Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice? - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:10 PM Thread Starter
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Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

For a while now the rankings system has not been an indicator of who the best players are. It just shows who has earned the most points over a 52 week period. A high ranking brings with it high expectations. When the pressure filled grandslams come around the best players are expected to play up to their seeding/ranking, because part of being the best is playing your best when it counts the most. However, since these players are clearly not the best they often falter and feel the pressure to maintain and justify their rankings. More time than not, that they fail to live up to the expectations. It has happened to Jankovic, Ivanovic, Kuznetsova and Safina. Will it happen to Wozniaki? Is the WTA affecting its players confidence and psyche by elevating some players to levels they should not be at this point in their career?


P.S. I know that the WTA wants to promote their tour, so they make the points really big in their events, but lets be honest, the weekly tour is not the world stage. When you have your top players failing on the world stage it tarnishes your image/product.

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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:13 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

I don't know about the players, but to women's tennis FOR SURE

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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:22 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

That's a good point, but I don't know that it's any more true now than it was when the rankings started in 1973.

People will always want some handy-dandy way of organizing the players according to skill level, so the computer ranks will not disappear. Nor, with as much money as the players are pulling down, should "rankings pressure" be an excuse for poor play. The simple answer to the rankings problem is to have a panel of tennis journalists rank the players subjectively on their performance, like they each independently did in the old days. Sure, there was controversy, but isn't there always?

As for the problem of performance pressure, personally, I think it goes deeper than just rankings. My theory, and I'll stick with it until something, or someone can come up with a better one, is that several factors have come together in the past decade or so to fundamentally change the game from the way the players have traditionally approached it.

1. Rapid changes in technology have made the game vastly more powerful than in the past, leading to far more incidents of injury and fatigue. In short--the advances in physical training haven't kept up with the advances in technology, and female bodies can't handle those kinds of stresses on a regular basis. This leads to an absence of consistency and rivalry, and an environment where players who bomb out one week are in the finals the next. Rest, more than anything, dictates who wins.

2. Too much money in the game has made today's crop of players complacent and perhaps not as "hungry" for titles as players have been at times in the past.

3. Too much emphasis on "slams" as opposed as to to larger events that have been mainstays of the tours for decades and important in their own right. For the casual fan, the year basically boils down to "who won the four grand slams?" While they are the most important tournaments, historically, their importance was not nearly as overwhelming as it is now. I think this is bad for the game, because you have some players who gear their entire seasons around them, and don't give a damn about the rest of the year. Not good for tennis in general.

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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:31 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

For the people nagging about the rankings all the time, how would you make them so that the right (according to you) players are in front? And who is a deserving number 2 atm? Kim? Venus? Svetlana? Elena? I think you can critisize all of them....

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:35 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

What do you want rankings to reflect?
There was no way going into IW that Jankovic deserved the #1 seed, but she won.

That happens at most tournaments. Players dont play exactly the same every week.
They are not machines.

The rankings just give a numerical list for seedings. So players who do consistently well get good seeds

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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:38 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

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Originally Posted by The Crow View Post
For the people nagging about the rankings all the time, how would you make them so that the right (according to you) players are in front? And who is a deserving number 2 atm? Kim? Venus? Svetlana? Elena? I think you can critisize all of them....

This is not about whether a player deserves the rankings or not. I have said numerous times that Caroline is number 2 because she played the WTA rankings game the 2nd best over 52 weeks. Same for Dinara when she was number 1. This thread is about whether or not a highly ranked player getting beat repeatedly by players ranked lower than them affects their development as players. Would they have been better if they did not have the pressure to perform to their rankings. When clearly they are not as good as their rankings.

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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:40 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

The ranking system is pretty good. Due to injury and long breaks, the system looks skewed, but is very good. And due to the fact that there are different levels of tournaments, different size fields, plus qualies at every tournament, it is about as good as it can get. Compare it to other solo sports. Do you want it like the golf rankings, where the top 125 have a card for the year and everybody else has to qualify? Do you want it like NASCAR and use last season's points for the first 5 events and use the Race rankings after? The way it is set up now, the best can keep a high ranking with a limited schedule and the rest can still have good moments.

