Why being British number one matters
In tennis we often talk about "British number one" when domestic rankings don't technically exist. What we're dealing with, of course, are world rankings and some players are keener than others to sort them by nation.
Greg Rusedski appeared so keen to finish the 2005 season ahead of Tim Henman and Andy Murray he flew to Ukraine to play a bonus challenger tournament.
That was the autumn of metaphorical batons, or torches, or whatever cylindrical objects one is supposed to pass at moments of sporting abdication.
Henman didn't really care. He knew his time was up.
Murray couldn't understand the fuss. For him, the status of British number one meant next to nothing. Even less now, with nobody else within 151 ranking places.
It has been a relatively successful year for British number one Baltacha. Photo: Getty images
But for the other British number one, Elena Baltacha, staying on top of the domestic pile is a massive incentive. Likewise, the challenge of overtaking her that currently faces Anne Keothavong, Heather Watson and Laura Robson.
As Baltacha prepares to finish a second successive season inside the world's top 50, she knows finishing as British number one will mean a very respectable international ranking because her compatriots are biting at her heels.
She considers 2011 to be her most rewarding year, with a career-best clay season and a landmark victory only last week in Poitiers, France in her last-16 tie in a tournament where she went on to reach the final.
She took on Virginie Razzano, a tough opponent to work out and break down, who had won their last three meetings. But with perfect preparation and game execution, Baltacha found a way to reach the quarter-finals. It's the scalp she prizes most from the year.
It has to be said that bottom-line success for the Ipswich resident is to get through a season without serious injury.
Many matchday mornings, at various tournament hotels, Baltacha has woken with severe back pain. It is most acute first thing and the pain gradually eases throughout the day. The 28-year-old has learned to deal with it and play through it.
Keothavong is finishing the season strongly with four wins in Linz, Austria, before reaching the last four at the WTA event in Luxembourg, which she competed in as a qualifier, and then victory at a third-tier ITF event in Barnstaple. This week she rounds off her year in Munich with her ranking back around the 80 mark.
After some terrible injury trouble in recent years, the Londoner is looking to max-out in her final few seasons. She is working to put some extra bite on her first and second serves and appears to be calmer on court when dealing with adverse situations, which have so often been her undoing.
Her comeback victory in the first round of Luxembourg qualifying was a rarity; the first time she had won a match having dropped the first set since January in Auckland.
After a couple of winks in the direction of retirement in the past 14 months, Keothavong has been banned from such flirtation by coach Jeremy Bates. Her best days could still be ahead of her.
They are not transforming British tennis, but Baltacha and Keothavong are teaching the youngsters important lessons; about perseverance, hard work and sacrifice in the attempt to fulfil potential.
When you're not a world beater, there are smaller goals to set. Domestic supremacy is one of them and if that provides an extra incentive for Watson and Robson, then all the better.