Sorry, JJ. That nice little PR spin that the WTA was running supporting your candidacy for year end #1 is officially over. The sharks are starting to circle. First Serena, now James Martin, Editor in Chief of Tennis Magazine:
But the argument flies in the face of logic. If Jankovic deserves the top spot because she was the most diligent player at punching the clock -- a pretty easy task, by the way, given that most WTA stars can't be bothered to play much -- then guess who's the second-best player in the world? No, not Serena or Venus Williams. Maria Sharapova? Try again. It's Vera Zvonareva, of course.
Zvonareva qualified for the season-ending event in Doha with a record of 61-21, for a winning percentage of .740. She competed in more matches than anyone else among the "elite" field of eight. Jankovic had the second-most matches played with a record of 63-17, for a winning percentage of .790. Dinara Safina was third, playing a total of 72 matches (55-17), for a .760 winning percentage. So while folks are quick to defend Jankovic's leading pole position, lost in the discussion is how well Zvonareva did this year. Where are the op-ed pieces bemoaning the fact that Zvonareva is ranked lower than Venus Williams, who only played 46 matches, and Serena Williams, who only played 50 matches, and Ana Ivanovic, who competed in only 51 matches?
There's no secret why you didn't see a groundswell of support for the Russian. No one in his or her right mind would ever mistake Zvonareva for the second (or fifth, or even eighth) best player in the world. To be kind, she's horrible in the clutch and a sub-par performer at the Slams. Yet there she is, ranked in the top 10 and owning a record similar to Jankovic's.
Yes, yes, before all you Janko-lites get all fired up, take a deep breath. I recognize that Jankovic won four titles, to Zvonareva's two, and that Jankovic performed well in the majors this year, while Zvonareva crashed and burned. The reason we can say, with a straight face, that Jankovic is far superior to Zvonareva is that the WTA Tour gives more weight (i.e., ranking points) to the Grand Slams than dinky little tournaments -- and rightfully so.
But that argument cuts both ways. Jankovic reached two semifinals and a final but failed to win a major. Serena reached the quarterfinals of Australia, final of Wimbledon and won the U.S. Open. How does that record not trump Jankovic's? What's more, Serena had the best winning percentage on tour, at .860 (43-7).
I'm not out-and-out declaring Serena the best player of the season. If Jankovic takes names in Doha this week, beating everyone, maybe you can make a stronger argument for her occupying the top spot.
But remember, while the computer doesn't lie, it's hardly objective. It tells us what we want it to tell us, based on formulas that are informed by subjective decisions on what is, and isn't, important. Or, as the accountant at my office likes to say when he waxes philosophical about reconciling bottom lines: garbage in, garbage out.