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The Slamless Ones 11/01/2010 - 2:11 PM

Woz

by Pete Bodo

Mornin'. I got a kick out of this comment left at the Blondes Away! post, and it also got me thinking about a few issues that ought to be raised regarding this Slamless No. 1 issue that has become a staple of the WTA conversation these days. This comes from a poster called Thomas:

manuelsantanafan wrote:

Pete, 44-74 being labelled a .500 winning percentage is consistent with "unreliable math."

When the history of my unexceptional (except for some serious boneheaded plays) baseball career is written, would you be so good as take on the task of calculating my batting averages."

LOL!

True 44 wins in 118 matches is a .373 winning percentage. (.369 if you inlude Capriati matches).

Thomas's outstanding mathematical skills extends, if inadvertently, manuelsantanafan's self-effacing reference to baseball. And while my own woefully poor grasp of statistics—actually, simple math—has often been laid bare in these posts, I can't help but notice that almost any batter in Major League Baseball history would be be more than happy with a .373 batting average against the best teams he faces. Which re-raises the question, how come Elena Dementieva didn't hit at least one out of the park in Paris, New York, London or Melbourne?

I admit the analogy is a bit too deft, and is relevant only because it's so inviting. Comparing baseball, a team sport, with tennis, is an apples and oranges exercise. Still, winning more than a third (oh, please tell me I don't have that percentage wrong!) of your matches against the very best players seems to me a pretty danged good record—especially in the comparative terms in which I used the stat. Anyone care to crunch the numbers and post Wozniacki's winning percentage, based on her 5-20 record against the best players of her time? (And yes, I did leave Jennifer Capriati off that considerably lengthy list; my bad.) I want to say .200. And that's a batting average that might get you shipped to the minors.

This morning, I posted on Wozniacki and the Doha result over at ESPN, and I'd like to further explore an issue I raised there. I might as well come out and flat-out declare it "The Curse of Number Oneness," a hex that befalls players who reach the year-end No. 1 ranking before they've won their first major. I'm not sure that the sample-size is large enough to draw hard and fast conclusions, and we all know that in tennis, anything can happen (if you're former No. 1s Dinara Safina or Marcelo Rios, that something is bad). But when I look at the career trajectory of the greatest of players, one thing really stands out: Most of them expressed their potential greatness before, and in some cases way before, they developed the consistency that enabled them to stay at the top.

In other words, the record suggests that you want to win your major first, then worry about rankings and all that other minutae of the pro life. And I believe this is one reason that most great players will tell you that they don't pay much attention to the numerical rankings, as well as the reason some No. 1 players (year-end and otherwise) have spent a fair amount of time almost apologizing for earning the top spot: Hey, don't blame me, I just swing the rackets. Take your beef to the computer!

Take someone like Amelie Mauresmo, who was No. 1 briefly, but never at the end of the year. She first claimed the top spot (and held it for five weeks) in September 2004, and her Grand Slam performance actually tailed off (if only by a little) for over a year before she won her first major, at the 2006 Australian Open. In any event, she ended her career with "just" two Grand Slam titles. Wouldn't a No. 1 ranking generally predict greater success? But given the history of other Slamless Ones, she acquited herself pretty well.

How about Kim Clijster? She hit No. 1 without benefit of winning a major in August 2003, but didn't win that first major until September 2005, at the U.S. Open (she missed four of nine Slams in that interim, but those are the dates). To date, she's still stuck at three majors, all captured in New York. She may add to that Grand Slam haul yet, but in terms of this discussion her results have been so-so.

The ATP has had only one Slamless One—hail, even Thomas Muster and Yevgeny Kafelnikov won majors before they smelled the roses at the peak of the game. But the ATP has never produced a slamless year-end No. 1 (more about that subset later). The man who came closest to performing what would be, in its own right, the remarkable feat of ascending to the top of the ATP pile without benefit of having taken a Grand Slam title is Marcelo Rios.

Rios became No. 1 on March 30, 1998, and engaged in a protracted tug-of-war for the top spot with Pete Sampras until the very last tournament of the year, the ATP Tour Championships. Sampras, driven by the desire to complete a record sixth-consecutive year at No. 1, practically killed himself in the course of his fall, "Stop Rios!" drive. In the end, Rios proved to be Sampras's greatest ally, as he was forced to withdraw from the year-end championships—and a potential showdown with Sampras for the top spot—because of a bad back that ultimately ended his career not long thereafter.

The big takeaway from all that? Sampras was driven less by the determination to finish No. 1 than by the extraordianary opportunity it represented for him that particular year. And rightly so. Sampras's six straight seasons as year-end No. 1 is a record that any future player will have only once chance to equal or surpass. When players say it's all about the majors, they're telling the truth, which is why there's really no harm in questioning the quality of any given year-end No. 1, especially on Jan. 1. What can't be questioned, though, is whether this or that player "deserves" the top ranking.

In some ways, becoming a Slamless One, especially a Slamless Year-End One, is as much burden as opportunity. Don't for a moment think that Wozniacki wasn't aware of her position as she went out to play Clijsters in Doha. The pressure on No. 1 is enormous, but even more importantly, certain facts suggest that becoming the year-end No. 1 without winning a major only makes the road ahead rougher.

