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Tennis Rankings - Where Losing Is Better Than Winning

I've written in the past about tennis' Grand Slam problem (link here).  Now I am going to attack another major issue that I have with the professional game: its ridiculously complicated, confusing, and unnecessary ranking system.

At first glance, the way that professional tennis players are ranked may not seem very complicated or confusing.  Novak Djokovic has been the #1 ranked player on the men's tour for a good portion of the last three years, and anyone who has followed the game in that time frame can attest to him being the best player in the world.  Andy Murray is currently ranked second, and is widely regarded as the biggest threat to Djokovic's reign at the top of the rankings due to his recent Grand Slam wins at Wimbledon and last year's US Open.

To find the real issue with the current ranking system, go back to this time last year.  In 2012, Serena Williams was without a doubt the best player in women's tennis, finishing the year by winning the last two majors (Wimbledon and the US Open), both in very convincing fashion.  So where was Serena ranked at the end of the year?  Yep you guessed it, third.  Third???  It took her until after the Australian Open in 2013 to regain the top spot in the rankings.  And where did she finish at the first major of the season?  She must have won it to jump over two players to get to the top right?  Wrong.  She lost in the quarterfinals.  And the #1 ranked player, Victoria Azarenka, won the tournament, yet less than a month later she lost her top ranking to Serena.  Makes perfect sense right?

If you try to figure out how the tennis ranking system works, get ready to have a headache afterwards.  A college degree in math is required to figure this system out.  I'll try my best to summarize it for you. 

I focused on the men's ATP Tour's ranking system, which is a bit different from the women's WTA Tour's system.  The main differences are the amount of points given out for each tournament and which tournaments are mandatory for players to compete at.  On the men's side, each player is required to play 18 tournaments throughout the season, which include the four Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open), along with eight Masters Series events which are basically a step down from a Grand Slam.  There is a ninth Masters Series event which is optional to participate at.  The top 30 players are required to also play in at least four "500-level" tournaments (500 refers to the amount of points the winner receives - a Grand Slam win garners 2,000 points while a Masters Series win garners 1,000).  Those not in the top 30 have no requirements regarding the rest of their schedule, yet they will only be able to count points from four of the "500-level" tournaments.  I'll give you a minute to digest that and take a couple of Excedrin.

So to simplify that a bit, the top men's players must play the four majors and the eight Masters events, with all the points from those events counting towards their ranking.  They can then play as many other tournaments as they want (if in the top 30 they must play four "500-level" events); with only the best six results counting towards their ranking.  So a player could enter another 15 events, lose in the first round in nine of them, and have all nine of those losses mean nothing to their ranking.  Seems like an odd way to get the top players to show up at the lesser-known events (there's other ways to get them to show up that involve their wallets but we'll just skip over that for now).

So obviously there's a problem with only counting certain results and not others, but the main issue I have with this ranking system is the fact that it lasts for 52 weeks, which is different than lasting for an entire year.  Let me explain that sentence.  When you look at the current rankings (link here), that is the current 52 week ranking for every player.  It is not the 2013 rankings for every player.  All the tournaments from last August until now are included in the current rankings.  If a player had a great last couple of months of 2012, their ranking is inflated and not accurate. 

Counting an entire year's worth of tournaments requires players to "defend" points from the previous year.  A player who does well at a specific tournament last year must do just as well this year or else they actually lose points in their ranking.  For example, Rafael Nadal beat David Ferrer in the finals of the French Open this year, and Ferrer actually went ahead of Nadal in the rankings.  Since Nadal had won the event the year before, he was defending his entire 2,000 points and did not gain anything from winning a Grand Slam event.  Ferrer improved from making the semifinals in 2012 to making the finals in 2013, gaining 480 points even though he still lost.  Those 480 points put him ahead of the player that he lost to.  Makes sense right?

In my opinion, the rankings should reward players who are performing at a high level this season, not in the past year.  Playing well on hard courts in 2012 should have no effect on your ranking at Wimbledon in 2013.  How you are playing in 2013 should ultimately affect your current ranking.  If that was the case, Novak Djokovic would not be the top-ranked player on the men's side; Rafael Nadal would be.



