JJ and would prefer Safina to be no1. But JJ is no1. like it, hate we may but let us give credit to the girl. she has worked hard and we should celebrate her attaining the title of best of her peers

Posted by Emma (murray's mint, but he's not rafalicious!) 10/02/2008 at 06:47 PM

ruth, i agree completely with you, and you're not a "lover of mediocrity", for someone to be consistently making GS semis and finals, you have to be well above mediocre imo.

Posted by Ruth 10/02/2008 at 06:55 PM

As a fan of Venus and Serena for years, I've always been aware of the fact that they never put as much importance of being and STAYING #1 as I and many others do. If some of you are surprised that Venus was never the year-end #1 and Serena that only once, you'd probably be equally surprised at how often they simply missed or just skipped (when they were eligible) the YEC.

V&S and their father always said that they'd be #1 and #2 in the world, but they never seemd to feel the need to be at the top of the rankings always. Remember when Venus would miss whole chunks of the post-USO period to take classes? They've showed that they CAN be #1, and that seems to be enough for them, so I doubt that they are upset when the quantity and quality of other players' performances make those players the #1 player either during or at the end of the year.

Their fans might want them to knock themselves out to stay at the very top of the rankings always, but that has never seemed to be their goal. They and their fans pretty much know where their talent and skills would place them, and they must accept the positions where their PERFORMANCES place them.

Is my all-time favorite Venus currently just the 8th best woman tennis player in the world? I think not! But that's where her achievements for 2008 fairly place her. I can live with that.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 06:56 PM

"Has a 2-slam winner ever not finished the year as #1 either on mens or women's?"

jenn - The answer to your question is yes. Serena finished as number 3 in 2003 even with two slams because she had the knee injury and did not play any tournament including the USO after defending her SW19 title. I don't know about the men's side though.

Posted by Master Ace 10/02/2008 at 06:58 PM

"Are you trying to give Master Ace and Tennis Fan a run for their money? :) Then again, the WTA oughta have a female statistician on TW. Go, avid!"

Keep it up Avid :)

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 07:01 PM

Master Ace - awh :) thank you!

jenn - that year 2003, she played in only 7 tournaments, reached five finals and won four of them.

Posted by ;o 10/02/2008 at 07:04 PM

The WTA is currently summed up as thus: Most top players have spurts of brilliance before playing terribly for a while of time. Jelena has been pretty much the only top player that has just maintained her consistency.

Jankovic wants the year end number 1, but she also wants slams and more year end number 1's. She won't stop playing and let the wta collapse because she hasn't won a slam yet.

Also, the ATP and WTA are extremely different. Just look at the tournaments played. The likes of Nadal, Federer and Djokovic all play a lot of tennis, and are less involved outside of the game. Meanwhile WTA players often at the top play very little. There is a too big gap between players. Serena has only played something like 12 tournaments this year. Shes won I believe 4 (cant be sure). Now Jankovic has played twenty and gone deep in 19 of them, but won 2. See the problem?

Posted by Al 10/02/2008 at 07:05 PM

"Let me be honest and say that I MIGHT be a little upset if a player won TWO Slams and was somehow pushed out of the #1 position by a non-Slam winner. :) But I doubt that that has happened or could happen now. I also like the way that the ATP saves a spot in its YEC 8 for any Slam winner, regardless of his point total at the end of the year.

This type of scenario has actually occurred and it happened not too long ago ;
1.) 2000 - Venus Williams had won two majors plus the Olympics that year but finished the year ranked # 3 .
2 .) 2001 - Both Venus and Jennifer Capriati won two slams each but neither of them were year end # 1 .

Posted by Al 10/02/2008 at 07:07 PM

I didn't include Serena for '03 as Avid had already mentioned it .

Posted by Samantha Elin 10/02/2008 at 07:09 PM

Moderator, could you please check the end of Mick's post when he or she says [Moderator deleted - no point in leaving the problem phrase here, as it was against the Site Rules]. I believe it is a violation of rule 2 of the site rules which specifically prohibits, "berating others." If it does violate the site rule than please remove. Thanks, Sammie. Now back to tennis, I think a lot of people are missing Justine and want her back so much. They see that her retirement left the WTA in a deep shake up where no one is sure who will be #1 Go Caroline!

