The Last Word: Why this great Dane deserves to be top dog
It's time to stop the sniping, Wozniacki's a worthy No 1 because of her all-year-round excellence
Sunday 27 February 2011
The last time that Caroline Wozniacki grew bored of answering the same old questions from tennis reporters, she invented a story during last month's Australian Open about being attacked by a kangaroo. Given that she has spent the past fortnight playing in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, it is surprising that no tales have emerged of the 20-year-old Dane getting lost in the desert or being bitten by a camel.
When she was replaced as world No 1 by Kim Clijsters a fortnight ago, Wozniacki said the only consolation was that she would enjoy a respite from being asked whether she deserved to top the rankings. Having returned to the summit, courtesy of her victory in Dubai last weekend, she can expect more of the same line of questioning in the weeks ahead.
The case against Wozniacki is that for all her consistency – she has won seven titles in the past 10 months – she has yet to win one of the four Grand Slam events.
She has reached just one final, losing to Clijsters at the 2009 US Open, and two semi-finals, going down to Vera Zvonareva in New York five months ago and to Li Na in Melbourne last month. She is the third woman in the past three years – following Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina – to reach No 1 without breakingher Grand Slam duck.
Does Wozniacki deserve to be world No 1? The answer depends, of course, on how you define that status. If you are talking about who you would back to take a single winner-takes-all tournament, maybe you would side instead with a Clijsters or a fully fit Serena Williams. If you are talking about consistent excellence through the year, there is no question that Wozniacki is a worthy No 1.
The rankings are, after all, heavily weighted towards the Grand Slam events. A victory in a Grand Slam tournament is worth 2,000 points, while a win at any of the mandatory "Premier" events at the next level are worth half that amount. Although you do not have to win as many matches to win a Premier title – Wozniacki won five en route to victory in Dubai – the fields are usually almost as strong. Eight of the world's top 10 players were in Dubai, for instance.
Similar ranking systems are used in other sports but tennis, oddly, is the one that gets singled out for the most criticism. When Lee Westwood (pictured below), who has never won a golfing major, became world No 1 in his sport last year, where were the cutting comments?
A more telling question in women's tennis might have been whether Serena Williams deserved to be world No 1, as she was for a total of 123 weeks. The American, who has not played since last year's Wimbledon because of a foot injury, has won 13 Grand Slam titles, but there have been times when she has all but vanished off the radar for the rest of the year.
Since the start of 2007, Williams has won six Grand Slam tournaments, but only five other titles on the Women's Tennis Association tour. She has clearly been the best player of her generation – four years ago, she won the Australian Open when ranked No 81 in the world, having played only five tournaments in the preceding 16 months – but does that equate with being world No 1?
It could be argued, of course, that one of the reasons Williams has outlasted so many of her rivals is that she has saved her greatest efforts for the biggest tournaments. Tennis, however, is a year-round sport. The Women's Tennis Association would never publicly voice such an opinion, but it is a safe bet that the governing body are happier to have aNo 1 who performs well throughout the year rather than someone who turns it on only once in a while.
Wozniacki, a fine ambassador for her sport, deserves to be No 1 and the hope in this quarter is that she cements that status with a Grand Slam triumph this summer. If she doesn't, expect to hear about how she came across a Womble while walking on Wimbledon Common.
Future cricket World Cups on a sticky wicket
The International Cricket Council plan to reduce future World Cups from 14 teams to 10. The competition has become a bloated monster, with 49 matches spread over six weeks, but this is not the answer.
Seeing Andrew Strauss's team struggle against Holland may have been painful for England fans, but such matches add to the competition's flavour, as did Ireland's victory over Pakistan four years ago and Kenya's over West Indies in 1996.
The problem is not the number of teams but the format and the schedule. The first phase goes on too long and could be reduced by playing more games on the same day or by having smaller groups.
After all, nobody would suggest that a way of spicing up the FA Cup would be to deny the likes of Crawley and Leyton Orient the right to take on Manchester United or Arsenal.
Football is not a matter of life and death
Football loves the language of war. Long-ball teams subject opponents to aerial bombardments, hard men do not take any prisoners and successful sides have to wage campaigns on several fronts.
It is tempting to suggest, nevertheless, that modern-day footballers have no idea about military matters. However, Lee Crooks disagrees. The former Manchester City midfielder should know, having joined the RAF as a gunner in 2009. He will soon be serving in Afghanistan.
Comparing his two careers, Crooks said: "Both roles are about working as a team, being there for your team-mates and moving forward as a team. You train all week to prepare for the Saturday game and put everything that you've trained for into that game, and it's exactly the same as this."
If you hear in future of a former City midfielder bombing forward into the penalty area, it could be time to take cover.
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Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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