Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Backspin Court of Appeals: The Best Player Never to Be #1 (Part 2)

Hello, Backspin readers. Galileo here.

So, Todd and I are back again with the second edition of the Court of Appeals feature. As a reminder, in short, this ATP BACKSPINNER picks a topic and outlines a number of candidates, using carefully detailed arguments to sell them emotionally with numbers or any way I can, then Todd will give his take on my nominations. He can agree, or say everything I have suggested is rubbish and he has a much better idea of who'd be a better choice. Once he outlines his thoughts, he'll present his final rankings, then I'll do the same.

After examining the best men's player never to be #1, this time we'll look at the women.

1. Must have won a slam and been to two finals
2. Must have been Top Four for at least a week
3. Open era players only
4. Five nominees for both the ATP and WTA tour
5. At least 400 career wins

123 weeks. One slam. That is the combined total for Ana Ivanovic, Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki. Together they have made just nine slam finals. Each player on this list has had an arguably better career than those ladies. Sometimes it is inarguable. Welcome to part two...

These nominations are done chronologically, so up first is a British national treasure. Wade is still closer to the grand slam than Andy Murray. Both have won Wimbledon and both have a special place in the hearts of the nation. Wade still does television punditry and was brave enough to call Murray out for his personality flaws. Most famous for her 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Betty Stove in 1977, people forget she was actually really good. She beat top-seeded Chris Evert in the semi-finals of Wimbledon that year. The Queen was watching as she triumphed in the final, and the commentators call of 'she's done it' is still fairly famous, especially among that generation.

She played at Wimbledon in 1962. It was her slam debut. Her last was also at Wimbledon, in 1985. She lost to Pam Shriver in three sets in the third round. But before 1977, when she was 30 and slam-less in five years, she had been a spectacular doubles player and was 2-0 in singles slam finals. She made the U.S. Open finals in 1968 as a fresh-faced 23 year old and beat Billie Jean King 6-4, 6-2. Four years later she triumphed in her debut at Kooyong, sweeping Evonne Goolagong aside 6-4, 6-4 to win the Australian Open.

This is a woman who won 55 singles titles, though not all in the Open era, and who made nine slam semi-finals. She also won 839 matches, 510 more than she lost. She achieved her career high of number two in 1975 and she may have ascended further but for her 3-24 record against the big guns of her day. It didn't stop her being inducted into the Hall of Fame, though her 4-6 record in doubles slam finals helped. Her relative athleticism helped her to run around the backhand and hit the forehand, which was a decent weapon. Of course, it is hard to judge different styles as the game was so much more different then. It was an earlier time when she rose to the top, or nearly, but she was unfortunate enough to be sandwiched between the King/Margaret Court era and the Martina and Chris show. Lots of the players we are talking about on these two lists have both suffered terrible bits of bad luck, lacked mental fortitude or had injuries. Look at Guillermo Vilas. How much bad luck did he have? It is similar for the next lady on the list...

I'm sort of restricted to only admiring the numbers on this one, and Wade's 3-0 mark in major finals (in three different slams) is impressive. Defeating King and Goolagong in their home slams puts her squarely in the mix, as does the fact that no British woman has won Wimbledon since her '77 title run (Johanna Konta was the first to reach the semis since Wade in '78).

Ah, Hana. There may not be a more star crossed player. There may not be a player more outright deserving of number one. Her 27 titles are two more than Wozniacki and her 52 finals seven more than the Dane's total in that stat. She won her first title in 1978 in Milan. Her last came in Washington in 1987, weeks after her final slam triumph. She had the kind of game that could trouble anyone. With her trademark headband atop her head, she reinvented the word 'swashbuckling'. She had this big flat forehand, which she used to create one of the earliest big returns. She could really spank the ball. But her backhand slice was one of the best in the business. She could do anything with it.

