Yes/No: Nadal’s controversial Wimbledon seeding

Should Rafael Nadal be seeded higher than fifth at this year’s Wimbledon?


YES – James Scott

Rafael Nadal’s no.5 seeding for Wimbledon is nothing short of a disgrace. Not only does it disrespect one of the greatest players ever to pick up a racquet, but it is also completely unrepresentative of the current state of play in men’s tennis.

How can Nadal, a 12-time Grand Slam champion, twice on the lawns of SW19 and the runaway leader in terms of points this year, be ranked lower than zero-times Grand Slam champion and non-grass specialist David Ferrer? As a result, Nadal has been sent on a collision course with one of the big three (Djokovic, Federer or Murray) in the quarter-finals, meaning one of the marquee names will be prematurely knocked out to the detriment of the tournament as a whole.

However good a player Ferrer is, the semi-final with him in will already be a foregone conclusion, much as the French Open final was this year. In many ways the seeding at Roland Garros was an even bigger joke as seven (now eight) times champion Nadal was seeded five, when history and form suggested he should have been seeded much higher, as a result the final was a lame affair. Sadly Wimbledon has fallen into the same trap.

To an extent this isn’t really Wimbledon’s fault; the seedings are the product of a dysfunctional ranking system. Nadal has absolutely dominated this year, picking up 2000 more  points than his nearest opponent and winning all but two tournaments that he has entered. Yet this has not been reflected by the rankings at all as he also enjoyed an excellent first half to 2012, reaching the final of the Australian Open and winning Rolland Garros.

Moreover Wimbledon cannot totally claim innocence on this issue, because changes to seeding have been made in the past. Indeed, Roger Federer was made number one seed in 2010 despite not being world number one at the time, and many allowances have been made in the past. Nadal isn’t a fading champion, he’s very much a man at the top of his game – one of, if not the best player in the world. It is common sense that this should be reflected in his seeding.

NO – Jack Bradshaw

Rafael Nadal’s current predicament is quite extraordinary. This time last year, few expected the world no.2 to be sidelined for seven months before coming back to win 43 out of 45 matches. And the manner in which Nadal has slipped to no.5, despite beating the new fourth seed David Ferrer in the French Open final, is unusual. Nevertheless, Nadal must accept his place as Wimbledon’s fifth seed.

The ATP ranking system, when combined with Wimbledon’s additional formula, is a very reliable yardstick to measure a player’s progress and grass court ability. The system ultimately rewards fitness, consistency and the duty to participate in a certain number of tournaments each year. These are areas in which Nadal has not excelled over the past 52 weeks while his compatriot Ferrer certainly has.

Ferrer has played more Masters 1000 events than Nadal and, over the last four Grand Slams, he’s reached one quarter-final, two semis and a final. His record against the other top players isn’t great but this doesn’t count towards ranking points – otherwise Nadal would be ahead of everyone by some distance. Unfortunately for Ferrer, his lack of grass court titles and shyness, compared to Nadal’s past success and charisma, means he is always in the great man’s shadow.

And who’s to say Nadal isn’t on the verge of another injury lay-off? Pushing him up to the coveted fourth seed could, in fact, be a high-risk and misleading adjustment if his knees are vulnerable once again. His number two seed last year proved exactly that when Lukas Rosol threw up what appeared to be one of Wimbledon’s biggest upsets. In reality, the outcome was a distinct possibility.

Above all, the problem with making subjective alterations to the seeding system is where to draw the line. For example, should Federer be within the top two seeds because he is the defending champion with seven titles? Why on Earth is Murray seeded above him despite being outplayed in last year’s final? The reason is simple: Murray has played at a consistently higher level over the past 52 weeks.

To entertain the idea that Nadal is ‘better’ than Ferrer and therefore deserves a higher seeding is a misleading, simplistic approach. Instead, we should trust the ranking system because if Wimbledon were to tinker with the current seedings, it would open up the most horrible can of worms the ATP could imagine.

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