There's little data to go on, but the last person to run a mile in Wozniacki's shoes was Jelena Jankovic. And we saw how finishing the year at No. 1 impacted her performance. Her results took a nosedive from which they have yet to fully recover. She finished No. 1 (without a major) in 2008, and just plain hasn't been the same since. It's no longer a question of whether Jankovic will find her equilibrium; it looks more like she's just searching for niche in the rankings somewhere below—perhaps well below—No. 1.

If you look at the careers of the Steffi Grafs and John McEnroes and Roger Federers and Ivan Lendls of this world, it's obvious that winning a major was part of a process, the first giant step rather than the final one. The tension underlying what the numbers show is between greatness and consistency, and in that regard it's helpful to think of the present system as less of a ranking than a rating. But greatness and consistency don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, as Marat Safin and even Svetlana Kuznetsova have demonstrated, time and again. It's handy to keep that in mind.

Jelena2 Winning a major provides a kind of psychic and emotional fuel, and a stamp of credibility, that makes it easier to achieve a high rating. Mauresmo and Clijsters may argue that it works the other way around, too, although I'm not convinced. Perhaps over time Wozniacki will make me change my mind.

The quality percolating under the surface for these players is confidence, not skill. It's also a matter of priorities and focus. The rule of thumb for those who would be great might as well be: Set your sights on the majors, and the rest will take care of itself. Just look how long it took Rafael Nadal to become No. 1, and if you think that was only because of his rival Federer, think again. It took Sampras took about two-and-a-half years to become No. 1 after he won is first major, in 1990.

But I wouldn't despair if I was a Wozniacki fan. What was she supposed to do, tank matches in order to avoid the Curse of Number Oneness? In that sense, the ranking could almost be said to have fallen in her lap. And she has terrific chances to build on her reputation because of her relative youth (20) and the state of the competition. We're at one of those curious transitional times when a great group of champions probably is in the waning days of a collective career. Imagine if Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic were suddenly unable or unwilling to play and/or win enough to capture the top ranking. I'd say a handful of guys like David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco and Robin Soderling would suddenly like their chances of winning a major, and even more their odds on reaching No. 1.

It would have been silly for anyone over the past two or three years to claim that Nadal was in a position to put the hammer down and take control of the men's game as its undisputed top dog. But Wozniacki has that sort of opportunity now, which is why her loss to Clijsters has to be considered a set back. You can't expect every legitimate rival to be removed from your path, can you?

What Wozniacki has going for her is a solid game, a strong constitution, and a healthy appetitie for playing—and winning—matches. And she's handled the circumstances surrounding her rise very well, without seeming to get too high, or too low, as it played out. At this moment in history, those are valuable assets. She needs to focus on elevating her game at the most important moments, because that "living in the moment" and "you win some, you lose some" mentality will get her through many matches against her equals or lesser players, but it won't be good enough against players who have tasted ultimate Grand Slam success. And even in the worst case scenarios for the WTA, there will be a few of those players lurking in 2011.


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Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 02:21 PM

Titles (Finalist appearance if best result)

Ace WTA rankings (Overall Record; Top 10 record for Doha participant)
(1)Caroline Wozniacki (62-17; 8-4): Beijing, Montreal,Tokyo, New Haven, Ponte Vedra Beach and Copenhagen
(2)Kim Clijsters (40-7; 10-1) : United States Open, WTA Championships,Miami, Cincinnati and Brisbane
(3)Serena Williams (25-4; 1-3): Australian Open and Wimbledon
(4)Vera Zvonareva (49-18; 10-9): Pattaya City
(5)Samantha Stosur(47-19; 5-6): Charleston
(6)Francesca Schiavone (40-22; 5-9): French Open and Barcelona
(7)Venus Williams (38-7; 4-2): Dubai and Acapulco
(8)Elena Dementieva (41-18; 6-6): Sydney and Paris
(9)Victoria Azarenka (42-20; 7-6): Stanford and Moscow
(10)Jelena Jankovic (38-23; 4-5): Indian Wells
(11)Justine Henin (32-8): Stuttgart and s-Hertogenbosch
(12)Na Li (36-19; 5-4): Birmingham
(13)Maria Sharapova (33-11): Memphis and Strasbourg
(14)Aravane Rezai (36-24): Madrid and Bastad
(15)Shahar Peer(47-21; 5-9): (Hobart)

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 02:26 PM

"To date, she's still stuck at two majors, both captured in New York"

Pete,
Do Kim have three majors now at New York? To add, she also won 3 Year End Championships. Only players to have 3 or more before last week are Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 02:31 PM

Caroline closed out the season very strongly going 32-4 winning 5 titles(4 of them Premier). Before she won Montreal, there were questions on whether or not she can win a Premier 5(Tier I under the old system) or better title. She answered that question by winning Montreal, Tokyo and Beijing, which is a Premier Mandatory. She played well in the finals against Kim but Kim had too much experience for Caroline to complete the job especially after getting up an eary break to start the final set. I still will stand my prediction that Caroline will get her maiden Slam before 2012 is done and she is on a similar path to the one who defeated her yesterday.

