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Wozniacki benefits from absent Serena

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Jonathan Overend | 18:03 UK time, Sunday, 10 October 2010

Caroline Wozniacki, the golden-curl-girl from Denmark, has undoubtedly been the player of 2010 so far on the WTA Tour and on Monday, at the age of 20, becomes the 20th woman to top the world rankings.

Effervescent Wozniacki, the seventh-youngest woman to become world number one, has won five titles this season (make that six if she wins the rain-delayed Beijing final on Monday) thanks to a combination of almost unbreakable groundstrokes and magnificent movement around the court.

It sets her up perfectly for a natural counter-punching game.

She retrieves a lot, plays a lot, wins a lot. But let's be honest, she is top of the pile because Serena Williams doesn't play as much as she does.

Caroline Wozniacki and her father Piotr

Much like Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic before her, Wozniacki has been rewarded for consistency on the WTA Tour rather than her Grand Slam record.

Williams, who hasn't played since Wimbledon after cutting her foot, would almost certainly still be number one were it not for that broken piece of glass. Or, for that matter, had she played more frequently in a six-tournament, part-time season.

She has two major titles this year and, although it pains me to say it, not being a fan of her ego-trips, she is correct when she says "everyone knows who the real number one is".

Interesting that Serena's comeback, all set for Linz in Austria this week, was cancelled on the eve of the tournament. Will she make the Sony Ericsson Championships in Doha, or is her season at a close?

Having said all that, there is nothing Wozniacki can do about the schedule of her rivals. Nobody runs a schedule like Serena. Except perhaps Venus.

It may work for them (and it's the key reason for their incredible longevity) but it's not something which helps the tour.

It makes it almost inevitable that another player will overtake her, as Wozniacki has done, on the strength of frequency of play rather than success at the biggies.

Inevitable too that people will question the suitability of the incumbent. And so, rather unfortunately, we have to scrutinise Wozniacki's credibility as a number one.

The press release from the WTA trumpeted the fact she reached at least the fourth round of every major championship this year.

Is that really something for a world number one to be proud of? Would Serena be happy with two fourth rounds, one quarter-final and one semi?

Unfortunately the PR folk, desperate to boost Wozniacki's anonymous profile among non-fanatics, would have been better leaving that one out. It's not that impressive.

Don't forget Wozniacki was humbled in the fourth round of Wimbledon by Petra Kvitova, winning only two games, and lost to Vera Zvonereva in straights sets when well placed to make a second successive final at Flushing Meadows.

What is impressive is her consistency on the tour and her ability to win top-tier events such as Tokyo and Montreal.

Is she better than Safina and Jankovic? In my opinion, yes. She has fewer weaknesses and is mentally stronger.

I like the way she plays with a smile and I believe she will win a major, perhaps starting in Australia in January.

Until then, she will always be in that second group of challengers behind the big four major champions of the past decade: Serena, Venus, Henin and Clijsters.

No disgrace there, that is reality - no matter what the rankings say.


  • Comment number 1.

    It is great to read a measured and well argued piece on the subject of Caroline becoming number 1. I agree with all the sentiments expressed. Williams is obvoiusly the best player on the tour, but Caroline is the most consistent, and is still only 20. She will need to do even better next year to defend all these points. A grand slam or two will silence her critics!

  • Comment number 2.

    Hello Jonathan,

    It seems then that there are two "Number 1" players.

    Wozniacki is the Number 1 Tour player, by virtue of her (undoubted) ability and playing schedule.

    S Williams is the Number 1 Major player, by virtue of her major record, (undoubted) ability and playing schedule.

    Realistically, until Wozniacki starts winning majors (or S Williams actually retires), there can be no definitive way to cleave this split.

    Good luck to Miss Wozniacki.

  • Comment number 3.

    Great article Overend!! Do you think maybe next time you could actually publish something? I am so tired of the new age of BBC journalists. There are so much spelling errors, grammar errors, mis-information reports it is embarassing!!! SOFRT IT OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    I will be so pleased to read the blogs from the English journalists when Westwood gets to number 1 in the golf rankings. I haven't seen him win a major either...

  • Comment number 5.

    "There are so much spelling errors, grammar errors..."

    So many spelling errors, grammatical errors...


    Sort it out

    Let he without sin cast the first stone.

  • Comment number 6.

    The problem we have is that the media/WTA/ATP have this misconception that the rankings are designed to identify the best player in the world. They in fact reward quantity/consistency over quality. This fact was reinforced at the US Open. Prior to the event Kim Clijsters was ranked 3, having won the event she was demoted to 5, being overtaken by Venus Williams and Vera Zvonareva, both of whom she had defeated in winning the title. To truly judge a player look at who (s)he has lost to - not who (s)he has beaten, particularly in the Majors - that is a more telling guide to their capability.

    PS Looking at this measure you would also conclude that Andy Murray is over ranked at 4.

  • Comment number 7.

