Michael Emmett: “Does Murray Have a Claim to be #1?”

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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Tennis rankings are a funny thing, often times they don’t reflect the opinions of the guys slugging it out on the courts week-to-week across the globe.
Ask any top ten player on the ATP tour right now and all of them will tell you Andy Murray is the top gun. Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl, couldn’t have said it better. “No one cares about the rankings because we all know they are wrong, look at the last 12 months in the slams and that will tell you the real story.”

Murray has been the game’s dominant player in the last year. And remember one thing – when deciding who is the TRUE number one player in world – this debate is centered on the Grand Slam results. This is what the players, fans and media are constantly focusing on. The Slams are the eight weeks in tennis calendar when the world is watching. The other events (although massive in the particular country that is hosting the tournament like the Rogers Cup in Montreal) are not even mentioned in most media reports world-wide. Tennis is a major sport in January (Melbourne at the Australian Open), June (Paris at the French Open), July (London at Wimbledon) and September (New York at the US Open). The rest of the months the world doesn’t care. For tennis fans, we all know this is the harsh reality. Even hard-core fans don’t follow the rest of the tour the way they follow the Slams.

Since last year’s heartbreaking Wimbledon (for Murray), when The Scot lost a thrilling championship match to Roger Federer (some think he lost because the roof had to be closed due to inclement weather and the match took on a different feel in an indoor stadium) he has gone on a run that suggests he is the game’s No. 1 player.

A win at the Olympics in August of 2012 (the players think of this event as a major), a win at the US Open, a 2nd place at the Australian Open and a win at Wimbledon. So in the last four major events played (he skipped the French to rest an ailing back), he has won 3 of them with a runner-up performance in the 4th one. Unfortunately (for him), he didn’t win in Melbourne; otherwise, Murray would be going for his 4th consecutive slam. Obviously, he is the ‘one to beat’ in the remainder of the 2013 season.

These statistics tell me this is an open and shut case. Murray is the game’s top player and in my opinion it’s not even close. There is no debate on this subject, anyone who understands the game would agree that The Scot is clearly the best in the world right now.
So why don’t the ATP rankings reveal what we all know?

In my opinion, the Slams, even though they are weighted more heavily, are not balanced out proportionately to the rest of the events on tour. More points need to be won in the Grand Slam events. Currently it is 2000 points for the winner. If the tour used common sense and made it 3000 pts, we would not be having this debate.

Grand Slams, due to their overall importance, should be triple or even quadruple the points of the lesser ATP tournaments. Some ATP tour events, which are not Grand Slams, hand out 1000 points to the winner. That means, in some instances, the Slam winners are only earning double the points and this is ridiculous.

The WTA has encountered similar situations. Does anybody remember Caroline Wozniacki? She was ranked #1 without ever winning a slam. How is this possible? Well, it means the point system that the WTA tour has adopted is not measuring Grand Slam results with enough emphasis. And I believe an identical situation is happening on the Men’s tour.

In Murray’s case, he has been dominant in the last 12 months in the Slams, yet he is miles behind Novak Djokovic in the current rankings. The Serb is just shy of a 3000 point lead on Mr. Murray. And in my estimation, even if the newly crowned Wimbledon champion goes on to defend his US Open title; he has no shot at overtaking Djokovic before the end of the year. That means Murray could have won three of the past five slams and be nowhere close to the #1 ranking.

Sorry folks, but this is wrong. If Murray was receiving the 3000 points, as I suggested, this race would be neck-and-neck. And this would add one more element of drama as we head to the final major of the season. It is a simple solution to serious issue.

Grand Slam tennis is spectacular. Let’s reward the players for all of their hard work by giving them a bigger share of the pie. More points in the slams would make the game that much more interesting. And maybe, just maybe, the rankings would bear out what we all already know.

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The two most widely reported second serve statistics in professional tennis are the number of double faults a player hit, and their second serve winning percentage. If we’re trying to understand the effectiveness of a particular player’s second serve, relying only on those statistics has significant drawbacks. Article by Michal Kokta.

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