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Soft Parameter
As you may recall, the ATP revised its points table at the start of 2009, reducing the values for results less than titles.

It might be worth explaining how a points table is computed for a single-elimination event. And, to do that, it might be clearest to examine the two extreme cases.

At a single-elimination tournament, you eliminate half the players in each round. That, theoretically, means that in each round you knock out the weakest half of the players. That, it could be argued, means that each opponent is twice as difficult as the round before. So each win should be worth twice as much as the round before. So if a win is worth 1000 (as it is at Miami), then a final should be worth 500, a semifinal 250, a quarterfinal 125, etc.

This can actually be expressed as a number, a ratio between rounds. The author calls the actual points table an approximation to a "base curve" -- there is a formula (technically a geometric series) which the points awards roughly follow. But it's only a rough approximation because the numbers generally get rounded off slightly and so don't exactly follow the curve. Hence "base curve" for the formula to which the points table approximates. A base curve has a parameter, a number by which you multiply the point value for a particular round to get the value for the previous round. In the case above, the base curve parameter is 0.5.

At the opposite extreme is the situation in which you regard all wins as equal -- you assume that it's just as easy to beat #1 in the final as to beat #80 in the first round. Since there are seven rounds at Miami, that would mean that if a title is worth 1000, then a final is worth 857.(1000 minus 143, which is 1/7 of 1000). A semifinal is worth 714.(857 minus 143). And so forth. The base curve parameter in this case is effectively 1.0.

These are the extremes. Any reasonable points table .will have a base curve parameter somewhere between 0.5 and 1.0.

So where do the Tours stand? Recall that the current ATP points table for a 1000 point event like Miami is as follows:

Title: 1000
Final: 600 (ratio to preceding: 0.6)
Semifinal: 360 (ratio to the preceding: 0.6)
Quarterfinal: 180 (ratio to the preceding: 0.5)
Round of 16: 90 (ratio to the preceding: 0.5)
Round of 32: 45 (ratio to the preceding: 0.5)

As we said, the numbers in the actual point table don't quite fit an exact curve. It turns out that the base curve parameter for the ATP is roughly 0.57. If it were exactly .57, the points table would look like this:

Title: 1000
Final: 570
Semifinal: 325
Quarterfinal: 185
Round of 16: 106
Round of 32: 60

Now let's look at the WTA numbers:

:Title: 1000
Final: 700 (ratio to the preceding: 0.7)
Semifinal: 450 (ratio to the preceding: 0.64)
Quarterfinal: 250 (ratio to the preceding: 0.56)
Round of Sixteen: 140 (ratio to the preceding: 0.56)
Round of 32: 80 (ratio to the preceding: 0.57)

Again, we don't have a perfect curve. But the average parameter is about .64. If we took that as the parameter, we would get:

Title: 1000
Final: 640
Semifinal: 410
Quarterfinal: 262
Round of 16: 168
Round of 32: 107

So which is "right"? That is, which curve best represents the difficulty of winning in a particular round? There is no exact answer (unless you can tell us just how much harder it is to beat Roger Federer than Michael Berrer, anyway). But it's worth noting how big a difference this makes. At Miami, both the ATP and WTA have 96 players earning main draw points. But if we assume all seeds win their opening matches, and ignore qualifying points, then the WTA will hand out 8880 points at Miami. The ATP will hand out only 6000. That's a big differrence -- much bigger than the difference in the base curve parameter. This is the power of geometric progression. (Another illustration of that is shown by taking the point awards for the earlier rounds. In the final, the WTA awards 117% of what the ATP awards. But in the Round of 32, the WTA awards 178% percent of what the ATP awards!)

It is frankly hard to believe that #1 Roger Federer is twice as good as #2 Novak Djokovic, and that Djokovic is twice as good as #4 Rafael Nadal, and that Nadal is twice as good as #8 Andy Roddick (meaning, e.g., that Federer is four times as good as Nadal, and eight times as good as Roddick). Indeed, it's hard to believe that Federer is 1.75 times as good as Djokovic, which is the curve parameter of .57 implies. If Federer were that good, he would never lose. So a base curve parameter of 0.5 is absurd. A parameter of 1.0 is also absurd -- Federer may not be eight times as good as Roddick, but he is surely somewhat better. The author's feeling is that the parameter should be about 0.7. The WTA is a little below that. The ATP is far below that. The effects of that will probably eventually be measured in the volatility of the rankings. Unfortunately, we can't test that yet -- 2009 was a transition year, so it's no test. We won't be able to do a true test until the end of 2010.

