Rafael Nadal on wrong side of Wimbledon seeding controversy

Day 6 Rafael Nadal Wimbledon
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Wimbledon has long reserved the right to seed players by its own metric rather than relying on their tour rankings, at least in the men’s game. This year, the seedings were determined by the same formula that Wimbledon has been using, in agreement with the ATP, since 2002. The formula itself takes a player’s ATP ranking points as of June 24th and adds 100% of points won on grass in the last year, before adding 75% of points earned on grass from the previous year.

It may not be as simple as the policy at the other three Slams, but a significant part of Wimbledon’s appeal has become its unique traditions. But this particular tradition has come under fire from two-time former champion Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard has contended that it is unjust that despite being the World #2, he has been demoted to third in the Wimbledon seedings, behind World #1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic and eight-time former champion Roger Federer.

Some in the game have sympathy for Nadal and his frustration is certainly understandable. After all, at Wimbledon last year he advanced further than Federer, who lost in the quarterfinals, and came to within a whisker of beating Djokovic in the semifinals. With the greatest of respect to Kevin Anderson, who the Serbian went on to beat in the final, after his marathon clash with John Isner in their semifinal, it is hard to imagine him having beaten Nadal.

Nadal is also to some extent being penalised for choosing not to play any tour-level warm up events. Federer, in contrast, is a constant presence at the Halle Open, where he won the title for a tenth time earlier this month. That victory, along with his appearance in the final last year, added valuable points to his seeding formula, allowing him to overhaul Nadal. But unfortunately for Nadal, beyond those two arguments, he doesn’t have much of a case to present.

Nadal never took issue with seedings before

Federer has undeniably consistently out-performed Nadal at the All England Club in recent years and has won two titles and reached a further two finals since Nadal last appeared in a title-match at the Championships. But what really puts the nail in Nadal’s coffin is that in every year he has played at Wimbledon, the seeding formula has been the same. That he has only taken issue with it this year when disadvantaged by it seems rather self-interested.

Not that tennis players don’t have the right to be self-interested. In such a competitive and individual sport, one can hardly fault players for trying to eke out any advantage they can. And the prospect of potentially facing Djokovic in the semifinals rather than the final will be as unwelcome to Nadal as it would have been to Federer. But whilst Nadal’s sense of injustice may not be entirely unreasonable, he has the misfortune to find himself on the wrong side of both this argument and the seeding formula.

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