Posted by Queeny 11/01/2010 at 02:45 PM

I say make the women play 3 out of-5 in the slams and then we would see what these women are made of. But then I think you would see a hurried exit of the older players into retirement.And you certainly wouldn't see a 40 yr old making a comeback. Ridiculous!

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 02:50 PM

MA--didn't Caro win 6 titles?

Posted by Ruth 11/01/2010 at 02:51 PM

Pete: Since you clearly had things right in your previous post when you mentioned wozniacki's "grade" as being 5 out of 24, I knew that you had made one of those "I'm typing too quickly" errors when you considered Dementieva's grade as being 44 out of 74 (better than .500) instead of 44 out of 118. BTW Better correct that "4-74" misprint in the quote of msf's comment before he appears to correct it himself. :)

Anyway, as a person who grew up in countries in which baseball was not played, I often marveled at reading in the American magazines which were always available in the West Indies that a .333 batting average, or some similar number, was considered a good performance. After all, that would be like getting an F-, I thought back then! I know better now, of course.

Even though I've learned that that kind of percentage can be good in baseball, I'm not too impressed by a one-third or one-fifth winning record against top players for Elena and Caroline respectively. However, since Caroline is at the beginning of her career, or, at least, of what I hope will be her peak years, I am willing to give her some slack, and I look forward to seeing her batting average rise considerably in 2011.

Posted by tommy 11/01/2010 at 02:57 PM

I'm not doing any study on it, but I remember Davenport won all her slams by January 2000 then spent a lot of time at #1 without winning another major.
Same with Hingis, who won her last major in January 1999, then spent a lot of time at #1.

Clijsters and Mauresmo reached #1 first, then won majors. Amelie won her first about 7 years after her 1st slam final.

So I dont think there is any rule about it.

Safina got ot #1, and has a hairline fracture in her back. Sharapova won a major first, she had a rotator cuff injury in her serving shoulder.

So I dont think there is any hard pattern.
Wozniacki is 20, and being 20 and #1 seems like a pretty good place to be right now.

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 02:58 PM

Babe,
Yes, Caroline won 6 titles but 5 of them came during her run after Wimbledon. I should have written my first sentence better.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:04 PM

"The pressure on no. 1 is enormous, but even more importantly, certain facts suggest that becoming the year-end no. 1 without winning a major only makes the road ahead rougher."

This--in a nutshell--is my biggest concern for Caroline. I have this feeling that she became #1 far too early & that doing it w/o getting the major monkey off her back, at such an early age, might backfire. Yesterday, for really the first time, her nerves were racked against Clijsters. She couldn't generate ANY rackethead speed on her fh--her shots were landing around the serve line--she was very very tight--at least until Clijsters started choking--then she got some swagger back. But when Clisjters regained her composure--she simply hit her off the court. I saw panic in Caroline's eyes because there was really nothing she could do about it. She played more aggressive than she was comfortable with & still came up short.

But, it was clear that she knew that winning that match was a requirement (fair or not) to validate her year-end #1 position. I felt for her & I hope that she can add the necessary weapons in her game so that she does not have to be at the mercy of the top echelon. She has a great attitude--but then so did her predecessors until the pressure got to them. #1 takes a special talent to hold-on.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:06 PM

"Safina got ot #1, and has a hairline fracture in her back. Sharapova won a major first, she had a rotator cuff injury in her serving shoulder."

Safina's back--may be; but she was already on the cusp of losing the #1 ranking when that occurred. Sharapova's shoulder had nothing to do with her #1 ranking--she was not #1 when she got injured.

Posted by Davers 11/01/2010 at 03:11 PM

"To date, she's still stuck at two majors, both captured in New York. She may add to that Grand Slam haul yet, but in terms of this discussion her results have been so-so."

I think we finally have an explanation for why Peter Bodo is so underwhelmed by Kim Clijsters, who many would argue was actually the player of the year: he's forgotten that she won this year's U.S. Open. No wonder the derisive comments about "part-time player" and "disappointing her fans when it counts most." Pete, Clijsters won the U.S. Open final 6-2, 6-1; she didn't lose it. She won all 5 finals she played this season; she didn't crumble during them. This explains so much!

As Master Ace suggested above, the story of the WTA Championships should be at least as much about the elite company that Clijsters has joined by winning three of tese as it is about Wozniacki's future at Number One.

How about some credit where credit's due.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 03:14 PM

Babe Great post and I agree with your observations of Caroline

I too felt at times in that final with Kim at Doha she had no idea of what shot to do.Especially in the 1st and 3rd sets.Kim has always be known at times to go walk about in the 2nd sets of her matches.Though in the 3rd set as you said she just wiped Caroline off the court.

Caroline needs to stay aggressive to me on a hard court.I know and understand she will make more u/errors in doing this.Though she needs to find balance more in her approach on hard court play to me.

