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bandabou
May 14th, 2004, 02:59 PM
A Slightly Longer View

We could easily start with a lecture here about human short-sightedness: How everyone is in it for the short term gain. This has implications for everything from the stock market to evolutionary biology.

But we'll spare you -- less because we aren't tempted to do it than because, once we started, we might never stop.

Still, here's something to think about: We give "player-of-the-year" awards, and so forth. But what about two-year awards? Three-year awards?

It's really rather silly to give one-year awards when we tend to judge players by long-term accomplishments. Monica Seles and Martina Hingis both won three singles Slams in one year in their best year(s). Does that mean Hingis is as good as Seles? Most people would say Seles, with nine total Slams and surely-should-have-won-more, had a better career than Hingis, with five singles Slams.

But why is Seles greater? Because of long-term results.

Which obviously means we need some long-term awards.

So, since we recently finished doing annual awards, we're going to do five-year awards. This, of course, forces us to reduce our list of awards somewhat; we can hardly list the "most impressive newcomer" of 1998-2003! To make up for that, we're going to go back and look at winners for periods before the 1998-2003 period.

And, even though these awards are five-year awards, we're going to award them every two and a half years. This isn't just caprice; while five years is a good period to assess a player over, it's quite likely that a player's hottest period won't correspond to a neat five-year period. So, by giving awards nominally every two and a half years (i.e. in years ending in 0, 3, 5, and 8), we give every player a fair shot.

For lack of a better term, we're going to call each five-year period an "Era." It's not a great name (an "era" probably should be longer than five years), but we need some term -- "Player of the Half-Decade" is just too clumsy-sounding.

We'll do the women first, and cover three Eras. This isn't really fair to Monica Seles, since we're omitting the eras that would have included her, but it's just too hard to remember the tournament fields in the early Nineties to assess these things.

For each award, we've listed an "objective winner" (based on overall results, counting one point for titles and four for Slams) and a "subjective winner," based on our own opinions. The "Ironwoman" award is of course subjective in its criteria; we look for the most events and matches by a top player -- but what's a top player? We decided life was too short to try to define that objectively.

Note that, in the surface awards, the totals for Slams and titles reflect only titles won on that surface.


1999-2003 Era
Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Serena Williams (6 Slams, 22 titles, non-calendar Grand Slam, #1 ranking)
Compare Venus Williams (4 Slams, 24 titles, #1 ranking; 2 of her titles were below Tier II; and she's won only two of four Slams)
Subjective Winner: Serena

Doubles Team of the Era:
Objective Winner: Venus Williams/Serena Williams (6 Slams plus 1 other title)
Compare Ruano Pascual/Suarez (4 Slams, 17 titles, but many small and mostly on clay); Raymond/Stubbs (3 Slams, 25 titles); Hingis/Kournikova (2 Slams, 11 titles, 67-4 record=94%, never lost more than one match in a year)
Subjective Winner: Williams/Williams. On the overall numbers, it's not clear that they're better than Hingis/Kournikova, but they're clearly better than anyone else, and they're still active -- at least when they play (their lack of play is the one real reason we hesitate over this).

Doubles Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Lisa Raymond (3 Slams, 33 titles, #1 ranking)
Compare Paola Suarez (4 Slams, 23 titles, mostly on clay and 12 of them below the Tier II level, #1 ranking); Ai Sugiyama (3 Slams, 20 titles, #1 ranking), Serena Williams (6 Slams, 8 titles, frequently unranked), Martina Hingis (3 Slams, 16 titles, #1 ranking, 115-14 record)
Subjective Winner: Depends on how you look at it. Raymond was the most significant full-time player, but Hingis was best. Still, Hingis gets her award below, so give it to Raymond just to make up for what happened to her at the 2000 Olympics....

Hardcourt Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Serena Williams (3 Slams, 13 titles)
Compare Venus Williams (2 Slams, 14 titles, one of them a Tier III), Martina Hingis (1 Slam, 9 titles, one of them a Tier III), Lindsay Davenport (1 Slam, 7 titles), Jennifer Capriati (2 Slams, 3 titles)
Subjective Winner: Serena

Clay Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Justine Henin-Hardenne (Roland Garros 2003, 4 other titles, three of them Tier I)
Compare Serena Williams; (1 Slam, 2 titles), Jennifer Capriati (1 Slam, 3 titles, one of them a Tier III, Mary Pierce (1 Slam, 2 titles), Steffi Graf (1 Slam, her only clay title)
Subjective Winner: Henin-Hardenne, for lack of an alternative.