Results-wise you can compare her to Stan Wawrinka. Otherwise, her game style is akin to Svetlana Kuznetsova in that she has magic. Her game seems to crackle. Unfortunately, much like Sveta, she had trouble keeping it all together. The problem with having such a game is sometimes you just have bad losses. Despite that she managed a fantastic 565-194 win/loss record. She made the finals of the YEC in 1986, too. She had a memorable career but was denied in four slam finals. Evert denied her at the U.S. Open twice, in 1980 and '82, and Wimbledon once in '81. Martina beat her at the Championships in 1987. She managed a competitive 7-19 record against Chris Evert. But she was 8-29 against Navratilova. Her biggest triumph, however, was undoubtedly in 1985 at Flushing Meadows. She defeated Martina Navratilova in a match so famous I have heard of it. She edged her sort-of compatriot 7–6(7–3), 1–6, 7–6(7–2). After beating Evert in the semi she raced to a 5-0 lead in the final before collapsing. She had a 5-3 lead in the final set but blew that, too. This was a player who lived and died by the sword.
Washed up by 25, like the great Bjorn Borg, we were always left wondering what if?

But if you want to nominate a truly special player can you do any worse than the woman who broke Martina's 54 match win streak in an epic three setter?

Of course, Hana is my personal horse in this race, as becoming a fan in the final stage of her career sort of established many of the characteristics for the sort of player I tend to gravitate toward -- talented, sometimes misunderstood types who usually must struggle to break through a "wall," often self-imposed, to achieve their career objective. (Thus, never big fan of a dominant great like a Federer, Graf, or Nadal, but more pulled toward a Novotna, Dokic, Henin (who then became a "great"), Azarenka, Halep or, as the last few seasons have played out, Ostapenko.)

I'm surprised you didn't mention what I think is the biggest note on Mandlikova's career resume for this "competition" -- that in the Navratilova/Evert era she managed to win three-quarters of a Career Slam, and twice reached the final of the only major she failed to win (Wimbledon), falling, naturally, to Chris ("81) and Martina ('86) in those attempts. Ultimately, she won *four* slams, including being able to smash through the Navratilova/Evert wall by defeating them on back-to-back days to win the U.S. Open in 1985. She was the third woman (after you-know-who) to win slam titles on grass, clay and hard courts. As far as seasonal slam consistency goes, Mandlikova had that, as well. Over an eight-year stretch from 1980-87, she produced at least one SF-or-better result at a major in seven seasons. As the leading member of the previous Czech stretch of dominance in Fed Cup play, she was part of four Czechoslovakian FC championship squads from 1983-88.

The hardest thing about the list of five is how many great candidates there were. Kuznetsova and Jana Novotna do not make the cut and, honestly, that was really difficult to do. Sveta is the reason the whole list idea came about - this BACKSPINNER wondered if she was the greatest never to be number one. Deep research has proved this to be false. And Novotna's career doesn't quite match up to those who come later. It was not easy deciding. No Li Na. No Garbine Muguruza (though she's since become #1, so good for her). It was really tricky. Anyway, the next candidate was all about passion. Her one-handed backhand belongs in a museum.

She may have only won a slam but her two YEC victories, four slam finals and 55 finals are reason enough to include her. She has to be in here because she was so consistent. She made four semi-finals at all four slams. How many players have done that outside of Serena Williams, Graf, Evert and Navratilova? Maria Sharapova hasn't done that. Nor has Venus Williams. You say Justine Henin? No. Oh, I hear Martina Hingis? No. Clijsters, Goolagong, Austin, Mauresmo, Azarenka, Davenport. No, no, no, no, no and NO. The Argentine is one of just five players to achieve that feat. The catch is that she was just 3-15 in those 18 semi-finals, but consistency is the pathway to the world number one spot. In this day and age she would have been a world number one. But unfortunately for her there was a little German lady in her way. Her 11-29 mark against Graf, while not awful, is the reason why she couldn't get over the hump.