Posted by woznowuss 11/01/2010 at 03:14 PM

If I'm not mistaken (and I might be), Caroline's winning percentage in 2010 against players with Grand Slam titles is .714 (5 out of 7), which kind of ruins Pete's argument that her game is not good enough "against players who have tasted ultimate Grand Slam success".

My main concern for Caroline next year is not the added pressure of the #1 ranking, but rather the possible change of racket, which could hamper her progress for a while.

Posted by Yolita 11/01/2010 at 03:16 PM

"Imagine if Federer, Nadal, Murray and Djokovic were suddenly unable or unwilling to play..."

Pete, may I ask why you included Murray (a slamless one!) in this select group? Shouldn't you wait for him to prove that he deserves to be there? :)

A more appropiate analogy is the following, which I read on Twitter a few days ago:

"Having Caroline as #1 and Vera as #2 is as if Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were unable to play and the ATP ended with Murray(Caro) as #1 and Soderling(Vera) as #2". Shock, horror! LOL

Posted by Texastennis 11/01/2010 at 03:21 PM

Master Ace and Davers - right on that Kim has three majors and now in veyr august company with the three end of year YECs. Yet another ridiculous I must say mistake from Pete. So many of these rally strange mistakes recently from which we learn:
1) There's no fact checking at tennis.com
2) Some of them make me wonder how closely Pete is actually watching tennis ... (Remember the Alexandra Wozniak and Caro Wozniacki confusion from the summer?)

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 03:24 PM

Pete, one phrase in your "Blondes Away!" post - "winning begets winning" - imo is a major factor in Caroline's success this year. Probably a combination of confidence for the winner and, as the wins pile up, a bit of "intimidation" for her opponents.

It will be interesting to see if the momentum of Caro's many wins this year carries over to next year, moreso than the disappointment of her YEC defeat. I do think she's demonstated an amazing ability to continually and quickly "step it up," so we'll see if that continues, or if she hits a "wall."

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 03:34 PM

"My main concern for Caroline next year is not the added pressure of the #1 ranking, but rather the possible change of racket, which could hamper her progress for a while."

Woznowuss,
Hopefully, she will not change racquets but it look like Babolat is not willing to up their offer. Djokovic struggled for a while after he changed from Wilson to Head. Now, who do you think what racquet company she will change to?

Posted by KL 11/01/2010 at 03:36 PM

"Safina's back--may be; but she was already on the cusp of losing the #1 ranking when that occurred."

Not really, if you think about it. After reaching #1 in April she was the finalist in Stuttgart, won in Rome, won in Madrid, reached the Slam final (RG), she reached SF in the next Slam (W) on her worst surface.
She said she picked up her injury in July 2009 and was playing on cortizone shots for the next 3 months until it became unbearable. Yes, she is not strong mentally, but her game didn't take a nosedive after getting to #1 ranking. It happened 3 months later, when she got injured.

And I'm disappointed by Pete putting down Clijsters. I know he's not a fan of hers, but still... She got 3 Slams (please chek your records, Pete, before you write), and won USO, YEC, Miami this year and you say "her results have been so-so"? I disagree.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 03:37 PM

Well under the current WTA system players can reach the no 1 spot without winning a GS as we have seen with players JJ,Safina and now Caroline.it does reward players with points for the tournaments they play.

Caroline has reached the top spot for her good consistant results this year yes without having won a GS title.

Agree or disagree with this system I find it fair in ways and to over critise say players that have reached the top spot in the WTA without a GS title I find a bit harsh in ways.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:41 PM

"Caroline needs to stay aggressive to me on a hard court.I know and understand she will make more u/errors in doing this."

Exactly Wayne, I kept listening to the commies talk about her UE count, saying she was in single digits in earlier matches. Of course, she was--she could get away w/ that style of play then. But for me, aggression is what she needs; errors don't matter as long as you are in control of your own destiny. You are not going to beat Kim by running around the beyond the baseline--she tried it for the most part yesterday & she was run around like she stole something.

Consistentcy is not going to work against the players she will meet at the tail end of majors. She can do that against mentally fragile players & get away w/ it, but not against Serena, Kim, Justine, Venus--they will simply hit her off the court. She's got to take her chances & not worry about her error count. She played outside her comfort zone, and by the middle of the 3rd set you could see that she was struggling for breath.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:43 PM

"Agree or disagree with this system I find it fair in ways and to over critise say players that have reached the top spot in the WTA without a GS title I find a bit harsh in ways."

I wasn't aware that anyone was criticizing Caroline for reaching #1.

Posted by woznowuss 11/01/2010 at 03:45 PM

Master Ace,
I'm afraid she'll just go for the best financial deal.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:46 PM

AM: my Babe 03:41 PM was directed at you--I wrote Wayne by mistake.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:48 PM

"I'm afraid she'll just go for the best financial deal."

