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Old 07-28-2002, 02:25 PM   #1
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Red face Quality Control C/P

Quality Control

Editor's Note: This item -- editorial, really -- was written early in the year in a fit of pique when a player posted a major upset and, of course, gained no benefit for it. It's been sitting in our files ever since, as we tried to decide whether it was appropriate to run. We still don't know whether it's appropriate -- after all, you probably know all about these issues. But it mentions tournaments that took place a year ago. If we're going to run it at all, we should run it this week. So here it is.

We should note that the situation in this article will repeat this year: The strongest of this week's tournaments is Los Angeles, but Kitzbuhel will carry more points.


In an interview on National Public Radio prior to the Australian Open, John Feinstein (author of Hard Courts and other works on tennis) claimed that the women should adopt a Race ranking. Ironically, he seemed to think that the advantage of this would be to make Venus Williams #1 (and, at least by implication, the #1 Australian Open seed), even though, entering the Australian Open, Martina Hingis was #1 in the Race to Munich (now the Race to Los Angeles), and both Meghann Shaughnessy and Martina Sucha were ahead of Venus. And it turned out, of course, that Venus did not win the Australian Open (and hasn't won a Slam yet this year).

But what would the implications of this be? The ATP's shift to the current ranking system in 2000 wasn't just a change in name (that is, they didn't just start calling the Road to Hannover/Lisbon/Sydney/Houston the "rankings" and rename the actual rankings the "entry system").

There were two other shifts, and they were the more fundamentally important (since all players know perfectly well that the Entry numbers are the rankings: the system used for seedings. Not all journalists comprehend this, but even many of them understand this point).

The first change was the institution of Required and Optional Events. And the other was the abolition of Bonus Points (what the WTA calls, with better reason, "quality points").

In one sense, this makes sense: Since bonus points were based on actual (entry) rankings, and the men were trying to keep their entry rankings off the public radar, they couldn't very well have bonus points, since no one could calculate them without looking up the entry standings. (Not even the ATP was silly enough to base bonus points on Race scores, though they probably thought about it.)

But let's take a look at what that means. Let's look back a year. The men played three events: Los Angeles, Sopot, and Kitzbuhel.

The players at Los Angeles 2001 included Gustavo Kuerten, Marat Safin, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jan-Michael Gambill, Carlos Moya, Tommy Haas, Greg Rusedski, Michael Chang, Andy Roddick, and Max Mirnyi. Agassi won the tournament, beating James Blake, Rusedski, Gambill, Kuerten, and Sampras.

Kitzbuhel featured Juan Carlos Ferrero, Yevgeny Kafelnikov, and Alex Corretja. That's it; the #4 seed was -- Franco Squillari! Nicolas Lapentti won the tournament, beating Jacobo Diaz, Gaston Gaudio, Ferrero, Galo Blanco, and Albert Costa.

Guess who earned more points.

If you guessed Lapentti, congratulations. He picked up 50 Race points, or 250 Entry points, for beating one Top Ten player and a bunch of non-Top Twenty opponents. Agassi, for beating the world #1 and a thirteen-Slam winner and three other high-caliber players, got 35 Race points, or 175 Entry points.

Meanwhile, Tommy Robredo won Sopot, a tournament where Dominik Hrbaty and Albert Portas were the top seeds. For this he earned -- the same 35 Race points that Agassi earned.

Are you disgusted yet?

Now look at the WTA. It's hard to find a comparable pair of tournaments on the WTA; their Tier system is much more coherent than the men's. The closest we can think of is the first week of October 2000. Serena Williams played and won the Princess Cup, an event featuring only two Top Ten players. For this she earned 252 points. That same week, Martina Hingis won Filderstadt, an event with four Top Ten players, and earned 286 points for it. The difference? The WTA still has quality points. Hingis played a much tougher tournament, and she was rewarded accordingly.

If we don't insist on events in the same week, we can show the matter even more clearly. At Eastbourne in 2001, Lindsay Davenport won a Tier II tournament where she and Nathalie Tauziat were the only Top Ten players; Davenport earned 269 points. Later in the year, Davenport won Filderstadt, an event with six Top Ten players; the lowest seeded player was #12-ranked Meghann Shaughnessy. For winning this tournament, also a Tier II but with a field at least twice as difficult, Davenport earned 401 points.

Surely it makes more sense to earn more points for winning a tough tournament than an easy one. Doesn't it?

But a Race makes this almost impossible.

There is nothing wrong with a Race, as long as it's understood that it's a Race, and not a prediction of anything, and not a ranking. The WTA has a perfectly good Race -- formerly the Chase Race, now the Race to Los Angeles. But in that race, quality counts.

