Jon Wertheim (who I totally have a crush on) offered his thoughts on the JJ Domination and AI Debacle of the past few months in this week's mailbag:
I used to think this notion was controversial and didn't want to submit it for fear of being ridiculed, but I think the time has finally come: Jelena Jankovic is a better No. 1 than Ana Ivanovic. Here's a few reasons why.
Ana was tremendously helped in reaching No. 1 by Justine Henin's retirement and a cupcake draw to her first slam (Ana faced zero slam finalists vs. Dinara Safina, who faced a combined 4 slams, 5 finals, and several match points). When Jelena became the top-ranked player, everyone said she needed to at least reach a slam final to deserve it. She ends up doing it and doesn't embarrass herself in the process. The press (and I used to think justifiably so) keep hounding her about not deserving such a prestigious position, and yet she continues to win day in and day out.
don't think I even need to remind anyone of Ana's W-L record at the
moment. Jankovic, for being accused of not being as mentally tough as
her compatriot, seems to have proved otherwise (maybe we should have
suspected this when Ana's team had to hide from her the opportunity of
reaching No. 1 at the French). And I know people could say Ana's been
injured (her's was probably far more serious than the laundry list of
Jelena's injuries), but let's compare with the other No. 1s in the past
couple of years who've come back from an extended injury.
-- Robert Kelso, Los Angeles
• Several of you have written in these past few weeks making a similar, if less detailed, observation. It's unfortunate that these comparisons have to be made. But, realistically, it's inevitable. You have two colleagues from the same small country, roughly the same age, with contrasting styles and mannerisms and ... well, what do you expect? I don't disagree with Robert's premise, but I still say we ought to reserve judgment until Ivanovic is at full strength. Clearly she is just a shard of the uninhibited ball-striker who won the French Open. There's a mental component to her struggles these past few months, but she is injured as well. So let's hold off here.
Let's do, however, take this opportunity to give some props to Jankovic, who appears to be filling the vacuum at the top of the WTA rankings and acquitting herself like a No. 1 player. On the heels of her run to the U.S. Open final, Hammerin' Jank has won three titles and will finish 2008 with the No. 1 ranking. Plus, she's done it with that polished smile on her face and a sense of candor we haven't seen since Martina Hingis.
What's more, at a time when even the former players are lamenting the one-dimensional ball-bashing on the women's tour, Jankovic plays a whimsical retrieving style that relies on more than brute force. I'm still wary of going overboard praising a top player who's never won a Slam. (See below). And I still worry that Jankovic plays too many events for her own good. But she's been the best player in the business these past few months. And for that, to borrow a phrase, I have to praise you like I should.
Now that Jelena Jankovic has won
her fourth title of the year in Moscow (and third in as many weeks),
what do you think it would take for her to win the WTA Player of the
Year Award? It seems as if she's got the No. 1 spot sewn up for the
year on the strength of a late fall surge, but I wonder what it would
take for the WTA to give her the nod over Serena (whose four titles
overall, including the U.S. Open, and Wimbledon final do seem more
-- Bryan Cameron, Philadelphia
• I may have to revisit this if J-squared turns in a dominating performance at the year-end championships. But I just can't support awarding the equivalent of an MVP award to a player who hasn't won a Grand Slam. Much as we all love the Kremlin Cup and the China Open and the other tour events, the four Slams are the tentpole events. They call 'em majors for a reason. I'm sticking with Serena.