Then she's in big trouble. Like, Davenport said--changing rackets for money is a TREMENDOUS mistake, one that could have irreversable consequences.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 03:49 PM

Babe Some people have critise that even past players that have reacched the no 1 sport without winning a GS title eg JJ and Safina and now Caroline.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 03:50 PM

Babe No worries there.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 03:56 PM

AM--I can understand the criticism for JJ & Safina, but really, Caroline--at this point--should (rightly) be given a break, she is just 20 plus if she didn't take it--who would? Serena has been out of circulation (thru no fault of hers), so it was there for the taking. Caroline, has gotten a pass, IMO, for this reason mainly. I haven't heard much criticism. But, next year is a different ballgame.

Posted by Babe 11/01/2010 at 04:00 PM

night all.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 04:16 PM

Babe I agree there with your thoughts on Caroline.I think we need to give her some space.I think she has improved on many levels in her game this yea

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:23 PM

"but in terms of this discussion her results have been so so." Totally agree Pete. Out of all the top players of her era, she is the least impressive in terms of slam totals. She has LESS than half of what Justine and Vee do and l0 less than Serena. Sorry, she's not in their league in terms of slams and she is almost the same age as them. It took Kim two years to win a slam after she became no l, so think about that, for those who want to talk about Caro. Kom sa, Caro, world's no l. Gutless Rochus only made his false accusations against Justine when he retired. LOSER!!

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:26 PM

And how can Kim be player of the year when Serena is holding two slam, one the most important title in tennis Wimbledon, which Kim has NEVER won. For three consective years, Serena has won two GS, something Kim has NEVER done in her entire career. Serena deserves player of the year. She is clearly no l in terms of the QUALITY of her titles. Sorry but the YEC has NEVER equal a slam. It certainly isn't a Wimbledon.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:27 PM

Should read Serena is holding two slams in the same year, something Kim has NEVER done in her entire career.

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 04:30 PM

Samantha Elin,
Understand why the WS and Justine are on another level than Kim on Slams, titles and etc.. However, you do have to give Kim credit for her accomplishments in the last 18 months winning the USO in consecutive years(defeating WS on her path on the first one) and also defeated Justine 3 times and is undefeated in finals in her 2nd career as she is rewatching her legacy. Also, Kim has won more Year End Championships than Serena, Venus and Justine for some reason. Since Wimbledon, Caroline has won all tournaments she played except for three. Guess who won those three? Kim. However, I will still say that Caroline will win her maiden Slam before 2012 is over.

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 04:32 PM

Sanantha Elin,
Serena only won the USO in 2008 as Maria won AO, Ana won the French and Venus won Wimbledon. Overall, point understood on Serena.

Posted by GC20 11/01/2010 at 04:35 PM

Poor Caro. She just takes horrifying point of contact pictures. Melanie on the other hand does good hit face.

http://bit.ly/cF4rtL

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:35 PM

Patrick, the point is, if you ask most player which would they rather have, a YEC or a Wimbledon, which do you think they would pick? Kom sa, Caro.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:40 PM

Hmmm, poor Melanie can't make it passed the second round of 90% of her tournament while Caro is the YE #1 with six titles. The two don't belong in the same sentence.

Posted by temes 11/01/2010 at 04:42 PM

Well, I can't blame Pete's math skills since I read through his article and though "yeah, more than .500, that's pretty damn good Elena", however I think her real record supports not winning a slam quite a bit more. lol Though I definitely thought she had a Slam in her.

Posted by lilscot 11/01/2010 at 04:43 PM

Pete:

I'm not sure why you'd say Kim is, "still stuck at 3 slams." How is she stuck? She just won the most recent GS. That shouldn't be called being stuck because she hasn't had an opporunity to play another GS yet. If she loses a few more you might be able to say she's, "stuck at 3 slams," but she sure doesn't look that stuck to me.

What is with the tennis journos lately piling on Kim and Serena about not playing that much but still collecting all the important hardware. I just left a comment over at Steve's latest post as well. In it he also slathers Caroline with praise while taking jabs at the Serena and Kim for not being fully committed and not playing enough, but still coming out and finding a way to win the big titles.

Veterans have earned the right to play less, have kids, and/or focus on their future. They've put in the time and sweat on court. Why should they have a finger pointed at them because the younger top ladies can't seem to get it together?

If people like Kim and Serena can take long periods off between big tournaments yet still come back and beat everyone in the field what is that really saying? It's certainly no reflection on Kim or Serena as much as it is a glaring spotlight on the underwhelming field at the top of the women's tour at the moment.

I have not doubt that will end soon. Caroline, unlike any of her previous fellow slamless #1's, looks far more able and ready to take home that slam. I actually believe she'll do it next year, possibly even in Australia. But the rest are just victims of being part of one of those slow periods in the game. In a couple of years I'm sure things will heat back up again for the women.

But for now, we NEED people like Kim, Serena, Venus, Justine, and even Maria. If nothing else they bring some much-needed drama and flair in a very dull and grey time for their sport.

Posted by GC20 11/01/2010 at 04:45 PM

"Hmmm, poor Melanie can't make it passed the second round of 90% of her tournament while Caro is the YE #1 with six titles. The two don't belong in the same sentence."

I agree SamE but you're the one that always talks about Melanie.