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 07:13 PM

Al - Thanks for the additional info on two slam winners not ending the year as no 1. So that means it has already happened thrice since 2000. Although I can understand 2003 considering the fact that Justin finished as year end no. 1 that year having won the other two GSs and played till the end of the year unlike Serena who played half year.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 07:24 PM

By the way just additional info, apart from 2003 in which she played in 18 tournaments, Justin played 13 and 14 tournaments respectively when she finished as year end no. 1.

Also Steffi Graf who finished as year end no. 1 most times never played more than 16 tournaments a year, playing 11 tournaments on two occasions and 13 on 2, 14 on 1, 15 on two, and 16 on 1.

Bluesunflower - I can understand your argument on the number of tournaments played but Now looking at the statistics especially comparing to Steffi and Justin, I don't think Serena and Venus have been so unreasonable in the number of tournaments played per year.

Posted by Ruth 10/02/2008 at 07:24 PM

avid: Thanks for that info. I was thinking that, with the current weighting of the Slams, a player with two Slam titles would have to miss a huge amount of tourneys (because of illness, injury et al) or go into a major, major slump (after his/her two wins) not to be at the front of the race for #1 -- along with, perahps, any other 2-Slam winner.

Posted by calbearo 10/02/2008 at 07:29 PM

It seems to me, the problem is not neccessarily with the ranking system (though I haven't really studied the WTA system) as it is with the WTA and players themselves. None of the top players are healthy enough to play a full year of tennis and some who have been healthier have been woefully inconsistent. The result you get is that two of the top 3 have been pretty consistent and healthy. Serena has had health problems, has missed big events (see IW) and has been inconsistent. It seems to me that the problem has more to do with the construction of the women's tour and the particular players at the top of the tour than with the ranking system. The women's tour is not in great shape and this, along with many other things (YEC in Doha!?!?) are indicative of that.

Posted by Tennis Fan 10/02/2008 at 07:30 PM

Mini-Pete and Jelena

I don’t really understand why JJ being #1 puts such fear in the hearts of everyone. In fact, I find it funny.

Don’t get your cookies all in a bunch just yet.

“The WTA has struggled in recent years to promote the YEC, and build up its prestige. Now, with a move out of the media spotlight to Doha, it needs more than ever to make it seem as if the YEC matters”

Every cloud has its silver lining as this may actually be the best advertisement for the YEC (which in my opinion should be more important than the slams).


“Now, Jankovic is poised to follow in Davenport's footsteps, following Li Na's upset of Serena Williams in Stuttgart. And if that happens, it will further de-value the idea of the year-end no. 1 ranking”

Poor JJ, I think her new nick-name should be JD - not the law school graduate kind but as acronym for Jelena Dangerfieldovic.

When JJ was contending for #1 the first time, the “grand slam” against her was “she’s never even been to a final of a grand slam”. Now that she has done that, what is the new “gand slam” against her? “She’s never won a grand slam” JJ just can’t win (no pun intended).

What will be the “grand slam” when she does win a grand slam?

She had an easy draw..
So and so was injured…
It was raining…..
Ivanovic was distracted by Verdasco…
I can statistically prove that her competition was inferior to all other GS winners…..
Hawkeye was wrong on a call….
She wouldn’t let any other player get a massage….
She blinded the other players with glitter…….

The whole premise of your argument is that only slams matter.

While I understand this POV, it does not lead to a successful tour. It leads to the successful slams only. I think the problem is not that the slams aren’t important enough in the ranking system but that once the players establish themselves, they know that - only the slams matter.

The press and therefore the public at large, who are not tuned into tennis as we are, think only the slams matter. The big money comes at the majors and endorsement money follows. One can even make a case for there is really only one slam – however that is a discussion for another day.

“Lindsay Davenport finished no. 1 on three separate occasions (2001 and '04 and '05) when she failed to win a major.”

OK, so your argument is that it is OK/valid/deserving/valuable or whatever word you want to use if you haven’t won a major in the year you are the YE #1, as long as you have won a major in the distant past. (Lindsay won USO in 98, W in 99, AO in 2000). But if you are the YE #1 without having won a slam this diminishes your achievement.

I don’t think so.

“To me, securing the annual top spot is the top accomplishment in the "general excellence" category - that body of achievements that can't be linked to performance a single event.”

Exactly - however you mean is the “general excellence” is performance at majors/slams, whether in that particular year or not.