ATP Rank


YTD Rank

Novak Djokovic





Andy Murray





David Ferrer





Rafael Nadal





Roger Federer





Tomas Berdych





Juan Martin Del Potro





Jo-Wilfried Tsonga





Richard Gasquet





Stanislas Wawrinka





Kei Nishikori





Tommy Haas





Milos Raonic





Nicolas Almagro





Marin Cilic





Gilles Simon





Jerzy Janowicz





Janko Tipsarevic





Fabio Fognini





Sam Querrey





Guys outside the Top 20


ATP Rank


YTD Rank

Kevin Anderson





Benoit Paire





There doesn't seem to be much difference between the top 20 players' rankings using their 2013 results until you get to #18 Janko Tipsarevic.  He had a great August through December of 2012, which adds over 1,500 points to his current ranking.  Unless he gets hot on the hard courts, his ranking at the end of this year is going to plummet due to him not being able to defend all of his points from last year.  However he shouldn't be rewarded with a top 20 seed at the last major of the season just because he played well last year.  That's like giving the Miami Heat 10 wins to start next season because they won the NBA Finals.  Once the calendar year starts your ranking should start too.

I tried to find an explanation as to why the rankings are like this, and was unsuccessful.  I understand why they are used at the beginning of the season, as there needs to be a way to seed the top players at the Australian Open.  You wouldn't be able to use the year-to-date rankings at the first major, since it is held so early in the season and there isn't a mandatory event prior to the first Slam.  I have no problem with using last year's rankings for the first couple of months of the year, up until the early Masters Series tournaments.  But there is no reason to be using last year's results to determine this year's seeds at the last major of the year.  When you look at baseball's standings, you're not looking at the win-loss records for the last 162 games (thank God since the Red Sox would be way out of first place if we were).  So why does tennis need to show us who the best player in the last year is?  

Monday Night Raw Review - 7.22.13

Segment 1 - Contract signing for SummerSlam between John Cena and Daniel Bryan

I hate contract signing segments.  They are so unnecessary.  So basically I'm supposed to believe that even though Brad Maddox gave John Cena the option of picking his opponent at SummerSlam that the match wasn't official until they signed their names on a piece of paper?  Where's the doubt behind either person signing the contract?  Cena will sign it because he picked his opponent (more on that to come), and Bryan will sign it because he wouldn't get this opportunity unless he was chosen by Cena.  Plus he basically celebrated for the last five minutes of last week's show.  They could have run this entire promo without having the contract signing angle involved.  The only redeeming part of any contract signing segment is if one of the two combatants ends up through the table, which can't happen in this storyline since they are both faces.

I also hate how Cena has to remind the crowd why he's a face and beg for them to cheer for him.  It's been blatantly obvious for a long period of time that a majority of the crowd - especially the adult crowd - do not like Cena or his character.  Yet it seems in every one of his promos he has to try to remind people why he is the good guy and pander for some cheap cheers.  Last week it was having the audience choose his opponent for him because they are who he performs for (not the money he's making).  This week it was reminding everyone that Bryan deserved this shot and that size doesn't matter, with a few name drops to stop the crowd from booing him.  It's really getting old how they do not let him embrace the fact that half the crowd hates his guts.  It's obvious that they are petrified of turning him heel or even letting him straddle the fence between heel and face like others have (Orton, HHH, and Austin immediately come to mind).  We don't need to be reminded that we should cheer for him; that only makes it easier and easier to boo him.

Last small point: Brad Maddox has gotten much better on the mic.  Choosing him as the general manager is intriguing, and there is something about him that is very charismatic and interesting.  Those pants he had on however were a nightmare.

