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WTA, who's really No. 1? Serena Williams or Caroline Wozniacki?

October 11, 2010 |  5:30 pm

When Serena Williams is hurt or taking a large chunk of time away from tennis, the best thing the WTA Tour has going for it are the arguments that get unleashed when the computer rankings move someone ahead of Serena as the No. 1 player in the world.

It happened Monday when Caroline Wozniacki, who has won five of her last seven tournaments but who is still probably best known for finishing second at the 2009 U.S. Open, passed Serena to become No. 1. That is a ranking she is certain to keep now that Williams has said her 2010 season is over because of a foot injury.

Williams hasn't played a tournament since winning Wimbledon last July. She has played only six tournaments this year. But her overall match record is 25-4 and she won two of the three major tournaments she entered -- the Australian Open and Wimbledon. And Williams went almost unchallenged in those major championships.

Wozniacki has played 21 tournaments this year. Her match record is 59-15 and she has won six tournaments. But at the majors this year, Wozniacki got no further than semifinals (U.S. Open) and twice lost in the fourth round (Wimbledon and Australian Open).

The same happened in 2009 when Dinara Safina surpassed Williams despite not having a major championship on her resume and despite having suffered a 6-0, 6-3 drubbing by Williams in the Australian Open final that season.

The question was, do you believe the rankings or your eyes?

If you had to put your life savings on the outcome of a match between Williams and Safina, who would you have picked? And come next January, when, if Williams is back and healthy and plays Wozniacki in the finals of the Australian Open, what would you trust? The computer? Or your eyes?

Let the debate begin -- again.

Should the computer rankings reflect more heavily overall results or majors? Should the tournament directors at the majors seed the singles draw based only on the computer? Because one suspects that if a poll were to be taken in January asking players who they'd rather face in any given round at the first big tournament of the year, Wozniacki or Williams, the answers would not agree with the computer.

-- Diane Pucin