Giving tennis more than a shot

Opinion – First And Last Word On The Wimbledon Seeds

The Wimbledon seeds came out yesterday, and to say that there have been upset people is an understatement.

Why were some people upset? Because the tournament did not boost Rafael Nadal to being fourth seed, deciding to apply their formula to all the players.

Before I go in depth as to why respecting the formula was, in my opinion, the right choice from the tournament, let’s get back to what that formula is and why it has been the seeding process since 2002.

A wee bit of Wimbledon history

Prior to 2002, the Wimbledon seeds were chosen by a committee, which could respect the rankings (after the computer rankings came out, that is), boost a player or another, or downgrade another one, depending on what the committee thought were the players’ performance on grass.

To be honest, this led to some subjectivity.

Some players (including quite a few Spaniards) came out against that procedure, deeming it unfair, and the tournament came out with a formula, still in application to this date.

It is a complete mathematical process and there are no possible errors.

The formula goes as such:

Ranking points on the Monday prior to the start of Wimbledon (NDLR: in this year’s case, 17 June+ 100% of grass points in the pervious 12 months + 75% of the best grass-court event of the 12 months before that

As you see, it is purely mathematical, and there is no leave for doubt.

If we take, for instance, this year’s n°1 seed, Novak Djokovic, it gives this:

11,830 (his ranking points as of 17 June) + 990 (Wimbledon – 720 – and London Olympics – 270 -2012) + 1,500 (75% of his best 2011 grass event, Wimbledon ,which he won) = 14,320

This is simple, foolproof mathematics. No error possible.

Footnote: The formula only applies to men’s singles.

Why changing the formula for one player is unfair

Prior to the announcement of the men’s seeds, there were quite a few experts, journalists, and fans who thought that Wimbledon should change its seeding process to accommodate Rafael Nadal, who missed seven months of action due to a knee problem after being ousted in the second round, last year.

Since then, we know the story: the Spaniard played nine events, made the finals of all nine of them, and won seven titles. He leads the Race (which are the year-to-date points), leaving the others quite a bit behind.

However, the Wimbledon committee stuck with their formula which, I think, is the fairest thing to do.


Why? For a simple reason: the player who is currently ranked fourth, and who is also seeded fourth in Wimbledon based on the formula, David Ferrer, deserves to be there.

It is in no way Ferrer’s fault if Nadal was out for seven months, but it is his own doing if he is ranked where he is, as he has been, for the last year, a model of consistency and made a lot of ranking points.

With this view of things, why should David Ferrer be penalised at all? He did what he did and deserves to be where he is.

This is the simple logic of the computer rankings: you make a certain amount of points each week that you play, and if you fail to defend the previous year’s points, then you risk going down in the rankings.

It is, again, simple, foolproof mathematics, and the fact that a player won 12 Majors should not, and does not, change that.

Had Wimbledon reverted to a seeding committee only for Nadal’s benefit would have been utterly unfair and prejudicial to David Ferrer, apparently to too many tennis’s doormat par excellence, much is the pity.

The del Potro case

Let’s go back to 2011, if you please.

In 2011, Argentine Juan Martín del Potro was making a return to the Tour after a whole year out due to a wrist tendinitis, which required surgery.

As he missed a year, his rankings points consequently subtracted, which made him plummet in the rankings, going from n°5 to n°485.

What did Delpo do? He got back to the grindstone and worked his way back up the rankings which, for a player of his calibre, did not require too much time to do.

Then again, we did not see anyone requesting that the 2009 US Open champion be granted special favours as far as seeding was concerned when he came into the 2011 Australian Open ranked 286 in the world, or ranked 26th at the French Open, a few months later.

He still was a Grand Slam champion, no?

Instead, most experts and journalists were thrilled by the perspective of the Tower of Tandil as a “dangerous floater” in the top guns’ draw.

Double standards?

When you look at the situation from that perspective, you can see why it seems that, as far as this year’s French Open and Wimbledon are concerned, there might be double standards from experts and journalists.

Indeed, Rafael Nadal won 12 Grand Slams.

Indeed, Nadal is part of the “Fantastic Four” of men’s tennis.

However, in the seven months he missed, he only went down from n°2 to n°5.