“Compared to the realities coughed up by the ATP system, it's clear that the WTA is rewarding consistency and commitment to a degree that skews most people's sense of performance-based justice - or am I wrong about that?”

If slams are the only thing that matter you may be right. If the profession/sport of tennis in its entirety is important to you, than you are wrong.

“The WTA seems wedded to a ranking system that is more of a consistency rating than an accurate reflection of competitive ability, and one other unfortunate thing about that is the way it diminished the value of the year-end ranking .”

Isn’t consistently winning and/or going deep into tournaments a reflection, whether you believe accurate or not, of competitive ability?. If JJ were not ‘competitive’ would she consistently go deep into tournaments?

The WTA is not wedded to the system; in fact, they are changing it next year to be more like the ATP system. Just as with the men, it will force H2H, just we are seeing in Stuttgart and Moscow.

“Our sport doesn't have a Super Bowl”

I actually think this is the problem. The season is so disjointed. There really is no goal except ‘win a slam’. In football and baseball there is a long season leading to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. There seems really no point to the tennis tour other than to get ranking points to qualify, get seeded or be in the top 8 at slams. There really is nothing else, which I believe is wrong and “de-values” the sport not the #1 ranking. Raising the importance of the YEC championship would raise the importance of every step in the process.

I even dare to say the slams, spectacle that they are and given their long history - therefore will always be important- should be treated more like All Star Games or the Olympics, but with something extra like the ranking points ( that they are already given) and a notch in ones belt.

“it would make the annual ranking something more than a laundry list of who compiled the most performance points”

You have to play and (emphasis) win to get points. You don’t get point for just showing up or not showing up (Venus, sometimes Serena).

“Will Serena make a Sampras-like drive to capture the top ranking, adding events to her schedule, or targeting Jankovic in a potential showdown in Doha.”

Don’t forget Venus – she hardly shows up and can impact the outcome also.

“Serena may be tempted to take a pass on Doha, especially if odds on snatching back the ranking from Jelena seem remote.”

We are sort of getting to the heart of the matter here.


“The Kremlin Cup, which starts on Monday, is the last Tier 1 event on the calendar. Serena is entered in it, as well as the YEC in Doha - but that's it (as of now) for her. Jankovic also is entered in both, and Zurich as well - and she has almost no points coming off from 2007. ”

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

Pete your lack of understand of the current ranking system is showing here. JJ does not have “almost no points coming off”. She has “no points coming off “as her “almost no point” tournaments from last year (Bankok and Zurich) are not countable tournaments as far as ranking issues so they are not reflected in her ranking points (same for Safina and Zurich below).

“Just about anything she earns will be gravy and padding for what seems more and more like an inevitable top-ranking for 2008.”

Again, not exactly the case as JJ’s lowest countable tournament as of today, and will be if she wins tomorrow, is 105 points and her second lowest is 110. Therefore, for JJ to gain points she must as you say…. “Jankovic almost always goes deep in events”.

JJ must acquire more points than 105 to gain any points. This means she must get at least to the QF at the Kremlin cup – which would add a whopping 5 point to her total or the SF of Zurich which would add a whopping 20 points to her total. Therefore, JJ must win or get the finals to really gain “gravy and padding” points. Not an easy task on any day, very tough in Moscow with all the Russians hordettes playing, and maybe almost impossible to do in Zurich after going non-stop for 4 weeks. As I say above don’t get your cookies all in a bunch just yet.

“And let's not forget Dinara Safina in this conversation, either - she's defending semifinal points in Moscow, and a handful from Zurich and Linz. A strong finish capped with a win in Doha could vault her to the top, especially if Serena doesn't make a big push for the top spot, or if Jankovic doesn't have great results.”

See above response

For JJ to be assured of having the #1 spot only up until the YEC she must win in Stuttgart. If she does this, and Serena and Safina do not play beyond Moscow. JJ will be #1 but not by much – a couple 100 points at best.

This means that that #1 can be snatched back at the YEC by Serena or taken by Safina. Demetieva has a possibility if she defends all her points in Moscow, but unlikely.

If JJ goes out in the next round in Stuttgart and Safina wins, Safina will be only 3 points behind JJ going into Moscow and as noted above JJ can only gain points by at least getting to the quarters. We don’t know the draw yet for Moscow, she will meet either Safina or Dementieva in the SF and possible Venus or Zvonareva in the quarters. It is very real that Safina can and/or will win this tournament or another Russian. Therefore, it is very possible that JJ’s stay at #1 would only last a week if she does not win Stuttgart.

