Interesting Q&A interview posted today in the New York Times with the head of the WTA Stacey Allaster which you can read here. One of the questions asked was about a recent poll of the top players in which they ranked the season ending championships tenth in terms of importance after the Slams and major events like Miami.
Obviously Doha offers those who qualify major bonus money and points for their rankings. And this year’s event will finally determine the number one ranking between Dinara Safina and Serena Williams. It’s certainly great to see the top eight ladies play each other, and you know you want to see the final match come down to Serena/Safina battle it out for number one, but at the end of the day, it all still feels like a big asterisk next to the Grand Slams.
What do you think?
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What a year 2009 has been for Dinara Safina. She gets smoked in the Australian Open final by Serena Williams, and despite a decent clay court season, chokes in the French Open final to Svetlana Kuznetsova. Then Safina got smoked again by Venus Williams at Wimbledon, then went on the “magical misery tour” this summer on the hard courts culminating in an early round loss at the U.S Open.
But Safina wasn’t done as she wanted to end the year in real style. Yesterday Safina posted the worst loss ever by a ranking number one player when she lost to 226th ranked Zhang Shuai at the China Open. The previous honor went to Julie Coin’s shocking second round defeat of then number one Ana Ivanovic at the U.S. Open last year. And we all know what happened after that.
If Serena Williams wins her match tomorrow she will regain the number one ranking which many have felt was hers all year. But Safina’s loss has increased calls for the WTA to change its rankings system again.
Personally I don’t think that needs to happen as the current system rewards consistency and playing many events which Safina had been doing. It’s one thing for Safina to lose it mentally in big finals where she felt the pressure to win a Slam, but these recent early round losses point to a larger problem that Safina needs to fix quickly.
So my advice for Safina? Do like Ana Ivanovic and take the rest of the year off, find a nice secluded place and start chanting — nam myoho renge kyo nam myoho renge kyo….
What do you think about all this? Take the poll and let us know.
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Of course the drama filled WTA tour wouldn’t end right without a”dramatic” ending to the year. The tour announced on its website that the top ranking was “up for grabs” this week at the China Open depending on how well current number one Dinara Safina and the perceived, in the minds of many, number one Serena Williams play at the event.
Safina’s regin at number one has been debated ad nauseum as she has failed to win a Slam this year and her lackluster early round losses this summer. Serena’s claim to the throne, after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon, has fallen short due to her unstellar performances at top tier events.
As I’m writing this, Safina has just lost to wildcard Shuai Zhang 7-5. 7-6 (5) in the second round. So if Serena wins her next match then she should be number one.
But what if Serena loses? And what if Safina decides to play some Tier IV event, wins it, and get back on top? My point is is that even if Serena gets back to number one, this debate won’t change until one of these players has a consistent year both in the Slams and in the top tier events.
Safina said in a recent interview that being number one was more important than anything and that, and I’m paraphrasing, no one remembers who won what Slam but everybody remembers who was number one.
While I can understand her logic to a degree, and it is a defensive logic, I’m sure Safina would dearly love to win a Slam next year even it means not being number one. But with the return of Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and a renewed Maria Sharapova, that goal may be harder to reach than ever.
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Just a week ago the tennis world was all abuzz over what, if anything, should be done about the “incident”. But that’s all been forgotten as Justine Henin’s return is now the real news and what it will mean, if anything, to the sport.
Serena is currently promoting her new book “On the Line”, but is still having to face questions about the “incident” during her media tour. Check out her recent interview with NPR here. Meanwhile the tennis press, most of whom were ready to banish Serena from the game, are too busy debating the pros and cons of the return of the tiny dynamo from Belgium and what the word “retirement” really means.
Currently Serena is 7-6 lifetime against Henin, their last meeting in the quarters of Miami in 2008 where Serena won easily 6-2, 6-0. Whereas the other comeback kid, Kim Clijsters, will probably not seek the number one ranking again in lieu of her family commitments, I’m sure Justine would love nothing more than to be “queen of the world”. And don’t forget that the last match Henin lost was to the current, yet still disputed, number one, Dinara Safina, whose mind probably went into a coma at the news of Henin’s return.
I doubt Serena and Justine were “best buds” although Serena has said in the past that Justine was one of the few players who could “push her” in a match. But right now, I’m sure Serena is a tiny bit glad to share the tennis spotlight, even if it does burn sometimes.
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