Relevant from 1985, Sabatini played her last slam match in 1996. She was just 26 years old. Like Mandlikova, she retired before her time. Her last title came in 1995 at Sydney, nine years after her first. If you choose the Argentine it will be for the weapons she had at her disposal, her sheer consistency and the fact that she was denied by Graf so many times. She really got unlucky during her career. Graf beat her at Wimbledon in 1991 6-3, 4-6, 8-6. That's the one. If she had gotten over the hump this BACKSPINNER believes she could have cracked the top ranking. Her highest ever ranking of two seems a little unfair. She did so much in her decade of relevancy. Here she is at her first ever slam semi-final, Roland Garros 1985.

I used to downgrade Sabatini for her inability to be the big rival for Graf that she'd been expected to be, but these recent Backspin editions where her history has been discussed has turned around my opinion on her career. Really, some of her numbers are eyebrow-raising. As things stand, until something changes, Sabatini is the last great South American women's player (though, it should be noted, Garbine Muguruza was born in Venezuela and easily could have assumed that position in the current game). For eleven straight seasons, Gaby had at least one slam SF-or-better result, and, though she won just one slam, *did* collect many big titles in her career, including two WTA Championships, six Tier I wins (three in the '91 season alone, when she also reached the Wimbledon final after she'd won the U.S. Open at the end of '90, and then two more in '92... which says much about how much confidence a single slam win can instill in a player who was sometimes lacking in that area). While the issue of Graf's great(er)ness will always be an albatross around Sabatini's neck, that her lone slam crown came via a win over the German in the final at least stands as one shining example in her favor in that discussion.

This is the first of two names you might not expect. But the logic for picking Pierce over, say, Conchita Martinez or Jana Novotna is that she made six grand slam finals. Unfortunately for her, she never got an easy final. Graf, and indeed Serena, got an easy slam final or two in their time. But Pierce got Sanchez Vicario twice, Henin, Clijsters, Martinez and Hingis.

She didn't get luck with slam draws or with health. Her father was an abusive man. She spent four years in the wilderness. She had so many challenges throughout her career. It ended in heartbreak, the video of that event (a knee injury) is available -- but not here -- because it is so saddening. At the very peak of her game she was better than Amelie Mauresmo, who became world number one because she timed her slams well. Pierce was maddeningly inconsistent. But she was also the most talented person of her generation.

This BACKSPINNER maintains she hit the greatest shot of all time (#4 on this list):

But she is still somewhat forgotten, and passed over. When she won her first slam, at the 1995 Australian Open, she was 20 years old. She lost just 30 games. She blitzed the field. The year before at the French Open she beat Steffi Graf 6-2, 6-2. In a slam semi-final. It was arguably the worst slam result of Graf's career She dropped ten games on the way to the final. That isn't even an average of two a match. She was utterly dominant but somehow lost the final to ASV. That was the Frenchwoman's career. Utterly dominant at her best, but unable to convert that brilliance consistently.

Pierce's six slam finals and 18-23 record in finals are evidence of how she was both very good and very bad. But where she really stands out isn't just the shotmaking of a world number one, it's the belief of a number one. The year is 2005. We're in Melbourne. She has won one title in five years. She goes out 6-2, 6-2 in the first round to a total journeywoman. At the next slam, looking finished, she comes from nowhere to make the final. She beats Vera Zvonareva in the third round and Patty Schnyder in three sets in the fourth. Two top ten players gone. She then proceeds to smack world number one Lindsay Davenport 6-3, 6-2. She routs Elena Likhovtseva 6-1, 6-1 in the semi-final. She is up against Justine Henin, the tenth seed, in the final. The Belgian has saved match points, struggled through the whole tournament and looks shaky. The Frenchwoman responds by losing 6-1, 6-1. At the U.S. that same year it is an identical story. She does away with the 6th, 3rd and 7th seeds all for the loss of just one set. She then collapses in the final and loses to Kim Clijsters in embarrassing fashion. But she has the heart of a champion. To come back after so many years of poor results and have a year like that. It is what the best in the world do. And besides who else could be the hitter of both these shots?

