Man, I thought after the JJ/Dinara at #1 debacles of 2009 everyone would understand how tennis rankings work. But I guess with the Slam season over and ensuing tennis lull beginning, it's that time of the year for beating up on easy targets in order to bolster your big name favorites.
My Google Reader is inundated with stories with headlines that can only be summarized as follows:
"ZOMG, YOU GUYYYYYZZZ! KIM WON AND DROPPED IN THE RANKINGS BUT TEARSY CRYERSOVA JUMPED UP AND IS NOW RANKED HIGHER?!?!?! WTF!!!!!!"
Even Tennis Channel's Court Report, which could have reported on anything in its 30 second spot, decided to ZOMG Vera's ranking.
I can sit silent on the couch in my pajamas eating cold dim sum delivery watching Bones reruns no longer.
365 days. That's what the rankings measure. Your performance over the past 365 days. Not your 2010, not your last 10 years, and certainly not the public's perception of your tennis prowess. Now I'm sure that last point is really what gets into people's pants. "BUT THE RANKINGS DON'T REFLECT HOW I RANK THESE PLAYERS IN MY HEAD!!!" Well, I don't know what to tell you there, fair-weather fan. But if you actually paid attention to these players and to this sport on a weekly or daily basis, you'd see that the rankings are precisely right.
Has Kim had a better 2010 than Vera? Yes. How do we know that? Because the Race points say so. The Race points, which measure performance FOR THE SEASON, put Kim one spot ahead of Vera.
Has Kim had a better last 365 days than Vera? Not based on points. Kim won the 2009 USO and didn't play again. Vera kept playing through the fall season and picked up some points. Not a whole lot of points, but enough to put her ahead of Kim.
How does this confuse people? How does it cause hand wringing and hair pulling? I seriously don't get it. If Kim takes the rest of the year off and Vera fails to defend her points and falls behind Kim, are we going to see a bevy of "KIM IS SITTING ON THE COUCH EATING BON BONS YET SOMEHOW JUMPED A SPOT IN THE RANKINGS!!!!" articles? Doubtful.
If anything, given Kim's year, it's impressive she's as high as she is. She won Brisbane, Miami, Cincy, and the USO, sure, all fantastic and amazing performances in big tourneys. But she also got dumped from AO, IW, and Wimby, and she completely skipped the clay season, including RG. She's quickly falling into that Serena category: A player who can dominate any time she shows up, but you don't know (1) if she'll show up and (2) whether she'll bring her A game or F game.
So here's my question for everyone: Everyone likes to take a piss at the rankings system. But it's way easier to tear something down rather than offer solutions. So what's the alternative? Give more point weight to the Slams? Stop rewarding the tour stalwarts who clock in and out each and every week so that a tour even exists? Force the Serena and Kims to play more so that their rankings are more "true"? Add a qualitative element like the college football polling system? Or will the rankings system, no matter what, always be the source of easy jokes?
Weigh in in the comments. I'm genuinely curious to hear some proposals. And if you can't think of a viable proposal, maybe it's time to put down the haterade.