Top Ten of the Noughties: a Huge Conundrum
*** As of 14/9/09, I think you'd now have to move Kim above Jennifer, Amelie and Lindsay Davenport. I would even argue above Sharapova, given that Kim's won only one less slam, but has been in more slam finals and won one more YEC, as well as far more titles in general. Personally, with this US Open win, I'd now place her 4th this decade.
I remember ten years ago, when we looked at the top ten of the 1990s, and reflected on the top ten of the 1980s, there was very little to fundamentally disagree on. The top ten of this decade is almost impossible to rank, in my opinion.
I'll tell you my instinctive top ten since 2000, bearing in mind slam titles, finals and semi-finals; tour titles tier 2 and 1; Miami and Masters titles; ranking consistency; head-to-heads; and longevity across the decade in terms of match wins over a number of years. To a lesser extent, I'll look at success across all four surfaces. However, I'll be the FIRST to say this is problematic because I haven't yet looked at the minutae of statistical data, and even then, it comes down to which statistical data we value above others.
I invite any statistics junkies to shed light, and people to pull apart my ratings. As I've said, this is not diligently researched.
1. Serena Williams - with 10 slams this decade, at all four majors, we can't really argue against that. Also winner of the Masters and multiple winner of Miami.
2. Venus Williams - It's a tough call against Henin, but she has an overwhelming winning record against Justine, albeit achieved mostly before Justine's peak years (although it might be argued that Henin's peak years only commenced when the Williams sisters mentally and physically wore themselves out). Like Justine, she has an Olympic gold, and although she only once won the Masters, against the Belgian's two victories in that competition, she won Miami in 2001, which Justine never achieved. Venus has also played 13 slam finals this decade, against Henin's 11. Both reached all four slam finals in one year, although Venus was non-calendar (2002-03). Above all, I feel that by 2008 Henin had burnt herself out from stretching to great heights, whereas Venus has been able to keep going because it was she who raised the bar in the first place.
3. Justine Henin - Some would argue that Henin was more consistent, achieved more in less time, i.e more 'dominant', and would point to her far superior amount of weeks at number one, including finishing number one in 03, 06 and 07 when Venus did not finish number one ranked once. There's no credible argument for anybody else other than Venus and Serena being placed above her.
Now it gets difficult...
4. Maria Sharapova - Might well already be past her physical and mental best, and playing her last couple of years, but has shown a ruthlessness in slam finals which places her above Davenport. Masters winner (04), number one ranked, and Australian Open runner-up (07). A series of tier 1 and 2 titles in addition, as well as a lopsided winning record over Davenport, and mastered Clijsters and Henin in the end.
5. Lindsay Davenport - Lopsided losing record to Clijsters. Also, just one slam this decade against Capriati's three. Kuznetsova and Mauresmo have also won two slams. However, a vast title haul even during this decade compared with players below, and finished number one in 2001, 2004 and 2005, a hatrick which only Justine and probably Serena this year can match. Also, dominated Mauresmo in their head-to-head, was far more prolific a title winner than Capriati (with two more slam finals), and decisively defeated Hingis when it mattered during their only slam final this decade, right at the beginning in Melbourne, 2000. Lindsay has also lost all of her slams finals to Venus or Serena, and several other classic slam matches to the same pair and Justine. Lindsay won few tier 1 titles, however, compared with Mauresmo, Hingis and Clijsters, and achieved no real success on red clay after 1999.
6. Amelie Mauresmo - Good record against Sharapova and Henin, but very poor against Davenport by comparison (for this reason, I can't place her above Lindsay who time and again proved herself the better player even on green clay). Masters winner (05) and twice runner-up (03, 06), and prolific winner of tier 1 titles (Rome, Berlin, Canadian Open). Also number one ranked and successful on all four surfaces. Has won far more titles than Capriati, against whom (unless I'm mistaken?) she holds a decisive winning record. The obvious criticism would be her poor records against Clijsters, and winning one slam less than Capriati. Some might place an asterix against her Australian Open win of '06, because both Clijsters and Henin, both higher ranked, did not complete their matches and force her to close.