Though, sadly, it counts less than it used to. The WTA's new points table increased the total round points in the system, escalating the Slams and certain other events, but it didn't change the quality points table. This means that quality points will represent, on average, about 3% less of a player's total. This probably showed most at Indian Wells this year. This is one of the new Super Tier I events, granted more points than normal Tier I tournaments. But Indian Wells was very weak -- Lindsay Davenport was injured, Jennifer Capriati skipped it, the Williams Sisters boycotted after they were booed. In terms of points, Indian Wells was the #6 event on the circuit. In terms of field, it wasn't Top Ten. That's a lot of cheap points for many of the players there.

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Old 07-28-2002, 02:29 PM   #2
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They aren't accounting for surface....

"Nicolas Lapentti won the tournament, beating Jacobo Diaz, Gaston Gaudio, Ferrero, Galo Blanco, and Albert Costa. "

Gaudio, Costa, and Ferrero IMO all fall into the top ten on clay, in which case Lapentti's feat is much greater than it was made out to be.
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:01 PM   #3
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Becca, as much as I hate to say that, I must disagree with you in one point. Ferrero was a top three on clay LAST YEAR, thats what the article is talking about. Gaudio and Costa were far from the form they are THIS YEAR. So, maybe it has a point.

As for the Los Angeles field being tougher, its just because its the only hard-court option the week before the two Masters-series combo (Canada and Cincinnati). Therefor, maybe the problem bounces back to the schedule, and not the points awarded for the tournaments. It would make a lot more sense if LA, on hard and warmup for two TMS, would be ISG too....
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:03 PM   #4
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I didn't say top 3, I said top ten.

Gaudio might have been not there yet, but Costa still was.
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:03 PM   #5
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And Ferrero was number 2 on clay last year, something that isn't to be overlooked.
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:08 PM   #6
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Well, ok then.
I put top three to make it even clearer Ferrero was in BETTER form last year than this year.
Costa was not in a good year, just check the stats I posted in his Player Forum. He reached the Kitzbuhel final and Hamburg semifinal.
I keep on believing the problem is the schedule.
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:08 PM   #7
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here are the stats, btw:
http://www.atpworld.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=39
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:20 PM   #8
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Ok, but if this article translates to this year, Corretja certainly earned every single point he made this weak, defeating the RG champion Costa, a very much in-form Gaudio, and the RG finalist Ferrero. And still I read somewhere recently that this tournament was weak. Weak in what sense? You can't just look at rankings when it comes to clay.

I found this article a bit unfair, although I did get the point. But it doesn't really matter if there are two unequal tournaments in the same week or month apart. The rankings are a product of a whole year's work and players can choose which tournaments to attend. As things stand today, winning any tournament is far from easy work and all the winners should be given due credit.

I agree with you hitman that scheduling is a big problem.
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:28 PM   #9
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The article´s intention was to bring the points awarded to tournaments as a problem. It was usuful, but to other point: its letting us remember how bad the schedule is. Kitzbuhel is a wonderful tournament, very big and traditional. Alex had a terrible chalenge, like you said. But it makes no sense that a clay court tournament in a week before the TMS on hard can award more points than the hard court one.

I just felt like my point needed to be cleared a little. So there it is.
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Old 07-28-2002, 03:43 PM   #10
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Understand it perfectly now. Have to agree, albeit reluctantly. As you probably noticed, I was responding more to another article that had nothing to do with this one except a certain similar note.
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Old 07-29-2002, 10:46 AM   #11
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i wonder why he didn't publish it last year? what was so controversial that it needed to be suppressed? or were they waiting to see if the pattern would repeat itself?

i agree that the schedule is part of the paroblem but as long as players have the option to call in sick -- like Hewitt did just last week -- then at least some rest time can be assured.

but regardless of the schedule, the points awarded should make sense and sometimes it doesn't. like El Ayanoui who continues to play the optional tounies that contribute nothing towards his ranking. is he only in it for the paycheck then?
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Old 07-29-2002, 06:59 PM   #12
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Just go with the computer rankings only for the seedings at tournaments.

And I can't stop thinking about the ATP points race! Just kidding!

John Feinstein on tennis? Stick to Golf John! He loves Golf and loves to point out tennis' problems!

Thanks for the article, TC! It was interesting and thought provoking!
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Old 07-29-2002, 07:56 PM   #13
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kitzbuhel was moved from being alongside Stuttgart in 2000 when it went upto CS level after Washington was moved to AUG

2001 it moved to a week after Stuttgart, bad move IMO
they should really have this during that week.

before Kitzbuhel was only WS level so it didnt matter as much.
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Old 07-30-2002, 02:02 AM   #14
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El Ayanoui is evil Who brought him up
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