If JJ gets to the finals of Stuttgart, this means Safina did not get to the final, and therefore would be out of the running for #1 even if she won Moscow. However, if JJ only gets to the final and does not win, then Serena can take #1 back winning Moscow and JJ losing in her first match.

Therefore, JJ really must win in Stuttgart, Moscow and Zurich to really have a significant point differential (i.e. gravy and padding points). Her chances of doing this, given her recent schedule, are slim.

The most likely scenario, no matter who is #1 going into the YEC, is these three (JJ, Serena, Safina) will be very close and therefore the winner or best shower will take all as they say.

In my book this makes the YEC meaningful and exciting, not ‘de-valuing’.

If you really understand the rankings system – the problem is:

Henin – forsaking the WTA as the number 1 player with around 5,000 points in her box. After Stuttgart she will still be hording 2,240. After YEC she will still have 1,060. How would these points have affected the race had she stuck around until the end of the year instead of over-reacting to a loss that in retrospect was the rise of a former underperformer?
Sharapova - suffering a potential career threatening injury
Venus (and sometimes Serna) - questionable support of the tour
Inconsistent play by other GS winners – proving GS success does not necessarily equal greatness.

I don’t see this as a problem – but it seems to scare others and I don’t understand why

JJ - laudable support of the WTA’s top events and performance at slams, even while suffering a potential career threatening injury

“The thing is, Jankovic almost always goes deep in events”

Doesn’t this make her a great player?


Love the picture above – however, here are a few more.

JJ after being sucker punched for being faithful to the tour.

http://tinyurl.com/4dpukt
http://tinyurl.com/3l5m6w
http://tinyurl.com/3zbmy2


JJ, 2009 - grand slam(s) winner. Trophy in one hand mini-Pete in the other!

http://tinyurl.com/3kt38q

I hope she gives you a one on one interview after she wins her first slam.

Posted by Tennis Fan 10/02/2008 at 07:30 PM

Mini-Pete and Jelena

I don’t really understand why JJ being #1 puts such fear in the hearts of everyone. In fact, I find it funny.

Don’t get your cookies all in a bunch just yet.

“The WTA has struggled in recent years to promote the YEC, and build up its prestige. Now, with a move out of the media spotlight to Doha, it needs more than ever to make it seem as if the YEC matters”

Every cloud has its silver lining as this may actually be the best advertisement for the YEC (which in my opinion should be more important than the slams).


“Now, Jankovic is poised to follow in Davenport's footsteps, following Li Na's upset of Serena Williams in Stuttgart. And if that happens, it will further de-value the idea of the year-end no. 1 ranking”

Poor JJ, I think her new nick-name should be JD - not the law school graduate kind but as acronym for Jelena Dangerfieldovic.

When JJ was contending for #1 the first time, the “grand slam” against her was “she’s never even been to a final of a grand slam”. Now that she has done that, what is the new “gand slam” against her? “She’s never won a grand slam” JJ just can’t win (no pun intended).

What will be the “grand slam” when she does win a grand slam?

She had an easy draw..
So and so was injured…
It was raining…..
Ivanovic was distracted by Verdasco…
I can statistically prove that her competition was inferior to all other GS winners…..
Hawkeye was wrong on a call….
She wouldn’t let any other player get a massage….
She blinded the other players with glitter…….

The whole premise of your argument is that only slams matter.

While I understand this POV, it does not lead to a successful tour. It leads to the successful slams only. I think the problem is not that the slams aren’t important enough in the ranking system but that once the players establish themselves, they know that - only the slams matter.

The press and therefore the public at large, who are not tuned into tennis as we are, think only the slams matter. The big money comes at the majors and endorsement money follows. One can even make a case for there is really only one slam – however that is a discussion for another day.

“Lindsay Davenport finished no. 1 on three separate occasions (2001 and '04 and '05) when she failed to win a major.”

OK, so your argument is that it is OK/valid/deserving/valuable or whatever word you want to use if you haven’t won a major in the year you are the YE #1, as long as you have won a major in the distant past. (Lindsay won USO in 98, W in 99, AO in 2000). But if you are the YE #1 without having won a slam this diminishes your achievement.

I don’t think so.

