Virginia Slims seedings intrigued me back in the Seventies. I once wrote to Laurie Pignon, an experienced tennis journalist for the "Daily Mail" to question something regarding how they were worked out, and he wrote back to say he'd been in touch with the press for the VS tour, who confirmed that for the first three tournaments of the season they used the WTA computer rankings for seedings, but for the remainder of the tour they had their own seedings, based on performance on the tour to date. This would explain Evonne's No.1 this year, and explained to me, a few years later, how players like Ilana Kloss and Ann Kiyomura came to be seeded at Slims events, despite their lowly 'official' rankings. They'd had a good run in an early tournament and reaped the rewards a couple of weeks later.
I know this is a post from a while back. But I am doing some research on the early days of the WTA computer rankings. First, I appreciate this insight into how they did the Slims seedings, because they don't really make sense.
As has already been reported, the WTA acknowledged they missed some of Evonne's results, and that she did in fact hold the #1 ranking for a short period in spring of 1976, from Apr 26 - May 10, which followed her VS Championships triumph over Evert.
But here is something I found from the SF Chronicle, Feb 27, 1976.
COMPUTER SEEDS EVERT SECOND
Evonne Goolagong of Australia has been seeded No. 1 ahead of Chris Evert of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. for the $75,000 Viriginia Slams tournament opening in the Civic Auditorium Sunday at 4p.m. and that proves you don't mess around with a computer.
Just a few hours before the official announcement of the seeding was made in Sarasota, Fla., where the Slims players are performing this week, San Francisco officials came out with word that Evert would be No. 1 and Goolagong No. 2.
“Why not?” one official said yesterday. “After all, Chrissie was defending champion, right? And defending champions are almost always the No. 1 seed, right?”
Almost right. Except when a computer is asked to do the seeding.
You see, computers are more objective than people. Much more. They don’t care that one player (Evert) was named Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. Nor that one player (Evert again) won a record $412,977 in prize money last year. Not even that one player (yeah, Evert) holds a decided lifetime advantage in wins over another (Goolagong).
All the computer cares about is how the two have fared so far this year and here Goolagong has won two tournaments in two tries while Evert has won two in three tries with a runnerup in the third. Goolagong gets the edge by a fraction, the computer says. And what the computer says, goes.
Trailing those two big guns in the seedings came Martina Navratilova of Beverly Hills but late of Czecholsvakia; Virginia Wade of England; Nancy Gunter of San Angelo, Tex.; Marita Redondo of National City (near San Diego); Rosie Casals, the Golden Gate Park product who now lives in Sausalito, and Terry Holladay of La Jolla.
There’s an excellent chance the finals on Saturday, March 6, will be a sellout, in which case they will be televised nationally, live with no blackout. But tournament officials and CBS aren’t certain.
If they’d run it through the computer, though, they’d probably know for sure.
I know the WTA instituted computer rankings in Nov 1975. So the 1976 season was the first to start out with computer rankings. But it's interesting that some computer ranking had Goolagong ahead of Evert as of Feb 27. Ironically, Chris would go on to beat Evonne in the Sarasota final 63,60 on Feb 29, and again on March 6 in SF 75,76.
Whatever their system, it couldn't be one where most # of points determines seedings, because Chris played 3 events to Evonne's 2. But they must have used a system of averages. Interesting too that the WTA, or Virginia Slims officials, weren't using any other results. Chris won the L'Eggs World Series on January 11 (which I don't know if it was ever considered on the actual WTA rankings), beating Evonne 63,76. Evonne won the 1976 Australian Open which ended in early January.