The Wimbledon seedings system explained: Novak Djokovic poised to be seeded 1st, Andy Murray 3rd


Centre Court at Wimbledon

Wimbledon starts in less than a week, and the build-up to the third Grand Slam of the year has largely centred around the likely player seedings for the tournament.

It’s a well-known fact that Wimbledon is the only tournament in the world which adopts a unique method to determine the seeds. And it’s not an arbitrary method either; a proper mathematical formula is used for the process.

At first glance, the seedings system for Wimbledon does look complicated. Try as one might, one never really gets it right when it comes to making predictions as far as the Wimbledon seedings go. These predictions resemble hit-and-miss swings, with more misses than hits.

Year after year, there is always some conflict about seedings of players that ends up raising observers’ eyebrows to the tip of their hairline. Last year it was Rafael Nadal’s seeding – he was seeded fifth for Wimbledon – that thoroughly bemused and annoyed his fans. The point of contention was that he was seeded so low despite the fact that he had made a powerful comeback into the top ranks after having been out of action for seven months.

Rafa’s fans may have perceived his lower seed as a grave injustice to the Spaniard, specially given that he had reached five consecutive finals at SW19 in the past. But if you carefully analyze the way the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) lays out its formula for calculation of seedings for the Championships at Wimbledon, you’ll realize that the Spaniard’s seeding was completely justified.

So let’s put this to rest once and for all – how exactly does the AELTC calculate the seedings?

Seeding calculation formula

The All England Club doesn’t just consider the accumulated ATP points of players for determining the seeds at Wimbledon, but employs the following system to break down the rankings and revise them further:

Total ATP points accumulated by a player till 16th of June (i.e., the Monday before the start of the tournament) + Total grasscourt points accumulated by a player in the preceding year + 75% of grasscourt points in the grasscourt event where a player has achieved his best result in 2012 (i.e., the year before the previous one).

Based on this bifurcation, one can easily come up with summations of breakdown of ranking points of players as would be evaluated by the All England Club’s Seeding Committee.

The likely seedings for the 2014 Wimbledon Championships

As per the above formula, the top five seeds at this year’s Wimbledon could be in the following order:

  1. Novak Djokovic: 12,330 ATP ranking points + 1,200 points from last year’s Wimbledon final + 540 points from his 2012 Wimbledon semifinal appearance, which would give him a total of 14,070 points. The Serb will thus find himself ahead of his Spanish rival as the top seed at Wimbledon, even though he is currently placed lower in the ATP rankings.
  2. Rafael Nadal: 12,500 ATP ranking points + 10 points from last year’s Wimbledon, which was the only grasscourt event he played that year + 34 points from his 2012 grasscourt season (he had 45 points each accumulated at Halle, where he made the quarter-finals, and Wimbledon, where he lost in the second round; based on the 75% aggregation, he would receive 34 points from his best grasscourt result, which would be either of Halle or Wimbledon). This would net Nadal a total of 12,614 points, thus placing him as the second seed.
  3. Andy Murray: The defending champion stands to be seeded third as per this calculation with a total of 7,830 points. He currently stands fifth in the rankings with 4,680 points, to which will be added his 2,250 points for his wins at Queen’s and Wimbledon last year and 900 points for his runner-up finish at Wimbledon in 2012
  4. Roger Federer: The ‘King of Grass’ should be the fourth seed with 6,740 points in total. He currently has 4,945 ATP ranking points, to which will be added 250 points from his win at Halle last year and 45 points for his second round finish at Wimbledon, in addition to 1,500 points added over from his 2012 Wimbledon victory.
  5. Stanislas Wawrinka: The reigning Australian Open champion, who is presently placed third in the ATP rankings, can be expected to be seeded fifth with his total coming to 5,693 points. His points breakdown would be 5,525 for his current ATP ranking points + 150 points for his runner-up finish at s-Hertogenbosch and 10 points for his first round appearance at Wimbledon last year, and another eight points for his first round appearance at the Championships in 2012.

It can be seen, therefore, that this year’s top 5 seeds at Wimbledon will look very different from the top 5 ATP rankings.

Discrepancies in the seedings system:

Despite these obvious clarities in the men’s section, there is still plenty of confusion when it comes to women’s seedings. The women are seeded as per the WTA rankings unless the seeding committee of the club specifically intervenes if they believe that there is some imbalance in the order based on the players’ current or past grasscourt success. As you can imagine, that leaves plenty of room for doubt and controversy.

Conclusion

While the men’s seeding system tries to bring all players on an equal footing, the women get disadvantaged, especially those players whose performances at Wimbledon – and grass predominantly – have been quite consistent. Conversely, it can also be argued that the women who are placed high in the WTA rankings but haven’t enjoyed much success on grass in the past stand the risk of getting short-changed if the seeding committee arbitrarily decides to make changes.

The seeding system of the AELTC can therefore be termed far more transparent for the men as compared to the women. At a point where the sport is making distinct inroads towards ensuring utmost commonality and parity for both its male and female contenders, this ambiguous factor of the All England Club needs to be re-evaluated in the better interests of the sport.