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Is WTA really inconsistent compared to ATP? Comparative series: Williams vs. Djokovic, Azarenka vs. Federer and Sharapova vs. Murray

Our contributor Omair always enjoys giving us a statistical perspective at the world of tennis. He's written countless articles statistically previewing and reviewing matches and tournaments, predicting future results based on the past at certain events or parts of the season, etc. (you can read all his guest posts at his Stats Corner on Women's Tennis Blog) and now he's decided to compare the very best of the WTA to the very best of the ATP and check whether the numbers back up the story that the WTA is less consistent than the ATP. Since there are many facts to be analysed, this will be a series and below is Omair's introductory article.

"The WTA lacks consistency, just look at the ATP, there is a Big 4 and they have been very dominant", "women's tennis is not worth watching", etc. – these are discussions the tennis world has been having. "The WTA needs a Big 4 like the ATP" – a lot of heated debate went on this topic for quite some time, in fact, it still is going on, with some journalists thrashing the WTA.

I will now look into the stats and see how much of this debate can be explained by numbers. Let's start looking into this issue by reminding ourselves about the results of some of the top players from ATP and WTA.

Last year saw the transformation that everyone wanted to see in the WTA, an emergence of the Big 4. We saw Victoria Azarenka win her maiden Grand Slam and claim the top spot, starting her season with a 26-match winning streak, we saw Agnieszka Radwanska lose only to Azarenka for the first few months, we saw Maria Sharapova claim Roland Garros to complete her Career Slam and who can forget Serena Williams tearing the field in the second half of the year to lay her hands on Wimbledon, Olympic Gold medal, US Open and the year-end Championships.

Serena Williams reclaimed the top spot recently by beating Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open. In doing so, the American became the oldest female player to be ranked world No.1 in the Open Era. The Top 4 female players as of today are:

  1. Serena Williams
  2. Victoria Azarenka
  3. Maria Sharapova
  4. Agnieszka Radwanska

Last year, we also saw Novak Djokovic successfully defend his Australian Open title in January, Rafael Nadal claim his record-breaking seventh Roland Garros title, Roger Federer win record-equaling seventh Wimbledon title and return to No.1 to break Pete Sampras' record of most weeks spent at the top spot, and finally Andy Murray’s breakthrough at the US Open to claim his first Grand Slam title.

We also saw Serena Williams losing to Virgine Razzano in the first round of the French Open, in what was Wiliams' first and to date only loss in the first round of a Grand Slam, and Rafael Nadal lose to Lukas Rosol in the second round of Wimbledon and not play a single match for the rest of the season after that loss.

I was just sitting back and thinking of studying, when all of a sudden the idea of jotting down this article struck me. The original idea was to compare the ATP’s Big 4 against WTA’s newfound Big 4 (though two of them, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, are not new) to gauge which tour has been more consistent over the course of last 12 months. However, as I began to think it over, I realized it would not be possible to do a Big 4 vs. Big 4, since our ATP seven-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal did not play the last two majors and anything in between them. This was aided by the fact that he has dropped to No.5 in the rankings. So I thought to change the subject matter and do a Big 3 thing. The first thing that comes to mind when doing a Big 3 is the ATP’s Big 3: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. However, as stated above, for this comparative study Nadal will not qualify and hence we will have to take in Andy Murray since he is ranked No.3 in the world and he has finally gotten the monkey off his back.

I will be doing a series of articles to see who has been more consistent over the course of last 12 months comparing:

SERENA WILLIAMS vs. NOVAK DJOKOVIC

VICTORIA AZARENKA vs. ROGER FEDERER

MARIA SHARAPOVA vs. ANDY MURRAY

Many will disagree with me in that Williams should go against Federer and Azarenka should go against Djokovic, but we will stick to our current rankings and decide after an overall study who has been more consistent lately, men or women, and whether all this trash-talk about women’s tennis is true or not.

Stay tuned! The series continues over the weekend! ;) (photos: © Neal Trousdale)

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10 thoughts on “Is WTA really inconsistent compared to ATP? Comparative series: Williams vs. Djokovic, Azarenka vs. Federer and Sharapova vs. Murray

  1. Jim

    It still boggles my mind that people can be so derisive of an entire branch of the sport based on the 'numbers' behind it. Looking forward to the next piece Omair, I hope we can blow the haters away!

  2. Marine

    Just had a look at Omair's stats corner and…wow, I've not realised how much work you've put into this. I'm looking forward to the series as well.

  3. Omair

    Thanks Marija for putting up the article.

    Jim – I will try to cover facts other than the numbers also. ATP has been called as consistant just because of its top 3,4 players and their results and consistency and there is no better way to measure consistency than breaking down their results and comparing them.

    Marine – Thanks for the compliment, it is just I love this work :)

    I hope I will not dis-appoint the readers.

  4. Tennis Blog

    The post you've published is really interesting. I've never actually thought about that, but thanks for clearing it up a bit ;) Personally, I think there is a big difference in both tennis. The men's seems to be much faster, stronger and for some much more interesting or spectacular. On the other hand, the women's tennis is much smoother and delicate, witch is a good think ;) I think both tennis are really good and fascinating, just in the other ways :)

  5. tennisnews24.it

    I agree for Vika vs Novak and Serena vs Roger….I Also feel atp more boring because there are always 2-3 super players and the other are only spectators…

  6. P!nky

    I think the fact that in women's tennis we have such a variety of winners is good for tennis. To me that means the level of competition is really high. In mens tennis. you have basically 4 or 5 players winning most of the tournaments.

  7. Mirjana

    I'm sorry, but I don't like the idea of comparing WTA to ATP. It's just incomparable. Yes, women tennis is more interesting since you never know who is going to win, but men's is a lot more interesting to watch and men are playing on a much higher level. Just because there are various winners doesn't mean they're all playing great. Novak and the others are winning most of the tournaments because they are complete players, especially when it comes to mental strenght. I think women tennis is on higher level than it used to be like 3-4 years ago, but it is still far beyond men's. For example, how can we compare Serena, who is playing only biggest tournaments and skipping events, to Novak, who's been constantly amazing during almost entire year. No offense, just my opinion. :)

  8. Sara Wilson

    Mirjana, I agree with you. There is no comparison between WTA and ATP. The womens tennis is on much a higher level than it used to be. In the past you could predict the winner now you just got to wait and see who wins. This makes the womens tennis more interesting than the men's.
    I agree we cannot compare Serena, she only plays the bigger events. For example, normally after the AO she appears only in Miami. This time she came to Doha and Dubai. You know why, not for the event bit to grab the No.1 ranking from Vika. She knew that she had to make it to the quarters to regain the No.1 ranking and she got it. I have not heard any silly comments from her coach Patrick the Frenchman about this.But for Vika this ranking is not so important at the moment.It's RedFoo at the moment. In Dubai Vika withdrew, everyone predicted that Serena will follow. Yes, she dit it but it cost her 225 point on the ranking. Now Serena is only 40 points ahead of Vika. Nothing to be proud of maybe for her coach Patrick.

  9. Omair

    Mirjana and Sara Wilson – The comparison will actually be about the results of players over the course of last 12 months. I hope your opinion will change by the end of the series.

    But I do agree with some of your points. WTA used to have a lot of winners, but if you see back to the last 12 months, the 4 majors have been won by Serena, Azarenka and Sharapova. They won the 3 medals at the Olympics. The 3 played in 22 tournaments overall, and won 16 of those tournaments. I guess this is what you will call domination.

  10. Dede

    WTA is horrible. ATP is so much more intense. I'm sorry but other than watching some of the tenniswomen for their beauty, there is really no interest in WTA tournaments.

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