Pierce was a free spirit who had fun, who loved the game. Dinara Safina was miserable towards the end, never far from tears. Pierce laughed and joked. She had a beautiful smile. The players these day cannot see anything but the game. Pierce saw life. She saw fun, and showed it to us. She was a bright light and her love of the game is something these new players need to learn. She would have made a great ambassador for the game, which is what part of being a number one is. No?

Though she surely belongs here, my one problem with considering Pierce for the spot on this list, even with her unquestioned talent, is that I'm not sure she was ever really seen as the second or third best player on tour at any given point in her career. She was essentially a feast-or-famine, "big title sniper" who was always potentially lethal, but never reliable as a late second week participant at the major level (she had sixteen Round of 16 losses, and eight in the QF). As opposed to, say, Sabatini's big slam result consistency, Pierce only produced SF-or-better results at majors in five years over a twelve-season stretch. And, true to Pierce's career pattern, all six of those results were trips to slam finals (2-4). She never saw her path in a major end in the semifinal round. Actually, she's a great deal like Galileo's fifth nomination...

Again we finish on a current player. You could have put Sveta in here, but that would be a BACKSPINNER'S bias. Kvitova meets all the requirements - she has 443 wins (and counting). That is only 37 less than Ana Ivanovic. We could talk about her 20-7 record in finals. Or her 6-1 record in Premier Mandatory finals. We could talk about the fact she has been to more WTA YEC's than Hana Mandlikova. But forget that. Much like Wawrinka, her value lies in what she can do. Plagued with a series of health issues she has been unable to fulfil her full potential. She has at times been in play for the top ranking but always fell short. While she has a 4-3 advantage over Vika Azarenka, her inability to beat Maria Sharapova has also affected her career. She is 4-7 against the Russian.

Petra and Venus have one of the most underrated rivalries in our sport. You can name about five classics right away. But yet you don't think of that one straight away. That's Kvitova - like Pierce, she has been sadly overlooked.

This is the woman who has devastated players with the simplest of gameplans. Two huge weapons combined. That serve and forehand combo. It is more lethal than Del Potro's. He doesn't do angles. She has made Serena look silly on a number of occasions. That forehand is the second biggest weapon on the tour today. Yes, it is. Behind Serena's serve there is nothing more deadly. And then to compliment that it seems that her touch and movement are always ten per cent better than you think they'll be. It isn't just that Kvitova is so powerful or that she seems to dish out more bagels than a New York bakery, it is the guts. It is having the balls to go for that shot that other number ones didn't have. Forget Wozniacki. We know she lacks any kind of offensive nous. But Arantxa S.V. didn't have it, either. Sometimes Evert lacked that killer instinct. I know that's blasphemy.

In 2009, Petra saw off Dinara Safina in an epic three-setter. When things got really tight, when she was down match point to the world number one, she launched an inside out backhand right into the corner. Down match point off her weaker wing. Aged 20. At the U.S. Open. Insane.

Novotna choked. She didn't have the mentality of a number one. And Sveta? Try six years in the wilderness. That lost 2005 season. Her inability to defeat Schiavone. The fact my life is shorter because she cannot kill off matches. But Kvitova? When she's on she is untouchable. If Petra was given two years of full health this BACKSPINNER believes she could take two slams. She has won five Fed Cups, without losing a final, and been to eight semi-finals. She is only 27. The statistics at slam, and title, level do not suggest she can live with Mandlikova. But she has the best weapons of the five. She has been the closest to number one. She was 115 points away at the end of 2011. She had won the most prize money, won a slam and gone 6-1 in finals. But who got it? Wozniacki. And doesn't that just make you so bitter? She will win several more slams, though this BACKSPINNER's bold previous prediction of five Wimbledons may be optimistic.

