The final part of the statistical series on women's tennis tries to measure consistency.
Consistency in any sport is the hallmark of greatness. I doubt if anyone could churn out a more clichéd sentence, yet it carries significant merit. After all, consistency is valued most deeply by fans, players and coaches alike, believing it to be the bedrock of success.
As we enter the final part of our statistical inquiry into women’s semifinals at Grand Slams, I aim to shed light on the ability of players to regularly reach the penultimate stage of the tournament. The following tables will be the focus of this piece, displaying the number of players who reached the semifinals of the previous Grand Slam championship.
To be clear, 4 would indicate that all the semifinalists at a certain event also featured at the same stage of the previous competition—though, that didn’t happen in the last decade— while 0 would mean that none of the players could reach the semis in the following Slam.
Table 1 refers to the 2004-08 period.
Now, take a look at the table for 2009-13.
Certainly, none of the numbers are overly impressive. Of the 40 slams studied, 12 of those featured none of the players who had reached the semifinals in the previous tournament. Another dozen events had only one player replicating her feat and so was the case with two players as well.
The difference between the two periods, like we have witnessed in the previous parts of this series, is minimal. The Australian Open has seen the highest number of players being able to reach consecutive semis. Perhaps, it’s easier to replicate one’s achievement Down Under because the US Open is played on a similar surface. Yes, the Flushing Meadows provides faster courts but the level of required adjustment is relatively lower.
Unsurprisingly, the French Open and Wimbledon see more different semifinal lineups than the other two Slams. As you would expect, the grass courts at Wimbledon are the toughest to master for a player who did well at Roland Garros. Only six players in the past decade have played the semifinals at both events in the same year.
The little time available for adjusting one’s game from the slowest to the quickest surface certainly has a role to play there. From 2004-13, only Justine Henin reached the semifinals of Wimbledon (twice) after winning the French Open in the same year. The Belgian, though, failed to win the title on both occasions.
While a greater of number of higher-ranked players were defeated in the semis by those placed lower between 2004 and 2008 (20) than 2009-13 (15), there’s not much to separate the two periods. While a statistical inquiry does not reveal the entire picture, it certainly shows that the present complaints about women’s tennis might be slightly exaggerated. If we were to accept that women’s tennis is experiencing severe decline, then the rot set in much before 2009.
The golden days of 2006, considering the results of our study, should be regarded as an unusual period. But certainly, it would be improper to ignore the fact that Slam trophies were shared between fewer players from 2004-08 (9) than 2009-13 (11).
Moreover, four of the nine Slam winners from the first period won a title again in the next half-decade. To drive the point further, one should note that seven players won just a single Slam during the last five years. The same statistic for 2004-08 shows there only four who failed to add to their solitary title.
Thus, the disaffection caused currently by women’s tennis is not misplaced. Neither, though, is the slump deep. Perhaps, the reasons lie elsewhere. It’s a question of a perceived lack of quality, that strongest of all intangibles. The debate will not reach its settlement until something drastic occurs over the next 12 or 24 months. Until then, hopefully, these numbers will act as a trigger for further study into women’s tennis.