Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is Wimbledon Seeding Bogus? It's a Question of Taste

Wimbledon's grass court seedings-with grass specific results factored heavily in the process-are unique, but are they fair?

Grand Slam seeding protocol has been at the heart of many tennis-related discussions over the past month. Prior to the French Open there were many people who thought that Roland Garros should have elevated Justine Henin's seed, based on her past performance at the clay court Slam.

It would have been a bad idea.

The French Open bases it's seeding solely on rankings, and the fact that Henin hadn't had a full year to get her ranking commensurate with her obvious talent level should not have had an impact on her seeding.

Thankfully, it didn't.

There are players who have labored - and we all know what a grueling non-stop blood, sweat, and tearfeast the tennis tour is - through injuries, emotional pitfalls, slumps, and the like, all to earn a decent ranking. To elevate someone like Henin - a player who walked away from the game for two years while others continued to slog through - to a seed that she clearly didn't deserve based on the existing seeding protocol would send the wrong message to all those brave soldiers who've earned the right to call themselves card carrying members of the WTA's top-20.

Still, many clamored in favor of Justine. Oh, poor Justine, they said. She'll have to play Serena in the quarters. It's not fair.

Well, it was fair. It was very fair, in fact, and credit Roland Garros for sticking to their guns. If tournament supervisors start meddling with seeds to construct a draw that is more fan friendly or favors one player based on something from the very distant past, it'll be bad for the game.

They key thing to remember here is that players bust their humps week-in-and-week-out on the WTA tour, representing the tour with aplomb, and they deserve to be respected for all that toil. Nothing against Justine, and it's wonderful to have her back, but to give her an unfair advantage over other players is simply ludicrous.

Speaking of ludicrous, Wimbledon's seedings were released yesterday, and Roger Federer is listed as the No. 1 seed.

That's right, based on Wimbledon's eclectic method of seeding its players with emphasis on grass court results going back as far as 2008, Federer, currently the world's No. 2 player, will be seeded above Nadal.

While it may make tennis fans scratch their collective heads, at least it's based on a mathematical formula, and at least it is a well-known Wimbledon tradition that fosters debate, disillusion, and good old fashioned trash-talking.

I realize that the seeding formula is put in place to protect the better grass court players, and it's all in the name of providing the fans and the players with better late round matchups.

But I'd rather they protect they players who work hard for their results all year long - on all surfaces - then favor players who've got games that are well-suited for grass.

Ivo Karlovic, who has withdrawn from Wimbledon so it really doesn't matter, except in theory, went from a No. 33-ranking to a No. 25 seed. It would have been nice for him, but wouldn't it really have been nicer (had he been healthy) for Wimbledon if they let Dr. Ivo wreak havoc on the draw as an unseeded player? Talk about buzz in the early rounds, how about Karlovic-Murray in Round 1?

In the end it may be much ado about nothing. The best player will have to win seven matches against whomever he faces and that will decide it.

It wasn't very long ago that they seeded the top-16 players and let the chips fall where they may for the rest of them. Have the changes made for better tennis at the Slams? Or have they killed the buzz in the early rounds by keeping the top of the players away from each other?

What do you think?


  1. It may seem irrelevant whether somebody is No. 1 or No. 2 seed, but it's not. Seed No. 1 and his half play first, from day one onwards, and in case of rain have time to adjust and spread the backlog of matches. Second seed and his half always play catch-up.

    Remember 2007 and 2008 and Nadal playing 7 days in a row because of rain, being No. 2 seed? While Federer put up his feet after he finished his match on day one? Seed No. 1 always plays first, never waits until dark or is postponed for tomorrow, never waits for the next day to start playing despite rain has been announced.

    Now there's roof, but it's only for one court - others will be still rain-delayed.

    So, yeah, being seed No. 1 has its perks.

  2. The thing is that with Wimbledon, they do not change the women's seeds. At least they could be fair and change or not change for both men and women. I remember one year there was lobbying for Venus Williams to be seeded higher given the number of W's she had won. The word seed should not be used if a major does not deviate from the rankings.

  3. Hewitt has to be excited going from a No. 26 ranking to a No. 15 seed. That oughtta help him out.

  4. Personally, I think it's great that the committee does this, particularly as how there are so few players out there now that have some grass-court prowess.

    But, in that same regard, I think they get it wrong: To me, Andy Roddick should always be seeded ahead of Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. How do you argue against his stats on grass compared to theirs?

  5. There is a formula the AEC uses which takes in previous grass court wins and current ranking. Should Roddick have been seeded at least 4 and Djokovic 5. Whew! You would have heard the war cry of Serbia on that one. I think AEC did Roddick a favor by bumping him up enough so he wouldn't have to face Fed/Rafa in the quarters. But the biggest winner was Hewitt jumping up 11 spots.

  6. Federer is just awesome. Who ever has a problem with that is just dumb.

  7. For me it's the matter or a year of achievement and consistency on tour, no matter what surface you play. Which means, sticking to the rankings is the best way. You never know what will happen in the future. It could be Nadal's last chance to be seeded no. 1 there (because he's no. 1 in the world now), which for the love of God I hope that won't be true. So, putting him behind Federer despite his ranking, make me think that he is kinda 'robbed' by Wimbledon this year in a certain way, and I'm really looking forward to see Nadal to snap them on their faces by winning the title. And the funny thing is, they always and keep saying that no significant effect for both Federer and Nadal in the draw, because they're seeded 1 and 2. If no SIGNIFICANT EFFECT, then why don't just stick to the rangkings?


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