Jankovic Will End Season No. 1; Shakeup at USTA?
By the end of this week it will almost surely be official, but my math, poor as it is, says that Jelena Jankovic has already locked up the year-end No. 1 ranking.
With 4,555 ranking points, Jankovic holds a seemingly insurmountable 773-point advantage over her closet competitor, second-ranked Dinara Safina (3,782). Serena Williams (3,716), who is third, trails Jankovic by 839 points.
In a system where points drop off from the same week in the prior year, the upcoming Sony Ericsson WTA Championships will have little impact in terms of point loss for all three. Jankovic went 0-3 at last year's championships and finished fourth in her group, meaning she is defending only 105 points. Russia's Safina did not attend and has no points to defend. American Serena withdrew in the middle of her first match, and has a mere 35 points to defend.
With a max of 750 points going to the Championships winner in Doha next month, all Jankovic has to do is show up and play a couple of matches (which are worth 35 points each even with losses) for No. 1 to be safe. It is virtually impossible for Safina or Serena to overtake her - and they would have to win the Championships to have a chance. And since neither Safina nor Serena is scheduled to play before the Championships, it's pretty much in the bag.
What can we say about this accomplishment? Like most, I'm a little conflicted about a player finishing atop the rankings without winning a major. Jankovic will become the first player to do so in the history of the WTA. But in a year of remarkable inconsistency and absence among top players (starting with Justine Henin's retirement in May and concluding with what might be the weakest top-10 ever, the Williams sisters aside), the 23-year-old Serb has been a model of persistence. She's played well almost all events she's entered, and performed well at the big ones, even if she hasn't yet landed in the winner's circle. With four titles and a 63-17 record, she logged a lot of wins (and matches), although three of those titles came in the largely inconsequential European indoor season. And she has notched wins over all the top players.
Despite my misgivings, I can't help but applaud a player who shows up again and again, even if it's accompanied by a trail of "woes me" whining. It may not always be good for her health or even her performance in majors, but it's great for the sport of women's tennis, and it certainly pays dividends in the rankings department. I respect what Jankovic has achieved, and I think the confidence she gains will help her in the 2009 season. A year ago, I wasn't sure she had a major in her. Now, I'm fairly certain she does.
Is she the Player of the Year? That's much more debatable - a debate we can take up when the season concludes next month.
Shakeup at USTA Development?
Patrick McEnroe, who is holding meetings in Boca Raton with the USTA's national coaches this week, is apparently shaking up the high performance development program after several months examining it. McEnroe, who took over as general manager of elite player development in the spring, has let go of Rodney Harmon, director of men's tennis, along with high performance coach Martin vanDaalen, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Last month, McEnroe brought in Jose Higueras, the respected coach who earlier this year worked with Roger Federer on a part-time basis, to oversee both men’s and women’s elite development. While the full scope of the house-cleaning won't be known for a few more days, McEnroe has good judgment and he isn't afraid to make waves. He’s rational, but tough. The USTA brought him in to pump life into the training of tomorrow's top pros, so they shouldn't be surprised if he gets rid of any wood that he feels isn't floating in his direction.