November 23, 2010

Will Serena ever reach #1 again?

Over the years, we have come to associate Serena Williams with the No. 1 ranking in the women's game. Whenever a new and less proven woman ascends to the top spot, the critics are quick to declare this or that woman an "untrue" No. 1. Sometimes, like in the case of Dinara Safina, Serena contributes to the fuss. With 13 Slams titles to her name and a game strong and powerful enough to warrant speculation about her being the best ever, it is natural to doubt the ranking system, when she isn't automatically at the top.  The funny thing is, that despite her obvious talent and dominance, she's only been the No. 1 for a combined 123 weeks. That is six weeks more than Justine Henin, 25 weeks more than Lindsay Davenport and almost 100 weeks less than Martina Hingis. Not to mention Graf, Evert and Navratilova.

Kim Clijsters just won the WTA championships, whereas Serena as the defending champion didn't even play. In fact, she hasn't played on tour since Wimbledon and only played six tournaments this year. As a consequence, she lost her No. 1 ranking last month. Today, she fell out of the top three and now rests at No. 4.  Will she ever again be at the top of the rankings?

Looking at her results this year, it is clear that she can still play. Two Grand Slam victories in three appearances is pretty damn impressive on any standard. She is undoubtedly the fixture and the dominating player of the last decade, but will she continue to be so in the future? Or rather, will she dominate enough to reach the No. 1 spot again? I am in serious doubt about it.

She does perform better at bigger tournaments. With 13 Slam wins in a mere 16 finals, she's almost unbeatable when she can see the finish line. And as her game relies a lot more on her power and her ability to dominate her opponent than her speed, losing half a step in speed doesn't mean as much to her as it does to, say, Roger Federer.  She should be more than able to win Slams in the next 2-3 years at least. But the combined challenge presented by the current field seems to be too great for her to do it on a consistent basis and gain enough points throughout the year. At least not with working bees like Wozniacki, Zvonareva and Stosur out on the tour every day. 

Wozniacki's consistency requires Serena to either outperform any other player by a large margin in the big tournaments throughout the year or perform much more consistently, and more often, in the lesser tournaments. Is she willing to do that? Can she do that? Or is the opposition to tough, even for the champion of the decade?  My prediction, however, is that we'll never see her as the No. 1 again.

While I strongly disagree with the writer's statement that Serena will never be #1 again, you can read the entire article (wherein the writer presents some valid analysis) by clicking on the link below:

Anders Lammers (Contributor) - Bleacher Report

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