Grass Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Venus Williams (2 Wimbledon titles and 2 finals; no other grass titles)
Compare Serena Williams (2 Wimbledon titles, no other grass titles, but no other finals either)
Subjective Winner: Venus, for lack of an alternative

Indoor Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Kim Clijsters (2 year-end Championships, 10 titles, though four of them are Tier III)
Compare Lindsay Davenport (1 Championships, 9 titles), Martina Hingis (1 Championships, 8 titles)
Subjective Winner: It's a close call, but the fact that Clijsters achieved what she did over a shorter period gives her the edge

Ironwoman of the Era:
Objective Winner: Jelena Dokic (120 events despite age restrictions)
Subjective Winner: Kim Clijsters (93 events, 19 titles)

1996-2000
Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Martina Hingis (5 Slams, 35 titles, more than 3 years as #1)
Compare Steffi Graf (4 Slams, 12 titles, over a year as #1), Lindsay Davenport (3 Slams, 25 titles, several months as #1)
Subjective Winner: Hingis.

Doubles Team of the Era:
Objective Winner: Martina Hingis/Jana Novotna (3 Slams, 8 titles)
Compare Gigi Fernandez/Natasha Zvereva (3 Slams, 4 titles), Venus Williams/Serena Williams (3 Slams, 6 titles)
Subjective Winner: Hingis/Novotna. It's not really as close as the above numbers imply; they were easily the best team of the era, but they didn't play much (in fact, the runner-up is probably not Fernandez/Zvereva, who were really at the end of their careers, but Hingis/Kournikova)

Doubles Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Martina Hingis (8 Slams with 6 different partners, Grand Slam in 1998, 32 titles, #1 ranking)
Subjective Winner: Hingis. This is the most open-and-shut of any award we've given; there was no comparison

Hardcourt Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Martina Hingis (4 Slams, 13 titles)
Compare Lindsay Davenport (2 Slams, 12/13 titles depending on whether Olympics count), Steffi Graf (1 Slam, 4 titles), Monica Seles (1 Slam, 9 titles), Serena Williams (1 Slam, 5 titles), Venus Williams (1 Slam, 7 titles)
Subjective Winner: Hingis

Clay Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Steffi Graf (2 Slams, 4 titles)
Compare Martina Hingis (0 Slams, 6 titles), Iva Majoli (1 Slam, 2 titles) Conchita Martinez (0 Slams, 5 titles, though two of them were Tier III), Mary Pierce (1 Slam, 4 titles), Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (1 Slam, 4 titles, though one was a Tier III), Monica Seles (0 Slams, 3 titles)
Subjective Winner: Graf, though we'd be inclined to rate Hingis the runner-up

Grass Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Jana Novotna (1 Slam, 2 titles)
Compare Martina Hingis (1 Slam, 2 titles, but Novotna's other title was a Tier II and Hingis's was a Tier III); no one won more than one Wimbledon, and no other Wimbledon winner won any other grass titles!
Subjective Winner: Novotna

Indoor Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Martina Hingis (2 Championships, 14 titles)
Compare Lindsay Davenport (1 Championships, 9 titles), Steffi Graf (1 Championships, 3 titles), Jana Novotna (1 Championships, 8 titles)
Subjective Winner: Hingis

Ironwoman of the Era:
Objective Winner: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (97 events, 5 titles)
Subjective Winner: Martina Hingis (91 events, 35 titles, at one point hit 99 matches in a 12-month period)


1994-1998
Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Steffi Graf (7 Slams, 27 titles)
Compare Martina Hingis (4 Slams, 19 titles), Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (3 Slams, 14 titles), Monica Seles (1 Slam, 11 titles)
Subjective Winner: Graf.

Doubles Team of the Era:
Objective Winner: Gigi Fernandez/Natasha Zvereva (8 Slams, 22 titles)
Compare Jana Novotna/Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (3 Slams, 14 titles), Martina Hingis/Novota (3 Slams, 7 titles)
Subjective Winner: Fernandez/Zvereva. If they'd held the vote after 1998, Hingis/Novotna might have won (since they were just off Hingis's Grand Slam), but over the period as a whole, Fernandez/Zvereva were the more successful pair.

