Wimbledon has announced today that Andy Murray will be seeded higher than his current ATP ranking of eight at this year’s tournament. The Championships is the only one of the four Grand Slams that does not use ATP or WTA rankings to determine its seeds. Instead, the world’s most famous tennis tournament seeds its players by calculating both rankings and player’s performances at the previous two championships and other grass court tournaments.
Murray has certainly earned such protection. The Scot is the 2013 Wimbledon Champion, the 2012 runner-up and the 2013 Queen’s club winner, the kind of form that will probably see him placed among the top four seeds.
The announcement means Murray could avoid Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and most likely 2012 champion Roger Federer, who, according to The Times, will also benefit from Wimbledon’s seeding system, until the semi-finals.
World no. 3 Stanislas Wawrinka will most likely be the victim of the Wimbledon seeding system. The Australian Open champion has only made it to the last 16 twice. One of those times was in 2009 when he lost to third seeded Murray in five sets.
While Wawrinka, with his increased confidence and formidable attacking game, might be a handful for Murray should they clash in the quarters this year, Federer would prove to be an altogether different ball game if they were to meet in the semi-finals. The Swiss beat Murray for his last Grand Slam title win at Wimbledon in 2012 when Murray was in some of the best form of his career. And this season the Swiss is having something of a revival after a poor 2013. Most worryingly for Murray, Federer has been making more of his net skills, a factor which could prove to be decisive on the grass courts of SW19.
However, for Murray, the main focus will be on getting as far as the last four. The Scot has struggled to come back from back surgery that put him out of the game from last season’s US Open to the start of 2014. A loss to Federer in the last eight of the Australian Open this year has been the highlight of a season in which he has suffered defeats to players he would usually beat such as Cilic and Raonic.
And there will be plenty of banana skins in the early rounds of Wimbledon, especially if last year’s tournament is anything to go by. Unheralded players such as Rosol, Darcis, and Stakhovsky have made a name for themselves the last couple of events, knocking out favorites in the first couple of rounds. Meanwhile, players like Cilic and Raonic,whose big serves make them dangerous on the Grass, lurk in the last sixteen. Not to mention the in-form Dimitrov and Nishikori whose talents threaten anyone on any surface.
Wimbledon’s announcement that Murray will be protected with a higher seeding may help Murray out to some degree, but it cannot protect him from his own rustiness or the skills of the opponents he could meet before the last four. With two months to go before the championships start, Murray has some time to get his game in good shape to live up to the tournament’s confidence in him and, more scarily, the expectations of the notoriously critical British press who will be ready with headlines on Murray whether he triumphs in the final or goes crashing out in the first round.
Commentary by Christian Deverille