Welcome! (I guess...)

For those of you who by some extremely unlikely set of circumstances happened to stumble upon this page, I apologize to you. For those of you who intentionally came to this page - yikes! As the title of the weblog indicates, these are my Ramblings About Whatever. There is a chance that I will ramble about just about anything (as I am in this introduction), but only a select few topics will actually make this site. Enjoy! (I guess...)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Why Even Bother to Seed?

I really wanted to wait until Wimbledon's conclusion to dive back into a tennis discussion, but I'm afraid that there is something that is bothering me way too much. And what is bothering me this time? Well, it is the insanely incompetent way in which Wimbledon handles the seeding of top players.

Wimbledon handles seeding in a different fashion than do the other major tournaments. The other majors (Australian Open, French Open, US Open) seed the players according to the players' world rankings. If a player is ranked seventh in the world, and the other six players in the world who are ranked ahead of this player are participating in the tournament, then this player would be seeded seventh in the other three major tournaments. To its credit, the Committee of Management will actually look at previous grass court performance and factor this in when determining player seeding. If a player is ranked eleventh in the world, but has shown great ability on grass in the past, he or she may be seeded seventh in the tournament. (This is actually true this year on the men's side as eleventh ranked Tomas Berdych is seeded seventh.) At the same time, if a player is ranked at a high level in the world but has struggled in the past on grass, he or she may receive a lower seed than their world ranking would suggest.

Okay, so far I have nothing wrong with this. The Committee is seemingly trying to come up with the best possible seeding for the tournament. This makes sense and one would think that this would lead to the best possible tournament. However, the next step that the Committee does demonstrates the rationality that one might expect out of a mental patient. The seeded players do not appear in the brackets where they "should" appear. Most people who are fans of the NCAA basketball tournament know that in each of the four regions (at the beginning of play) the matchups are as follows: 1vs16, 8vs9, 5vs12, 4vs13, 3vs14, 6vs11, 7vs10, and 2vs15. If form holds in the region, then the second round would be 1vs8, 5vs4, 3vs6, and 7vs2. Again if forms holds the next round would be 1vs4 and 3vs2. Finally the final game in the region would be 1vs2 if all goes as it "should." Now in tennis, there are 32 seeded players in each of the men's and women's draw. You can expand on the basketball example that I have just given by adding an additional round to the tennis case. In the round of 32, if all seeded players have successfully won their first two rounds, the matchups should appear as the following: 1vs32, 16vs17, 8vs25, 9vs24, 5vs28, 12vs21, 4vs29, 13vs20, 3vs30, 14vs19, 11vs22, 6vs27, 7vs26, 10vs23, 15vs18, and finally 2vs31. Essentially, in each quarter of the original draw, there should be eight seeded players and the sum total of their rankings should be 132. If everything holds, the number one seeded player should meet the fourth seed in the semifinals, while the number two seed should meet the number three in the other semifinal. However, this is not the case in Wimbledon, which is terribly troubling.

At this year's Wimbledon, on the men's side, the top four seeds (in this order) are Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Novak Djokovic. In Federer's quarter you have the following seeds: 1, 26, 21, 13, 9, 20, 27, 5 (for a total of 122). In Nadal's quarter the seeds are: 7, 29, 19, 11, 14, 18, 28, 2 (for a total of 128). In Roddick's quarter the seeds are: 3, 31, 17, 15, 12, 24, 25 (for a total of 127, but would be 135 if including the original 8 seed, Andy Murray, who pulled out with an injury). Finally, in Djokovic's quarter the seeds are: 6, 32, 23, 10, 16, 22, 30, 4 (for a total of 143). Now, these variations from the 132 total may not seem to be that far off, but particularly if you look at the difference between the Federer quarter and the Djokovic quarter, there should definitely be some concern. The eight seeded players in Federer's quarter are on average seeded more than 2.5 positions higher than those Djokovic quarter. This difference is not insignificant. Just looking at the seedings, it would indicate that the ease of making it to the semifinals among the top four seeds goes in this order: Djokovic-Roddick-Nadal-Federer. In how many other sports would you find it that the road to the championship is intentionally made harder for the top seed? Now if this was one of the other three majors, this sort of a draw could be forgiven since they are basing the seedings solely on world rankings. If the rankings did not change appreciably over the course of a few years, it might get boring seeing the same matchups over and over. However, Wimbledon is a different story. The Committee already seeds the players essentially wherever they want irrespective of actual world rankings. If you are not going to have "well-behaved" tournament seedings, what's the point of even seeding players? Why go through the trouble of taking into account past performance on grass if you are essentially just going to ignore all of these considerations you have just used? I mean the only convention that these crazy people seem to hold fast to is that the numbers one and two seeded players cannot meet until the final. Goodness these people are frustratingly foolish...

No comments: