Serena or Safina?

KARL HALE

, Last Updated: 4:03 PM ET

While there's been much talk (and rightly so) about the great rivalry that exists in men's tennis between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, I would argue that the debate on who is No. 1 in the women's game is generating quite a buzz as well.

We have their performance and comments to thank for the controversy.

Statistically speaking, the top player on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour is defending Rogers Cup champion Dinara Safina of Russia. Heading into this past weekend, she had nearly a 1,500-point lead on second-ranked Serena Williams.

However the younger of the two popular tennis siblings has captured three of the past four Grand Slam titles (2008 U.S. Open, 2009 Australian Open and Wimbledon).

So what's more important, the entire tour or the majors?

Safina plays a lot of tennis and has been victorious pretty much everywhere on earth except for Melbourne, Paris, London and New York.

Sure she hasn't been able to win any of the big ones, but she has proven that tennis is a marathon and not sprint. Should her reign really be in question because she hasn't won but four tournaments?

Safina has been a role model for what the Tour wants. Play lots of tennis, on all surfaces, and you will be rewarded. Safina has done just that.

After a remarkable second half to the 2008 season, which included a 44-6 run in her final 50 matches, she claimed top honours, and joins her brother, Marat, as the only brother-sister combination to rank first in the world.

Then there is the always-entertaining Serena Williams.

The knock on the 27-year-old American has been that she doesn't play as much tennis as fans and administrators would like.

However, she's on record as having competed in just three fewer tournaments than Safina if you look at the rankings. And when she does play, Serena is dominating. She has won everywhere but Roland Garros, but then again, how many Americans can actually win on clay?

Athletes in many sports, specifically golf and tennis, talk about concentrating on the majors.

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Maybe the big glory and pay cheques are made at those events, but if you want to be at the upper echelon of your sport, you have to be consistent.

Simple math tells you that you cannot just win the Grand Slams and be ranked No. 1. If that were the case, the tennis season would be eight weeks long.

After defeating older sister Venus at Wimbledon in July, Serena joked about the fact that she was still ranked second despite holding three of the four biggest events on Tour.

Fans have been treated to more Serena this year, she's playing a lot of tennis and realizes that just a few more titles outside of the Grand Slam would cement her place as the best player in the world.

Safina will be defending championship points in Toronto during the Rogers Cup while Serena missed last year's event in Montreal. Williams will be getting free points as she plays at Rexall Centre.

Most tennis fans are split in their decision as to who the No. 1 female tennis player should be. Toronto could see a change in the rankings or a continuation of this heated debate.


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