Segment 2 - Alberto Del Rio vs. Sheamus

Didn't watch it.  Didn't want to.  Not interested.  They have killed both of these characters, made them boring and stale, and seemingly have no idea what to do with either of them.  They were both great heels who got ruined by an ill-timed face turn that was not planned out well.  They wanted a face Mexican wrestler that they could push to replace Rey Mysterio (and make us forget how terrible Sin Cara is) so badly that they turned one of their best heels in Del Rio.  While it's easy to pull for Ricardo Rodriguez, it's hard to pull for Del Rio as a face.  It's especially hard when his face promos were half English and half Spanish.  While they worked when the shows were in Texas or California, they didn't work well in other places.  It really didn't help that his first face feud was against Dolph Ziggler, who the crowd was begging them to turn face.  The turn back to heel hasn't worked out well either, though not having Ricardo as a mouthpiece is definitely hurting Del Rio.

Sheamus is just boring.  This is coming from someone who has red hair, who was a big fan of his, and was him for Halloween last year (thankfully there are no pictures of this floating around).  I'm not sure what it is.  He puts on solid matches (the street fight vs. Sandow a few weeks back on Smackdown was one of the best I've seen in recent memory), he's over with the crowd, and he's good on the mic.  Yet it's obvious that they don't really have a plan for him.  The 1800-FELLA skits are pretty lame, and they make him look more like a joke and less like the beast that he used to be.  It seems like he has feuded with everyone so maybe a little time off would be smart.  They could continue working the leg injury angle since he clearly got a bit hurt at the Money In The Bank match.

Segment 3 - Christian vs. Titus O'Neil

So we haven't seen the Prime Time Players in months, and now all of a sudden they get matches on Raw, and we are supposed to believe for a second that one of them is going to win?  The only reason to watch this is to hear Titus bark, which is better than his promos.

Segment 4 - Ryback's backstage interview

Yet another guy that they turned for no reason.  How do you go from over with the crowd to dead with the crowd in a month?  See Ryback.  Then they booked him like a whiny, complaining quitter.  And now he shows how tough he is by intimidating a backstage interviewer.  Oh boy I'm scared.  Great job with him.

Segment 5 - Mark Henry, the Shield, and the Usos

Like we couldn't see this coming.  I like the match, I like the pairing of Henry and the Usos, and I love Henry turning face.  It's just that this was so predictable that anyone could see this coming.  One guy calls out three, three guys beat up one guy, two guys come out for the save, three on three match for next event.  What's creative about that?  A five-year old could figure out these storylines.  It would be nice if we got a reason why the Usos want to save Mark Henry.  The Shield beat up Christian a couple weeks ago and no one rescued him.  Why all of a sudden would someone come and help out The World's Strongest Man? 

Segment 6 - Cena and Bryan in the locker room

Dumb.  Bryan telling Cena to stay away from the ring during his matches tonight gives away the ending of the show.  Bryan will get either beat up or attacked by someone, Cena will make the save, Bryan will be pissed off and think Cena doesn't respect him because he's small and he's the weakest link.  Didn't they just do this with Bryan, Kane, and Orton?  This build is going to be awful.

Segment 7 - Dolph Ziggler vs. Darren Young

See the first sentence of Christian vs. Titus O'Neil.  At least O'Neil got some offense in and the announcers tried to make it sound like he has a lot of potential.  Young is just awful.  I'm convinced the only thing that keeps him in the WWE is that he looks just like John Cena.  There has to be a storyline for that.

The stuff after the match with Big E Langston and AJ was great.  I am a big fan of Langston and AJ.  I think they work well together and I want to hear more from Langston.  He has a unique personality and seems very sarcastic and condescending, plus I love the accents and the humor.  AJ's character is probably the best Diva character since Mickie James being obsessed with Trish Stratus.  She plays the role of crazy, psychotic, love struck, obsessive nutcase so well.  Her facial expressions and mannerisms are spot on.  I am very intrigued to see where this goes and am looking forward to seeing an entire lengthy match from Langston.

Segment 8 - Total Divas on MizTV

Horrendous.  That was supposed to get me to watch a show about the Divas?  How about actually having them wrestle or developing their characters?  The only Divas that I care about are AJ and Kaitlyn and they aren't on the show.  I mean the Bellas are hot and the new girl who slapped the King is pretty attractive, but if I want to see them I can just search their photos online.  Just like everyone did when they found out that Brie had a "wardrobe malfunction" during this train wreck of a segment.