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 04:49 PM

Samantha Elin,
Obviously, a player wants the Slam more than the WTA Championships title but since the Williams Sisters and Justine taking them, WTA Championships is not bad to have. As of now, Kim is rewriting her legacy since she has returned. The first part of Kim's career is somewhat similar to what Caroline is doing now on not winning the big titles. Kim won a lot of titles and won 90 matches in 2003 but could not win a Slam and blew leads against the players of her generation especially Serena and Justine. On Caroline, 12 titles in 20 finals since 2008 Wimbledon is good and she will continue to improve her game. Remember Amelie got to the top spot and got deep in Slams, except the French, consistently but could not win one until 2006?

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:50 PM

Thanks GC2O. I'm just going to savor the time we have left with Vee, Ree, Justine and even Kim because it we don't they will be gone without us realizing how lucky we were to have all of them. Kom sa, Caro!

Posted by Mike 11/01/2010 at 04:53 PM

Sorry ... you can't win 2 tournaments and be player of the year, even if they're 2 Majors. I agree with the TW poll ... Kim is the WTA player of the year in my book.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:58 PM

Mike, in regards to how titles are evaluated in tennis, are the quality of Serena's tournaments higher then Kim? Serena is the WTA player of the year in my book. "You can't win 2 tournament and be player of the year." Disagree, if you're owning 50% of the slams, and the MOST pretigeous title in all of tennis, then you sure are the player of a year when another player only has l slam compared to your two.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 04:59 PM

Quality trumps quantity.

Posted by weak4.0player 11/01/2010 at 05:00 PM

Caroline Woz and Mel O are professional tennis players. There, that sentence seems to work.

Posted by GC20 11/01/2010 at 05:03 PM

MA - how would you rate the competition in 2003 vs 2010?

2003 top 8: justine, kim, serena, mauresmo, davenport, capriati, myskina, dementieva

2010 top 8 (nov 1): caro, vera, kim, serena, venus, stosur, schiavone, jj

i think 2003 was tougher. all slam winners except for dementieva.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:04 PM

Daveport, "To me the best player was the one holding the most slams." Totally agree.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 05:06 PM

If I were Kim, I think I'd be pretty happy with a 3-slam career. :)

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:11 PM

Agree Sherlock.

Posted by Master Ace 11/01/2010 at 05:20 PM

GC20,
I would say 2003 but was Venus and Serena injured after Wimbledon and they had to miss the USO. If they were healthy, I believe 2003 would have ended with the Williams Sisters facing each other for the 6th time in the last 7 Slams. At that time in 2003, only Justine, who won her first career Slam at the French, Serena, who completed the Serena Slam at AO, Lindsay, who last Slam was at 2000 AO, and Jennifer, who won her 3 Slams in 2 years won Slams. Now in 2010, 4 players have won a Slam(2 of those players won a Slam before 2003) which is the same number at the time in 2003. While Caroline may have the title of the best player never to win a Slam(Elena had that title until retiring at Doha), Amelie or Kim had that title in 2003.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:28 PM

Patrick, who would you pick has player of the year and why? Thanks.

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 05:33 PM

"How is she stuck? She just won the most recent GS ... she hasn't had an opporunity to play another GS yet..."

Good point, lilscot.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:35 PM

How is she stuck? She can't win a slam off the hard courts of North America in spite of many attempts to do so. Kom sa , Caro.

Posted by Ruth 11/01/2010 at 05:38 PM

I was sure that the all-important majors would lose some of their importance when the time came to evaluate the WTA players' seasons. And I was -- sadly -- right!

I have long been a proponent of the "Slams are not everything or even 90% of everything in tennis" theory, and I've always been in the minority in holding that view. So, I cannot help alternately smiling and shaking my head when I see Serena's 2 Slams for 2010 being downgraded in value by some folk. I guess it had to happen.

SamE: Thanks for being consistent in your view about the significance of the Slams in evaluating the overall performances of players. You and my buddy JK have always felt that way, and I felt that too much weight was given to Slams. But I definitely have to agree with you that, fair or not, any Slam win is valued by players more than a YEC win.

Posted by manuelsantanafan 11/01/2010 at 05:41 PM

Just sticking my head in to wish aussiemarg a happy birthday.

Happy birthday, aussiemarg.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:41 PM

Thanks Ruth. I have a feeling if we were talking about any player but Serena there would be no question of who deserves to be player of the year when clearly in tennis Wimbledon is the most pretigeous trophy a player can hold and holding two GS is huge and a feat very rarely seen in tennis anymore. Heck, Roger, doesn't even do it anymore. Why? Because it's extremely HARD to win two GS.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 05:42 PM

Something tells me if Caro ever makes it back to a slam final, and happens to win 3 of them in New York, you wouldn't think it's such a pedestrian accomplishment, Samantha. :)

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:47 PM

Sherlock, I guess you miss my post where I agree with you that Kim should be very happy with her three GS as that is a great achievement. My point was that the quality of the tournaments which Kim won this year are clearly NOT greater than the quality of Serena's two slams, given that she is holding the most important tourney there is. Wimbledon.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 05:48 PM

Manuel Thank you

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 05:50 PM

Do the winners of Wimbledon earn more points than the winners of the other three slams? :)

Posted by Ruth 11/01/2010 at 05:51 PM

"Veterans have earned the right to play less, have kids, and/or focus on their future. They've put in the time and sweat on court. Why should they have a finger pointed at them because the younger top ladies can't seem to get it together?"