***

WOMEN

The Real #2
This week, Caroline Wozniacki passed Dinara Safina to become the #2-ranked female tennis player. This prompted two questions: "Does she deserve it?" and "Who else is there?"

The answer to the first question is surely, "It depends on what you mean." We thought, for purposes of comparison, that we'd take a small sample of year-end #2 players and see what they had at the time. We decided to take a four-year increment. So we took the year-end #2 for 2006, 2002, 1998, and 1994.

2006 #2: Maria Sharapova. Her accomplishments: U. S. Open win, Australian Open and Wimbledon semifinals; 20-3 Slam record; 5 titles (Indian Wells, San Diego, U. S. Open, Zurich, Linz).

2002 #2: Venus Williams. Her accomplishments: finals at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, U. S. Open; 22-4 Slam record; 7 titles (Gold Coast, Paris Indoor, Antwerp, Amelia Island, Stanford, San Diego, New Haven).

1998 #2: Martina Hingis. Her accomplishments: Australian Open win; semifinals at other three Slams; 22-3 Slam record; 5 titles (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Hamburg, Rome, year-end Championships) [also won the doubles Grand Slam].

1994 #2: Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario. Her accomplishments: Roland Garros and U. S. Open wins, final at Australian Open; 23-2 Slam record; 8 titles (Amelia Island, Barcelona, Hamburg, Roland Garros, Canadian Open, U. S. Open, Princess Cup, Oakland)

We didn't stack this; we just decided that 15 years and four #2s was as much as we wanted to research, and that's what came out. To that we compare Wozniacki's results in the year up to and including Indian Wells 2010:

Wozniacki's accomplishments: U. S. Open final, 14-4 Slam record, 3 titles (Ponte Vedra Beach, Eastbourne, New Haven)

Thus Wozniacki has fewer titles than any #2 player we checked, and worse Slam results. Historically, it's pretty clear that Wozniacki stands below the "typical" #2 players.

Of course, she might improve on that. In any case, we aren't looking for the all-time #2 player. We're looking for the #2 player right now. This is why we ask the second question, "Who else is there?" That is, is there anyone who has a better right to the #2 ranking?

For this, of course, we don't want to use the WTA rankings, which should be called the "Player Punishment System," not "the rankings." A ranking system should be designed to determine who is the best player -- and Wozniacki is not ranked #2 because she is the second-best player, she is #2 because she is a top player (we aren't denying that) who happens to be healthy enough to play all the time. When you consider that Serena Williams, Dinara Safina, and Maria Sharapova have all missed significant time to injury, and Kim Clijsters has only been un-retired for half a year, and Justine Henin for only three months (and already has missed an event due to injury), it's clear that Wozniacki's biggest asset in the WTA rankings is her stamina.

To put this in perspective: Wozniacki now has 24 events (actual events, not nominal WTA events). Of the other players in the Top Ten, Agnieszka Radwanska has 22. Jelena Jankovic has 21. Dementieva and Stosur have 20. The other five have 19 or fewer events. Thus, additive rankings being additive rankings, Wozniacki has a big advantage just from how much she has played.

So we decided to take fourteen players who are reasonable candidates for #2 (the WTA's top 11, plus Clijsters, Sharapova, and Henin), and rank them under some alternate systems. In each of these categories, we will list the top five of our players, and plus Wozniacki if she is not Top Five.

Winning Percentage

Just what it sounds like: Percentage of matches won.

1. Clijsters........81%
2. Williams, S......80%
3. Henin............79%
4. Sharapova........77%
5. Safina...........77%
7. Wozniacki........73%

Even allowing that three of our top five have played limited schedules, we note that Wozniacki is only #4 among players who have played a whole year.

Winning Percentage, .Minimum 16 Events

To deal with all those players who haven't played enough, we require 16 events -- and add losses until they have 16.

1. Safina...........74%
2. Dementieva.......74%
3. Wozniacki........73%
4. Williams, S......73%
5. Williams, V......72%

This will be the best result Wozniacki produces under any system we could come up with on short notice. But note that she still isn't #2.

