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Guest Blog

Bottom of the world order

China Open & Japan Open final; WTA Parity


October 08, 2011 | 09:44 AM

The lack of order in women's tennis today is a recurrent theme. This is a look at the way parity's played out this week at the China Open - the last major opportunity to harvest points - and why such parity may be endemic to the tour.

The China Open in Beijing

- Of the top 4 seeds, only #1 seed Wozniacki reached the quarters, where she lost to unseeded Flavia Pennetta. #2 seed Azarenka withdrew after a bye and 2 set win over unseeded Hercoq. #3 seed Zvonareva lost in the 3rd round to unseeded Ivanovic. #4 seed Li Na lost in the 1st round to unseeded Niculescu.

- The #5, 6 and 7 seeds lost in the 2nd round. #8 seed Bartoli lost in the 3rd round to #9 Petkovic.

- The quarters featured the #9, 11 and 13 seeds along with Wozniacki and 4 unseeded players.

- #9 and #11 are in the finals (Petkovic v. Radwanska).

Beijing's China Open is a the last of the 4 Premier Mandatory Tournaments this year and only 2 weeks of small events remain before the top 8 players compete in Istanbul for the year-end prize. Everyone was in the draw except the two injured superstars, Serena and Maria. To their credit, the rest of the women are not complaining about the length of the season and claiming they are all injured (it would look bad since their season is a month shorter than the men and they don't play 3 out of 5 sets). WTA CEO Stacey Allastar even chose this moment to announce that the WTA would be willing to consider 3 out of 5 sets in majors (BAD idea for tv, bad idea for fans, and bad idea for the men and women who already have legitimate complaints about the scheduling of final weekends at the 4 majors).

But if the top 8 women are not injured, why are they playing like so much fodder for those beneath them?

Five women have already qualified for the year-end event in Istanbul, including major champions Li Na and Kvitova along with Woz, Azarenka and Maria. A drop in their motivation is understandable, if not forgivable. Three more players will qualify, plus an alternate who will probably play because of Maria's injured her ankle. #9 Petkovic and #11 Radwanska are hungry for Turkey: after this week, both will pass #8 Bartoli in the Race. If Petkovic wins, she will be within 100 points of #7 Stosur and within 200 points of #6 Zvonareva. With two weeks left before Istanbul, Schiavone (#11 in the Race) could still qualify.

We could try to explain the parity to the deep and competitive field, but it doesn't feel right, even 12,000 miles away from Beijing.

Two factors contribute to greater parity on the women's tour than the men's:

1. The women win a significantly higher percentage of points in their return games than the men. Maria's leads the tour with 51%, a full 10% higher than Joker's leading 41% percentage on the men's tour. Second on the men's tour are Murray and Nadal with 36%, while all top 5 women won more than 45%.

2. The way points are allotted per round of each tournament is different for the women than the men, with more generous points given at every round before the finals. Comparing points at Majors and the Premier Mandatories:

ATP Major WTA Major ATP 1000 WTA Premier

Winner 2000 2000 1000 1000

Runner-up 1200 1400 600 700

Semi-finalist 720 900 360 450

quarterfinalist 360 500 180 250

round of 16 180 280 90 140

round of 32 90 160 45 80

round of 64 45 100 10 50

round of 128 10 5 - -

Meanwhile, the men's final in Beijing (a 500 tournie along with The Japan Open this week) features #3 seed Berdych v Cilic, while #1 seed Rafa will face #2 seed Murray in Tokyo.

Yesterday's semi-final men's results:

- Nadal def. #4 seed Fish 7-5, 6-1

- Murray def. #3 seed Ferrer 6-2, 6-3

- Berdych def. #1 seed Tsonga 6-4, 4-6, 6-1

- Cilic def. Ljubicic 6-4, 6-3

Rick

10.9.11


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