Horseracing handicappers rarely focus on the points a certain horse has acquired during any given season, it’s just not as important as it is in tennis and only used to enter some prestigious races like the Kentucky Derby in the US. But rankings in tennis define publicly how good a player is worldwide, in reality, the rankings mean nothing and this results in top 20 players losing against a 150th player more often than you can imagine.
Why? Because the ranking system is flawed.
THE 2017 ATP tour has been called one of the most unpredictable season in recent history. Even before the start of the French Open of this year the world number 1 by rank, both men and women have still to win a major event. It’s even worse for the women side with Angelique Kerber falling on her first round loss against 41st ranked Ekaterina Makarova.
Only 3 of the top 8 in the ranks have reached the quarter-finals, one of the worst numbers since 2005.
The greatest surprise came when Jelena Ostapenko, with just 20 years of age and no tour titles to her name defeated Simona Halep, the world´s number 3.
So is this phenomenon just a boggy year for women tennis? Or the WTA rankings methodology is not correctly evaluating player real capacities?
How do WTA Rankings Work?
Rankings are determined by the points earned during the past 52 weeks on official events, counting only 16 of the top results.
The amount points given depend on the prestige of the event, not the difficulty of the match. For example, a Grand Slam champion earns 2000 points, while winning a WTA International event gives just 280 points.
The flaw is evident, the arbitrariness of how points are given to players hide their true skill when facing tough opponents with little points.
FIFA, for example, does take into account the level of difficulty of a given match with a complex evaluating system to determine the most accurate rank for a football team. This might not be the best of examples as again, it's strongly inaccurate compared to real life, but far better than how the WTA does it and tends to be more real when applied to national teams and not to individual clubs.
Returning to the WTA ranking system, a player that advances in a tournament due to opponent retirement or walkover earn the same points as a player who advances by real efforts.
And the discrepancy in points in huge amongst similar level events. Defeating a player in a Premier-level final, which is just below Grand Slam, earns half the points.
The results are evident as Caroline Wozniacki holds number 1 despite never having won a Grand Slam.
The rankings are not just a system to decide who is number one, it defines event seeding. The top rankers get positions in the draw to avoid the very best to be facing each other during the early stages. The results sometimes happen to be the opposite of what is expected, as top rankers do not showcase the abilities to their position.
A Flaw that Works to Handicapper’s Benefit
This anomaly works perfectly for handicappers who can correctly evaluate a player based on their own system (something horse racing handicappers thrive at) and if the ranks that match your own evaluation, then you have found a betting opportunity to go for the underdog and win at great odds knowing that contender is really the favorite to win. To take advantage of this, check out the tennis betting markets provided by williamhill.com
There is talk that the point system could change in the near future, but as long as that happens women tennis will be a bettor’s jackpot.