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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:46 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

Fingers crossed this can remain a serious thread and not quickly become the usual WUM nonsense.

Its clear to see that for players like Jankovic, Ivanovic, Safine; being No 1 was a huge burden. Ana won a Slam, but still faltered. For whatever reason.

And you really gotta ask why? There is no disadvantage with a high ranking, other than the pressure you put on yourself. Ignore the media and forums like TF. They are both filled with WUMs.

Rankings are used in many sports. FIFA world ranking is used for the draw to the WC. Draw permitting, we may see Brazil / Spain in the WC final. We may not. A team ranked 30 by FIFA can still play and beat a team ranked No 10 - without a million threads on sports forums attacking the FIFA ranking system.

Tennis fans seem to be different. Many fans - and I now use the term loosely - seem to expect ranked No 8 to always win Vs ranked No 12 etc etc. If Gud forbid, ranked No 8 did lose to ranked No 12, there's a million threads about 'She is not worthy of her ranking' blah blah blah.

In WTA the ranking is very easy. 52 weeks; points from 16 events. Big events weigh VERY heavy; so for a player like Safina to reach No 1 w/o a Slam win (albeit two finals) is actually a very impressive achievement in itself. Not withstanding the fan WUMMING: 'How can she be ranked No 1 when she hasn't won a Slam' blah blah blah.

And what do we use the WTA ranking for? Only for the seeding in tournaments. Much like FIFA use their ranking. In other sports you could even win a whole season, without winning a single race (read tournament for tennis). In Formula 1 as example, you would win the WDC if at the end of the season, you are the driver with the most points. Doesn't matter if all 2nd and 3rd place finishes. Its the points. WTA ranking is just for seeding. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Moaning against WTA rankings: 'Its so unfair, my player is only ranked blah blah and your player is ranked blah blah', is as rational as howling at the moon (I stole this quote). The ranking is 100% objective and its 100% the same for all players.

End of.
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:47 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

The system is broken. Bring back Quality Points!

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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:03 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by I Heart Mimi View Post
That's a good point, but I don't know that it's any more true now than it was when the rankings started in 1973.

People will always want some handy-dandy way of organizing the players according to skill level, so the computer ranks will not disappear. Nor, with as much money as the players are pulling down, should "rankings pressure" be an excuse for poor play. The simple answer to the rankings problem is to have a panel of tennis journalists rank the players subjectively on their performance, like they each independently did in the old days. Sure, there was controversy, but isn't there always?

As for the problem of performance pressure, personally, I think it goes deeper than just rankings. My theory, and I'll stick with it until something, or someone can come up with a better one, is that several factors have come together in the past decade or so to fundamentally change the game from the way the players have traditionally approached it.

1. Rapid changes in technology have made the game vastly more powerful than in the past, leading to far more incidents of injury and fatigue. In short--the advances in physical training haven't kept up with the advances in technology, and female bodies can't handle those kinds of stresses on a regular basis. This leads to an absence of consistency and rivalry, and an environment where players who bomb out one week are in the finals the next. Rest, more than anything, dictates who wins.

2. Too much money in the game has made today's crop of players complacent and perhaps not as "hungry" for titles as players have been at times in the past.

3. Too much emphasis on "slams" as opposed as to to larger events that have been mainstays of the tours for decades and important in their own right. For the casual fan, the year basically boils down to "who won the four grand slams?" While they are the most important tournaments, historically, their importance was not nearly as overwhelming as it is now. I think this is bad for the game, because you have some players who gear their entire seasons around them, and don't give a damn about the rest of the year. Not good for tennis in general.
I agree with this, and I'd add the way the schedules are done these days (yes, I know I rant about this a lot). Too many events over too wide an area. A tour should be just that--a tour. The wear and tear of playing in a different time zone every week takes its toll on both tours (it seems to affect the men somewhat less, but it does affect them, too IMHO). I would still like to see the calendar redone so that you actually had all the Asian events in a few months, then all the European ones, then all the North American ones. Let the players settle in, have a "home base" to physically and psychologically recuperate, cut their travel time, let their bodies adjust, etc.

