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View Full Version : Does the WTA ranking system do the players a disservice?


brickhousesupporter
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:10 PM
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.

SoClose
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:13 PM
I don't know about the players, but to women's tennis FOR SURE :)

Aravanecaravan
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:22 PM
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.

The Crow
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:31 PM
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....

goldenlox
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:35 PM
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

brickhousesupporter
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:38 PM
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.

colt13
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:40 PM
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.

TennisFan66
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:46 PM
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.

delicatecutter
Mar 22nd, 2010, 02:47 PM
The system is broken. :bigcry: Bring back Quality Points!

miffedmax
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:03 PM
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.

Tennisstar86
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:07 PM
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...

TennisFan66
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:09 PM
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?

goldenlox
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:18 PM
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.

Marshmallow
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:19 PM
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… :yawn: Woopie’. :lol: Well I think you get what I mean :unsure:

*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 :unsure:

AnnaK_4ever
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:19 PM
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...

Clijsters? Mauresmo?

rockstar
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:23 PM
the thing is the tour wants the top players to play throughout the year. but the best players always seem to be injured our unwilling to play.

Marshmallow
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:24 PM
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.


I always think… The male players get paid as much and we don’t have discussions about a lack of desire for them. If the money was such an important issue surely we’d see similar patterns on the ATP too and we don’t.

Marshmallow
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:33 PM
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.

Good post *nods*

Though with respect to the bold, I’d think that was again just symptomatic. The tour specialists are trying to do as well at slams but there are better players, and are thriving at general tour level due to the inconsistency of the better players.

But then when I think about it, are there really any Slam specialists other than Serena? I know Kim and possible Lil Man… Justin something… from Belgium, loves the dirt… yeah him… well suspect they are trying to be slam specialists too, but I don’t think they are finding it such a good system for themselves if Indian Wells was anything to go bye. But I’m not sure there are any other slam specialists? :shrug:

Joana
Mar 22nd, 2010, 03:37 PM
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...

You really think Shuai Zhang deserved another 100 points for win over Safina? Julie Coin's effort at USO '08 was so great she should have been given extra 200 points?

brickhousesupporter
Mar 22nd, 2010, 04:17 PM
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.



These slam specialist happen to be the aging champions, like Kim, Justine, Venus and Serena. At this point in their career it is about adding slams and not the daily grind of the tour. The did that when they were young and it took its toll on their bodies. I know you are going to bring up Elena as an older player supporting the tour, but if I am being honest, her glory is not going to be in winning slams. At this point in her career, as her fans like to point out, she is trying to be a title whore. She is trying to get to past that 20 title mark. To avoid being battered and bruised at the big tournaments, the older players are playing just enough to keep them match fit and ready for the slams. Can you blame them. At this point their legacy is not going to be determined by how many tour titles they win, but by how many majors they have.

Another problem is that their just seems to be a less talent in the up and coming players that the old guards now have these extended careers. These young players should be stepping up to the older players and pushing them into retirement.

rockstar
Mar 22nd, 2010, 04:22 PM
You really think Shuai Zhang deserved another 100 points for win over Safina? Julie Coin's effort at USO '08 was so great she should have been given extra 200 points?

with quality points, neither opponents would probably have been ranked so high ;)

propi
Mar 22nd, 2010, 04:26 PM
I remember people moaning against quality points and now some ask them to come back?? :o
The ranking service does its service to both, players and tournaments, it's a cold numerical reference stating your performance for the last 52 weeks, nothing else, nothing less.

Jem
Mar 22nd, 2010, 04:33 PM
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.

Excellent post and spot on. I actually like the ranking system OK. The required ranking points levels the playing field -- everyone gets to enter the same tournaments and they're included in their ranking. You have the grand slams, the four mandatories and then there's some playing room where you can earn rewards for playing a little bit more. Absent a true averaging system, which was my favorites, I think the current system works pretty well.

Gdsimmons
Mar 22nd, 2010, 04:56 PM
Without a shadow of a doubt, yes

fufuqifuqishahah
Mar 22nd, 2010, 08:13 PM
I think it's fine, you just have to look at the players.

Serena is still #1.

Yeah Wozniacki is #2 but she plays well almost every week which is something that cannot be said about most other top players.

a Grand Slam SF is 900 points whereas a Premier Mandatory Win is 1000 points. I think that's about right. A Grand Slam Win is 2000 points. If they start giving GS Wins 3000 points or something ridiculous, thenpeople are going to start complaining about "fluke" runs and how it messes up the ranking system.

At any rate, there is always going to be something to complain about. The only thing you can do is think of how to improve it with your own detailed ranking system and then see how people rank throughout the course of the year.

TheAllan
Mar 22nd, 2010, 08:34 PM
At any rate, there is always going to be something to complain about. The only thing you can do is think of how to improve it with your own detailed ranking system and then see how people rank throughout the course of the year.
An Elo ranking system, which can be likened to a full-blown quality-point system, would probably be as accurate and objective as possible - though I'm not aware of anyone maintaining one at the moment. Here is an older one:

http://tedstennis.tripod.com/

The formula is provided in the FAQ (http://tedstennis.tripod.com/faq.html).

It's not perfect either - the challenge of giving accurate weight to tournaments at different levels will always be difficult. But I like the general scheme of his system, especially the concept of penalty losses to punish inactivity and his adjustments for qualifying matches.

Of course, the problem with such a system is that it will probably be considered too complex for the public. One of the objectives of the current system is clearly to make it as simple and transparent as possible.

terjw
Mar 22nd, 2010, 09:42 PM
Well - some observations:

Quality points don't make any difference. Those who moan that they should bring them back have obviously not done any serious work constructing tables to prove what difference it would make and have never read the posts of those who did put in the work to produce tables when quality points were scrapped so we could see the difference. They showed it hardly made any difference. Sometimes the odd player was swapped round - usually some change that noone was excited about or clamouring for. So if any advocate of the old quality points system wants to produce weekly rankings to show exactly what the rankings would be as opposed to what they think it would be - I'll look at that. Until then - I don't take their argument seriously.
.
Rankings do have to measure consistency as well as peak performance - and that is where people go wrong when they say a #2 is not as good as the players below her:
If we have player X and Y and on their peak A game - X(A) > Y(A)
But let's say player X has to play her A game to be better than player Y - Y(A) > X(B)
Now suppose player X is only able to play her A game 20% of the time,
whereas player B is able to plays her A game 80% of the time.
Who's the better player?
.
If I were changing rankings - I'd have them as they are but the points earned gradually depreciating over the year so the most recent tournaments counted for more. But leaving that aside - there's always going to be a difference between a ranking earned with results and likelihood of winning the next slam. Remember rankings represent not just how good you can play but how well and long you can sustain your A game.
.
Bookies odds are probably the best independant indication of likelihood to win the next slam. So I think seedings in slams should be done by committee and actively encouraged not to just follow the rankings. i.e. the norm to be NOT the same as the rankings.Let's face it. We are talking about Caro here aren't we. The basic problem is not Caro or the rankings - but the other players who are far better at their best but just don't produce their best very often.