Omair, our stats expert, is using numbers to clarify our never-ending debates. This time he will examine the emergence of players who reached the top of the WTA rankings without winning a Grand Slam – Kim Clijsters, Amelie Mauresmo, Jelena Jankovic, Dinara Safina and Caroline Wozniacki – and closer investigate their performance in the years they became number ones. Part 2, to be publish next week, will look into the slamless No.1 years of players that had crowned their careers with major titles. You'll see, it's a revealing perspective!
A lot of debate has been going on over the last few years regarding the coveted world No.1 spot in the WTA rankings. Issues have been raised that the WTA ranking system is flawed, that the player must win a Grand Slam before she gets to the top. Is the WTA ranking system really flawed? And is it mandatory for a player to be a Grand Slam winner before she attains No.1 in the rankings? If yes, then why? And if no, then why has the hype been created?
These are the questions that will be debated on forever. As for me, being the best player in the world does not mean that you have to win all the tournaments or you have to win some specific events. For me, the best player in the world is the one who has been the most consistent throughout the year. You should not be ranked the best player in the world if you win all the four majors and do poorly the rest of the year. A player doing well in all the tournaments has all the right to be the best player in the world. How do you define the best player? What is your opinion on who should be the world No.1 player?
THE BEGINNINGS OF "SLAMLESS NUMBER ONES": WHO WAS THE FIRST AND WHEN WAS THE TERM COINED?
The term "slamless No.1" first appeared in August 2003 when Kim Clijsters became the first Belgian ever (man or woman) to be ranked world No.1. During that stellar season, Clijsters compiled a 90–12 singles record. Her singles win total was the highest single-season total by any woman since Martina Navratilova in 1982. Clijsters was also the first woman to play more than 100 singles matches in a year since Chris Evert in 1974.
Amelie Mauresmo followed in the footsteps of Kim Clijsters in 2004, when Mauresmo became the first French player to attain the top spot in the WTA rankings. Jelena Jankovic then repeated the same feat in 2008 and clinched the year-end top spot as well. Dinara Safina followed in 2009 and Caroline Wozniacki in 2010.
While Clijsters did go on to win her first Grand Slam at the 2005 US Open, and Mauresmo did it at the Australian Open 2006, Safina, Jankovic and Wozniacki are still in the hunt of their first ever major trophy. Will they ever be able to win it, only time will tell us.
Let's have a look at the seasons of the these five players, during which they first attained the top spot. Let the numbers do the talking, and let yourself be the judge as to who do you think did the best during her season that saw her attain the world No. 1 ranking for the first time. Do comment on how do you people see the seasons of these five players.
PERFORMANCE OF SLAMLESS WORLD NUMBER ONES IN THE YEAR THEY REACHED THE TOP RANKING
GRAND SLAM RESULTS OF SLAMLESS WORLD NUMBER ONES IN THE YEAR THEY REACHED THE TOP RANKING
At three of four Grand Slam events Clijsters was defeated by the eventual champion, with the only exception being Wimbledon where she lost to Venus Williams in the semis, who then lost to sister Serena in the final. At both French Open and the US Open Clijsters was defeated by none other than Justine Henin.
Safina was defeated by Serena at the Australian Open and Svetlana Kuznetsova at the French Open, while Venus thrashed Safina in Wimbledon semis (6-1 6-0) which marked the fewest games won by a reigning No.1 in a match. Serena mocked Safina's status of the top player. After Serena won Wimbledon, she said that she would rather be world No.2 and win two Grand Slams, than be world No.1 and win Rome.
As for our current world No.1 Caroline Wozniacki, we can notice that her 15-4 win-loss record at Grand Slams in the year she first occupied the top spot is the worst of the five slamless number ones.
PERFORMANCE AT YEAR-END CHAMPIONSHIPS
PERFORMANCE AT TOURNAMENTS
INSIGHT INTO LOSSES
What is interesting to note here is that Clijsters was beaten only thrice by a player outside the Top 25 during the whole year and for a total of four times only by a player ranked outside the Top 5. I guess Clijsters' season of 2003 was the best of all these five players. What do you people think?
Safina is the only slamless No.1 who lost to a player outside the Top 100 in the year she reached the top of the rankings. Safina fell to a world No.132 player and a world No.226 player consecutively.
As for our current No.1, Caroline Wozniacki, she had six losses to players outside Top 25, while her lowest-ranked conqueror was then-No.62 Petra Kvitova, currently the world's second-ranked player.
How do you see the performance of these five stars during their stellar seasons which made them achieve the top spot?
Thanks, Omair, for contributing with your analysis once again. I'm looking forward to posting Part 2. For those who have joined us for the first time, do explore Omair's previous insights into the 2011 season:
- Comparative analysis of Top 10 players and their performance at big tournaments in 2011
- Part 1: Top 10 players in 2011 – how they scored against fellow big opponents
- Part 2: Top 10 players in 2011 – what do their losses suggest?
(photos: © Neal Trousdale, Stephane Martinache)