NadalHe can meet one of the other three top guys in the quarter-finals? Sure. However, in my views, it will only make matters more interesting, from a tennis point of view, as it means that if the player who potentially gets him in the quarter-finals goes all the way to win Wimbledon, it would be an immense feat, wouldn’t it?

The same goes for Nadal himself: if he defeats whichever top 4 seed in the quarter-finals, and goes to win the event, defeating two more, that would also add to his legend, no?

Consequently, I don’t see why there is such a fuss made about simple mathematics taking precedence over a subjective decision which would overpass deserved ranking points.

In the end, it is tennis that wins, once more.

Wimbledon will only be more exciting.

And who is to say that one of the first five seeds will not be upset before reaching the quarters?

Another of the joys of our sport: it is never 100% predictable. And that is why we love it.

(Photos: Getty Images)

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  1. 21 June, 2013    

    I’m not sure if the Del Potro case is the best comparison, but I respect your opinion on this even if I disagree. Fair for David is not fair for Novak, Andy and Roger — who’ll all be penalized with Rafa at #5. But the formula is the formula, and the rankings are the rankings. I may not like it, and the final may suffer as a result, but we gotta live by the rules of the game. Yes? 😉

  2. Carol Carol
    21 June, 2013    

    I agree with you completely. I’d say I don’t understand all of the flailing regarding the seeding,* but I guess the general media need their stories and, perhaps, people who are fans of particular players more than they are of tennis overall want what’s best and/or easiest for them.

    Personally, I’ll consider match-ups when they actually happen: the seeds all still need to get to the later rounds! There are a few interesting first round pairings. Right now I’m thinking I’ll need to wake up early to watch Wawrinka-Hewitt if it’s scheduled at an unhappy-for-me hour, and then I will be dismayed about whoever loses.

    * My own grumbling is about the number of seeded players. I still hate the switch to 32.

  3. 21 June, 2013    

    Kevin: You see, I think it’s fair for everyone, and I still think it now that the draw is out and that Nadal ended up in Roger’s quarter. That’s simple maths for me and I prefer that over subjectiveness. Each player has his own ranking for a reason, be it upwards due to hard work or just a little (sometimes a lot) downwards due to injury.

    To me, at least, it’s fair for everyone. Will they wish to boost Roger Federer in Slams when his ranking will start to plummet, because he has won 17 of them? 😉

    Carol: I agree with you wholeheartedly there, too. Like Robbie Koenig tweeted: would be nice to get back to the 16 seeds (even if this means that my favourite player would not be seeded anymore). It would make things way more interesting in the earlier rounds!

    Although I admit I’m heartbroken because of the Rusty vs Stan first-round match. But that’s the beauty of the rankings.

  4. Carol Carol
    24 June, 2013    

    Wow. Despite what I said, I wasn’t seriously thinking that Nadal might be knocked out in the first round! Congratulations, Darcis.

  5. 24 June, 2013    

    I didn’t either, Carol. That was a complete shock. Well done to Darcis!

  6. Carol Carol
    26 June, 2013    

    Wow. What a day of tennis.

  7. 26 June, 2013    

    Gosh, Carol, I’m still in shock.

    That’s the craziest day I’ve ever seen in tennis. Like ever.

    And I read that Nick Bollettieri has the same feeling and he’s been in tennis for like about twice my own age!

  8. Carol Carol
    26 June, 2013    

    Same here! I’ve been following tennis since I was a kid (some of my family were/are big tennis fans). I’ve gone to the draws a couple of times tonight to stare at them, trying to make some sense of it all. It just doesn’t seem entirely real.

    I like Federer, but I’m not a huge fan or anything. Still, I felt a bit ill when he lost. I felt bad for Hewitt too, of course, although I like Brown. And poor Darcis, having to withdraw after such a win!

    On the bright side for Canadians, Bouchard won, and Pospisil did pretty well, even if he couldn’t pull it off. And it was so lovely to watch and listen to their matches on TV instead of ESPN’s garbage coverage.

    I wonder what tomorrow will bring. Surely it has to calm down somewhat…?

  9. 26 June, 2013    

    Let’s hope so! I don’t want to do this again tomorrow. It made for a pretty draining evening!

    I’m thrilled for Bouchard, so thrilled! :)





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