Monday, 6 July 2009

Serena: The 'True' Number One...


No, no, no, no, no,!!

This statement, which was made around March of this year, that came from Serena Williams, holder of three of the four grand slam titles, saying that she is the 'true' number one has riled me up beyond comprehension.

Let me explain to those of you reading this, first of all, how the rankings work, in layman's terms, how Serena has come to this conclusion and why I think that her statement is a load of tosh.

OK, in simple terms this is how to tennis world rankings are made up.

Every tournament, from ITF Futures to Grand Slams, have ranking points, per round, which are dependent on the status of the tournament.

The winner of a Grand Slam, for example, will be awarded 2000 ranking points; the winner of a Tier I event (now known as Premier Mandatory...don't ask) will be awarded 1000 ranking points, and so on and so on.

Your overall ranking points are comprised of your results from all four majors (Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, US Open), the four Premier Mandatory events (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid, Beijing) and your best other eight results in other tournaments. I never said this would be easy.

The results that are used will be results that have occurred in the last 52 weeks. So, for example, by winning Wimbledon this year Serena Williams increased her ranking points by 700, as last year she was runner up and only gained 1400 points, Venus Williams, obviously, will lose 700 points. Still with me?

So that's how the rankings are worked out, by your performance in the major tournaments and a set of other smaller, less prestigious, tournaments.

Currently the world number one is Dinara Safina, who has been in three grand slam finals and has won none of them, and who was also decimated by Venus Williams in the semi final at Wimbledon on Thursday 6-1 6-0.

Now, Serena believes that as she holds three of the four grand slam titles that there are on offer, that by right she should be the world number one.

You have to admit that she gives a good case, I mean three grand slam titles is no mean feat and she has been convincing throughout, but this is where I ask the following question...what about other tournaments, what has Serena done in them? The ones with less limelight and television coverage, the ones with less ranking points and lesser prize money.

The answer to that question is simply, not a lot.

In 2009 Serena has, so far, only competed in 10 tournaments, winning two, the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and reaching the final of just one other, Miami. She also has notched up three semi finals, one quarter final, and three first round losses (in a row I might add).

Dinara is number one because she has won five tournaments in the last 52 weeks, made five other finals, four semi finals and two quarter finals in the 19 tournaments that she has played a part in, I don't care who the hell you are, that is consistency and that is impressive.

There has always been a question mark, especially so on the women's side, when a player reaches the number one ranking without winning a major. The same question was being asked of Jelena Jankovic not so long ago, who managed to reach the number one ranking without even coming close to reaching a grand slam final, let alone winning one.

The reason I feel that Serena doesn't deserve the number one ranking is because I, personally, feel that they (Venus and Serena) shouldn't just be allowed to turn up to the major tournaments, power their way through, take the prize money, take the glory and go off into the spotlight.

Of the 15 tournaments that Serena has taken part in over the last 52 weeks, about three or four of them have been, what were known as, Tier II or below level tournaments. Tournaments that are short on glamour, prestige and prize money. And even when Serena did play in these lesser tournaments, she often didn't do very well in them.

Yes, Dinara hasn't won a grand slam; winning a Grand Slam is a great achievement and one that can never be argued against or taken away from you, but if you honestly believe that you are the world number one player, prove it, week in week out, not when you please and when the money is right.

It has been a consistent criticism of the Williams sisters that they have, in the past, not been fully focused on their tennis, with other money making schemes going on in the background. More recently however this hasn't been so much the case, with both the sisters looking more focused and determined than ever before.

If you are fully focused on the WTA tour and on tennis, though, Serena, and are so transfixed on the the world number one ranking which you behold as being your own, and are so upset and dismayed as to why you aren't the world number one ranked player...then do something about it, turn up, win tournaments, at ALL levels and let the computer do the rest.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

"...there's always Michael Owen!"

No more than 48 hours after those very words were uttered by my lips, in a phone conversation with one of my many University housemates, had my possible 'tempting of fate' occurred; Michael Owen had become a Red Devil.

The conversation that took place began with us discussing our landlord, then onto my desire to purchase a Manchester United season ticket which I couldn't possibly afford, and then we discussed the team itself and the issue of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez heading for the exits, and Antonio Valenica coming in the opposite direction.

In my eyes, even as a Manchester United fan who has on more than one occasion been proven to never doubt Sir Alex Ferguson and his decision making, the idea of Michael Owen, who since the World Cup in 2006 has had uncountable injury problems and not to mention is a former Liverpool icon, signing for United was somewhat of a gamble.

Sir Alex, though, has previous in this sort of area. Look what he done to Eric Cantona, who wasn't a regular at Leeds and had a bit of a reputation as being a tough man to please and contain, became a Old Trafford legend; a name that will live in infamy at the Theatre of Dreams.

On a smaller scale you can also use the example of Henrik Larsson, who, despite coming off the back of a serious injury, made a considerable contribution to United during his three month loan spell.

Both example's were, without any question, gambles; gambles that paid off.

Despite Owen's injury plagued 2008/09 season he still managed to score 10 goals. Not bad for someone who had to battle through a number of injury setbacks, for a team who ultimately were relegated to the Championship.

After his lucrative £110,000 a week (reported) contract had expired, Sir Alex saw the chance of carrying out what could be a very astute piece of business, signing the former Liverpool and Real Madrid star for the pricey sum of nothing, and on a pay as you play contract.