“To me, securing the annual top spot is the top accomplishment in the "general excellence" category - that body of achievements that can't be linked to performance a single event.”

Exactly - however you mean is the “general excellence” is performance at majors/slams, whether in that particular year or not.

“Compared to the realities coughed up by the ATP system, it's clear that the WTA is rewarding consistency and commitment to a degree that skews most people's sense of performance-based justice - or am I wrong about that?”

If slams are the only thing that matter you may be right. If the profession/sport of tennis in its entirety is important to you, than you are wrong.

“The WTA seems wedded to a ranking system that is more of a consistency rating than an accurate reflection of competitive ability, and one other unfortunate thing about that is the way it diminished the value of the year-end ranking .”

Isn’t consistently winning and/or going deep into tournaments a reflection, whether you believe accurate or not, of competitive ability?. If JJ were not ‘competitive’ would she consistently go deep into tournaments?

The WTA is not wedded to the system; in fact, they are changing it next year to be more like the ATP system. Just as with the men, it will force H2H, just we are seeing in Stuttgart and Moscow.

“Our sport doesn't have a Super Bowl”

I actually think this is the problem. The season is so disjointed. There really is no goal except ‘win a slam’. In football and baseball there is a long season leading to the playoffs and the Super Bowl. There seems really no point to the tennis tour other than to get ranking points to qualify, get seeded or be in the top 8 at slams. There really is nothing else, which I believe is wrong and “de-values” the sport not the #1 ranking. Raising the importance of the YEC championship would raise the importance of every step in the process.

I even dare to say the slams, spectacle that they are and given their long history - therefore will always be important- should be treated more like All Star Games or the Olympics, but with something extra like the ranking points ( that they are already given) and a notch in ones belt.

“it would make the annual ranking something more than a laundry list of who compiled the most performance points”

You have to play and (emphasis) win to get points. You don’t get point for just showing up or not showing up (Venus, sometimes Serena).

“Will Serena make a Sampras-like drive to capture the top ranking, adding events to her schedule, or targeting Jankovic in a potential showdown in Doha.”

Don’t forget Venus – she hardly shows up and can impact the outcome also.

“Serena may be tempted to take a pass on Doha, especially if odds on snatching back the ranking from Jelena seem remote.”

We are sort of getting to the heart of the matter here.


“The Kremlin Cup, which starts on Monday, is the last Tier 1 event on the calendar. Serena is entered in it, as well as the YEC in Doha - but that's it (as of now) for her. Jankovic also is entered in both, and Zurich as well - and she has almost no points coming off from 2007. ”

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings!

Pete your lack of understand of the current ranking system is showing here. JJ does not have “almost no points coming off”. She has “no points coming off “as her “almost no point” tournaments from last year (Bankok and Zurich) are not countable tournaments as far as ranking issues so they are not reflected in her ranking points (same for Safina and Zurich below).

“Just about anything she earns will be gravy and padding for what seems more and more like an inevitable top-ranking for 2008.”

Again, not exactly the case as JJ’s lowest countable tournament as of today, and will be if she wins tomorrow, is 105 points and her second lowest is 110. Therefore, for JJ to gain points she must as you say…. “Jankovic almost always goes deep in events”.

JJ must acquire more points than 105 to gain any points. This means she must get at least to the QF at the Kremlin cup – which would add a whopping 5 point to her total or the SF of Zurich which would add a whopping 20 points to her total. Therefore, JJ must win or get the finals to really gain “gravy and padding” points. Not an easy task on any day, very tough in Moscow with all the Russians hordettes playing, and maybe almost impossible to do in Zurich after going non-stop for 4 weeks. As I say above don’t get your cookies all in a bunch just yet.

“And let's not forget Dinara Safina in this conversation, either - she's defending semifinal points in Moscow, and a handful from Zurich and Linz. A strong finish capped with a win in Doha could vault her to the top, especially if Serena doesn't make a big push for the top spot, or if Jankovic doesn't have great results.”

See above response

For JJ to be assured of having the #1 spot only up until the YEC she must win in Stuttgart. If she does this, and Serena and Safina do not play beyond Moscow. JJ will be #1 but not by much – a couple 100 points at best.

This means that that #1 can be snatched back at the YEC by Serena or taken by Safina. Demetieva has a possibility if she defends all her points in Moscow, but unlikely.

