WTA Rankings: Corrected for Reality


With the Williams sisters out, the women’s game is – legitimately – considered to be wide open. Consider the intro to this article:

One French Open pundit this week described world number one Caroline Wozniacki as playing “moonballing nonsense” and after the Dane and second seed Kim Clijsters crashed out, the women’s game generally is under fire.

Wozniacki, top seed despite never having won a grand slam, was completely outplayed in her 6-1 6-3 third-round defeat by 28th seed Daniela Hantuchova on Friday, leaving the draw even more wide open than it was before the claycourt event began.

Clijsters lost on Thursday to unknown Dutch youngster Arantxa Rus and blamed a “wrong attitude” rather than injury problems while last year’s finalist Samantha Stosur was beaten on Friday by unseeded Argentine Gisela Dulko.

Gone are the days of enthralling battles between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova or Steffi Graf and Monica Seles, something the men’s game has in bucketloads thanks to the greatness of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and now Novak Djokovic.

Asked what the new generation of Wozniacki and company had brought to the game, 2009 Roland Garros winner Svetlana Kuznetsova told Reuters: “Not much, no. Clijsters and the Williams sisters are much better.”

The Williams duo are out after long-term injuries and if they return, they are unlikely to be able to hit the heights of their early years. That still might be good enough to win a host more grand slam titles.

This is the first time since 1971 that the top two women’s seeds have failed to advance to the fourth round at the French Open and commentators and journalists are sharpening their words and pencils to punch holes in the women’s game.

Despair not my fellow tennis fans, I have a solution: Tencap!

Check this out: Tencap has updated all the scores/ratings for the top WTA players, and the results are very interesting.

Note: Tencap’s algorithm shows how well a player is currently PLAYING, not where they’re currently ranked.  Just like a handicap in golf, a lower Tencap rating is reflective of better play. 

The list below is sorted from top to bottom, in terms of their Tencap ratings, so the top players are ranked at the top, and the bottom players are ranked at the bottom.

WTA Rank Player Tencap Rating Corrected Ranking
1 Caroline Wozniacki 0 1
4 Victoria Azarenka 0 2
2 Kim Clijsters 1 3
9 Petra Kvitova 1 4
8 Maria Sharapova 2 5
13 Agnieszka Radwanska 2 6
15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 2 7
17 Serena Williams 2 8
3 Vera Zvonareva 3 9
6 Samantha Stosur 3 10
10 Jelena Jankovic 3 11
5 Francesca Schiavone 4 12
7 Li Na 4 13
12 Andrea Petkovic 4 14
11 Marion Bartoli 5 15
18 Julia Goerges 5 16
14 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6 17
19 Flavia Pennetta 6 18
20 Shahar Peer 6 19
16 Kaia Kanepi 7 20

Taking the next logical step, we can now see the difference between a players current ranking and their current level of play (their Tencap rating).  This allows us to see who is over-rated (or rather, playing worse than they’re ranking would indicate), and who is under-rated (who is playing better than they’re ranking would indicate).  Surprising to me to see Francesca Schiavone at the top of the list on the “over-rated” side of the scale.  Not surprising at all to see Serena Williams as the most under-rated player in women’s tennis.  She’s no doubt a helluva lot better than her current ranking.

Notice that when two or more players shared the same Tencap rating, I then deferred to their WTA ranking.  This, to me, seems to be the most comprehensive way to rate/rank these top players.  For example, Francesca Schiavone, Li Na, and Andrea Petkovic all share the same Tencap rating (4), so I sorted them according to their WTA rankings as a second choice ~ Still, at least we can see where they are at relative to the other players.

BTW, the “over” and “under” lables are relative to Caroline Wozniacki, who’s WTA ranking (#1) exactly matched her Tencap rating (also #1), meaning that whether or not you think she deserves to be world #1, she is – for the most part – playing like it.

WTA Rank Player Corrected Ranking Difference
5 Francesca Schiavone 12 -7
3 Vera Zvonareva 9 -6
7 Li Na 13 -6
6 Samantha Stosur 10 -4
11 Marion Bartoli 15 -4
16 Kaia Kanepi 20 -4
14 Svetlana Kuznetsova 17 -3
12 Andrea Petkovic 14 -2
2 Kim Clijsters 3 -1
10 Jelena Jankovic 11 -1
1 Caroline Wozniacki 1 0
20 Shahar Peer 19 1
19 Flavia Pennetta 18 1
18 Julia Goerges 16 2
4 Victoria Azarenka 2 2
8 Maria Sharapova 5 3
9 Petra Kvitova 4 5
13 Agnieszka Radwanska 6 7
15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7 8
17 Serena Williams 8 9

What really stood out to me was both Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova & Agnieszka Radwanska, who are clearly playing significantly better than they’re rankings show!

Counter-Argument
You say, “But wait a second, most of the “overrated” players are still in the tournament, and 3 of the “underrated” players are already out! What gives?”

Don’t know.  I’m guessing that Tencap’s algorithm is more likely to identify a player capable of playing well than it is in predicting which player will play poorly. [shrugs] It’s a good rating system, but it ain’t no magic ball.

At any rate, it should be helpful in making some sense out of apparent nonsense in the women’s game!

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