Caroline Wozniacki: Does She Deserve the No. 1 Ranking?

Gregory LanzenbergCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2011

HUA HIN, THAILAND - JANUARY 01:   Kim Clijsters of Belgium take a picture using her mobile phone with Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark during their exhibition match at Centenial Park on January 1, 2011 in Hua Hin, Thailand.  (Photo by Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images)
Athit Perawongmetha/Getty Images

Once more, many stories will be written in the coming days about Caroline Wozniacki reclaiming the world No. 1 spot.

How did the Dane manage to do that despite having not won a Grand Slam tournament?

Let's try to understand the big picture, which is forgotten most of the time.

By reaching the semifinals at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, the 20-year-old, who beat Shahar Peer of Israël 6-2, 6-4, will return to the top of the WTA Rankings on Monday, February 21.

Wozniacki will surpass the current WTA world No. 1 Kim Clijsters, who ascended to the top of the rankings last week for the fourth time in her career. 

Wozniacki is projected to hold the top spot for at least four weeks through March 20, 2011. In addition to finishing the 2010 season as the world No. 1-ranked player, the Dane held the top ranking for a total of 18 consecutive weeks prior to being overtaken by Clijsters.

Of course, many will start screaming, not understanding why Caroline Wozniacki is able keep up this standing, while Clijsters, who won the last US Open, the Masters and the Australian Open, is unable to keep her position.

It happened the first time on October 7th, 2010. Wozniacki became the new world No. 1, passing Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kim Clijsters, Vera Zvonareva and Justine Henin.

Even more stunning is the fact that she has managed to get to the top without having played in a Grand Slam final in 2010.

Wozniacki was ahead of Serena Williams last year despite the American having won the Australian Open and Wimbledon. The Odense native is also ahead of Zvonareva, who reached the Wimbledon and US Open finals, and the Belgian Henin.

Anyone who does not understand math very well will understand the following fact: The Dane has played by far the most tennis among the top 15 players. She played 24 tournaments in 2010, while Venus played 15, Serena 14, Clijsters 13 and Henin 10.

It is obvious that the WTA ranking system favours quantity instead of quality. It highlights those who play the most instead of those who focus primarily on majors.

We've already had Jelena Jankovic and Dinara Safina manage to reach the top without winning a Grand Slam. Now it's Wozniacki's turn.

We have to take into account the fact that Caroline was unable to play her best in tournaments where the best players have entered. She is yet to prove she deserves this ranking.

It is not the first time we have had issues over the ranking account system. The same story happened with Jankovic and Safina while Serena Williams was still dominating women's tennis.

What is the fairest system: to become world No. 1 by accumulating points over the whole season or by playing the tournaments that everyone wants to win?

The 20-year-old has taken advantage of players who restricted the number of tournaments they played over the course of the year. The ranking system would be different if Serena, Kim and Justine played more tournaments.

But their decision to limit the number or tournaments played is welcome news for decent payers such as Wozniacki or Zvonareva.

Since Kim Clijsters has decided to play a full season with at least 15 tournaments, there's a big chance Wozniacki will be unable to keep this position for the whole season.

Not to forget that Clijsters has beaten Wozniacki both times they have played—at the 2009 US Open final and at the 2010 Masters in Doha.

However, we have to give Caroline credit for taking her chances—the ones Jankovic, Elena Dementieva and Victoria Azarenka have failed to take.

I like the fact that hard work and consistency are being rewarded, and the Wozniacki family has been working on it for 15 years.

Caroline demonstrates great values for sport, just like Rafael Nadal does on the men's side. Both are not only the symbol for natural talent, but their courage and personal involvement are the biggest assets we could expect from world No. 1s as well.

They are great ambassadors, showing the real values of the sport.

It remains to be seen whether Wozniacki can remain at the top for a long time or will collapse the way Safina or Jankovic did.

But Caroline can only get better. She doesn't have a complete game, which is one of the reasons why she has never won a major.

The Dane's serve has improved. However, her forehand is still weak. Therefore she doesn't have firepower when hitting her forehand and cannot mix up her shots too much. She has a great defence and can counter-punch very effectively but still gets in trouble when she needs to control the points. This is a positive sign if you consider she has become the world No. 1 with many areas left to improve.

It will be interesting to see how fast she can improve since she knows how to work hard.

Meanwhile, Serena Williams is still suffering from her foot injury, and her sister Venus does not seem to be very sharp either.

Azarenka's results have been disappointing; she is struggling with consistency. Agnieszka Radwanska doesn't possess too many assets, while Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Yanina Wickmayer, Dominika Cibulkova and Sorana Cirstea cannot consistently challenge Caroline.

They will need more time in order to be able to threaten the Dane. When they are ready, Wozniacki will have improved even more and will therefore be much tougher to beat.

In the meantime, Caroline and Kim will have to watch out for Russia's Vera Zvonareva and Petra Kvitova, who just beat the Belgian last week in Paris.

Zvonareva has more weapons and firepower than Wozniacki, while Kvitova has a huge serve.

Even more, Caroline is a good hard-court player because she grew up playing on it, but I believe she will struggle when the clay-court season starts since the footwork and the court position are not the same.

At that time, Clijsters will be able to retake the top spot since she didn't play the clay-court season last year.

Expect 2011 to see Clijsters and Wozniacki switching seats many times.

Last but not least, all the No. 1 players will tell you that it is the final standings of the season after the Masters in October that really counts. To finish the year as world No. 1 is a testimony of consistency for the whole season.