Personally, I wouldn't have included Kvitova here. Her best career slam results are so centralized -- in place and time -- that I think she needs to produce 3-4 more true slam title-contending years (i.e. SF+ results) to be considered. Both of her slam titles -- and only major finals -- were at Wimbledon, just as three of her five career SF+ results have been. In fact, she has just one SF-or-better slam result since Roland Garros '12 (SW19 win in '14). Four of her five SF+ slam results came during an eight-major stretch from 2010-12, as she's posted just one from 2013-17, which should have been the prime of her career. Kvitova's standing is bolstered, of course, by her five Fed Cup titles, but while "Good Petra" is always an in-the-shadows slam threat, "Bad Petra" has been plagued by quite a few early slam exits. Her lack of overall season consistency, which is really *the* key component in any player reaching #1 (even more so than slam titles, as the WTA computer shows) within the current formula, is why she's even eligible for this discussion. There's still time for Petra to rectify that, of course.

Still, I would have left her off the original five nominations list in favor of one my following mentions/additions. As I did with the men, I'm going to throw a few extra names into the hat. Some just for recognition, and some for inclusion in the final vote...


Here are my potential additional nominations who didn't make the cut:

While she maybe doesn't quite measure up to inclusion in this mix (or maybe she does), Backspin all-time fave Novotna's Hall of Fame career is worth highlighting. One of the last true serve-and-volley players, her journey to her lone slam title ('98 Wimbledon) was one of the rockiest -- and, finally, most rewarding -- in recent memory. (If Simona Halep ever wins a slam, her course would nestle in somewhere behind her, but not *that* far back.) Thing is, her path was quite close to being oh-so-different, as while she rightfully developed a "choking" reputation, she didn't "fail to show up" in her slam final appearances, unlike some of the players under consideration here. Novotna had good showings in her first three slam finals, going three sets against Hall of Famers Seles, Graf and Hingis (a combined 36 major wins). She was a set up vs. both Seles and Hingis, and led Graf 4-1 (with a GP for 5-1) in the 3rd set at Wimbledon in '93 before her infamous collapse. She was that close to piling up four slams wins, and one wonders if she'd gotten her maiden title in her first final appearance if she'd gone on to claim several more. To her everlasting credit, the Czech was never mentally defeated by her losses, and continued to come back time and time again until things finally (eventually) went her way just months before she turned 30. She had seven years with SF+ slam results in an eight-year stretch, and was a success in all areas of the sport. Her 24 singles titles were joined by 76 in doubles and four more in mixed. She's a twelve-time slam doubles champ. She did her singles high ranking (#2) one better by reaching the #1 spot in doubles, and was part of the 1988 Czech Fed Cup championship team. As Novotna aged, she got better. Prior to her '98 Wimbledon run, she claimed the '97 WTA Championships crown, and went 18-6 in her final twenty-four singles finals (after going 6-10 in the first sixteen). While her overall marks vs. the likes of Graf, Hingis and Davenport weren't good by any stretch, she was 11-10 vs. Sanchez Vicario, 5-1 vs. Pierce, 4-0 vs. Capriati, 3-1 vs. Venus Williams and 4-4 against Seles.

While we often see the iconic shot of Novotna crying on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent after losing the '93 Wimbledon final, here's a more rare shot of her triumphant return to the scene five years later...

