Let me start off by saying that we will all miss the inimitable je ne sais quoi that Mr. Safin has brought to the tour for so long, and that we at NTSI wish him the best in his future endeavors.
At any rate, there’s been a lot of talk lately about how his sister, Dinara Safina, does not deserve her ranking of world number one. This is what Mr. Safin has to say: “Everybody is giving her hard time about, ‘Are you really number one in the world?’ Yes, yes, she’s really number one in the world. Go check on the ranking. She didn’t do the ranking… Sorry, but that’s the way. Deal with that.”
And he is entirely correct. The ranking system works the way it works. If you don’t show up for tournaments, your ranking slips. If your play is wildly inconsistent, your ranking shifts accordingly. The same rules govern every player.
So what contributes to skepticism about Miss Safina, and why are these things not her fault?
1. Major female players don’t play minor tournaments. The Williams sisters are more interested in winning Grand Slams than keeping their rankings high. This is their choice. If Miss Safina shows up more often, however, fair play to her.
2. There’s no depth in the women’s game. You can name a lot of the top men, and have some idea of the shape of their careers. For the women, outside of the Misses Williams, Miss Safina, and Maria Sharapova’s shoulder, most people are at a loss.
3. What depth there is can’t play consistently. Since Justine Henin retired, we’ve been treated to a series of flashes in the pan, who have all receded from our memory. Highly seeded women seem to crash out of tournaments far earlier than their male counterparts.
A. Miss Safina is more conscientious and mildly more consistent than most of her colleagues and opponents.
B. Them’s the breaks.
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