The two-time champion could face Djokovic, Federer or Murray in the quarters.
Wimbledon announced Wednesday it will adhere to its seeding formula and not change Rafael Nadalís No. 5 seed, setting the stage for a potential quarterfinal matchup between the Spanish tennis star and one of his ďbig fourĒ confreres, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray or Roger Federer.
The decision was widely expected. Itís also a disappointing cop-out.
Thereís now a 75 percent chance Nadal, whose ATP ranking is affected by the seven months he spent out of the sport with an injury, will be on a path to face Djokovic, Murray or Federer in the quarters. Imagine: Djokovic and Nadal playing a Sunday match on Wednesday, all for the right to play the winner of David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet in the semis. That doesnít do right by the players, fans or tournament. Only Nadalís placement in Ferrerís quarter of the draw would avoid a potential big four showdown in the final eight.
For some reason, most of the tennis world isnít outraged by the seeding snub. (John McEnroe doesnít like it, but what else is new?) Wimbledonís seeding formula, based mainly on the ATP rankings with an added emphasis on grass-court events, is treated as gospel. If the numbers say Nadal is No. 5, the argument goes, then he must be seeded No. 5. Whatís with the misguided sense of fairness, as if thereís nobility in clinging to an already-arbitrary rankings system?
Thatís not to say there arenít valid arguments in support of keeping Nadal at No. 5. There are and theyíre written in bold below. The counterpoints are stronger.
If they make an exception here, theyíd have to make it for everyone.
This is a fair point. Wimbledon would have to always move up rankings for 12-time Grand Slam champions who take off seven months to rehab from a knee injury, then return in peak form to go 43-2 and win the French Open. Itís setting a bad precedent for this common occurrence.
Itís unfair to David Ferrer.
Sure it is. He earned his ranking by staying healthy and advancing deep into tournaments. Heís also made it to one quarterfinal in 10 appearances at Wimbledon. Itís nothing against Ferrer, a fine player who probably would have won a Grand Slam or two if he had been born 15 years earlier, when I say that I know David Ferrer and, sir, David Ferrer is no Rafael Nadal.
Seedings arenít supposed to be predictive.
Yes they are. Thatís exactly why they exist. Seeds are necessary to minimize the random variances in chance set up by a 128-player draw. Thatís why tennis changed from 16 seeded players to 32 seeded players in 2001.
Overall, itís not that big a deal. He still has to win seven matches.
Roger Federer, who could be burned by the Nadal seeding if it results in a quarterfinal matchup, endorses this view.
ďClearly it changes the draw, the dynamics of it, but not more than that, really,Ē he said Sunday. ďI mean, the quarterfinal is not the first round. Itís still far away in the draw, if you think about it.Ē
Iíd buy it more if Federer hadnít made every Grand Slam quarterfinal since 2004.
But heís right; the quarters are far away. Not far away enough to ponder what might happen, however. One of the Big Four could have dates with each of the other members in the quarters, semis and finals. Federer, for instance, might have to go through Nadal, Murray and Djokovic to defend his title. Nadal could see Djokovic, Federer and Murray. Thatís only the 2011 champion, the 2012 champion and the guy who won an Olympic gold medal on Centre Court 11 months ago. Thatís a big deal.
The numbers donít lie. Ferrer is No. 4, Nadal is No. 5. Period.
These numbers donít lie either:
Nadal: 12 Grand Slam titles; 43 wins, 95% win percentage, seven titles in 2013; five Wimbledon finals appearances, two Wimbledon titles.
Ferrer: 0 Grand Slam titles; 37 wins, 78% win percentage, two titles in 2013; one Wimbledon quarterfinal appearance.
Why is one set of numbers more important than the other? When did common sense get replaced with slavish devotion to meaningless point values?