Monday October 11th, 2010

1. The little match girl: Even before Caroline Wozniacki won the Beijing event, her WTA-leading fifth title of 2010, she had eclipsed Serena Williams and achieved the No. 1 ranking. Predictably, cheers were tempered with critique that the WTA computer rankings system is somehow flawed. (Wozniacki, of course, did not even reach a major final in 2010; Serena won two of the three she entered.) We know that gap in her resume. Why don't we consider what Wozniacki has done: She's won more titles and more matches than any other player this year. Given the points breakdown, to balance Serena's two Grand Slam titles, Wozniacki needed to reach the equivalent of eight major singles quarterfinals in one year. That's an awful lot of ground to cover. That's she done it suggests there's some heft to her record after all. If my life were resting on the outcome of a match, whom would I rather be playing: Serena or Wozniacki? No contest. But for now, let's acknowledge the Dane's successes, not her failures.

This is awfully "Inside Baseball" (casual fans feel free to skip to the next point), but I like this challenge from reader Stewbop: "If you don't like the ranking system, give us a new one. But, there are some important requirements. First, the tour has to matter. Slams cannot be so ridiculously weighted as to render other events meaningless. The current ratio of double the points of the Premier Mandatory events is the limit and can't be exceeded. And the ratio of other tournaments should be closely adhered to. The Premier 5's have fields close to the mandatories, hence the points have to be close. The regular Premier events have points around half the mandatories, and that it where they should be. And the International events offer roughly a fourth the points of the mandatories. Those point ratios have to be closely followed because of the structure/fields of the tourneys. Secondly, there has to be a significant minimum number of tourneys that count toward the rankings. At least a dozen. That way it wouldn't be skewed any further toward the majors. And here's one fact that seems to elude the "quantity over quality" zombies -- the Slams are MANDATORY. In other words, of the players' 16-tournament allotment, these four MUST count. So a player can't replace subpar Slam results with other events. She has to carry those Slam results with her. She only has 12 other events to make up whatever deficit she has from the Slam results. And with other tourneys counting half or less of the majors, it's that much harder. So, any naysayer would have to stick close to the current requirements in terms of points and tourneys, else they'd be showing the tour itself no respect. The tour HAS to matter. Anyone who is unwilling to do that doesn't care about "fixing" the women's rankings, just criticizing them."

GALLERY: All-Time No. 1s In Women's Tennis

2. Rafa rolling: After a hiccup last week, Rafael Nadal is back to distancing himself from the pack. He won the Rakuten event in Tokyo last week, his seventh title in what's been a thoroughly successful season. In Japan, Nadal salvaged match points against Viktor "Trader Vik" Troicki in the semis and then beat Gael Monfils in the final. The title was significant for Nadal on several front. For one, from a commercial perspective, players always like to do well in Japan. (Or their agents like them to, anyway.) Secondly, he won still another event on a fast hard court. More important, Nadal's strong play this late in the season is an encouraging sign. In the past, of course, the fuel gauge has taken to dip by late summer. It's a positive sign -- and a nice endorsement of blood spinning -- that his knees are holding up.

3. Team Coco: It's tricky, this business of hype. You hate to add to burden a prospect with undue or unrealistic pressure. (See: Oudin, Melanie.) On the other hand, identifying talent and following athletes on their ascent is part of the fun of sports. So with some degree of caution and forbearance, we urge you to keep on eye on the spectacularly-named Coco Vandeweghe. The California teenager has been tearing it up these past few months. After beating Vera Zvonareva -- the world's No. 3 player -- in July, Coco has quietly been winning scads of matches in Asia this fall. With her ranking now in "automatic in" territory, Vandeweghe is setting herself up nicely for 2011. Hold off the "next great hope" and "future of American tennis" business. But let the record reflect there's a lot to like here.

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