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Final report: WTA season comes to Screeching Halt

Parity (WTA) vs Rivalries (ATP): Putting Numbers to the talk

October 31, 2011 | 03:51 PM

ESPN limited its broadcast of the owl-ing WTA finalists to 2 hours, bagging the first 9 games of set 2. Chrissie&Pat made the call with noticeable detachment from a S. Florida studio, where Chrissie developed a new pet peeve early in the 3rd set: Kvitova's spontaneous-seeming winner screeches lost their charm when they became routine. As the Czech started reeling off the winners from down 0-30 in the first game of the final set, she screeched her way - winner by winner - to a 3-0 lead. She'd been up 5-0 in the first set, and barely saved the set 7-5. This time she wanted to nail it down with more noise.

After losing the 2nd 4-6, Chrissie and Pat put fitness and momentum squarely in Azarenka's column, only to see themselves proven silly: the 3rd set was the best tennis K-Ta played in terms of movement and defense. 'V-Ka' tightened up the games and held twice, but found herself down 2-5 and running out of time. That is, ESPN's alloted time remaining was less than 15 minutes, not enough even if Kvitova came to a screeching halt (final set score 6-3 Kvitova).

A NEW WORLD ORDER will see the 21 year old screech owl ranked #2, the highest ranking Czech since Ivan Lendl over 20 years ago (the sullen Czech had no aviarian tendencies). Azarenka also reached her highest ranking yet, #3, ahead of Sharapova who dropped to #4. The degree of change in the top dozen beneath Wozniacki is extraordinary, and will clue Woz in that surviving 2012 as #1 will be a completely different challenge, one with younger, hungry movers on her heels.

WTA final rankings (2011 vs. 201)

2011 2010 AGE POINTS

1 1 Wozniacki, Caroline 21 DEN 7485

2 34 Kvitova, Petra 21 CZE 7370

3 10 Azarenka, Victoria 22 BLR 6520

4 18 Sharapova, Maria 24 RUS 6510

5 11 Li, Na 29 CHN 5720

6 6 Stosur, Samantha 27 AUS 5585

7 2 Zvonareva, Vera 27 RUS 5435

8 14 Radwanska, Agnieszka 22 POL 5250

9 16 Bartoli, Marion 27 FRA 4710

10 32 Petkovic, Andrea 24 GER 4580

11 7 Schiavone, Francesca 31 ITA 3900

12 4 Williams, Serena 30 USA 3180

13 3 Clijsters, Kim 28 BEL 3161

14 8 Jankovic, Jelena 26 SER 3115

The average AGE of the TOP 4 is 22; the average age of the next 10 players is 27, and with the exception of upward moves by 27 year old Bartoli (from 16 to 9) and 29 year old Na Li (from 11 to 5), all of the players over 24 saw their rankings drop. We can expect to see more of this trend in 2012 unless we see a healthy Clijsters or Serena resume her career full-time.

The top of the men's game may see a similar change, but so far there's no sign of aging players making radical drops, so I'm not expecting it in 2012:

ATP Rankings as of 10/31/11 vs. 2010

2011 2010 AGE POINTS

1 3 Djokovic 24 13,295

2 1 Nadal 25 9,500

3 4 Murray 24 7,200

4 2 Federer 30 5,185

5 7 Ferrer 29 4,300

6 6 Berdych 26 2,940

7 13 Tsonga 26 2,890

8 16 Fish 29 2,875

9 15 Almagro 26 2,370

10 49 Tipsarevic 27 2,305

11 258 Del Potro 23 2,180

12 41 Simon 26 2,155

13 5 Soderling 27 2,080

14 12 Monfils 25 1,925

15 48 Dolgopolov 22 1,835

16 8 Roddick 29 1,680

The top 3 are all now about 25 years old; the next 7 players average almost 28 years old, and none of the next 10 players can be said to have much ability to move much higher than they've been until other show signs of weakening, with the exception of Berdych and Del Potro. Other than Nadal and Federer, the other top 10 players from 2010 whose rankings dropped are 27 year old Soderling, whose absence from the tour due to injury will see him slip further before year end, and Roddick, who has slipped from 8 to 16 but could finish a spot higher with good results in Basel and Paris.

In terms of the distance between the top players and others below them, there's a significant difference between the ATP and the WTA, which puts numbers to the PARITY spoken of on the WTA tour.

- the #4 WTA player has 87% of the #1 player's point total, vs. 39% on the ATP tour (Federer to Joker).

- the #8 WTA player has 81% of the #4 player's point total, vs. 55% on the ATP tour (Fish to Federer).

This kind of parity hasn't created rivalries, whereas rivalries continue to exist among the top 4 men despite the large disparity in their point totals.

WHY? The reason is simple: the top 4 men have each won 20+ titles and played in multiple major finals against each other, with three of them ranking as elite champions.

In VIENNA, Tsonga defeated Del Potro for the first time, 6-7, 6-4, 6-3. Delpo described Tsonga as a different player after Jo broke back from 1-2 in the 2nd. His post-match remarks about the loss were reminiscent of Federer's after his Wimbledon loss to Jo. It seems that when the Frenchman finds his mo-JO, he can be unstoppable. His prize included moving up to #7 ahead of dormant American Mardy Fish.

In BASEL this week it will be Fish's turn to work on his points. He'll have more competition including the top 4 (minus Nadal), #6 Berdych and #9 Tisparevic, the man most likely to gain on him.

In St. Petersburg, Tipsarevic lost his final to Cilic in 3 sets, but it was the Serb's first loss in October and November may not see the end of his run.


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