Steve Tignor weighs in on the surprisingly inevitable case of Rafa's year end #1 ranking and the curious case of JJ's clinching of the year end #1.
Now is the time for Jankovic to change her approach and pressure herself to beat the best players at the biggest tournaments. Will she? Watching her win three events over the past month, I've begun to think that earning the top ranking has both helped Jankovic's confidence and made her more ambitious. She hasn't seemed satisfied reaching semis and finals. For the first time, she's been willing to leave her defensive, ultra-consistent comfort zone to win those matches. Becoming No. 1, oddly enough, might just be a stepping-stone in Jankovic's career. Let's hope so, because the WTA needs hungry young stars.
Nadal's year-end No. 1 status, on the other hand, is the summit of a four-year journey full of grinding and grunting, brutally bashed ground strokes and nonstop running. If Jankovic has, for now, slightly diminished the significance of the WTA's top spot, Nadal has elevated the men's version. In his four-year reign at No. 1, Federer made being the best player in the world look effortless. Nadal -- with his tenacity, clay-court dominance and mental fortitude that allowed him to beat Federer in a heart-wrenching fifth set at Wimbledon -- has shown how much effort it really does take to be the best in tennis today. As Federer himself said when Nadal took over at No.1, "Look what he had to achieve to get it. … That's what I like to see."
I couldn't agree more with Steve's assessment of JJ and perhaps it goes to my general annoyance with JJ. As I've written in the past, JJ just seemed happy to be there, happy to finally be achieving a level of success that she never thought she could. After all, she was on the brink of retirement in 2006. But now there is a seriousness of intent in JJ's attitude and demeanor, and I don't see as much "Well, I tried the best I could, I'm happy with the result" contentment that she's had in years past. She's becoming more ambitious, and if she continues with that, you might be able to chalk me up as a bona fide fan.
Might, people. I said MIGHT.