Michael Emmett: “WTA Ranking System Needs Overhaul”

The top two players on the WTA tour, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, had a combined 0-8 record vs. Serena in 2012. We’re not talking about a record near .500 – this is pure dominance and superiority in the greatest sense. Serena manhandled these overmatched opponents – toyed with them at times, yet she is regarded as the third best player on the tour. The more I try to come to grips with these numbers the more shocking and disturbing it is for me.

Written by: Michael Emmett

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***Michael Emmett is the Director of Tennis Operations at all Mayfair clubs.  He is a certified Tennis Canada Coach 3 with a Journalism degree from the University of Texas. Michael spent several years working in sports television at TSN and Sportsnet.  Michael is a former National champion who finished his last year of junior tennis ranked #1 in Canada.  Michael has coached several National champions when he worked for the All-Canadian Academy at the National Tennis Centre at York University in the early 90s.  Michael spent 2 years traveling the world playing the ATP tour satellite circuit as a member of the Molson National Team in 1985 and ’86.***

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I’m not sure there is a bigger injustice in the world of sports than Serena Williams’ WTA ranking. How is it possible that the most dominant player on the tour is ranked #3? In one word – the WTA system sucks.

The top two players on the WTA tour, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova, had a combined 0-8 record vs. Serena in 2012. We’re not talking about a record near .500 – this is pure dominance and superiority in the greatest sense. Serena manhandled these overmatched opponents – toyed with them at times, yet she is regarded as the third best player on the tour. The more I try to come to grips with these numbers the more shocking and disturbing it is for me.

Azarenka, the top player in the world since the Australian Open, lost all five matches to Serena in 2012 and recorded just one set victory. Her lone set came in the final match of the US Open.

Sharapova on the other hand, managed to win just 12 games in three matches vs. Serena for an average of four games per outing. This is total supremacy from the American superstar.

Can you imagine Roger Federer having a perfect record against Nadal, Djokovic and Murray and not having the #1 ranking? Well, no, this could not happen on the ATP tour because there ranking system makes sense.

When Serena enters a tournament and is not seeded #1 it puts tremendous pressure on the other players in the draw. Simply put – it’s a draw killer when she’s not at the extreme top or bottom of any draw. The reason we have seeded players is to clear the path for the top players so they don’t meet in the early rounds. Having her in the middle of these draws at major tournaments adds excitement and chaos all in the same sentence. The only way to properly categorize this haphazard ranking is ‘irresponsible’ – it ruins the atmosphere for many of the players who have the misfortune to come up against her earlier than they should.

I have never seen a more clear cut case for a player to have the #1 ranking, but for some reason she is #3. Remember, this is the same ranking system that had Caroline Wozniacki #1 for more than a year without winning a major championship. Wozniacki, as of today, is ranked #10 and has fallen on hard times since her ranking plummeted in 2012, losing earlier than expected at the four major championships.

This wrongdoing must stop. Serena is the best player in the world by a huge margin. She had a 58-4 overall record and won almost everything that mattered in 2012. If you group the tours biggest events in 2012, the four major championships in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York, the Olympics and the WTA tour championship, Serena won four of them. She won two thirds of the tour’s gigantic events – and she won them in style. If this is not worthy of the #1 ranking I’m not sure what is? She won the Tour Championship in Istanbul without dropping a set, she only dropped 17 games in six matches at the Olympics, she had three love sets in winning the US Open with relative ease and she won Wimbledon after a shaky start.

Other than a first round loss to Razzano in Paris at the French and a fourth round loss to Makarova in Melbourne at the Australian, this 15-time grand slam winner had a near perfect year. We are talking about the best player of all time. The most talented individual the game has ever seen. The last time this legend was ranked #1 was way back in 2009 – another crime that needs to be addressed.

When someone is this good – with an almost unblemished record – there need to be rules in place that allows a committee of sorts to bypass the regular rankings and place her in the correct position. Enough of the shenanigans – it’s time to get it right.

She doesn’t play enough events to garner enough points to be ranked #1 – but the onus should not be on her to change her schedule. The future Hall-of-Famer has earned the right to dictate her own calendar. She shouldn’t be forced to play Mickey Mouse tournaments just to get the points needed for the coveted #1 ranking. The responsibility should be with the tour to fix this ridiculous scenario. Everybody – from fans, to broadcasters, to tournaments organizers, to the players themselves – acknowledges that she’s the best in game by a country mile. So why can’t we adopt a better system that will repair this awful mess?

Serena did everything this year, she won 94 percent of her matches, behaved wonderfully and was a terrific role model for all to see. It is time that WTA commissioner Stacey Allaster revises this horrible system that has more holes in it than a block of Swiss cheese. Serena is too good to be regarded in this fashion. 2012 has been off the charts for Serena Williams, it’s about time the tour recognizes this champion for her amazing accomplishments.

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