Friday, February 18, 2011

Flying High Again

Caroline Wozniacki has reclaimed the No. 1 ranking. But with finals points to protect at Indian Wells she may not hold it for too long.
Caroline Wozniacki made short work of Shahar Peer in Dubai today, and in the process she also made short work of Kim Clijster's most recent reign as the WTA's No. 1.

But don't think that the final chapter of this saga has been penned. Wozniacki has final points to defend at Indian Wells, quarterfinal points at Miama, a title at Ponte Vedra beach, and a semi final at Charleston.

Clijsters, meanwhile, has a Miami title, and pretty much nothing else until grass court season. Things will get interesting for her when the U.S. hard court swing begins, and continue all the way through next year's Australian Open.

Even as Wozniacki was decisive -- shrewd might be a better word -- in her trouncing of an overly impatient and error prone Shahar Peer yesterday in Dubai, she'll have her work cut out for her if she wants to maintain the No. 1 spot through this spring and summer.

As fiery as the debate has been about the legitimacy of No. 1's who've ascended to the top of the rankings without winning a Grand Slam, the underlying treasure in all of this is that we have a dogfight for the top spot, and both women appear bent on staking a claim.

(I wish the same could be said for Serena Williams, but for now, we can only hope.)

The struggle will undoubtedly inspire a lot of debate about the WTA's rankings system like this and this.

Personally, I think the criticism of the WTA's points system is much ado about nothing. There's a system in place, and all the players know what it is, and why it is the way it is. The WTA wants (and needs) it's top players to show up and play at big events. The fans want that too, so why knock a system that encourages precisely that?

Questions about the legitimacy of the No. 1 ranking isn't really a sign of a catastrophic deficiency in the system. It's just the way that things are at the moment. Woz isn't Serena, and neither is Kim for that matter. But that doesn't mean they can't be No. 1 or that they can't be legitimate No. 1's. Moreover, it doesn't change the fact that doors are opening on Madison Ave. for the person that is good enough -- or diligent enough, or defensive enough, whatever -- to hold the top spot.

The public can badger Caroline all they want about her lack of a Grand Slam trophy, but it won't change the fact that A) Wozniacki is a hell of a player and b) she doesn't really seem to give a kangaroo punch about all her naysayers.

She's intent and doing what she does best: Playing a maddening brand of defensive tennis that infuriates all but the most patient and clever players, and eventually turns them into error-spraying, overhead-missing, racquet-smashing messes. It may not be the highest form of athletic achievement, and she certainly doesn't remind us of the wildly creative Suzanne Lenglen when she plays, but that shouldn't take away from Wozniacki accomplishments to date, nor should it cause us to rule her out as an even more legitimate No. 1 in the very near future.

She's improved a lot in the last two years, and she's handled the scrutiny with a lot of aplomb, and a sense of humor to boot.

She'll play Jelena Jankovic in the semis tomorrow. She's yet to win in four tries against Jelena, but the points on the line are sure to bring out Wozniacki's best tennis.


  1. The thing with Wozniacki is that, when you compare her to the previous #1s, she has NEVER beaten Serena, Venus, Kim, Justine, Jankovic, Safina (not a single victory against any of them) and has losing records even with Sharapova and Ivanovic.
    That doesn't speak well about the legitimacy of this ranking system

  2. Agreed palbi, on that front. But it's hard to say she hasn't earned it. She's fighting hard and she can only beat who is on the other side of the net. More big wins are a must to solidify her reputation, but she's doing a lot of good things on the court to get that No. 1 spot.

    Even so, she'll likely be No. 2 again after Indian Wells unless she has some tricks up her sleeve.

  3. A word on the ranking/slam question: people make far too much of the 'slamless No1'. It takes an epic effort to play your way to the top of the tennis tree. Not many players manage it, so it suggests a certain quality. Grand Slams are a different thing altogether, requiring something extra that not every player possesses. I don't know if Woz has it. I'm not too bothered if she doesn't. I find this constant complaining that No1's without a slam are somehow deficient very cynical. These women should be celebrated for their talents and hard work and not derided for not being the next Federer or Graf. The legends are special and the game averages about one a generation. And the rest of the field? Well, they are fitter and more disciplined than I am. They certainly hit better than I do. They deserve their shot. I'm not going to say they're not worthy, as long as they play their best as often as they can.

  4. Marie-Paule: Celebration over degradation it is (or ought to be)!

  5. Totally! They are goddesses of our time!


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