Winning Percentage, Premier Events

Lest the percentages above be biased by playing at small events, we calculate wins and losses based on taking only the Premier events (plus Slams and Championships)

1. Williams, S......81%
2. Clijsters........79%
3. Henin............78%
4. Safina...........75%
5. Sharapova........74%
7. Wozniacki........72%

No surprise to see Serena atop this one! But, again, Wozniacki is only #4 even among players who have played a full year.

Points Per Tournament

Just what it sounds like: Total WTA points earned (including those not counted toward a player's Best 16) divided by total actual events played in the last year.

1. Williams, S......618
2. Henin............550
3. Clijsters........409
4. Safina...........367
5. Williams, V......352
7. Wozniacki........291

Wozniacki really loves that #7 spot -- although, in this case, she isn't even #4 among players who have a full schedule; she turned out to be #5.

Points Per Tournament, Minimum 16 events

Same as above, but with a minimum divisor of 16 events. That is, if a player has fewer than 16 events, we divide her point total by 16 anyway..

1. Williams, S......540
2. Safina...........367
3. Williams, V......352
4. Kuznetsova.......330
5. Wozniacki........291

Note that Wozniacki is actually worse in points per tournament rankings than in won/lost. That probably says something about the tiers of the events she is playing.

Quality Points per Tournament

Our favorite for estimating future results. Based, of course, on the quality points the WTA no longer awards.

1. Henin............119
2. Williams, S......101
3. Clijsters.........99
4. Kuznetsova........66
5. Williams, V.......64
6. Azarenka..........61
7. Sharapova.........53
8. Safina............51
9. Wozniacki.........48

Wozniacki's worst result yet. This would seem to imply that she will fall before she can rise.

Modernized Divisor

The descendent of the pre-1997 divisor rankings, taking into account point inflation and the 16 event minimum. We take round points, add double quality points, and divide by 16 or the number of events, whichever is greater.

1. Williams, S......819
2. Williams, V......480
3. Safina...........468
4. Kuznetsova.......461
5. Azarenka.........413
6. Wozniacki........387

Well, at least Wozniacki isn't #7 in this one....

Declining Divisor

This is, in the author's opinion, the best ranking system we can make based just on points and events. We take total WTA round points, add four times the quality points (doubling once because of point inflation, then doubling again because quality points are a better measure of tournament strength than WTA tier), and use a minimum divisor of 16; for players with more than 16 events, we subtract a third of an event for each event past #16..

1. Williams, S......893
2. Kuznetsova.......615
3. Williams, V......609
4. Safina...........582
5. Azarenka.........546
6. Wozniacki........544

And so, to our shock and amazement, it appear that Svetlana Kuznetsova "ought" to be #2. At least until Miami. Certainly it doesn't appear that Wozniacki is the second-best player out there; she was not #2 in any system.

At least there isn't much doubt about who is #1. In every statistic, Serena Williams led the players who had played a full year. Often by a very wide margin (note her modernized divisor score, which is almost twice that of the #2 player. And her declining divisor score is more than 40% above the #2.)
 
Martina Hingis has signed up to join Richard Krajicek at the pre-Wimbledon Nottingham Masters exhibition event, to be held at the Nottingham Tennis Centre June 10 to 13. The event was organized to replace the ATP tournament which was moved to Eastbourne in 2009.

Hingis, who retired late in 2007 for a second time after being found guilty of a doping offense, has only in recent months been free to compete again, and she has also signed up to compete in the World TeamTennis league for the New York Buzz as the lone star name in a team that also consists of Sarah Borwell, Alex Dimijan and Scoville Jenkins.

Krajicek, who also attempted a comeback after retiring in 2003, has remained very active in tennis, taking on the role of tournament director for the ABN Amro event in Rotterdam and setting up the Richard Krajicek Foundation, which is involved in building sports facilities for children in inner cities in his native Netherlands.
 
Patrick Chamagne, who is Gael Monfils’ physical trainer and close friend, explained the reasons for the Frenchman’s withdrawal from Miami. “The fact is that Gael is still suffering from his left hand injury after falling in Davis Cup during his match against Germany’s Philip Kohlschreiber. Chamagne insists it’s a hand injury and has nothing to do with the wrist problem which handicapped Monfils during much of last season. “He played with it in Indian Wells while taking anti-inflammatories since we didn’t want him to keep complaining. Since he was still feeling pain, he passed an MRI which showed nothing abnormal. But Dr Montalvan (the French Federation doctor) insisted that he should stop playing if he had any doubts. . . ” At the moment, Monfils is still planning on playing in Monte Carlo.
 
