Caroline Wozniacki: Is She Really the No. 1 Women's Tennis Player in the World?

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJanuary 18, 2011

Caroline Wozniacki: Is She Really the No. 1 Women's Tennis Player in the World?

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    Caroline Wozniacki is the world's top-ranked women's tennis player and has been since October.

    The Dane started to back up her claim as the best around by getting off to a fine start at the season's first Grand Slam event. Yesterday, she defeated Gisela Dulko 6-3, 6-4 in the first round of the Australian Open.

    But just how deserving of the title of "Best in the World" is she?

    Let's take a closer look: five reasons she is the best, five reasons someone else is.

5. Wozniacki Isn't the Best

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    Reason: January's Thailand Exhibition

    Wozniacki has several claimants to the title of top women's player in the world.

    Although she isn't as much of a superstar as Serena or Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters has won the past two US Opens.

    Wozniacki faced Clijsters in a Thai exhibition back on New Year's Day but lost 6-3, 4-6, 12-10.

    In a thrilling champion tiebreaker, Clijsters outlasted the far younger Wozniacki, who lost a shot to validate her world No. 1 ranking.

5. Wozniacki Is the Best

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    Reason: 2010 Victories

    Wozniacki won six WTA titles in 2010, more than any other woman on the tour.

    That alone isn't enough to declare her the best in the world. But she did win five of those six titles from from August to October. Three weeks after that fifth victory, she was the runner-up to Kim Clijsters at the WTA Tour Championship in Doha.

    Clearly she was playing the best tennis of anyone towards the end of the year.

4. Wozniacki Isn't the Best

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    Reason: 0-for-6 Against the Williams Sisters

    Serena and Venus might not be as dominant (or as healthy) as they were half a dozen years back, but they are still the sport's biggest stars—and two of the best players around.

    In order to be recognized as the best (no matter what the world rankings say), you really should beat the best.

    But Wozniacki has faced Serena twice, losing both times. She's also faced Venus four times, losing each match.

    It's hard to declare her best in the world with that record.

4. Wozniacki Is the Best

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    Reason: Beaten the Best of the Rest

    Wozniacki might not have a victory over the Williams sisters or against Clijsters and a few of the other top players. But she has a pretty impressive record against the next top tier of the sport.

    She's faced Svetlana Kuznetsova, winner of the 2009 French Open, five times and defeated her three of those matches.

    Against Vera Zvonareva she has a 4-3 record, she boasts a 3-1 record against Nadia Petrova and versus 2008 Olympic gold medal winner Elena Dementieva, Wozniacki has won five of eight showdowns.

3. Wozniacki Isn't the Best

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    Reason: Serena Williams Has Been Hurt

    Of the last nine Grand Slam tournaments contested, Serena Williams has won five: two Australians, two Wimbledons and a US Open.

    But because she hasn't played since early July, she naturally tumbled from the world rankings.

    If both Serena and Wozniacki were at full strength entering any tournament, wouldn't Serena have to be the favorite regardless of the world rankings?

3. Wozniacki Is the Best

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    Reason: Consistency

    Wozniacki finished second on the money list in 2010, earning over $3.8 million in singles prize money on the tour.

    Given that she didn't win a Grand Slam title (like Kim Clijsters, who took the US Open), where the purse is greater, that means Wozniacki was very competitive each time she stepped onto the court.

    In 2010, she only competed in 21 events yet reached the finals eight times, and her overall record was 62-17. That's nearly twice as many wins as Kim Clijsters (35-6) and only one fewer win than Venus (38-7) and Serena (25-4) had combined in 2010.

2. Wozniacki Isn't the Best

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    Reason: Not a Great 2011

    Aside from her tough loss to Kim Clijsters on New Year's Day in Thailand, Wozniacki has not really done very much in the first few weeks of the new year.

    At the Medibank Intenational she was the top seed and earned a bye, but she fell in her first match, 6-3, 6-3, to 32nd-ranked Dominika Cibulkova.

    A week before, at the Hong Kong Tennis Classic in Beijing, she was pounded 6-1, 6-0 in a match against Vera Zvonareva.

    That isn't exactly the best start to the season when you are ranked tops in the world.

2. Wozniacki Is the Best

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    Reason: Strength on Any Surface

    Since June of 2009, Wozniacki has won eight tournaments, an stat impressive enough.

    But during that year-and-a-half stretch she has won once on grass, once on clay and six times on the hard court.

    That displays plenty of versatility and shows she's capable of winning anywhere on any surface, a must for a world No. 1.

1. Wozniacki Isn't the Best

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    Reason: Zero Grand Slams

    Maybe it's unfair, but it's the harsh reality of the sport.

    No one will really think Wozniacki is worthy of the No. 1 spot until she is victorious at either Wimbledon, Roland Garros, Melbourne Park or the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

    Wozniacki came close back in 2009, when she fell to Kim Clijsters at the US Open, 5-7. 3-6. But that won't be enough to convince people.

    If she nabs several more runner-ups at Grand Slam events over the next few years, she'll likely retain that top spot. But one victory would be a whole lot better for her legacy than the ranking.

1. Wozniacki Is the Best

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    Reason: The Rankings Are the Rankings

    Don't blame Wozniacki for her peculiar and tenuous spot atop the world rankings. Blame the system and the setup if you like.

    Unlike the world of college football or college basketball, the rankings don't factor in human prejudices. The WTA's rankings are based solely on numbers on the court.

    As the WTA declares, "The WTA rankings are based on a 52-week, cumulative system. A player's ranking is determined by her results at a maximum of 16 tournaments for singles and 11 for doubles."

    In the end, the rankings don't mean very much. But based purely on her play, she earned the top ranking. Over the last 52 weeks, no one has a better record. Doesn't that make her the best in the world?


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    Is Wozniacki the best player in the world?

    Probably not. She hasn't proven that she can consistently work her way into the finals of the Grand Slam tournaments.

    Should she win the 2011 Australian Open, people will feel she is more of a credible world No. 1. But one tournament doesn't make a great player.

    Wozniacki has been on a great run since reaching the finals of the 2009 US Open.

    But to validate the numbers spit out by the WTA computers, she needs to have a great COMPLETE season, one that includes wins over the top players like Clijsters or a Williams sister and a string of wins that includes a Grand Slam.