Before the seedings were announced, I had resolved to take a look at the list of wild cards awarded by the AEC, semi-itching to take a few shots at the choices. I confess to having a bone to pick when it comes to the wild-card culture, in which any number of dead-enders and no-hopers are rewarded simply because they hail from the nation or region where a given tournament is being played, or because said player's business representatives have found a way to wheedle a wild card for him or her. Grand Slam tournaments award eight wild cards, which takes eight places out of avdraw that's designed to accommodate players based on merit.
Given that you also have 16 qualifiers at a major tournament, the cutoff for direct entry is a ranking of No. 104 (assuming everyone with a lower numerical ranking wants to play). I can see where a pro who's worked awfully hard and nudged his ranking up to No. 106, or No. 108, might feel pretty bitter when he sees one of those eight wild-cards go to a 17-year old ranked No. 343, or a sentimental favorite.
Wimbledon has been as guilty as anyone of handing out free lunches to the undeserving over the years, but it's mainly because the British players have been such hopeless cases. It may seem like the wild card awarded to Emily Webley-Smith is a futile gesture, given that she's 27 and barely inside the Top 300. But then she's had busted up ankles, survived a bout of dengue fever, and cut her ranking almost in half since the last year-end stats were issued. Four other WTA wild cards went to British girls: Naomie Broady, Katie O'Brien, Laura Robson and Heather Watson. Sabine Lisicki and Eleni Daniilidou were the only non-British wild cards on the women's side, and the AEC didn't even bother to award the eighth wild card—the spot will go to the next player based on the direct entry rankings. Hooray.
On the men's side, three British players received wild cards—Daniel Cox, Daniel Evans, and James Ward. The latter certainly earned his, making a run to the Queen's Club final last week. But it's still hard to envision Ward stealing the thunder of Andy Murray. The other ATP wild cards went to an eclectic trio: Arnaud Clement, Alejandro Falla, and Dudi Sela. The eighth men's wild card also was unused, making me suspect that the AEC is trying hard to look like it isn't awarding the wild cards to any old player, just because it can. But you still have to wonder—wouldn't it have been more appropriate, based on a paucity of justifiable wild-card requests, to award most of those wild cards to eligible players based on ranking? I mean, we love Dudi Sela and Alejandro Falla, but what exactly is the point?
Once again, it will be interesting to see which, if any, wild card entries survive the first round. I can see Lisicki winning multiple rounds, so my money is on her. But even that wouldn't change my feeling that eight wild cards per singles draw is probably four or five too many.