My other well-worn rant is the emergence we're seeing of slam specialist and tour specialist, again to a certain extent on both tours. There are players who seem to do well at one or the other, and increasingly rare is the player who excels at both. I think the screwy scheduling plays into this, but it's almost like we have a split tour at this point, one that consists of four slams and one that consists of WTA events.

And yes, quality points would help. But the real issue is doing something to help players have the chance to recover from matches. Even going from LA to Miami is a beatdown if you made the later rounds and have to adjust.

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post #11 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:07 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

its interesting....we never have a player who had never won a grand slam be #1 before they took away Quality points!!!!!! Bring em back...

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post #12 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:09 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

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Originally Posted by Tennisstar86 View Post
its interesting....we never have a player who had never won a grand slam be #1 before they took away Quality points!!!!!! Bring em back...
Chicken and egg?
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post #13 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:18 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

Golf has regional tours. The WTA probably could do that, to a small extent.

The overriding factor is that when players are healthy and doing well, they want to play.
That builds their ranking. Then they get injured or lose form, and you have a high ranked player who doesnt play to the ranking.

You can never correct that totally, because you dont know when/if Ivanovic plays well again. Or Chakvetadze or Sharapova.

I think 1 year is fair, it is a system for everyone. Each player can do what they can under this system.

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post #14 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

Poster #3 beat me to it but I’ll give it a go.

Yes and No IMO.

Yes in the sense that, I think the issue you raise is valid and makes sense; success at large events outside slams inflates ranking and also expectations and pressure which can have a detrimental effect on players psychologically when their stopped winning the BIG titles by better players etc etc. – which aids a higher frequency of choking and poor/nervy play that can extend outside of big tournaments – generally speaking.

But, I think that phenomena is a by product of other bigger problems. Essentially second rate players shouldn’t be winning big events outside slams to begin with. So at the core of the issue is the inconsistency (deliberate or not) of the top players and/ OR that the schedule in it’s current state isn’t feasible.

So… we might want to consider:

*Is the power game too much for most women players to maintain and if so should less power ready racquets be delegated to women players at pro level? Or do more top players just need to adopt Dementieva’s training regime, hence this isn’t an issue needing intervention. Players will learn from people like Dementieva soon enough and adapt.

*Is the tour promoting big tournaments outside slams well enough? I think the ATP master series marketing was best IMO because the prestige is well known. A fuss has been made about Nadal being on the verge of having won the most masters series titles ever – should he win 2 or 3 more to eclipse Agassi. The Premier / Premier Mandatory system seems to be on the right track – but the marketing doesn’t seem to have a zing to it. It’s much better than just labelling tournaments tier 1, tier 2 a separation that was usually explained in terms of the money and points on offer only – not really as part of a valued achievement. They might want to package the bigger tournaments as a ‘Golden set’ and make a fuss about players winning those events. Like for instance Antwerp had that diamond racquet for anyone who won 3 times in 5 years. But not just monetary incentives – just a prestige. ‘She’s won 5 golden set tournaments… WOW just 3 more to go to be the first ever Golden set Champ’. ‘She has 8 tier ones… Woopie’. Well I think you get what I mean

*Also – reschedule events, like put a few more useless events at the start of the year, then Make Sydney a Golden tournament with a week rest/tier 3 before the slam. And extend the grass court season with a big golden mandatory tournament in there. You effectively create a situation where the best preparation before the slam is a particular (just one) big tournament but give the players a week off after for the slam. Something to look into.

So to answer the question – No, because the ranking fiasco is just symptomatic of wider issues and really second rate players crumbling on the big stage will always happen unless we can get more top players turning up to scoop the big titles. That should be the focus on any intervention.

Having said all that, I think maybe some of you guys are making far too much of this. Maybe we are just in a transition period that will level out in a few years. The players know the top tournaments, and Kim and Justine are understanding that Serena’s schedule doesn’t work for them. Players will adapt to the more powerful game and it will transform – because success will require more than big hitting – it already does. Give it time.

I hope that makes sense, I’m working on 2 things and typing this up
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post #15 of 27 (permalink) Old Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:19 PM
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Re: Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?

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its interesting....we never have a player who had never won a grand slam be #1 before they took away Quality points!!!!!! Bring em back...
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