You can add The Miz to the list of characters that were ruined by a face turn.  He went from headlining Wrestlemania to barely getting on Raw in no time.  He hasn't gotten worse in the ring, his mic skills have always been good, yet the face turn killed any momentum he had.  And he needs to stop doing the Figure Four since apparently Ric Flair never taught him how to work the leg over before you put the move on.  Nor did he teach him how to properly put the move on.

Segment 9 - Brad Maddox with HHH and Stephanie

Another waste of time.  Do we really need HHH to tell Brad Maddox that Daniel Bryan deserves a title shot?  Why does it matter?  Didn't he see the contract signing?  It doesn't matter if he deserves it or not now that it's "official".  This whole power struggle with the McMahons is awful and pointless.  Last I checked Vince runs the company so where is the struggle?  I can't wait for this to end... too bad I'll have to wait until NEXT APRIL.  Awful.

Segment 10 - Cody Rhodes vs. Fandango

This is what is really wrong with this company right now.  You have a guy in Fandango who could have been booked to the moon, especially after the 24 hours he had between beating Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania to the ovation he received at the next night's Raw (and throw in the Internet sensation his theme music and dance became overnight).  Instead he's jobbing to Cody Rhodes in a match that was shorter than his entrance to the ring.  Which I might add happened just a week after he had a solid match with Randy Orton in the opening segment of last week's show.  We kept hearing how much Vince McMahon loved Fandango and how much time he spent working on the character.  Maybe he should spend more time working with some of his characters and less time in a terrible storyline with his daughter and son-in-law. 

Cody Rhodes should be a top guy in this company, yet I have zero confidence that they will be able to capitalize on his performance at Money In The Bank.  Rhodes has been a personal favorite of mine for a while.  I think he has spent way too long being in the midcard (or lower), and has the talent and the mic skills to be a top tier guy.  When he was in The Legacy with Orton and DiBiase, no one thought that he would be the one breaking out of that storyline.  Rhodes has proven through hard work and improvement that he deserves this push. 

The problem I have is with the booking of the push and face turn.  Rhodes and Sandow were a solid tag team with a great name that worked very well together.  Yet they were never pushed to the tag titles nor were they in many high-profile matches.  They both got in to the Money In The Bank match, with Sandow stealing the match from Rhodes, hence ending their partnership.  Rhodes stole the show in that match, and was cheered throughout, which gave the impressions that the crowd would be receptive to a face turn for Rhodes.  The obvious first feud for Rhodes would be with his former partner Sandow, who should be getting a push due to winning the MITB contract.  So how does the WWE book Sandow?  Like they have done with other midcard MITB winners.  His first match after winning the contract was a loss to Christian (who was in the MITB match also).  That basically killed the credibility and momentum Sandow had, and is definitely affecting Rhodes' face turn.  Then they put Rhodes in a boring, short match with Fandango, who has no crowd reaction once his entrance music ends.  I'm afraid what's going to happen is that they will have a lackluster match at SummerSlam, and since the crowd won't be in to it due to the terrible booking of the feud, they won't follow through with any plans or pushes for both Rhodes and Sandow, putting them back in midcard hell.

This is what is infuriating about being a wrestling fan.  We are tired of seeing the same ten guys get pushed, and when someone comes in who deserves to get a push they are booked so badly that it is hard to care about them for an extended period of time.  Just look at Daniel Bryan.  He's been in the company for almost 5 years (counting his release after the Nexus incident).  There's no question how talented he was at the start of his WWE tenure.  Anyone who watched him in Ring Of Honor knew that he should be a top performer.  Yet it took the company this long to really showcase his talents.  And due to the inconsistent booking of Bryan, it's taken just as long for the fans to truly embrace what a tremendous wrestler he is.  Hopefully he will be able to have a long run at the top of the card (and not lose a title in 18 seconds).

Segment 11 - CM Punk promo with Paul Heyman

Terrific.  CM Punk is the best in the world on the mic right now, with Heyman a close second.  The personal vibe of this build has been tremendous.  Punk genuinely looks like he wants to ruin Heyman both personally and professionally.  I can't wait to see where this goes.  I hope the match lives up to the hype and the build.  I just hope they don't get Curtis Axel involved; he's not close to being ready to get in this feud.