Sukova doesn't qualify for this list, having never won a slam singles title, but she may be the most overlooked player of her era, and I wanted to at least talk about her a little (until or if, you know, there's a Court of Appeals edition dealing with the best slam-less players ever, as she'd slot in there somewhere behind Elena Dementieva). If she had won a major, she'd have sneaky "alternate Hall of Fame" credentials, if she doesn't already. In an era filled with other Czech-born superstars, Sukova was seemingly always playing the role of second fiddle. Sukova reached four slam finals, losing out to Evert (twice), Navratilova and Graf. She posted fifteen QF+ slam results over a 21-appearance stretch from 1984-90, and sustained her relevance over a long period. Her first slam final came in 1984 in just her tenth slam MD, and her fourth and final came nine years later at the '93 U.S. Open (slam #44). She also came "this close" to winning a WTA Championships title, falling to Navratilova in three in 1985. While she usually came up just short of a career-defining slam moment, Sukova *did* end two of the most noteworthy streaks of her era. She brought to a close Navratilova's 74-match winning streak at the '84 Australian Open, ending Navratilova's hopes for a Grand Slam season (Martina had won six straight slams, and was looking for a seventh to sweep the '84 majors, as the AO then closed out the season in December). Three seasons later, Sukova ended Navratilova's 69-match grass court win streak at Eastbourne, defeating both Martina and Chris Evert to win the title. The Czech won 69 tour-level doubles titles (9 slams), five mixed crowns, and four Fed Cups. A #1-ranked player in doubles, she climbed as high as #4 in singles.

And then there's...

Martinez is an easy name to drag into this discussion, even if only to give her her due. For her overall career, she should be a Hall of Famer, but to this point the doors have yet to open to her in Newport. It's easy to get lost in what Martinez wasn't and didn't do in an era that included the likes of Graf, Seles and countrywoman Sanchez, but what she did was quite impressive. Not really known as an "all-surface player," the Spaniard nonetheless reached slam finals on three surfaces, losing in Melbourne and Paris, but taking down Martina Navratilova (in her last slam final) at Wimbledon in one of more remarkable match-long barrage of passing shots you're ever likely to see. A five-time Fed Cup champ, Martinez had nine slam SF-or-better results in one fourteen-slam stretch in the middle of what was a very long career during which she played in 56 of 57 majors from 1991 to 2005, including eighteen consecutive appearances at Roland Garros. With singles titles over a seventeen-year span (first in 1988, last in 2005), Martinez made twelve straight season-ending championship fields, picked up 33 career singles titles (16th on the all-time list, w/ all fifteen ahead of her being either enshrined Hall of Famers, or sure-to-be-one-day active players -- Serena/Venus/Sharapova, along with four more HOFers directly following her on the title list) in 55 finals, winning nine Tier I titles (def. Sabatini, Graf, Navratilova, Sanchez, Hingis and Mauresmo -- five different players who reached #1 -- in those finals), claiming Rome four times, and picking up three Olympic medals in doubles (only the Williams Sisters and ASV have won more since the sport returned to the games in '88). Climbing as high as #2, she finished in the Top 5 four consecutive years from 1993-96.

Galileo might not be willing to go there, so I will because I think Sveta *should* be here.

Like so many here, Kuznetsova's frustrating tendency to have her level of play ricochet from good to bad and back again has often stood in the way of her ever finding her way into the #1 ranking. The Russian, though, more than most, has literally been just a few points from another (higher) level of greatness. She's won two slams -- at the U.S. Open and Roland Garros, with seven combined QF at the other two -- and has come perilously close to getting a third which, if she never reached #1, would make her just the third woman in the Open era to win three or more slams (w/ Mandlikova and Wade) without ever topping the rankings. On four different slam occasions, Kuznetsova has come as close as a handful of points from changing history, and quite possibly creating her own path to a title that never came, holding MP or having a commanding lead only to lose and then see her opponent that day go on to win the title: 2004 RG (Myskina - 1 MP in 4th Rd.), 2005 RG (Henin - 2 MP in 4th Rd.), 2009 AO (served for match vs. Serena in QF) and 2013 RG (led Serena by a break in 3rd set in QF). In addition to her two slams wins, the Russian lost twice in major finals to Henin ('06 RG/'07 US). With a high ranking of #2, she had a starring role in three Russian Fed Cup title runs, reached a total of seven slam doubles finals (at least one at every major), winning twice. But Sveta has never done anything easily, win or lose, maybe best represented by the fact that she's been a participant in both the longest Open era women's singles match in slam history (4:44 at '11 AO vs. Schiavone) and the longest (4:00 in '16) ever in Fed Cup play, as well. Even with her difficulty in closing out some of the biggest matches of her career, Kuznetsova's combination of singles, doubles and FC success may make her a Hall of Famer one day. At least one final big run at a major could seal the deal, as her last slam semi was back in 2009, although her recent return to the Top 10 some thirteen years after her maiden slam title in '04 has already lengthened her period of top-level relevance in the sport.

