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Tennis Slams: The Draws are Dumb

The 2023 Australian Open Draw will soon be released and if you are a hardcore tennis fan this is one of the most important times in the season for the sport. You could compare it to having the NCAA march madness field released 4 times a year. As tennis fans, we can only dream of it being that equitable in Tennis, unfortunately. One thing that has always bothered me about Tennis is how ridiculous some aspects of the draws and individual matchups are.

I understand it’s done for audience and TV purposes, but having the top 5 players play in many cases a top 40 player in the world in the first round of a 128 field has never made sense to me. This is while you have examples of wildcards and other much lower ranked players getting far more favorable matchups against each other in the first round. I’ve seen some examples of the Big 3 (Djokovic, Federer, and Nadal) top 3 players in the world all play top 35 players in the first round. There are other examples where they have played 600+ ranked players. I saw one example where Federer played the 1370th ranked player.

I’ve always felt it tarnished the Slams to have these disparate draws. How about some structure? How about a tournament draw that makes sense? There are plenty of examples like this over the years and if anything it makes the run of the Big 3 more impressive. Some of the time they were getting raw deals in the draw early on and stressful early matches that took longer to end.

1st Round Opponents In the Top 50

Since 2010Top 50

I feel bad for some of the other players as well. Palo Lorenzi was given #1 Djokovic twice in the open round of the Australian Open and US Open in 2012. He was also given Federer at Wimbledon in 2014 opening round. This is mostly when he was a legitimate at least mid or higher ranked player in the field.

Poor Phillip Kohlschreiber was given Djokovic in the first round at Wimbledon in 2015 and 2019. He was ranked 33rd and 57th in the world those seasons. 33rd is nearly a seed. (32 seeds) You barely miss being seeded and have to play #1 seed and eventual champ Djokovic in the 1st round as the 33rd player in the world. WTF is that? There are 128 players in the field. How do you get the number 1 seed and worst draw vs the 33rd-ranked player in the opening round with that math? It’s so ridiculous and unfair for both Djokovic but mainly Kohlschreiber and players that have good rankings and are screwed in the first rounds.

Not Even the Worst Aspect

2011 US Open Semi-Finals……

The opening round is not even the worst part of these draws historically. Many of the majors have the number 1 seed on the same side of the bracket as the 3rd seed. They have the number 2 and number 4 on the other side. How does that make any sense at all? It makes no sense in any era, but in this Big 3 era especially this is a massive disadvantage to the best player in the world to have to beat the other 2 greatest players ever when they earned the #1 seed. Two and three should face up in the semi’s finals.

There have been times that a player was seeded number 1 and ranked 1st in the world by a significant margin having to face another Big 3 in the semi-finals. That’s their reward for being the best of the Big 3 to face two Big 3’s. This while the 2nd ranked player got the number 4 player who in most cases was significantly worse than the Big 3 members and a more tired Big 3 in the Finals. Andy Murry for example above was a good player, but there is a reason he has 3 majors and the Big 3 had 20 each. It’s a massive gap to have to face a Big 3vs one of them in the semi’s or any of the 4th ranked players in the era.That structure has happened often. Thankfully there are only a few examples where the 1 and 3 seeds actually had to play in the semi-finals, but it doesn’t excuse the stupidity of setting up a tournament like this.

How is this even a thing? I’m all for having quality TV and matching players of interest and styles but damn, how about doing it in some fair framework based on rankings. Let’s not have the number one player in the world playing the 33rd ranked player in round 1 and then have him have to go through the other 2 greatest players ever instead of 1 when he’s the higher seed. It’s completely asinine. Especially when there are players ranked in the 50s getting wildcards or other favorable matchups early or the 2nd best player gets on the side of the draw where they only have to face 1 of the Big 3’s and gets a non-big 3. There are some really ridiculous examples like that.

The tournament should be seeded by rank throughout the entire tournament. I do believe the top seeds should have the equivalent worst-ranked players or close to it in the tournament early on. Number 1 should never have to play the 3rd seed in the semi-finals. Golf certainly has draw issues where an entire half of the field can be decimated in a wave by the weather. In tennis, this sort of stupidity is entirely controllable. It’s amazing that the Big 3 didn’t suffer more upsets early in grand slams than they did over the years. Even having more stressful early rounds that went longer probably hurt them all at times as well. I don’t know what kind of chicanery will pop up in the Australian Open 2023 draw, but I fully expect some. We will break it all down including the dumbest parts. Stay tuned.

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