Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Not-So Great Dane

The US Open starts Monday, which means that at least half the posts between now and then will be about tennis. That’s probably not so good for some of you. But I’m sure a few people will be happy about it. Normally I just do the preview of the draws, but since I’m writing every day this month I can spend a little more time on some things.

Like the woman ranked number one in the world right now, Caroline Wozniacki, who hails from Denmark. If you’re not a big tennis fan you can be forgiven for not knowing who she is. It’s not so often that a player is ranked number one in the world not only not having won a major tournament, but not even having been past the semi-finals of one in almost two years. But that’s the situation we’re looking at tonight.

In fact, would you care to take a guess at how many major titles the top four seeded women have won since February of 2008. Who said zero? You are correct. Now, that’s only true because Kim Clijsters is injured and she is the current title holder for both the Australian Open and The US Open. But even if she weren’t injured, this next sentence would be true. The top five women in the world have won a total of one major tournament this year. All of which just means that Serena Williams, currently ranked 29th in the world, is the clear favorite going into next week. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about little Ms. Wozniacki, she of five WTA titles this year. Sounds impressive at first, but two of them were tournaments the week before the French Open and the week before Wimbledon – and the tournament before Wimbledon was not even played on grass. Considering that she lost in the third round in Paris and the fourth round in London, you’d hope she’d see the folly in her strategy. Well, you’d be disappointed.\

She is currently playing in New Haven at a tournament that ends the day before most players are settling in at their hotels in NYC for the Open. She is the three-time defending champion at this tournament. Being that we already established that she’s never won the US Open, one would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason she thinks this schedule is working for her.

But that’s not even the silliest part. Not only has this strategy not worked for her, it has barely worked at all in the past 20 years. Since 1990, only one player has won New Haven and the US Open in the same year. That player was Venus Williams and she did it two years in a row. If you’re thinking, well probably none of the top players usually play New Haven, you’d be wrong. Here are some of the players that have won New Haven and then, two weeks later found themselves taking home either the runner-up trophy or nothing at all: Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Martina Navratilova, Lindsay Davenport, Jennifer Capriati and Justine Henin. In the last 20 years, not one of those players was able to win 12 consecutive matches in a three-week span on hard courts in August and September.

But here’s the Woz (or Caro as her fans call her – corn syrup as nickname, I don’t like it) giving it a try for the fourth straight year. As I’m writing this, she’s resting up for her next match, having won earlier today. I don’t get it. How could you not realize what a bad idea this is? It’s like she’s trying to achieve the record for most weeks spent at number one without winning a tournament that really matters. Or maybe she wants the record for most times seeded number one without anything thinking she has a prayer of winning the title. It’s really anyone’s guess.

The only thing I’m reasonably certain of is that come September 10, someone other than her will be holding the winner’s trophy.

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