Andre Agassi to Play John McEnroe at LA Tennis Open

The LA Tennis Open Presented by Farmers Insurance Group announced a new partnership with the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education (AAFE). To mark the beginning of the partnership, and support the Foundation's efforts to transform education, Andre Agassi will play John McEnroe in a special one-night exhibition at the LA Tennis Center on Saturday, July 24.

Proceeds from the match between Agassi and McEnroe will benefit the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. The Foundation operates the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, a K-12 public charter school that strives to provide children with a first-class education, while also advocating increased investment in, and accountability for, public schools nationwide.

The match between Agassi and McEnroe will be just one part of the evening that will celebrate tennis and entertainment. A full line up of other special guest appearances will be announced in the coming weeks.

The 2010 tournament has commitments from World No. 2 Novak Djokovic, reigning US Open champion and World No. 5 Juan Martin del Potro and defending LA champions Sam Querrey, who also won the 2009 Olympus US Open Series, and the Bryan Brothers.
 
 Australian tennis legend Mark Woodforde has been appointed captain of the Australian Junior Davis Cup team for 2010.

Woodforde, who with Todd Woodbridge holds the world record for number of doubles titles won, was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame during the Australian Open, and in July will be honored by the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island.

Woodforde’s first assignment will be to guide the Australian Junior Davis Cup team of Luke Saville, Jack Schipanski and Jay Andrijic at the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Qualifying, to be held in Kuching, Malaysia, from April 19.

The Junior Fed Cup team is made up of Abbie Myers, Storm Sanders and Molly Polak. Former top 50 player and National Academy Sydney Coach Nicole Arendt will lead the girls. They will prepare for the competition with a three-day camp at Melbourne Park before heading to Malaysia for the event which starts on April 26.

Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas are international team events for boys and girls aged 16 and under. Regional qualifying events are played in Asia/Oceania, Europe, South America and North/Central America and the Caribbean to determine the top sixteen teams. The top four qualifiers from the Asia Oceania group will go on to compete in the Junior Davis and Fed Cup Final in Mexico in September.
 
Compassion amongst former players was totally absent as Wayne Odesnik faced up to a two-year suspension from tennis after pleading guilty to importing human growth hormone in his baggage on arrival in Australia earlier this year.

Odesnik, aged 24 and ranked 98th in the world, was stopped by customs officers on January 2 when he arrived in Brisbane to play the ATP World Tour event in preparation for the Australian Open but did not appear before Brisbane Magistrates Court until Friday.

The Johannesburg-born Florida based player was fined $Aus7,280 plus $Aus1,040 in court costs. But the cost will be far greater in terms of the rest of his career. The ATP World Tour were reluctant to comment on the situation because a full-scale investigation is ongoing into the case. The International Tennis Federation, tennis rule making body that abides to the World Anti-Doping Authority code, took a similar stance, except to acknowledge possession of a prohibited substance carries a mandatory two-year sentence.

But on hearing Odesnik was found to be carrying eight vials, each containing 6 milligrams of the performance-enhancing substance, were found in his baggage, Andy Roddick maintained: “That's just plain cheating and they should throw him out of tennis. I was shocked. We don’t need stories like that. I know that’s the minority. There's just no room for it.

“To have it be one of our guys and for us to lose a guy in the top 100, it makes me a little angry,” Roddick continued. “I don’t want that stigma attached to our country and to our players, so it really pisses me off.

Odesnik’s fellow Florida resident James Blake was no less forgiving. “People look for a way to get ahead, and that's unfortunate,” said the American who partnered Odesnik playing in the World Team Cup in Dusseldorf last May. “It's something that's frustrating. You want to feel like you're playing on a fair playing field so I'm glad they caught him."

Sam Querrey amplified the American condemnation, saying: “He messed up there, and he's got to take the consequences. Hopefully he'll learn his lesson. It's pretty easy to not cheat. I don't know why some guys do."

Guillermo Canas, the recently retired Argentine who four years ago served a 15-month ban four years ago, is a part time coach to Odesnik but only during training breaks in Miami and does not travel with the player.

