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Undrawing the tennis draw: Easy or not so easy?

The tennis draw always evokes mixed reactions – from us fans, that is.

There are some of us who find the draw easy, as if the top seeded players of our choice would pole vault through the initial rounds without even playing a single game, just because of the virtue of the draw; and there are a select few amongst us who always find the draw tough for our favourites, no matter what the actual playing field might be in reality. And since favourites primarily constitute only the top-ranked players, we who keep debating on the merits of the draw invariably – and conveniently – forget about the rest that make up the playing circuit; or the other side of the horizon, if it could be called that.

So what would happen if the situations were reversed? That is, if the favourites weren’t the top seeds but comparatively lower ranked players; players, who might never stand a chance of winning tournaments and slams, but still found a way in the fans’ minds and hearts thoroughly and completely. Assuming that such a scenario, however unthinkable, did indeed come to pass, how would we fans react to any one the top-four ranked players being put in our world no. 10’s and world no. 20’s quarter?

The draw draws more attention than the tournament itself

Would we whoop in joy if a world no. 2 was put in our idol’s quarter in place of a world no. 1 or would we be petrified thinking about our player’s results against the world no. 2 and wondering why the hell did the ‘draw people’ not put the world no. 3 in our favourite’s quarter? Or would we all be thinking about the chances of a potential upset, past performances of the world no. 2 in the same tournament and all of the other parameters that we generally bring into the equation before the match starts.

Sounds complicated, does it not? If a mere farcical assumption with no threads of reality attached to it can bring about so many elements of complicated thoughts, and the picking apart of irrelevantly minor details that have no consequence on the match itself; how complicated indeed the reality must be? A reality where each and every time, the draw draws more attention than the tournament itself and the players find themselves moved on paper like pawns on a chess game even before they enter the tennis court.

One thing that stands out in this entire melodrama of ‘Who’s the draw favouring more?’, is the superiority complex of us fans, more than the players themselves. We predict easy victories on the basis of the draw itself and not on the basis of the opponent’s ability to play against our favourites on the given day. And it’s based on these favoured predictions that we expect our icons to ruthlessly defeat the player at the other end which, necessarily may or may not come true. While the draw becomes a blessing for our idols if our expectations and predictions come true, based on such random predictions; if per chance our expectations fail, the draw turns out be a list of mass emotional destruction.

Deconstructing the draw to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of opponents is something that goes without mentioning. Perhaps this is the reason that the top-ranked players are always asked specific questions about the draw and their preparation as they advance further and further into the tournament. But there lies a huge difference between the players themselves speaking about potential threats and opportunities and the fans doing it for them, like unofficial PR representatives.

More noticeable is the fact that even when top ranked players speak about the draw, they don’t talk about whether an opponent is going to be easy to brush aside or whether the opponent would drag the match to the maximum game and set limit. Their answers never vary in that that they are always about the opponent’s skill-set rather than weaknesses. The top seeds never talk about how easy it would be, but mention more about the difficulties that they could encounter. An extended mental game it might be, but the underlying fact remains the same. No opponent – however lowly ranked – can be underestimated, whatever the statistics might proclaim.

Maybe, we fans could do a bit of learning from this evergreen tactic. Never to underestimate or be overwhelmed by the opposition, but to take each day and each player as it comes – regardless of the draw.

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