You cannot deny that Owen is a born goalscorer, and as the saying goes 'form is temporary, class is permanent' which he has proven over the years, even during his less than encouraging spell with Newcastle, proving that he still has that killer strikers instinct, something he has shown year in year out for club, and for country.

Owen still harbours hopes of getting back into Fabio Capello's England squad, with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa just one more win away, and where better to be playing at club level than at the home of the English and World Champions, where chances will be created in abundance?

Ever since Ruud Van Nistelrooy left the Old Trafford club United have been trying to find an out and out goal scorer to replace him. Wayne Rooney, Tevez, Ronaldo and more recently Dimitar Berbatov have managed to make this void seem minimal at best, scoring countless goals in United's endless pursuit of silver wear between them.

Owen will, hopefully, fill that void, and will, if fit, hope to be a key member of the United strike force, as they try and replace the 30-40 goals a season that Ronaldo and Tevez provided them.

Despite my original pessimism about the move, I must say that in the days that led up to the signing, and that have now preceded them, I, personally, am more and more upbeat about the possibilities of Rooney and Owen reuniting, in the hope that they can strike up a world beating partnership for club, and maybe for country again.

So far, of the reported £100 million cash pot that United have at their disposal, they have only spent £16 million, all of that on, Ecuadorian, Valencia from Wigan Athletic. United would probably like another striker, another winger and another left back before the season begins against Birmingham City on August 16th, but, so far, have seemingly missed out on their main targets this summer of Tevez, Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema, the latter two, presumably, following Ronaldo to Madrid, and Tevez, presumably, going down the road to Manchester City.

Some might see Owen's signing as a desperate act after missing out on their main targets to Real Madrid's ridiculous millions, but as another one of my housemates at University said to me 'In Fergie we trust'...who am I to argue with a man who has won 23 major domestic and European trophies in 23 years?

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

The Usual Suspects

There were eight aside, now we have four, and its the usual suspects that make up the semi final lineup at Wimbledon, with all four top seeds making it through on the women's side, while on the men's side, the dream final is still on, but there are a German and an American who always do well on the grass who will do whatever it takes to scupper that dream.

The women step out for the semi finals today, with Venus Williams taking on Dinara Safina, who is making her first appearance in a Wimbledon semi final, and Serena Williams taking on Elena Dementieva.

The women's side has almost had a feeling of 'whats the point' about it since the get go, with everyone presuming that the Williams sisters will make it into the final for the second year in a row, but although the sisters are in scintillating form at present, dismissing their quarter final opponents with consummate ease, this will be their toughest tests as they face the highest seeds they were ever going to face in the lead up to the final.

Dementieva is most likely to upset the apple cart in this one and has a fairly decent record against Serena, albeit a losing record. Safina, despite being world number one, has a public hatred of grass and has to be considerably pleased to have even made it this far having never progressed beyond the 3rd round here before.

I still fully expect an all Williams final, to my distaste, but there is no denying they know better than anyone on the tour how to play the grass and how to dominate like nowhere else in the world.

The men's side is now one step closer to the dream final that the British public, the British press and most of the watching world are hoping for, with Andy Murray making light work of Juan Carlos Ferrero, and Roger Federer having inhuman reactions to Ivo Karlovic's power serve game beating him, also, in straight sets.

The closer we get to the final on Sunday, the more the nerves and anxiousness creep in and unlike the women's side, where everyone sees nothing other than a Williams 1-2 on Saturday, Andy Roddick, who takes on Murray, and Tommy Haas, who takes on Federer, stand in the way of the dream and have more than enough tools to upset a few million people around the world.

Andy Roddick, two time Wimbledon finalist, is one of the usual suspects when it comes to the latter stages of Wimbledon and has the experience that Murray at present doesn't have and is learning by the day.

It was mentioned fleetingly that Murray looked a little tired in his quarter final against Ferrero, so he will more than happy coming through that one in straight sets, expending as little energy as possible as he will need his A game to beat A-Rod, who has markedly improved in recent months.

Haas has always been pretty nifty on the grass. Winner in Halle, beating Novak Djokovic who he subsequently beat in yesterday's quarter final, he can go into his match up against the history making Federer full of confidence. It wasn't much more than a month ago that Haas was two sets to love up against Federer at Roland Garros, the day after Rafael Nadal had been knocked out. How different things could have been.

On the grass, despite this being the surface of choice for both, Federer will always have the edge, you just have to look at the numbers. Five Wimbledons to Zero says it all.

Murray has never been this far at Wimbledon before, and some might think back to his annihilation at the hands of Nadal last year, off the back of another five set thriller against Richard Gasquet, in the Quarter Final.

Following that slam he went on to win back to back Masters titles, and reach the US Open final. There is no one now who can doubt his fitness. Despite Murray being blinkered and giving the usual responses of 'taking one match at a time' and not worrying about what the media are saying and the pressure they are heaping on him, it wouldn't be human if it didn't affect him a little bit, and if Murray can overcome the pressure that plagued Tim Henman in so many Wimbledon semi finals over the years, he can and will come through.

We are at the business end of the championships and the usual names are still on the draw sheet with Venus and Roger looking to make it six championships a piece, Serena hoping to make it three, and Tommy, A-Rod, Elena, Dinara and Murray all hoping to make history of their own and win the most prestigious trophy in tennis.