Monday, 4 October 2010

The “second best” world number one.





1) Delpo lost. Twice.


UPDATE: Delpo lost 6-3 6-0 to Feli in the opening round of Tokyo. Most of what follows (written after his loss in Bangkok) remains valid.


He came. He played. He served 16 aces. He lost. In straights. To a guy that should, by rights, be in a different weight division.


His wrist still appears to be intact. “Perfect” even.


"I'm just happy to be back on the circuit and I hope I get better and better. I need to work hard to get back into the Top 10.

"Of course I would love to be back there soon. The most important thing for today is my wrist - and it's perfect. I hope to play five or six more tournaments between now and the end of the season. We will see how it goes."


Still, part of me wishes he’d been exposed to more than just two sets - a couple of rounds would have been ideal: we’d get a chance to form a real opinion on his game, but more importantly be assured he can survive the demands of back to back, if not back to back to back to back, matches.


Delayed reactions are a bitch - and then you die. Or at least your ranking does.


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-- Caz won Tokyo and will, if she makes the Beijing quarters, be crowned world #1


Just so you know, and you probably already do, you’ll not likely live to see the day I root for Caz. So I suggest you stop holding your breath.


This is less about wanting to sneer as it is about feeling strongly enough to take an ideological position against her style of play – the way you might against, say, fox hunting.


There’s probably a certain type of “steely-lite” about her for which, I guess, she deserves credit and she’s certainly not shy of hard work.


It’s just that, as far as I’m concerned, that approach has no business winning Slams.


The number one ranking? Different story altogether.


Let's face it, the hunt for major titles and the No. 1 ranking aren't what they used to be, partly because the two efforts are no longer as closely related as they once were -- especially on the WTA side, where Dinara Safina and Jelena Jankovic recently held the No. 1 ranking without having won a major event. The "even a blind pig finds an acorn sometimes" approach seems to have become something of the norm, which is partly why a nice girl like Wozniacki can be so cavalier about her pending ascent to the top spot.

Maybe that No. 1 ranking isn't all it's cracked up to be, which is a theme that Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Rafa Nadal and others have hammered away at for years. It's often taken as a disingenuous position, reflecting a desire to ward off pressure. But at times like these, I'm more inclined to take seriously the claim of those players, that they have only one goal -- to win major tournaments.

It follows that being ranked No. 1 is actually the second prize in tennis. Looked at that way, second prize is about to be awarded to a truly deserving candidate on the WTA side.

-- Peter Bodo, ESPN



You can probably count the number of times I’ve agreed with Pete on one hand – of a worn old fingerless glove.


Though there’s no way out of conceding that, with this particular article, he’s right on the money.


I get that for some people the #1 ranking symbolises greatness, history and the type of gravitas we associate with Serena, Henin and the like.


I also get, therefore, that these people will object (and not always conscientiously) to a system that enthrones the Slamless at the expense of the enSlammed (twice over) with every cell in their body


A “system” gone to pot – that must, like any other malevolent autocracy, be brought down, as they say, “by any means necessary”.


Personally, I’ve never had a beef with it, even when it sees the #1 ranking going to a Slamless, wonderless workhorse.


And I’m not about to begin now, however many foxes Caz might skin in the process.


The trouble is that, at some point, we have to somehow quantify all that “greatness” and “gravitas” they’d like to see embodied in the #1 ranking.


And try as I may, I can’t fault using a rolling week on week measure of your performance over the past 52 weeks.


In an ordered universe (like, say, the ATP) the top dogs dominate, the nearly-men nearly make the cut, the also-rans also run, Bambi’s mum never dies and we’re all home in time for croissants and ‘The Antiques Roadshow’.


If the WTA persists in a culture of chaos brought on, in part, by injury, but also it must be said, a policy of selective participation by it’s top players, that’s no reason to blame the rankings system, nor, for that matter, to call for it to be rewired (rigged?).


I’ve heard many arguments in favour of barring players from the top spot if they haven’t won a Slam (that sounds too much like rigging an election and is, in Software parlance, what we call a “hack”) or weighting the rankings further in favour of the Slams (newsflash: they already are).


None of them persuade me very much.


And yet, something’s clearly rotten in the state of Denmark.


Which is why I quite like Bodo’s temporary rebranding of the #1 ranking as “the second prize in tennis” and, should she make it, why I’ll be happy to think of Caz as the world’s (second best) #1 ranked player.




-- Rafa’s loss to Garcia Lopez




And yet, it’s worth remembering Federer’s “Volandri” moment of 2007 followed a period of unprecedented success.


So not that much of a shocker then. In fact, very much the law of averages.


In any case, I’m more interested in why Rafa’s reverted to his back-to-back-to-back-to-back scheduling of old.


Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai may be worth millions in appearance fees. It’s not “smart scheduling” by any stretch of the imagination.


We started using that phrase when Rafa dropped Barcelona (all of ONE tournament) from his schedule earlier this year.


The only “smart” thing about it now is that it smarts


Has anyone asked Rafa’s knees what they think?

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