Amen to that, lilscot. Venus, Serena and Kim have been toiling in the WTA vineyard for 16, 15, and 13 years respectively. I'd say that after a 10-year run, a player should be able to do whatever she darn well pleases -- even if I might miss seeing her as often as I'd like! :)

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 05:53 PM

When we look at a player and their resume the significant factor will always be a GS title.It is what every player dreams of winning though not all will be bound for this type of glory.Do we then dismiss their other achievements in say winning other tournaments?

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:54 PM

Colette, is it not a question of point, throughout tennis history, Wimbledon has long been the most important trophy a player can hold.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 05:56 PM

I just like hearing you say something positive about Kim, Samantha. It bears repeating. :)

Sure, 2 > 1 as far as slams go. I have no problem with that. I don't know enough of what they did outside the slams to know if that makes any difference or not.

I'm not sure I understand the "Wimbledon is the most important tourney" view. In my opinion, while it certainly has a certain cachet and prestige, a slam is a slam as far as comparing records.

Posted by Aube,Intimidation has never worked with me,even if I had to be the looser!!!categorically refuse to be weak!!! 11/01/2010 at 05:56 PM

My motto in tennis is to :wait and see",I never could understand why predict who's never going to win a slam or who's going to win the next for that matter???

Let's wait and see,Caro has been great,we have to live it at that, until she wins a slam and we will say she's a slam winner... but she's going to get it in Australia or in such and such time is pure speculation...

Same with Serena and Venus and the others,what happens in 2011 for them is in no ones knowledge today Novemeber 1st 2010!!!
I remember last year speculation about Justine,I haven't seen her collect the french,so patience guys,we gonna see,no?

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:57 PM

Of course not AM, but Roger became the GOAT when he did one thing, pass Sampras record in slams. If this is how we measure players then we don't change it for Serena.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 05:57 PM

lilscot I have often chuckled to myself when people have critise say Serena for picking her tournaments?

I mean at age 29 we as fans are still lucky she has the passion and love for the game.

I think she has indeed earnt her stripes and can pick and choose what tournaments she likes.Also at one time this year she and Venus at age 30 years young were the no 1 doubles team in the world.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 05:59 PM

"Wimbledon has a certain prestige" Indeed it does Sherlock.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 05:59 PM

Sherlock Wimbledon is the "home of tennis" I guess its every players dream to win there.Players have often said they get a special feeling playing there as well.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 06:03 PM

There is no greater trophy in tennis than Wimbledon, "the home of tennis".

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 06:03 PM

AM, I agree. At least from a personal perspective for a lot of players. But aside from warm and fuzzies, when comparing records, if player A wins, say, AO and USO, and player B wins French and Wimbledon, there's no extra credit for the grass title. :)

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:04 PM

*bangs head*

Posted by Karly 11/01/2010 at 06:04 PM

Samantha, Rochus never actually accused Justine of anything, he was asked a question about "rumors" about Justine and he said he heard the rumours.. that's not an accusation. He just basically said" yeah I heard the rumours and I too thought it's odd for her to retire" well it may be "odd" that doesn't mean it's steroid related and fortunately he didn't say it had to be.. although I have to think jealousy was motivating the comment he DID make, if you read the whole interview he also snipes about Justine AND Kim getting so much attention that he felt male players deserve more... jealousy makes people do alot of things and say or not say alot of things, maybe that's why he didn't defend Justine and just left his comment open for attacks on Justine.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 06:04 PM

Lol, Colette. :)

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:06 PM

Hi, Sherlock. As you watch the Giants *win* tonight, laugh AT me or laugh WITH me as I say Tim Lincecum reminds me of Francesca Schiavone.

Can't imagine we'll have another non-pitching duel like the last L-L matchup.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 06:06 PM

Colette, not sure why you're banging your head when most people agree that Wimbledon is the most important trophy in tennis. You're right there are no greater points given, but there is certainly greater prestige if you can say I'm a Wimbledon champion.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 06:06 PM

Sherlock As you are aware of am not a fan of the grass.Clay to me is the hardest slam to win over 2 weeks.It tests a player on all levels.One has to be soo fit as the rallies are long and also your mental ability as well.

Colette Passes you a headache tablet for your head ok

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:07 PM

Thanks AM, I'm only banging it on grass, so it's softer.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 06:08 PM

Karly, you're right, he didn't directly accused Justine, but he left no doubt what he thought. My problem is, why did he wait for his retirement to make his observations on the timing of Justine's retirement?

