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.
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.
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.
He 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)