October 08, 2010
Without a doubt the biggest water cooler discussion about Caroline Wozniacki hitting No. 1 in the rankings is that the Danish player has yet to have won a major.
Even more stunning, as Chris wrote Thursday, is that she managed to reach the top spot without having played a Grand Slam final in 2010. Caroline is ahead of Serena Williams despite the fact that the American won the Australian Open and Wimbledon. She is also ahead of Vera Zvonareva, who reached the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals and Kim Clijsters, who just won the U.S. Open. How in the world can the 20-year-old from Denmark manage to become top player in the world despite all these things?
First off, she's the one who played the most tournaments by far among the top-15 players. Just have a look at the following statistics:
Wozniacki played 24 tournaments in 2010 while Venus played 15, Serena played 14, Clijsters played 13, and Henin played 10. It is obvious that the WTA ranking system favors quantity instead of quality. It highlights the ones who play the most instead of the ones who focus mainly on majors. We already had Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina who managed to reach the top without winning a Grand Slam. It's now Caroline Wozniacki's turn.
We have to take into account the fact that Caroline was unable to play her best in tournaments where the best players have entered the draws. She is yet to prove she deserves this ranking. Is that a big deal?
I believe so.
It is not the first time we have issues about the ranking account system. The same story happened with Jankovic and Safina while Serena was also dominating women's tennis. What is the fairest deal? To become No. 1 by accumulating points over the whole season or by playing the tournaments that everyone wants to win?
The Dane took advantage of players who restricted the number of tournaments played over the course of the year. If Serena, Kim and Justine played more tournaments, I'd bet we'd see a different list today.
Since they have decided to limit the number of tournaments played, it is welcome news for decent players such as Wozniacki, Zvonareva or Elena Dementieva.
However, I give Caroline credit for having taken chances, the ones Jankovic, Dementieva, or Azarenka failed to take. After having explained why the player from Denmark reached the top, it is only fair to detail where credit is due.
I like the fact hard work and consistency are being rewarded. I enjoy having a world No. 1 like the Wozniacki family, who has been pursuing this goal for 15 years. Piotr Wozniacki has managed to reach his goal. He began to train his daughter at a very young age with convictions, work ethic, structural methods, and intelligence. Caroline shows great values for sport, like Rafael Nadal does on the men's side.
Both are not the symbol for talent, but instead their courage and personal involvement are the biggest assets we could expect from a world No. 1. They are great ambassadors showing the real values of sports.
How long will Wozniacki stay at No. 1?
Will Wozniacki remain at the top for a long time, or will she collapse the way Safina or Jankovic did in the upcoming months? There are three reasons she could continue her reign atop the rankings for a long time.
She's only going to get better -- Caroline doesn't have a complete game, which is one of the reasons why she has never won a major.
Her serve has improved; however, the forehand is still weak. Therefore she doesn't have firepower when hitting her forehand and can't mix her shots much. She has great defense, can counterpunch very well but gets in trouble when she needs to control the points. This is a positive sign if you consider she became world No. 1 with many areas to improve. It will be interesting to see how fast she can improve since she knows how to work hard.
Caroline's main rivals for the top spot won't change their schedule -- I can't see Serena or Kim playing for a full year anymore. The same goes for Venus and Justine. The American is suffering with her knees, while the Belgian is not consistent. I can only see Zvonareva being able to take her seat over the next two years.
The other young players take more time than expected to bloom -- Azarenka's results are disappointing. She is struggling with her consistency. Radwanska doesn't have many assets, while Pavlyuchenkova, Wickmayer, Cibulkova, Cirstea, or Kvitova can't challenge Caroline. They will need more time in order to be able to threaten the player from Denmark. When they are ready, Caroline will have improved even more and therefore will be much tougher to beat.