We had seven men in the final voting field in the men's version of this Court of Appeals, so it seems fair that the same should be the case with the women. I'm going to pull out my executive decision powers to add both our personal favorites -- Kuznetsova and Novotna -- to the list of five that Galileo originally nominated.

You and I both struggle on our Wade knowledge. She was a very effective player who won three slams. She survived, thrived at times, in a very tough era and won Wimbledon when she was a shade past her prime. She put together a noteworthy career but she feels like she belongs at number two.

I think Hana Mandlikova is the greatest tennis player nobody has heard of. Today’s fans would sadly go, "Who?" I complain about the rankings a lot but Mandlikova has more reason to be bitter. How did a four time slam winner with almost 600 wins never climb higher than three? In a strange twist, five of the seven women have been top two but the two who weren’t may be the ones who deserved to be top the most. (Ah, very good point. - tds)

You’re correct about Sabatini’s underrated mental toughness and consistency. Those are number one traits.

Pierce could almost be described as an underachiever in much the same way as Safin is. So much talent and a few good results, but hardly what we might expect.

I don’t think anybody has better weapons than Kvitova on this list, but Bad Petra is one of the worst players of all time. Her career is liberally scattered with really terrible losses. And she is a bit of a one surface wonder.

I love Jana Novotna and think she was a deserving world number two, but that mentality... is it that of a number one? (Probably not.) Kuznetsova has the same problem. Both had wonderful moments and plenty of them, but neither could beat the biggest players consistently.

1. Mandlikova
2. Sabatini
3. Wade
4. Kuznetsova
5. Pierce
6. Novotna
7. Kvitova

1. Mandlikova
2. Sabatini
3. Wade
4. Novotna
5. Kuznetsova
6. Pierce
7. Kvitova


1. Mandlikova (2 pts)
2. Sabatini (4)
3. Wade (6)
4. Kuznetsova (9)
5. Novotna (10)
6. Pierce (11)
7. Kvitova (14)

Thanks all. Until next time...


Blogger colt13 said...

Great stuff.

I would go Mandlikova, Pierce, Wade, Sabatini.

I think Wade is the one that looks better over time. The 6th oldest woman to be in the Top 10, at 34 in an era of youngsters, she lasted long enough to play different styles and have success. She eventually aged out, but wasn't phased out.

Wed Oct 18, 04:24:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

"...aged out, but wasn't phased out."

Great phrase. ;)

Wed Oct 18, 05:21:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Zhuhai update. WTA announced the first four in-Stephens, Sevastova, Pavlyuchenkova, Vesnina. This brings up questions, and creates some good drama in the last week of the year.

The Singapore alternates can play Zhuhai if they aren't needed at the YEC. So they have 2 more spots held for Mladenovic and Vandeweghe, not Kuznetsova, as she is out of both. That is verified. The unverified part is that Keys was skipped, don't know if she is still trying to make Fed Cup.

That is a total of 6, with Kerber, Barty, Rybarikova, Strycova and Gavrilova the last directly in, plus Peng with WC.

The drama now comes from Moscow, as both Kasatkina and Goerges have made the SF. Right now, they are 2nd and 3rd alternates behind Cibulkova, who supposedly has shut it down for the year. Either one reaching the final knocks Gavrilova out. Either one winning the title gets them in. Doesn't look like both can make it without another withdrawal.

Cornet could be 2nd alternate with a title.

Thu Oct 19, 12:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

If Twitter were around in the 90's Jim Pierce would have been LaVar Ball.