7. Jennifer Capriati - 3 slam wins, plus undefeated by Hingis after she awakened memorably in January 2001, winning the Australian Open against all expectations. Jennifer also has a great record against Serena Williams, some of their matches being unforgettable both for drama and quality, and one of the highlights of this decade. Also achieved a number one ranking and some success on all surfaces. The criticism again comes back to her lack of other titles. Also, a poor record against Clijsters after early 2002, and no other slam finals.
8. Kim Clijsters - Massive title haul of tier 1 and 2 titles on all surfaces, and either winning or 'respectable' records against ALL of the players I've ranked above her: Davenport, Mauresmo, Sharapova, Capriati...even Venus, Serena and Henin. Therefore, Clijsters could have been ranked higher were she to have won more slam titles. However, she reached the finals of three slams, and was twice a semi-finalist at Wimbledon as well as Eastbourne winner. Winner of Miami (05) and the Masters (02,03). **Reading this back to myself, I'm starting to wonder whether she belongs above Capriati and even Mauresmo.
9. 10. Svetlana Kuznetsova - Twice a slam champion, twice runner-up, and Miami winner (06). The only player in this top ten never to have been ranked number one this decade, but has been ranked number two. Never achieved Hingis' consistency, and her number two ranking did not last long. Also, poor records against Henin, Clijsters and Serena.
10. Martina Hingis - No grandslam titles this decade, but spent the entire 2000 and most of 2001 ranked number one. Reached the final of the Australian Open three times, in 2000,2001 and 2002, and has good records against Serena, Venus and Davenport, defeating the latter pair even after her 2006 comeback. On that subject, she also defeated Sharapova and Kuznetsova on her return to the sport. Miami and Masters winner (2000) and won several more tier 1 titles during that year, as well as Rome in 2006. Lost classic matches to Venus at 2000 Wimbledon and the U.S Open, yet defeated the Williams sisters back-to-back in a grandslam championship, at the 2001 Australian Open, which only Henin could repeat years later when they might have been past their physical peak. Her downfall is that she never won a slam this decade, nor even indeed reached a final outside of the Australian Open, so it's difficult, however tempting, to place her above Kuznetsova with two slams, as well as runner up positions at the French AND U.S Opens.
Other credible contenders...
11. Elena Dementieva - I think Elena's consistency across the decade places her above Pierce. Elena will finish 2009 in the top 10, which will be for the 6th time, her 7th in the top 11, and her 10th in the top 20, which will make her the ONLY woman to finish all seasons of the last decade in the top 20. She's also been a semi-finalist at all the majors, including a semi-final at the Masters of 2000, and runner-up at Miami in 2004. Most notably, perhaps, a singles GOLD (2008) and SILVER (2000) medallist at the Olympics, which only Steffi Graf has achieved (88G, 92S). Losing records against most or all of the top ten in the list above, but wins over almost all of them in major championships (including Miami, the Masters and the Olympics). Twice a slam finalist, of course, with a clutch of tier 1 and 2 titles. 500+ career wins and rising, something Clijsters, Kuznetsova, Capriati, Henin, Serena and Sharapova have yet to, or did not, achieve.
12. Mary Pierce - Thunderous performance at the 2000 French Open, having demolished Sanchez-Vicario in the 2000 Hilton Head final (now Charleston) as a harbinger of things to come. Despite injuries and lack of match fitness, managed to post victories over Sharapova and Venus in 2004, before a sensational return to form in 2005, which, despite lack of grandslam titles, might well have been her best year. During 2005, she collected wins over Henin, Davenport, Mauresmo, Dementieva and Clijsters. However, lack of constancy across the decade places her below the others in my view. Half of her grandslam success, as well as most of her career in terms of match wins, and tier 2 or above titles came in the 1990s.
Other outside considerations:
Last edited by Steffica Greles; Sep 14th, 2009 at 05:32 PM.