Doubles Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Natasha Zvereva (9 Slams, 37 titles)
Compare Gigi Fernandez (8 Slams, 25 titles), Martina Hingis (6 Slams, 20 titles), Jana Novotna (6 Slams, 30 titles), Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (4 Slams, 33 titles)
Subjective Winner: Novotna (based on the players she actually played with, her results look better, even if she seems to fight with a lot of partners; also, Zvereva would have won the award for 1991-1995, with 13 Slams and 47 titles)

Hardcourt Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Steffi Graf (3 Slams, 12 titles)
Compare Martina Hingis (3 Slams, 8 titles), Monica Seles (1 Slam, 10 titles), Lindsay Davenport (1 Slam, 8 titles), Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (1 Slam, 4 titles), Mary Pierce (1 Slam, 2 titles)
Subjective Winner: Graf. Hingis is close -- she leads on Rebound Ace, Graf wins on DecoTurf. But there is more DecoTurf than Rebound Ace out there.

Clay Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (2 Slams, 9 titles)
Compare Steffi Graf (2 Slams, 7 titles)
Subjective Winner: Sanchez-Vicario

Grass Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Steffi Graf (2 Slams, 2 titles)
Compare Conchita Martinez (1 Slam, 1 title), Martina Hingis (1 Slam, 1 title), Jana Novotna (1 Slam, 2 titles)
Subjective Winner: Graf

Indoor Player of the Era:
Objective Winner: Steffi Graf (2 Championships, 7 titles) or Jana Novotna (1 Championships, 11 titles)
Compare Martina Hingis (1 Championships, 7 titles), Gabriela Sabatini (1 Championships, her only indoor title in the period!)
Subjective Winner: Novotna (Graf would have won for 1991-1995)

Ironwoman of the Era:
Objective Winner: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (92 events, 13 titles)
Compare (solely as a reference) Steffi Graf (55 events, 27 titles)
Subjective Winner: Sanchez-Vicario

If we wish to sum this up by players, here is what we find (based on the subjective picks, and ignoring the Doubles Teams):

Martina Hingis (5 awards)
Player of the Era 1996-2000
Doubles Player of the Era 1996-2000
Hardcourt Player of the Era 1996-2000
Indoor Player of the Era 1996-2000
Ironwoman of the Era 1996-2000

Steffi Graf (4 awards)
Player of the Era 1994-1998
Hardcourt Player of the Era 1994-1998
Grass Player of the Era 1994-1998
Clay Player of the Era 1996-2000

Jana Novotna (3 awards)
Grass Player of the Era 1996-2000
Doubles Player of the Era 1994-1998
Indoor Player of the Era 1994-1998

Serena Williams (2 awards)
Player of the Era 1999-2003
Hardcourt Player of the Era 1999-2003

Kim Clijsters (2 awards)
Indoor Player of the Era 1999-2003
Ironwoman of the Era 1999-2003

Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario (2 awards)
Clay Player of the Era 1994-1998
Ironwoman of the Era 1994-1998

Justine Henin-Hardenne (1 award)
Clay Player of the Era 1999-2003

Lisa Raymond (1 award)
Doubles Player of the Era 1999-2003

Venus Williams (1 award)
Grass Player of the Era 1999-2003

Looking at this list, the author is a little surprised to find Hingis with the most awards -- but defies anyone to take away any of Hingis's awards on the numbers. The only awards where I felt any hesitation were about Novotna's Doubles and Indoor awards (the former perhaps belonging to Zvereva and the latter perhaps to Graf).

Of course, we can expect a lot more Williams and Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters awards by 2005..

Bob Larsonīs newsletter.

Kart
May 14th, 2004, 03:07 PM
Ironwoman of the Era:
Objective Winner: Jelena Dokic (120 events despite age restrictions)

:rolls:

bandabou
May 14th, 2004, 03:13 PM
DAANNGG!! Didn't even see it....DESPITE AER!!

Knizzle
May 14th, 2004, 03:16 PM
Since when did Vee only have 24 titles from 1999-2003?? He mus not count the Olympics or Munich. I guess he didn't count Serena's Munich either.

Ryan
May 14th, 2004, 04:50 PM
Do the Munich's count on their WTA title record?



Anyway, it's a pretty good list. Very objective since it's going mainly on numbers and when its close in numbers, it's pretty easy to decide the actual winner. This will definately change in the years to come, but as of now its bang-on.