    Great to learn that she is the seventh youngest woman to become world number one. What a killer stat, you can just keep reeling that one out to your mates for years to come and never fail to surprise and delight people with it.

  • Comment number 8.

    I think at the moment it's pretty obvious Serena is the best female tennis player at the moment regardless of what the rankings say.

    I think though, it shows a lack of strong challengers in the ladies game. Serena can pick and choose when she plays and pretty much maintain number 1 status.

    I am a huge Serena fan, I think she is an amazing player and she isn't given enough credit (people making fun of her looks instead of appreciating her tennis). I would prefer to see her have much tougher competition to further show how good she is.

    Here is hoping for people like Wozniacki to push on and become strong challengers.

  • Comment number 9.

    @ Simon.....obviously you didn't get the sarcasm in @TennisEquality's post. He was just trying to say some of the errors are just too apparent you can't miss them.

    Hope I was of help.

  • Comment number 10.

    Yes tg, you were very helpful. It's amazing how you know what @TennisEquality intended. Your mind reading abilities must be awesome. What colour am I thinking of?

  • Comment number 11.

    C Woz is not the finished article, has a few things to iron out and needs to develop a weapon. However it's not her fault that Serena doesn't play thus making her #1 by default. C Woz though is a huge talent and is only 20 a future GS winner for sure

  • Comment number 12.

    Got to agree with JT, you can't say that the WTA should have missed off the 'at least 4th round at every major' while poiting out she is the seventh youngest world number 1, when there have only been 20.

    Is it just the Williams sisters that create this unusual situation at the top end of the women's game? I always thought that Safina was a truly dreadful player and a disgrace to have at number one. Wozniacki is better but still not great. Compare that tp the men's game, where no one would argue with Rafa's placement at the top of the heap or Fed's before that.

  • Comment number 13.

    A dreadful indictment of the current state of WTA, a player as limited and bland as 'Grinder' Wozniacki has reached number one. Tremendous athlete, defender and retriever but oohhh soo lacking any of the finer arts, creativity in her game. Watching her '3 winners a set' matches is worse than watching paint dry.

  • Comment number 14.

    #7 Brilliant post.

    Not quite in the Martin Tyler class of stats.

  • Comment number 15.

    "... unfortunately, we have to scrutinise Wozniacki's credibility as a number one."
    Surely this is backwards. Wozniacki's No 1 ranking is a matter of arithmetic. The scrutiny should come to the unsubstantiated claim that Serena Williams is the best player in the world. Why is it so hard to accept that the "best" and the "ranking no 1" are different. It's useful when they coincide, but it's not a big deal. If you don't like the ranking system, then lobby to change the rules, or you can spend your time arguing about who's best, and will settle nothing.
    Lee Westwood is apparently about to overtake Tiger Woods as the No 1 golfer in the world. Zero majors to somewhere in the mid teens. Wow!

  • Comment number 16.

    @simon, muppet! Is that spelling good enough for you? Thankyou tgtaxi for seeing beyond the message. I don't know if you have noticed but the laziness of those responsible for the uploading of content is incredible! Every day without fail there are MASSIVE errors littered throughout the site. Unfortunately from what I see it seems to be predominantly in the Sports section :( I have been moaning about it for months but my calls go answered :) no surprise there... More people need to shout about it, the quality of the Blogs are pretty poor on the whole. It seems that posting a controversial comment to raise a reaction qualifies as good journalism nowadays! Very sad...

  • Comment number 17.

    I agree with one of the previous comments that your article is very reasoned and objective. It is difficult to find such an article on most websites by our writers. It seems to be a journalistic maxim that one should wear his biased opinion on his sleeves.

    Fathers of young tennis stars tend to contribute to the stars early exit from the game or worse relegate them to a position of struggling to stay in the top 50 on the ranking list. Caroline would have to defend those points she has gained this year and still must up her game to try to win a major against the fir power of Serena, Venus, Henin and Kim. She has losing records against all of them. It is a pity.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'd be interested to hear what these massive errors in style, panache and general competence are that have so infuriated TennisEquality.

  • Comment number 19.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 20.

    Serena, Vwnus, Henin and Clijsters hardly ever play. Wozniacki has proved her worth against other active players throughout the year. The number one spot rewards consistency over a rolling twelve month period. Grand Slam championships reward consistency over a two week period. They are two completely different things. 'The real number one' is not (and can never be) someone who hardly ever plays.

  • Comment number 21.

    If serena williams cannot be bothered to support the WTA tour and play enough tournaments outside the majors to secure the #1 ranking, which she appears to think is her god-given right, then she doesnt deserve the ranking in the first place! Wozniacki on the other hand has proven her committment to the tour and has done everything in her power to reach the #1 spot. clearly the same cannot be said of miss williams!

    serena should start focussing on her tennis and prove shes committed to the entire tour (not just the majors) before she starts running her mouth off about who the "real number one is". one things for sure though.. with comments like that shes clearly nowhere near the #1 classiest player on the WTA tour!