Goerges vs Kasatkina for Kremlin title and Zhuhai spot. Kasatkina already has a title, but almost fitting for Goerges to have to win to get in. The only likely Zhuhai participants without a title? Vandeweghe and Kerber.

Since the YEC starts Sunday,Saturday with the 15 hr time difference, you get this early. The singles that is, doubles will come with Todd's next post-I think.

8 On the Up Side.

There is no down side to reaching the finals, but some thoughts and stats. Cibulkova is the first winner since Clijsters in 2011 not to qualify to defend her title. Serena didn't play in 2015, but made the field.

One thing to notice is how players get points. Do they get them against lesser fields, or can they get points when everybody shows up? Take the 8 in this year's field. There were 8 tournaments in which all 8 played-the 4 majors, plus IW, Miami, Toronto and Cincinnati. Here are the totals.


Williams being at the top is impressive, but can I pick somebody who hasn't won to win? 4 of the Top 5 are in the same group, the home run hitters, while all the singles hitters are at the bottom.

Another thing I did was run H2H by group, then took the winners and extrapolated. Only going by the numbers, Svitolina d Williams, Wozniacki d Pliskova, Svitolina d Wozniacki.

One interesting thing,the only player with a losing h2h against everybody in their group? Ostapenko.

Listed are titles, and record vs Top 10 this year in brackets.

1.Svitolina-5 titles(9-3) makes her the favorite. This isn't a slam, and is in the group with similar singles hitters/defense to offense players. Plus, the last 3 years(Cibulkova, Radwanska, Halep) a non slam winner has made the final. The one red flag is also a plus, as the expectation that she will have a couple of 3 set matches may give her the extra set she needs as a tiebreak to make the weekend.
2.Halep-1 title(4-4). The #1 ranking makes her a threat. A former finalist, in a group where she doesn't have to be 3-0 to make it out.
3.Williams-0 titles(4-3). The first since Kuznetsova in 2008. More likely she reaches the weekend and loses, but ended up in a group with similar bangers. Her experience should get her through.
4.Pliskova- 3 titles.(6-4) It may be a testament as to how good that I think she can be that she reached #1 and it seems like she underperformed. Has the best draw here, and if the serve is working, could run the table. Why? Because she has the most hardcourt wins-37, tied with....
5.Wozniacki-1 title.(10-5) Miss consistency. Won a title for the 10th year in a row. Elbow is a concern, so is the amount of effort she will have to put out to win. Sometimes playing a slugger is better because you conserve energy not chasing after aces. No luxury with this group.
6.Ostapenko-2 titles.(3-5) The veritable wildcard. Is she too young to feel the pressure? Will Medina Garrigues be there? Arguably the most talented player in the field, but leads the tour in DF's. Better players shouldn't let her get away with that , so lets see if that becomes an issue. Only other one in the Top 10 here? Venus, who seemingly picks tiebreaks in which to do it.
7.Muguruza-2 titles.(6-5) Seems to have that nagging hamstring issue, and needs to economical. Actually, with the exception of Ostapenko, a concern for everybody. Her 2-6 record vs Pliskova is the worst h2h we are guaranteed to have-Wozniacki 0-7 vs Williams can't happen until at least the SF.
8.Garcia-2 titles.(3-6) Arguably the most in form player here with an 11 match win streak. Like Keys did previously, probably needs to get this experience down first and just win a match. The chance to win the whole thing will come later.

Fri Oct 20, 12:02:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I enjoyed reading this, and yes—absolutely, Hana. It puzzles me that someone who won four majors (often, in spite of herself) is so unknown. Her long-time coach once said that the problem with coaching her was that her game had no real flaws. The big flaw, of course, was her head, but she managed to overcome it enough to win those four majors. Yes, she “should” have won more, but four isn’t too trashy, especially during the almost unpenetrable Evert-Navratilova period.

Sat Oct 21, 07:31:00 PM EDT  

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