Monday, May 31, 2010

What a farce the draw for the women has become at the French Open.
With Justine Henin’s low seeding of twenty-two due to having been out of the game for two years, we are now seeing some top match-ups earlier than what normally would be expected. Already Henin has met and defeated Maria Sharapova in the third round and if she wins her fourth round match then she will more than likely face Serena Williams in the quarterfinals.
Fair enough, I hear you say. That’s the luck of the draw. Maybe, but when the organisers have the discretion to seed on issues other than purely world rankings, those organisers start to appear a touch backward in their thinking.
On the WTA tour the seeding of the draw is done strictly based on world rankings. However, in a grand slam, organisers do have the ability to seed based on more than just world ranking. And surely this would have been a perfect example of a situation where common sense should have dictated that Henin was seeded somewhere in the top four. Having got to the final of the Australian Open in January, it was patently clear that she was going to be a force at Roland Garros.
To have a situation where Henin, Williams and Sharapova could meet each other in the quarterfinals or worse, before, is nothing short of absurd. On the other side of the draw, Venus Williams, not a noted clay courter but seeded number two based on world ranking, is already out of the tournament.
What world rankings do not take into account is the fact that grand slam events are all played on different surfaces. Some players are better suited to the clay of Roland Garros than, for example, the grass of Wimbledon. That Venus will be a stronger threat at Wimbledon than on the clay must have been obvious. Surely this should have been taken into account when the seedings for the draw were done.
Sure, seedings are not a precise science and there will always be upsets, but due to the organiser’s inability to think the permutations through adequately we now have a competition that is seeing the top matchups contested overthe first eight days: not over the last few days as it should be.
With a small particle of thought on the part of the organisers, Henin could have been seeded two, Sharapova three, thus allowing a potential semi-final matchup between Serena and Sharapova. On the other side of the draw we could have seen Henin up against third seed Caroline Wozniacki in the other semi-final, then the opportunity of a Williams-Henin final. Or possibly between the other two. Whichever way, it would have provided for better contests overall during the second week of play.
Doesn’t the paying public deserve better than this? You betcha. Presumably, tickets cost more in the second week of the tournament for a reason: the matchups are of a higher quality due to the best players playing each other. So fair enough those tickets are pricier later in the tournament. What is not right is that tennis fans are robbed of potential matchups between some of the world’s top professionals.
The worst thing about it is that it could have so easily been prevented. All with a bit of common sense applied. But I guess, as is said often, common sense isn’t always that common.
Such a pity then that the best match of the women’s draw could be produced in a quarter-final showdown and then either Williams or Henin going on to win a lopsided final.
Yeah, now there’s something to look forward too.

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