  • Comment number 22.

    Congratulations to Caroline - clearly worked very hard to climb up the rankings, and seems like a nice girl too, which always helps the public image. But as much as I like her, I think Jonathan was spot on - number 1 or not, she can't consider herself to be up there with S.Williams, Clijsters, Henin or V.Williams until she wins a Slam. Clijsters was number 1 before she won her first Slam, and it was the same for her too - nobody thought she was up there with the best until she started winning slams.

  • Comment number 23.

    To be fair to Serena, it isn't through choice that she's played so few matches this season. She injured her knee after the Australian Open and had to miss at least 5 tournaments and 3 months of play, then cut an artery in her foot the week after Wimbledon and hasn't been able to play since. I admit that she used to treat the WTA Tour really badly but in the last 2 or 3 years she's definitely matured.
    In some respects, I think Wozniacki deserves the number 1 ranking because of her consistent wins in big tournaments (not Grand Slams but the next level down) but I think she's got off lightly because of the fact that Serena and Justine Henin haven't played since Wimbledon, and Venus has only played once since Wimbledon. It'll be interesting to see her face the Williams sisters at the start of next year, if she can beat them she deserves the number 1 ranking.

  • Comment number 24.

    This is all elementary. While I congratulate Caroline for being the best tennis player in the world over the past 12 months, if she were never to win a Grand Slam then she will fade into memory. Ask Ivanovic what she would rather have - her French Open title or the no. 1 spot for a few weeks. I think she'd plump for the latter every time. The case in point is Marcelo Rios. He is better remembered for his comments on the grass of Wimbledon than his stint as the world's best.

    Besides, it is all a ridiculous argument. Until Jankovic and Safina hit the top spot, the rankings were the marker that people agreed on as the marker as the best player in the world at that time. The rankings don't become farcical overnight. There was always the opportunity for this to happen but with a greater range of players going about their business at a top level coupled with The Williams, Clijsters and Henin not playing full schedules, the opportunities for their peers to win more matches and tournaments - therefore more ranking points - means that Woz was always likely to eventually be no.1 by virtue of winning the most titles this year

  • Comment number 25.

    "I think at the moment it's pretty obvious Serena is the best female tennis player at the moment regardless of what the rankings say."

    Not at all. At the moment, Serena can't play tennis because of her injuries, so she'd hardly be the best!

    As for the quality against quantity debate, look at Schiavone, with almost as many tournaments as Wozniacki (just one fewer) and with a slam win among them, but nowhere near on points. Perhaps that's a better comparison.

  • Comment number 26.

    *meant the former, with regards to Ivanovic

  • Comment number 27.

    I find the article somewhat Williams biased, lets examine the facts. Its fine to observe weaknesses in other players games however Venus and Serena both turned pro early (like Wozniacki) Serena in 1995 and Venus in 1994 and it took both players five years to win their first majors. Wozniacki turned pro 2005 and is therefore in my opinion on track to emulate the same. Serena took 7 years to become World #1 and Venus 8 years, we also need to consider the massive media hype and financial support that the Williams sisters were given by foundations and federations. In short Wozniacki deserves her place as World #1 she is consistent, a tough competitor, has a tremendous work ethic on and off court and is non gimmicky! (apart from the yellow nails)so if these attributes are not what is needed to be #1 I must be missing something.

  • Comment number 28.

    Johnathan, I am rather disappointed that you have chosen to write an article that comes across as little more than a thinly-veiled attack on Caroline Wozniacki and a vague moan about the rankings system not favouring Serena Williams.

    It's hardly Caroline's fault that Serena only turns up to tournaments that interest her or that she is required to compete in and as such has only played her twice, both times in 2009 - the first time Serena won a tightly-contested match, the second Caroline retired. Rather than Caroline being #1 because Serena hasn't been around much, perhaps rather Serena was #1 because no-one else was around much to challenge her on a consistent basis?

    What exactly is your point in making a statement such as "that is reality - no matter what the rankings say"? As others have said, the WTA rankings are not designed to show who is best at winning Grand Slams, it's designed to show who is the most consistent across all tournaments. Are you stating that your opinion is worth more than the WTA rankings?

    If all you were to consider in the rankings were who got to the QF or better in Grand Slams, then Serena would be top of the rankings. However, above Caroline (SF & QF) would also be Vera Zvonerava (twice Runner up), Francesca Schiavone (Winner & QF), and Sam Stosur (Runner up and QF). Would you consider all these to be better players than Caroline? Na Li also managed the same results as Caroline - is she as good a player as Caroline?

    If it were Elena Baltacha or Andy Murray that had got to #1 without winning a Grand Slam, would you still be complaining? I suspect not. A little objective journalism would not go amiss here - complaining about the manner in which someone attained something just because you do not agree with the process is only ever likely to result in people accusing you of bias or sour grapes.


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