It may only be the beginning of the clay-court season but with so much speculation about the state of Rafa Nadal’s mind, Novak Djokovic’s wrist, Andy Murray’s back and Roger Federer’s baby, it’s tempting to leap ahead and look forward to Wimbledon, when hopefully all four will be on top form as they go for the title.
As always, the rankings will move around a little in the next six weeks as the clay-court season evolves, and then Wimbledon will release its seedings, something always looked at as crucial by the top players, no matter utterings they might make in public.
And they know better than anyone that since Wimbledon is the only grand slam that deviates from the ATP rankings using a grass-court formula, things can look a lot worse in April than they will the week before Wimbledon when the seedings are released.
That might explain why Andy Murray was not overly bothered when asked recently whether his slide down the rankings to No 8 will affect his chances of retaining his title at Wimbledon this summer. Here’s why.
Wimbledon’s seeding formula, for the men, takes a player’s entry ranking points on the Monday before Wimbledon, in this case June 16, and then adds 100 percent of their points in all grass-court events in the past 12 months, as well as 75 percent of their best grass-court event from the 12 months before that.
So that will be of huge benefit to the last two champions, Murray and Roger Federer, as well as last year’s runner-up Novak Djokovic. Now the top two – Nadal and Djokovic – are miles ahead of the rest and you’d expect them to come close to defending their points from last year’s clay-court season so we can forget about them and ink them in as No 1 and No 2 (Djokovic, as runner-up in 2013 and a semi-finalist in 2012 could easily be No 1 depending on what happens in Paris). But the rest of the positions from No 3 to No 8 are up for grabs. (Injury to Juan Martin Del Potro takes him out of the equation).
At the moment, you might think Stan Wawrinka would have a great chance of being seeded No 3 – the same as his overall ranking right now. But the Swiss has more than 1,000 points to defend on clay and then, importantly, gets very little in terms of a grass-court boost through the formula.
This will change a bit, of course, and someone like Wawrinka could easily boost his points before the end of Roland Garros, but if we take the rankings as of this week, Monday April 21, here’s what would happen if the seedings were done today, with the grass-court formula applied.
1. Rafael Nadal: 13,353.75 (inc. 43.75 grass-court points)
2. Novak Djokovic: 12,780 (inc 1740)
3. Roger Federer: 7,600 (inc 1795)
4. Andy Murray: 7,190 (inc 3,150)
5. Stanislas Wawrinka: 6,747.5 (inc 167.5)
6. David Ferrer: 5,540 (inc 630)
7. Tomas Berdych 5,168.75 (inc 408.75)
8. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 3,045 (inc 675)
So, though Murray has 250 points to defend at Queen’s Club in the Aegon Championships, the last week of points before the seeds are calculated, he has a pretty good chance of remaining in the top four, thus avoiding the nightmare of potentially having to play three of the top four to win the title.
He will probably tell you it doesn’t matter, but it can only help his chances of retaining the title, not least since only one man (Goran Ivanisevic) has won the title since 1992 from outside of the top four seeds.