“I don't know nothing but I'm surprised like everyone,” said Canas who fought his ban with the Court of Arbitration for Sport and had a two year ban commuted to 15 months after testing positive for the use of the use of the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, a substance with no benefits other than to ease hypertension but is often used as a masking agent. “I know tennis, like any sport, has drug problems.”

Odesnik broke into the world’s top 100 in early April last year and peaked with a ranking of 77 a few weeks later after reaching the final in Houston. He reached the quarter final of the Brisbane event in January and got to the second round of the Australian Open but has only registered one victory since.

 
The tournament has also been named by the players as the ATP Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year.

Other 2009 ATP tournament and player awards are:
ATP World Tour 500 Series: Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships (for the sixth time in seven years)
ATP World Tour 250 Series: SkiStar Swedish Open, Bastad (for the eighth straight year)
Player Of the Year: Roger Federer (fifth time in six years)
ATPWorldTour.com fan’s favorite: Roger Federer (record seventh straight year)
Doubles Team Of the Year: Bob and Mike Bryan (fifth time in seven years)
ATPWorldTour.com fan’s favorite: Bob and Mike Bryan (fifth straight year)
Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Of the Year: MaliVai Washington
Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award: Roger Federer (record sixth consecutive year)
Most Improved Player Of the Year: John Isner
Newcomer Of the Year: Horacio Zeballos
Comeback Player Of the Year: Marco Chiudinelli
 
The ATP World Tour gave out its 2009 awards at Indian Wells, and in Miami it was the turn of the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour to honor those who made the biggest impact last year. Serena Williams was featured no less than three times and Kim Clijsters twice, while Elena Dementieva was, perhaps unexpectedly, revealed as the fan favorite. The awards went to:

Player of the Year: Serena Williams
Doubles Team of the Year: Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Most Improved Player of the Year: Yanina Wickmayer
Comeback Player of the Year: Kim Clijsters
Newcomer of the Year: Melanie Oudin
Player Service: Liezel Huber
Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award: Kim Clijsters
Fan Favorite Singles Player of the Year: Elena Dementieva
Fan Favorite Doubles Team of the Year: Serena Williams and Venus Williams
Favorite Premier Tournament: BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells)
Favorite International Series Tournament: Abierto Mexicano TELCEL presentado por HSBC (Acapulco).

The winners of Player of the Year, Doubles Team of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, and Newcomer of the Year are determined by the global tennis media, with the Fan Favorite Singles Player and Doubles Team are chosen by tennis fans voting on www.sonyericssonwtatour.com. The players themselves selected the winners of the Player Service and Sportsmanship Awards, as well as their favorite tournaments.
 
For the last 20 years the trend in British tennis has been to award the Davis Cup captaincy to somebody immediately recognizable as a home-bred name in the game; Tony Pickard, David Lloyd, Roger Taylor, Jeremy Bates and John Lloyd.

But following the resignation of the younger Lloyd last week, it now appears as though the Lawn Tennis Association is about to adopt a different approach in their bid to change fortunes after five successive defeats and avoid the drop to the Euro African Zone Group III.

Roger Draper, chief executive at the LTA revealed: “We don't need a big name, we want somebody who is embedded in British tennis. It's a great opportunity for some young British coaches to come through.”

 
Initially Greg Rusedski, the former world no.4 and US Open finalist who last year filled the post of Britain’s Junior Davis Cup captain and is employed by the LTA in a Talent Identification role, was the favorite to succeed Lloyd who decided to quit when a review was ordered into the defeat by three Lithuanian teenagers earlier this month.

Now it would appear the two most likely candidates for the job are Scotsman Leon Smith, who has the added bonus of being a close friend and confidante of Andy Murray after coaching the current world no.3 through much of his teens, and Colin Beecher.

Since Murray moved on to work with other coaches five years ago, Smith has risen gradually up the LTA ladder. After a period as Head Coach of the Under 16’s, and then moving up to Under 18’s, he is now second in charge to Player Director Steve Martens.

Beecher has been on the LTA’s payroll for six years since the days David Felgate filled the position of Performance Director. He is currently Britain’s Junior Davis Cup captain and has worked with both emergent men’s and women’s players at the National Training Centre at Roehampton.

 
Test how well you know you doubles skills.  There are 20 questions to explore your knowledge.  Check back next time to see if your answers match up.
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