Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Nadal Seeded 5th at Wimbledon: Fair or Unfair?

(June 19, 2013)--Wimbledon officially announced its seeding for the men's and women's singles draw on Wednesday, and while it didn't come as any surprise that the All England Club seeded according to its predetermined formula, there were some who expressed dissatisfaction with the result.

ESPN's Brad Gilbert was emphatically against the decision--or, non decision--tweeting:

Gilbert's is a sentiment that many share, and they have good reasons for that. With Nadal seeded fifth, he could face any of the top four seeds in the quarterfinals. In other words, if you thought it was a travesty that Nadal and Djokovic played their epic five-set nailbiter in the French Open semifinals instead of the finals, then get ready for a possible Djokovic-Nadal quarterfinal at Wimbledon.

But, really, is the alternative any better? If the Wimbledon committee would have moved Nadal up to fourth, it would have been forced to move David Ferrer down to fifth. It sounds like a logical--and just?--decision to make, but when you factor in the decision that the seeding protocols have been put in place for a reason, throwing Ferrer, a player who has done everything in his power to be the No. 4 seed, to the wolves might be unjust also.

John McEnroe gave his two cents on the same subject in an ESPN conference call yesterday:

Q. (Question regarding the men’s seedings and whether they should deviate from current rankings.)

JOHN McENROE:
"I think they should seed Nadal in the top four. I don’t think anyone would murmur any complaint whatsoever. I think Wimbledon is the only tournament I’m aware of out of the four majors that does change the seedings. I don’t know exactly how they do it. Apparently there’s a formula, a committee, a combination. But clearly he should be one of the top four seeds in my book."

Q. Let’s say they don’t. That would obviously have an enormous effect on the other four.

JOHN McENROE: "Ferrer is going to be the five seed if he’s not the four seed. Therefore, if he played Nadal in the quarters anyway, it would be like the same old, same old for him, because he’s always had to play one of those four guys in the quarters. If you were to, say, have Nadal play Djokovic in the quarters, possibly Murray or Federer, that would be a big difference, yeah. It would be absolutely wrong for that to happen, in my opinion."

Well then, what is wrong and what is right? Roger Federer, just last week at Halle, argued the case for Ferrer, saying, "The problem is if you say 'he’s the No. 5 seed and that’s a joke' then this is completely disrespectful towards Ferrer and I don’t like that. Nadal will shortly be back in the Top 3, that’s for sure. So, it’s not worth making a big fuss about it now. It’s just a question of time."

Andy Murray, seeded second this year, doesn't seem to be losing much sleep over Nadal's seeding, even though he could end up having to face Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in consecutive matches to win his first Wimbledon, an unenviable task if there ever was one. Speaking in his BBC Sport column on Monday, Murray said, "As a player you can't get too obsessed about the draw...I'd sign up to be in the quarter-finals against Rafa tomorrow if someone offered me that. You could say if I get through that match, then the semi-final might not be as tough, but if you want to win the biggest tournaments you have to beat the best players in the world. It doesn't really matter where they are in the draw."

Wimbledon seeds players based on current ranking and a weighted combination of the two previous year's grass court results. Ferrer, a quarterfinalist at last year's Wimbledon, reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal in his tenth appearance at the Championships in 2012. He also won a title at a grass court event in the Netherlands last season, further helping his seeding cause.

Nadal was seeded third and Ferrer fourth (due to Andy Murray's withdrawal) at the French Open this year, but even after Nadal won his eighth French Open title, he slipped behind Ferrer in the rankings due to the fact that Ferrer reached the final, whereas last year he lost in the semifinals.

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