Segment 12 - RVD vs. Wade Barrett

You can add Wade Barrett to the list of characters that should have been pushed but horrific booking has ruined them for good.  Remember when Barrett was the leader of the Nexus and Daniel Bryan was second in line?  Now Bryan is a star and Barrett barely makes shows (and when he does it's jobbing out in a couple minutes).  What a waste of talent.

Segment 13 - The Daniel Bryan Gauntlet matches

The match with Swagger was a joke.  My thoughts on Swagger?  See Barrett, Wade.  Thanks WWE. 

The match with Ryback wasn't bad it was just predictable.  Every gauntlet ends with the biggest guy coming out last.  It always goes worst guy first, followed by long lengthy match, then beast last.  I thought it would be the Big Show since they advertised that he was returning and never used him.  Ryback was fine, the match was pretty solid, and the table spot was excellent.  The save from Cena and the match next week with Ryback?  Been there done that.  Not excited.

The middle match with Cesaro was tremendous.  I am a huge fan of Cesaro (who is yet another guy who's talents are underutilized and vastly underappreciated) so I loved seeing him in a lengthy match with Bryan.  While we all knew who was going to win it was still exciting to see Cesaro push Bryan for the entire match.  The crowd was definitely into it, as they are with every Bryan match right now.  The smart thing for WWE to do is to capitalize on this great match by giving Cesaro the push that he deserves.  So get ready next week you'll see Cesaro job to R-Truth or the Real Americans lose to Kofi Kingston and Little Jimmy.  Or they just won't put Cesaro on TV, kind of like they did with the Wyatt Family this week.  Way to continue that storyline.  I guess three hours isn't long enough to squeeze in a little bit of the Wyatts.  Maybe if they didn't have that abomination of a segment regarding a show on another channel they would have some time for the Wyatt Family.

Fixing the MLB All-Star Game

The MLB All-Star Game used to be the premier summertime sports event.  Now it's become an event that no one besides die hard baseball fans cares about.  It's more exciting to see who got voted in than to see them actually play in the game.  The All-Star Game used to be the only opportunity Red Sox fans had to see National League players, especially those on the subpar teams. Now interleague play and networks like ESPN and the MLB Network that play numerous games every week have made it extremely easy to see out-of-town teams and players. 

Even with the league making the game "count" by using it to determine home-field advantage for the World Series, there is little to no interest from the general public surrounding this game.  Unlike the NFL, who are clearly aware that their Pro Bowl is ignored by most fans, the MLB has made no mention of the decline of its All-Star Game nor publicly kicked around any suggestions for changes and/or improvements.  There are easy ways to make the game interesting again and get casual fans to watch it instead of America's Got Talent and Extreme Weight Loss.

The biggest change would be to change the format of the game.  American League versus National League is boring.  Interleague play killed the AL vs. NL game.  Before interleague, the only time you'd see Red Sox players face Cardinals players would be in the oft chance they both made it to the World Series.  Now you have to wait two or three seasons to see your team play every other team in the opposing league.  There's a couple ways they could change the format and generate more buzz and interest.

· United States vs. the World.  Which would basically be the Dominican, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.  This would be the only time the best international and home-grown players would play together on the same team, since the only event that's more irrelevant than the All-Star Game is the World Baseball Classic.  As much as I love Shane Victorino there's no way he'd be starting for the United States team in any real national competition. 

· Have a "fantasy" draft for team rosters.  The NHL started doing this for their All-Star Game and it's worked pretty well.  The MLB started naming team captains a couple years ago, allowing them to draft their rosters for the Home Run Derby.  I think it would be pretty cool to see the captains select their entire roster.  It would give new combinations to the teams and there would be a lot of strategy involved in selecting your team.  They could run the draft the night before the game right after the Home Run Derby.  How much fun would it be to see David Wright pick Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis with the first pick, leaving Robinson Cano to take Matt Harvey for his team?  Or when Harvey beans Wright for snubbing him?  That would get people talking.