Posted by Alexis 11/01/2010 at 06:09 PM

I haven't been here in a while, but I just had to post something. Even though I think Wimbledon is the most prestigious major because of its history, etc., I think in terms of overall importance, all the majors are on equal footing these days. The AO didn't use to be, but it is now. Serena winning Wimbledon is no better than Kim winning the USO. A major is a major. Now obviously winning 2 majors is better than winning 1... but does that necessarily make you "Player of the Year"? I don't necessarily believe so... especially in the case where Serena didn't win any other title and missed most of the second half of the year due to injury.

As for the YEC, no... it isn't as big as a major, but it's second only to the majors. I'm not sure what it is worth in term of points on the Womens side... but on the mens side, it is second only to the majors in terms of points (1500 versus 2000 for a major).

All the great ones win majors. And all the great ones win YECs too.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 06:11 PM

My post should have read, most people agree that Wimbledon is the most prestigeous trophy in tennis.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 06:14 PM

Colette, yeah, I hope it's a bit more of a pitcher's duel than game 1.

I love the Lincecum-Franny comparsion, as much as it creeps me out. :)

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:16 PM

At least I have a prestigious headache

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:17 PM

Sherlock, he's one of those people who, if you saw him walking down the street, you'd never imagine he was a world-class athlete.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 06:17 PM

Lol. Everyone is envious of your headache, Colette. :)

Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:19 PM

Grass-stained foreheads rock

Posted by Ruth 11/01/2010 at 06:22 PM

And, now, I'm going to arrogantly re-post the first two paragraphs of my 5:38 pm comment , then go somewhere and bang my head, too; the smiling and shaking of the head just won't do anymore: LOLOLOLOL

++I was sure that the all-important majors would lose some of their importance when the time came to evaluate the WTA players' seasons. And I was -- sadly -- right!

I have long been a proponent of the "Slams are not everything or even 90% of everything in tennis" theory, and I've always been in the minority in holding that view. So, I cannot help alternately smiling and shaking my head when I see Serena's 2 Slams for 2010 being downgraded in value by some folk. I guess it had to happen.++


Posted by Colette 11/01/2010 at 06:22 PM

On a serious note, congrats to your girl, SamE. Even tho' she didn't win the YEC, she certainly had a tremendous year and showed her fans and the naysayers how she could continue to step things up.

Posted by Mike 11/01/2010 at 06:33 PM

I'm not 'downgrading' the importance of the 2 slam wins ... of course it's significant. But if that's all you have in an entire season full of tournaments, how can you say she's the best if she hasn't played enough to prove it? Should we give Serena the award because she probably would have won had she played?

I applaud Serena for all she's given to Women's Tennis, but let's not get carried away.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 06:35 PM

BTW, I would Kim player of the year over Caro by a long shot because her titles are better, if we took Serena out of the running for POY

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 06:39 PM

Should read I would give Kim. Thank you Colette, very nice of you. Mike, it's easy to say she is the best if you believe that quality is greater than quantity. I believe that a GS is the highest quality. Caro's six titles are no where near the quality of Kim's GS and that is why I would pick Kim over Caro for POY.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 06:39 PM

"As for the YEC, no... it isn't as big as a major, but it's second only to the majors."

That's an interesting point, Alexis. Aside from whatever points are awarded, I wonder what tennis fans think on this issue. My interest slows WAY down after the US Open, so while I will certainly watch if there are some good matchups, I find little meaning in it. I get more excited for the Masters tourneys because they are building to something bigger.

Posted by Sherlock 11/01/2010 at 06:58 PM

But Samantha, I think you'd agree that the waters muddy in a hurry on this issue. Sure, 2 slams is greater than 1. But what if Kim had won several tournaments of the next tier (whatever the Masters level is called on the women's side)? Or if Caro had a slam to go with her other wins. Does that trump Serena's two slams and no other titles?

Posted by Carol 11/01/2010 at 06:59 PM

Happy Birthday AM, hope you have a great day!!! and.... many Channel gifts:-)

Posted by Mike 11/01/2010 at 07:01 PM

Alexis @ 6:09 = 2 thumbs up.

Posted by Samantha Elin, Caro 2010 YE #1 11/01/2010 at 07:14 PM

Sherlick, If Caro had a slam to go with her other title, Kim's tournaments would still be of better quality because Miami is considered a tier l level plus the YEC I believe is a more important title than the other Caro has.

Posted by Andrew 11/01/2010 at 07:14 PM

I'm not sure, on either the WTA or the ATP side, that GS > YEC > Tier 1/1000 tournaments.

You can qualify for the SF stage with one victory out of three in the RR, or go out with two out of three victories. Plus there are 8 players (and obviously, not necessarily the best 8): IW and Miami have 96 player entries, if memory serves.

At the start of the 2000s, I had the impression that the YEC was somewhere between an exo and a "true" tournament. I think it's closer to a true tournament than an exo in 2010, but I still like the pure knockout format.

Posted by Roddick fan from Virginia 11/01/2010 at 07:15 PM

I would vote for Player of Year in this order---Kim, Caroline, Serena, Vera, Francesca.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President,Dear Wayne Has Only Five More Days In Jail.Vamos Wayne 11/01/2010 at 07:17 PM

Carol Many thanks Love the Channel Gifts lol!

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