If JJ goes out in the next round in Stuttgart and Safina wins, Safina will be only 3 points behind JJ going into Moscow and as noted above JJ can only gain points by at least getting to the quarters. We don’t know the draw yet for Moscow, she will meet either Safina or Dementieva in the SF and possible Venus or Zvonareva in the quarters. It is very real that Safina can and/or will win this tournament or another Russian. Therefore, it is very possible that JJ’s stay at #1 would only last a week if she does not win Stuttgart.

If JJ gets to the finals of Stuttgart, this means Safina did not get to the final, and therefore would be out of the running for #1 even if she won Moscow. However, if JJ only gets to the final and does not win, then Serena can take #1 back winning Moscow and JJ losing in her first match.

Therefore, JJ really must win in Stuttgart, Moscow and Zurich to really have a significant point differential (i.e. gravy and padding points). Her chances of doing this, given her recent schedule, are slim.

The most likely scenario, no matter who is #1 going into the YEC, is these three (JJ, Serena, Safina) will be very close and therefore the winner or best shower will take all as they say.

In my book this makes the YEC meaningful and exciting, not ‘de-valuing’.

If you really understand the rankings system – the problem is:

Henin – forsaking the WTA as the number 1 player with around 5,000 points in her box. After Stuttgart she will still be hording 2,240. After YEC she will still have 1,060. How would these points have affected the race had she stuck around until the end of the year instead of over-reacting to a loss that in retrospect was the rise of a former underperformer?
Sharapova - suffering a potential career threatening injury
Venus (and sometimes Serna) - questionable support of the tour
Inconsistent play by other GS winners – proving GS success does not necessarily equal greatness.

I don’t see this as a problem – but it seems to scare others and I don’t understand why

JJ - laudable support of the WTA’s top events and performance at slams, even while suffering a potential career threatening injury

“The thing is, Jankovic almost always goes deep in events”

Doesn’t this make her a great player?


Love the picture above – however, here are a few more.

JJ after being sucker punched for being faithful to the tour.

http://tinyurl.com/4dpukt
http://tinyurl.com/3l5m6w
http://tinyurl.com/3zbmy2


JJ, 2009 - grand slam(s) winner. Trophy in one hand mini-Pete in the other!

http://tinyurl.com/3kt38q

I hope she gives you a one on one interview after she wins her first slam.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 07:37 PM

Tennis fan - Actually JJ still has 105 points from the YEC last year.

Posted by Not a JJ fan 10/02/2008 at 07:39 PM

hahahaha...it's nice to see biased opinions got upset, confused, and terrified because of their wrong driving at.

All of a sudden the number One player is condemned for to be sitting at the top!??

All of a sudden the WTA ranking system is condemend for having "wrong" ranking system? So far the system was good; but now...

Well, now enjoy your points of the view. I enjoy mine.

Posted by Ruth 10/02/2008 at 07:41 PM

I just saw Al's 7:05 comment. It would be interesting to see how many tourneys Venus and Capriati played in 2000 and 2001 compared to the eventual #1 at the end of the year. And I wonder if the Slams had the same double-the- Tier 1 weight and 125% of the YEC weight that the Slams now have.

If both players played a "normal" schedule before and after their Slam wins in those two years AND the ranking systems were pretty much the same as they are now, then, as I indicated, I would belatedly be upset about that. :)

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 07:41 PM

Also I do not see how Venus and Serena playing fewer tournaments than the rest translates to their support of the tour is questionable.

Posted by Rosangel 10/02/2008 at 07:48 PM

I posted the link to my web site just now over on Your Call, but I'll post the specific link here now to the pictures I took of "the girl who stole so many hearts at the US Open while doing splits, dressed as a daffodil, Jelena Jankovic" (I like that description, Pete) and Serena Williams during that US Open final.
http://homepage.mac.com/rosangel/Serena_Jelena_Final/

A thoroughly entertaining match. Jankovic was consistent, but no killer on the big points, as I think Pete has pointed out elsewhere. She photographed beautifully....great facial expressions.

Now, which other player would be smiling while playing this shot?
http://tinyurl.com/5y6v86

Posted by greenhopper 10/02/2008 at 07:51 PM

Rosangel, both your links don't seem to work. I tried to go from your main page, no luck there as well.

Posted by Rosangel 10/02/2008 at 07:53 PM

greenhopper, I noticed after publication that one of the index pages hadn't formed as it should, so I'm republishing that gallery - it won't take long. That's why it's not working momentarily.

