Today starts the first in a series of the list of contenders for WTA Player of the Year. Before we reveal the players, it is instructive to note what are the requirements for Player of the Year. These fall into 5 categories, namely:-
• Number of titles won;
• Win/loss record against top 10 opponents;
• Performance at the Grand Slams;
• Performance at the Tour level; and
• Still being talked about
Number of Titles Won:
This category is self-explanatory. It basically shows which player has been the most consistent. The most healthy and who has, despite the opponent across the net has battled through and won a given number of tournaments.
Win/Loss against top 10 opponents:
In this category, while most of the top 10 may not have reached the quarters onwards of most events, at some point, whomever is at the top of this category has shown some amount of consistency in her game and indeed in her approach to the game to be able to beat the majority of her peers on all surfaces throughout the year.
Performance at the Grand Slams:
Again, this is self-explanatory. Performance at the Grand Slams are different in that there is no one there holding your hand (on court coaching), there are no do-overs (you only get 4 chances) and your name will be written in history if you are able to bag one of the 4.
Tour Level Performance
Day in and day out you are there. You are consistently in the quarters, semis and sometimes even the finals of the regular Tour events. Your ranking, and indeed your status in the game shows what an incredible performer you are.
Still Being Talked About
What is the level of talk that surrounds you when you play? Did you hit a great shot? As fans reminisce about the year that was are they still talking about the shot that you hit in the early part of the season? Are fans and journalists still watching your matches on YouTube?
The first contender for Player of the year is none other than Kim Clijsters.
If there was a player who generates so much commentary from both fans and tennis journalists alike it would be Kim Clijsters. In her second career Clijsters has redefined her career. From a choker who could not finish at the Majors, Clijsters became a force to be reckoned with at the hard court Majors. This year she won her first Major outside of the US Open by winning the Australian Open. Clijsters has for better or worst (depending on who you speak with) somehow made us believe that getting married, having a family and playing tennis is a great accomplishment. As someone who has personally raised children all the while working, I wish someone had given me the kudos that Clijsters seems to have generated for herself just by doing what comes naturally.
In any event, Clijsters started the season on a positive note. She got to the finals of Sydney, where she played Li Na. Up 5-0 in the first set, Clijsters would go on to lose the next 6 games, losing the first set in a tie-break. She would then promptly go away for the second set, handing Li her first title of the new season.
Of course, this loss prompted the pundits to start revising their views as to whether she would finally win a Major outside of the US Open. She answered those questions comprehensively by playing an effective game plan through 6 rounds at the AO, where she raised the trophy and secured her place in the Hall of Fame.
Unfortunately for Clijsters that is where her season started and stopped. At the Paris Indoors she was beaten by young rising star, Petra Kvitova in straight sets in the finals and literally disappeared after that. She retired in her first round match in Marbella and did not show up for the rest of the clay court season, citing injury. She did not play the French Open and exited in the third round of Wimbledon. She returned to the Tour in Toronto and retired in her opening round match. She did not defend her title at the USO.
During the spring, citing the radiation concerns in Japan she informed the media that she would not be playing the Asian swing this year. While she has qualified for the End of Year Championships, I am not confident that Clijsters will play for the rest of the year.
I don’t see retirement coming in early 2012, but once the Olympics are over, I think that will be Clijsters’ swan song.
In assessing whether Clijsters is the WTA Player of the Year we look at whether she has met any of the criteria mentioned above:-
• Number of titles won – 1 – Australian Open
• Win/loss record against top 10 opponents – 2
• Performance at the Grand Slams – on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being exceptional, you would have to give her a 3 having regard to her win at the Australian Open.
• Performance at the Tour level – due to injuries sustained over the season this was negligible at best.
• Still being talked about – unfortunately Clijsters is being talked about for all the wrong reasons, as most of the talk is centered around whether she will indeed retire before or after the Olympics.