Nadal seeding makes a mockery of Wimbledon


It will be palpably ridiculous if, as expected, Rafael Nadal ends up being seeded fifth at Wimbledon.

Yes, he’s currently ranked No.5 in the world – but only because he’s spent most of last year on his back.

Yes, he crashed out in the second round at the All England Club last year – but you might blame that on his dicky knee.

Provided he successfully makes the transition from clay to grass (a tricky adaptation for all players), then anyone with a brain should place him second or third favourite to win the title this year. Unibet have him at 4.30, behind the favourite Djokovic at 2.60 and ahead of Murray at 5.00.

The problem is that Wimbledon uses a rather convoluted system to calculate their seedings. (Pay attention now.)

What they do is take the rankings points of each player the week before the tournament starts. Then they add 100 per cent of the rankings points each player earned in all the grass court tournaments he has played in the past 12 months. Then they add 75 per cent of the rankings points each player earned in his best grass court tournament in the 12 months before that. (Still with us?)

The player with the most accumulated points is seeded No.1 and so on, with 32 seeds in all.

All of which means that, when this year’s seedings are announced on June 19th, Rafa will most likely be seeded fifth. Crazy.

This is a man who has reached the Wimbledon final five times and won the title twice. Former world No.1, he has won 51 out of the last 53 matches he has played.

To seed him fifth is a shame not only for him but also for tennis fans since he might face Djokovic, Murray or Federer as early as the quarter-finals. This means we lose one of the Big Four earlier than we should. So what is the All England Club to do?

They used to have a system where seedings were decided privately by committee so that lowly-ranked grass-court specialists sometimes ended up being seeds. Lleyton Hewitt, for example, who is currently No.82 in the world but has previously won the title.

At least the new system is transparent, mathematical and fair. The problem is when a grass superstar like Nadal comes back from injury he ends up being seeded way too low.

Murray has some ideas on improving the system. “That is unfortunately the way the ranking system works in tennis,” he says. “It is a one-year ranking, whereas in something like golf it is a two-year ranking.

“[In golf] even if one of the best players gets injured, they can still maintain their ranking. In tennis, if you miss four or five months, it is almost impossible to maintain your ranking.”

Actually, come next Wednesday when the seedings are announced, and Murray finds Nadal’s mis-seeding has given him an easier route through the draw, he may actually be counting his lucky stars.

Conversely, Nadal’s mis-seeding could give Murray a trickier route through the draw in which case the Scot will be cursing.

It’s all down to the numbers. Like a constipated mathematician, Murray is no doubt working it all out with a pencil right now.

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