Posted by avid sports fan (still smiling and believing in miracles) 10/02/2008 at 07:58 PM

Ruth - In 2000 Martina Hingis finished as YE #1 with 1 GS F, 2 SF, 1QF, 5 Tier I wins and W-L record 77-10 playing in 20 tyournaments

In 2000, Venus played 10 tournaments and had a W-L record 41-4 with the 2 GS W, 1 QF and the Olympics gold

In 2001 Lindsay finished as YE #1 with 2 GS SF, 1 QF, 2 Tier I wins and played in 17 tournaments with a W-L record 62-9

In 2001, Venus played 12 tournaments and had a W-L record 46-4 with the 2 GS W, 1 SF and one tier I win

In 2001 Jennifer Capriati played 17 tournaments with 2 GS W, 2 GS SF, 4 tier I Finals and had a W-L record of 56-14.

Posted by Arun 10/02/2008 at 08:07 PM

ASF: Great stats and you're bringing out so many hidden history and truth behind the rankings.

Ruth: Great posts!!

Posted by bluesunflower 10/02/2008 at 08:09 PM

hi avid
didnt ignore your 7:24 PM post. Was getting ready for bed so night. And night everyone else.

I ll be interested to read other peoples thoughts on this tommorow

Posted by Moderator 10/02/2008 at 08:09 PM

mick1303 -
We edited the end of your post, as it was against TW Site Rules. You're free to disagree with other posters, but not to insult them.

Posted by Ruth 10/02/2008 at 08:14 PM

avid: Thank you so much for that tourney info.

Ros: I was able to see the pictures from the second link (#16 to #45, no pix after #45). They are fantastic; you really captured the excitement of the end of that match and the moments after.

Posted by arbiter 10/02/2008 at 08:14 PM

The last time all media was talking about the ranking system being wrong in tennis is when Kafelnikov became #1. I am sure that the world would have been furious if, say, Davidenko became #1, without winning a grand slam. But, if any player from any other country did that, the story would be different.

The media is doing whatever they can to downplay JJ's quality. But, all she had to do is stop looking at that stupid monitor and beat Serena at the US Open. That would have shut up even NYT, which is the most hateful paper on the planet...

Posted by Al 10/02/2008 at 08:15 PM

Venus played only 10 tournaments in '00 but won 6 of them ; The main reason that she played in a limited basis that year was because of her bout with severe tendonitis on both wrists , although she had 35 match winning streak ( the most of any player in this decade ) .
In contrast Hingis , the '00 year end #1 played 20 tournaments , winning 9 of them , 5 of them were Tier 1's , including the YEC of that year .

In '01 Venus won 6 titles ( 2 GS ) , played 12 tournaments but was year end # 3 . That year's other standout player , Capriati won only 3 titles ( 2 GS ) but played in 17 tournaments ,having very consistent results in all the 4 grand slams of that year .
Lindsay Davenport the year end #1 for that year did not win any slams but won 7 tournaments ( 2 Tier 1's ), participating in 17 .

In 1996, the WTA started awarding players "quality points", which were calculated based on the rankings of players they defeated in tournaments. This would give more points to a player who beat a top ranked player than one who beat a lower ranked player. Quality points were discontinued after the 2005 season and are no longer used.

Posted by Tennis Fan 10/02/2008 at 08:17 PM

"Actually JJ still has 105 points from the YEC last year"

Avid, I don't exactly know what your trying to say.

Above I say the 105 for YEC from last year, as I say above, is counted in her ranking points. For JJ to gain ranking points she must replace 105 with a higher point total. Therefore in Moscow, where she gets a first round bye, she will earn 110 points for her first win. Therefore the 110 would replace her 105 in her countable tourment. The increase would be the difference of these two (5 points). So she would only gain 5 ranking points in such a senario. If she got to the SF in Moscow the points earned would be 195, replaceing 105. The gain is the difference 90 points. This is what I'm saying. Currently, her lowest countable tournament is this 105. If she loses tommorow her defending points of 140 would be replaced by her 90 points from the Olympics because the 140 would drop off - she would only earn 75 for Stuttgart and the 90 is higher than the 75 so she gets to count the 90 which is currently not being counted. This would mean she would lose 50 ranking points. Even with the loss she would still be ahead of Serena. So I don't really understand your statement and or question.

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