· MLB vs. the Futures.  This is my personal favorite.  You take the 30 best MLB players and have them play the 30 best prospects and I'm there.  This would grow a ton of interest in the younger players, who are the future of the game.  Unless you're in a ridiculously hard fantasy baseball league or you're a baseball fanatic you have no idea how nasty Noah Syndergaard is or how fast Billy Hamilton is.  Showcasing them in the All-Star Game would show them off to the general public and build the game for the future.  

While we're changing the game we might as well change some other things too.

· Change the voting process.  Everyone complains about the fans letting players in the game that don't deserve to be there.  Derek Jeter was in the top 5 for shortstops in fan voting and he has yet to play a game this season.  So to eliminate that from happening I would change the whole process.  The league should wait until a week before the game and then allow the fans to vote.  The players that they could vote for would be a small list of players from each position who are having the best season so far.  So for American League third basemen the list could be Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Beltre, Manny Machado, Evan Longoria, and Josh Donaldson.  Poor Josh he's having such a good season but he's not winning that vote.  Making the list so late in the "first half" would give everyone a chance to get in.  If you get called up after the ballots have gone out or were unknown and had a great season you can't get in the game.  This new way would allow the fans to vote in Daniel Nava or Yasiel Puig.

· Figure out a way to limit fan votes so there isn't any collusion like this year's Final Vote debacle.  You shouldn't have to recruit or bribe fans of other teams to vote for someone.  I voted for Freddie Freeman (only because I didn't want Puig in the game) and I got a coupon for a discounted ticket to a Braves game, which would have been great except for the fact that I live in Massachusetts.  The only reason Steve Delabar got into the game was because all the Braves fans were told to vote for the Blue Jays player.  The worst part is that the MLB didn't seem to care that the final player on each team got on the roster because everyone cheated.  Plus they have to stop people from voting over and over again for a certain player.  If there's a way to make a robot that can vote a million times in a day then there has to be a way to limit one vote per person. 

· Eliminate the home-field advantage rule.  The league made this rule to try to get people to watch the game, but it hasn't worked.  It really doesn't make any sense having a game that means nothing determine home-field advantage.  It lowers the significance of the regular season, especially the last few games.  The league needs to go back to rewarding the team with the best record in the regular season with home field instead of the winner of the All-Star Game.

· Eliminate the rule which has every team bring a player to the All-Star Game.  This rule never made sense either.  It would be one thing if the league had 10 teams, but with 30 teams it's ridiculous and unnecessary.  All-Stars are supposed to be the best players in the league, yet every year there are a few players who get to the game because of a technicality.  The teams that are awful, like the Astros and the Marlins, don't deserve to have an All-Star.  If they had quality players on their teams then they wouldn't be so terrible.  Trust me I had Jason Castro on my fantasy team.  He shouldn't be on a fantasy roster, never mind an All-Star roster. 

· Stop coddling the players.  It's annoying that because someone pitched on Sunday they can't be on the All-Star roster.  Wouldn't they be throwing a bullpen session in between starts?  So instead of seeing Justin Verlander or Adam Wainwright we get to see Brett Cecil and Mark Melancon.  Pitchers who lead the league in holds should not be in All-Star Games.  Especially those who got traded to the Red Sox for a shortstop who should be in the game (Jed Lowrie) and had an ERA over 6.00.  Yeah thanks Mark we appreciated that.

· Cut back on the roster.  I never realized this but there's 80 All-Stars this year.  So every team has a 25 man roster for a season that lasts 162 games, but the All-Star Game (which doesn't count) has 40 men on each roster.  That makes no sense at all.  Thirty players on each squad would be plenty.  That would get every hitter a few innings to play and get just about every pitcher a chance to pitch for an inning.  And by eliminating the "every team has a player" rule you'd be eliminating at least 5 players on each team. 

The MLB needs to implement some changes like these in order to drum up interest in the All-Star Game again.  Or they could just have a Mets pitcher hit a Yankees player in the first inning, causing the Yankees player to leave the game.  That should get people talking.