Monday 29 April 2013

Roland Garros 2013 Seeding Scenarios

One of the major debates raging in the tennis world these days is whether the Roland Garros seeding committee should depart from the regular ATP rankings and seed Rafael Nadal higher than his current (and possibly future) #5 ranking. What happens if they don't? With two big tournaments left to play - Madrid and Rome - the rankings might still change in several ways. David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal will contest the #4 spot, while Andy Murray and Roger Federer will fight over the #2 ranking. If ranking calculations are not your forte, here are the major possible scenarios.

The Basic Numbers

All four players will be seeded in both Rome and Madrid, and will get first round BYEs. Therefore, the points they can earn (in each of the tournaments) are:
R2 loss - 10
R3 loss - 90
QF loss - 180
SF loss - 360
F loss - 600
W - 1000

David Ferrer & Rafael Nadal

First of all, it's important to note that Ferrer's Estoril results won't be relevant to these caculations - he already has an ATP250 tournament win (worth 250 points) that he can't count, so even if he wins Estoril his current points total won't change.

Stripping away the points Ferrer and Nadal are defending in the two clay Masters 1000 tournaments, Ferrer has 6380 points, and Nadal - 4895 points. That's a difference of 1485 points between the two, which Nadal will have to overcome in order to get to #4. Thus, we can start analyzing.

If Ferrer gets at least 515 points in both tournaments combined, he'll stay #4 until the French Open, regardless of Nadal's result. Thus, Ferrer will be #4 if:

  • He reaches the final of either of the tournaments
  • He makes at least a QF in one tournament and at least a SF in the other
Furthermore, Nadal has to get extremely good results to even have a chance of getting the #4 ranking. If he wins less than 1485 points in both tournaments combined, he'll stay #5. Thus, Nadal has to win one of Madrid/Rome and make the final of the other, and even that might not be enough if Ferrer's results are good enough. If Nadal fails to win Madrid, Ferrer only has to win two matches during the two events to stay #4. 

Andy Murray & Roger Federer

Without the points of Madrid and Rome, Andy Murray has 8480 points (he didn't play in Madrid last year, and lost early in Rome), while Federer has 7310 (he won Madrid and reached the Rome SF in 2012). That's a difference of 1170 points in Murray's favor. 

If Murray gets at least 830 points in both tournaments combined, he'll guarantee himself the #2 seed for the Roland Garros. Murray will be #2 anyway if:
  • He wins either Madrid or Rome
  • He reaches the final of one tournament and the SF of the other
Federer, like Nadal, has to make it far if he wants to get to #2. If he wins 1180 points or less, he'll remain #3. Therefore, Federer has to do one of the following to have a chance at #2:
  • Make the finals at both tournaments
  • Win one tournament and reach at least SF at the other 
The more matches Murray wins in Madrid, the farther Federer will have to go - if Murray wins three matches (Madrid SF), Federer needs W+F, if Murray reaches the Madrid final, Federer has to win both tournaments to stand a chance.

Of course, all of those scenarios can't all happen together - out of the four players, at most one can win each of the two tournaments. The draw in Madrid might even make some of these options unreachable. But until then, you can at least know what you want your favourite player to do.

Edited on May 9: Federer's loss means that he won't be seeded #2 in France; but at most #3 (can even fall down to #4 if Ferrer does really well in Rome and Federer does not).


Personally, I think the Roland Garros seeding committee should follow the rankings as they are. The concept of protected ranking exists in the ATP for cases just like this one, when a player has been away with an injury for a long period of time. The rule, not accidentally, states that protected ranking will be used only for determining entry lists, not for seeding. There's no good reason to deviate from that rule now, and changing the seeding to fit a specific player (or a specific group of players, in this case) is a dangerous and unfair precedent.


  1. It would be pathetic if the organisers departed from the standard rankings for one occasion. We all know Wimbledon do things differeently to the other majors, so I cannot see why - just because Nadal has won seven times - the organisers should wet themselves and give a one off dispensation.

    If Nadal is as good as he is, he will play and beat whoever is in his path and win. Simple. It will mean that it would be the reverse than what some folk are writing - some other poor bastard would face the prospect of Nadal one round earlier and stand to lose valuable rankings points and dollars from the later "business end" rounds.

    And what's Nadal's take on all this? Somehow I don't think he cares that much either.

  2. " a dangerous and unfair precedent."

    Right on!!

  3. Roland Garros has the right to change the seeding of Nadal. I doubt they will, but they are allowed to change it. The purpose of seeding is to make sure that the best players don't square off until the later rounds. Djokovic and Nadal are clearly the best players. If Nadal is seeded at 5, then one of the top four is going to get screwed. I'm still trying to figure out my own opinion on this issue, but I would not be upset if RG decides to make him the four seed just to protect the top seeds. Hopefully things work out so that Ferrer and Nadal are in the same quarter of the draw. Then it doesn't matter what they are seeded too much.

  4. "Roland Garros has the right to change the seeding of Nadal." On this type of comment, I say let's go free range at ALL tournaments and forget about rankings, just go on gut feel of the organisers.

    Player's body weak and injured for 7 months? Not a problem, let's rush them back in as top seed. Stuff that the rest of the tennis playing tour have busted their guts in that time to improve their rankings and possibility of a good draw. Nup, just keep on making things as easy as possible for one player.

    Federer got no favours at Wimbledon last year by being a 6-time former champion and having a mostly functional body to maintain his healthy ranking. I wonder for how many seconds organisers thought of bumping him to automatic top seed against over some hack who has only won a single Wimbledon. I think about "zero seconds".