Posted on Mon, Jul. 22, 2002
Past year is baseline for tennis rankings
WOMEN DON'T ALWAYS FALL AFTER A LOSS
By Darren Sabedra
Venus Williams sauntered into the Wimbledon final two weeks ago ranked No. 1 in the world. Venus' younger sister, Serena, entered the match ranked No. 2.
A sibling clash for No. 1? Not even close.
Venus could have routed her sister 6-0, 6-0 -- as it was, Serena prevailed 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 -- and it would not have mattered. Little sister knew she would replace big sister atop the rankings before the first serve was struck.
Which prompts a question: How does the top-ranked player slip in the rankings even when she is in line to win the game's most prestigious tournament?
The Women's Tennis Association understands the confusion but says its method of using a sliding 52-week window to determine its rankings is fair.
``Our system is set up that it rewards consistency over a 52-week calendar,'' said Chris DeMaria, the tour's vice president of communications. ``Yeah, there are times where we know if Serena makes it to the quarterfinals and loses, she'll still be No. 1.
``But that doesn't just happen from that event. She has to build a great foundation underneath herself.''
The foundation is constantly shifting. Venus enters the Bank of the West Classic, which begins today at Stanford, ranked No. 2 because Serena has collected more points in the past 52 weeks. (Serena Williams isn't playing at Stanford.)
Points vary depending on the prestige of a tournament and a player's ranking. For example, Serena Williams earned 650 points for winning Wimbledon, a Grand Slam event, and 200 for beating her sister, then the top-ranked player.
But that only padded her lead. Serena clinched No. 1 after her semifinal victory because she had a better Wimbledon than she had a year earlier and her ensuing 52-week stretch was slightly stronger than Venus'.
In 2001, Serena lost in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and Venus won the title, which meant Serena entered this year's tournament with a chance to gain points. Venus, as defending champion, could only match her total.
You're not alone. Even tour officials get stumped.
``I have a hard time following it at times because there is a lot of numbers that have to be crunched,'' DeMaria said. ``It's not easy in the middle of an event, for example, when we have people come up and go, `Let's say Serena wins. Will she be No. 1?'
``That may depend heavily on who she plays, who else advances, whether or not she is playing next week. We might say, `She won't be No. 1 at this point, but she could be if she enters next week's tournament.' ''
The WTA uses only a player's best 17 results over the 52-week window. But even that concession sometimes leads to controversy. When Venus and Serena became the first siblings to rank 1-2 in June, Jennifer Capriati, the third-ranked player, questioned the historic feat.
It is hardly a secret that Venus and Serena try to avoid playing in the same tournaments because they don't like to play each other. But that also means they have one fewer obstacle to face.
Capriati also said the path to the top has been easier this year because some of the top players -- Lindsay Davenport and Martina Hingis, for instance -- have been injured.
``It's just kind of funny the way it has worked out sometimes,'' Capriati said in June. ``You know, one plays, one doesn't. But mostly it's just because not everyone is in the game, I think.''
Asked if the rankings would be different had the tour been at full strength, Davenport, who will make her 2002 WTA debut at Stanford, said: ``That's a little bit unfair to say. Maybe it's made it easier for them. But, certainly, they've accomplished so much. Who knows what would have happened?''
DeMaria said Capriati has softened her comments.
He added of the Williams sisters: ``They can manipulate the system as much as they want. But if they didn't win those events, they wouldn't be where they are.''
The men's tour has two lists of rankings. Its 52-week slide system -- which it calls the entry system -- allows for a maximum of 18 tournaments, 13 of which are predetermined. Its second list of rankings -- called the champions race -- starts anew each January.
``That one kind of just tells you who is doing what in a year,'' said Greg Sharko, the tour's director of communication.
What if that system were an industry standard?
Without a doubt, the top-ranked women's player in the world would have had a chance to retain her ranking at the biggest tournament in the world.