I’d like to think that I’m a pretty positive person when it comes to the world of tennis. In fact, tennis is one of the few things I’m really positive about. I’ve been called a pessimist (I like to think of myself as a realist), I’ve had bosses tell me I’m a glass half empty type of guy, and I can get pretty negative with myself when I’m playing tennis.
But there are very few things that really annoy me or “grind my gears” about the sport… except the absolute joke of a rankings system that the sport uses.
One just needs to look at the current rankings on the women’s tour to see that there is a glaring issue.
The easiest way to explain how the rankings work is that it counts the points that you have earned from every tournament played in the last 12 months. There is differing point values associated with each event on the tour. A 250-point event normally has a weak field with not many top players in the draw, and if you win the tournament you earn 250 points. A 500-point event is normally one that could have several top players, while the 1000-point events are mandatory for all players ranked in the top 40 or 50, and the Grand Slams are worth 2000 points apiece. The rankings are constantly on a 12-month cycle, so the points that every player has this week is what they have accumulated from June 20, 2016 to June 19, 2017 (for example). If you play in the same tournament this year that you did last year, you need to “defend” the points you earned or else you will lose ground in the rankings. Say you won Wimbledon last year and earned 2000 points, then lost in the quarterfinals this year. You actually lost 1500 points even though you made the quarterfinals (and probably earned six figures). And if someone else had the opposite results (quarters last year, winner this year), then they actually gained 3000 points on you in one tournament.
Currently there is a pregnant woman in the Top 5 (Serena Williams), and her ranking is nowhere near the biggest disgrace on the tour.
When your “number one” player hasn’t won a title this year, and just lost in the first round of a major, you know there’s a huge problem. The only rankings Angelique Kerber should be at the top of are the worst player to be #1 in the world, or the player most scared to death of being called the best in the sport.
Now the biggest reason Kerber has still held on to the top spot is because no one else has consistently stepped up (especially in the absence of the currently pregnant Serena Williams). But still, someone with a year-long record of 19-13 should not be ranked #1.
The second issue is that there are actually two separate rankings going on throughout the year. We have the actual rankings, that tournaments seed players off of (except Wimbledon which uses them as a guideline but moves grass-court players up in their seeding). But there’s also the year-to-date rankings, which in my opinion should be the only thing used to determine who the best players in the game are currently.
Why tennis would decide to have a year-to-date rankings system and only use it to determine who makes it to the Tour Finals event at the end of the season is mind-boggling to me. The leaders of the tours would argue that the two rankings systems will end up having very similar results towards the end of the season, but why should we have to wait that damn long?
The year-to-date rankings only last for one year, so everyone starts at zero when the year begins. Now obviously there is going to be a problem with using those rankings to seed the first Grand Slam of the season, which takes place in January, but once the season gets to the French Open, the year-to-date rankings should be fairly accurate.
In fact, the Top 5 on the women’s year-to-date rankings are arguably the five best players currently in the game. Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, and Elina Svitolina are within 215 points of each other at the top, and those three have been the most consistent and impressive players on the tour this year. Jelena Ostapenko just broke through at the French Open to earn 2000 of her 2877 points, and Caroline Wozniacki has regained the form that put her at the top of the other rankings a few years ago.
All five of those players are ranked in the top 15 on the actual rankings – #2 Halep, #3 Pliskova, #5 Svitolina, #8 Wozniacki, and #13 Ostapenko – but there are players ahead or near them that have no business being there. Kerber is 14th in the year-to-date rankings, which is more of an indication of how bad players ranked 15th and lower have actually performed this year.
It shouldn’t take a year to see who the best player in tennis is, and if shouldn’t take that long to reap the benefits (or feel the pain) from what you’ve done last week or last month. #1 should not be given to someone who did well six months ago, but to someone who is doing well right now. But until the sport of tennis actually uses the right rankings system, we’ll get fraudulent players calling themselves “the number one player in the world” like Angelique Kerber.
*Note: I actually like Kerber… but she’s been downright terrible this season.
Written by: Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)