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By Dennis Fitzgerald | Sunday, August 27, 2017

Roger Federer

The US Open is the only Grand Slam tournament where third-seeded Roger Federer and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal have never squared off.

Photo credit: US Open Facebook

As soon as Wimbledon ended I was very eager for the US Open to begin.

Now I'm steaming mad!

Federer: Tour Not To Blame For Injuries

Here's why I'm peeved, but not surprised, by the USTA’s decision to seed Roger Federer third instead of second for this week's US Open.

Once Federer lost the Montreal final and then withdrew from Cincinnati, I knew he would remain No. 3 in the ATP rankings.

I also knew the USTA would not seed Federer second at the US Open either.

I've never been one who thinks there must be blind allegiance to the ATP rankings when it comes to Grand Slam seedings.

Given that Federer only trailed second-ranked Andy Murray by 5 points in the rolling 12-month ranking, I thought there was a semblance of a chance that rational, common sense might come into play with the US Open seeding.

Everyone in the tennis world knew that Murray's chronic hip issue, the physical toll of playing a punishing 2016 schedule and his less-than-stellar form meant he had little to no chance of advancing to the Open final this year.

Since winning the 2012 US Open, Murray has not surpassed the quarterfinals in New York. I believe the vast majority of the public would love to see a Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal final. Finally!

So far this year they are far and away the best players in the world and the stage is set for them to face off for the first time at the US Open.

Logic should have dictated that Federer be seeded second, with Murray third.

Who would have complained?

The ATP?

A little bit.

The Murray fans?


And no one else.

Federer is the reigning Wimbledon champion and the reigning Australian Open champion. The 19-time Grand Slam champion has already won a major on hard court this season—as well as winning Indian Wells and Miami on hard courts where Murray did diddly this year.

Federer, a five-time US Open champion, contested two Open finals since Murray won his one and only US Open title five years ago.

Let’s be honest: I don't need to convince you or anyone else of Federer's credentials vs Murray's.

And then Murray withdraws!

One day after the draw is announced.

And less than 48 hours before the tournament begins.


Credit Murray for doing everything in his power to try to play, but he had to know he wasn't ready to play.

Lower-ranked players who are injured may be in doubt, but they go to New York to collect their paycheck, injured or not. Murray didn't need the money. Why did he wait until the last minute?


While I don't think it was nefarious, there is something obnoxious, weird, and not quite right about the timing of his withdrawal.

What irks me more is how the USTA promoted Marin Cilic, who has not played since Wimbledon, in the draw from fifth to the essential fourth seed. They promote Cilic, but not Federer!

Federer does not get promoted to the No. 2 seed in Murray's place. Of course had Federer been in Murray's half, there would be no need, because as the second highest-ranked and seeded player, he would have become the de facto No. 2 seed.

Think about it.

Of all the players in the history of the game, Roger Federer gets snubbed by the USTA in this year's seeding and draw!

In my opinion, it is sheer stupidity that the USTA did NOT elevate Federer to second seed given the opportunity.

This is a major fail.

Not once, but twice!

The US Open is a USTA event.

It's one of tennis' four Grand Slam tournaments, under the auspices of the International Tennis Federation.

The US Open is a tournament that is part of the ATP Tour, and counts towards ATP rankings. But it's not an ATP event.

I would understand if the Cincinnati tournament or Rogers Cup or any other event seeded Murray ahead of Federer by strictly following the rankings. No problem to use ATP rankings for seeding purposes.

But the US Open is NOT an ATP event.

Plain and simple.

The rankings should be used as a guide for seedings. But not an absolute.

I get it people don't want to see favoritism.

But please tell me: How is seeding Federer ahead of Murray favoritism?

And not logic?

Wimbledon does deviate from the rankings, and they do have a grass-court formula.

Why shouldn't they do that for all the majors?

I fully realize you are technically not supposed to move a seeded player's place in the draw. However, logic dictates that this should have happened this year. There is some precedence for a re-do of the draw, and a rethinking of the seeds in the first place.

In 1996, Thomas Muster was ranked No. 2 at the start of the US Open, followed by Michael Chang, and then Yevgeny Kafelnikov.

The Open seeded Chang, Australian Open finalist that season and a decidedly better hard-court player than Muster No. 2, followed by Muster.

Kafelnikov—who came into the Open injured, was dropped to No. 7. And nobody but Kafelnikov cared—not even the ATP.

Andre Agassi, the Olympic champion in Atlanta the month before the Open and former champ, was moved up to No. 6 in the seedings. Pete Sampras defeated Chang in the final that year in a match that determined the world No. 1 ranking for the year.

I wonder what Tennis Week publisher Gene Scott might have thought of this year's Open seedings, and the subsequent Murray withdrawal.

In his Tennis Week column, Vantage Point, Gene wrote about the 1996 US Open draw irregularities: "the US Open should judiciously exercise the privilege permitted to make adjustments in the ATP Tour ranking to reflect the US Open surface."

The USTA, as with the Australian, French, and British tennis governing bodies, have the authority to deviate from the rankings when it comes to seedings.

In fact, I guarantee you'll see this happen at next year's Australian Open when those injured players and former champions Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka—and former Melbourne finalist Murray—return to the tour. Players get protected ranking privileges for all ATP events, which enables players who have been out for extended periods of time direct entry to tournaments that their current ranking doesn't afford them.

If the protected ranking system is in place all year, why isn't a "protected logic" built into seeding for the majors?

The majors ARE different from tour events. Why should the ATP rankings be the sole judgment for seeding?

The Grand Slams are best-of-five sets throughout. A player's history in a major has a major impact on their ability to succeed. As does current form. With all those factors in mind, how is it possible or logical that the USTA did not seed Federer second?

Neither Federer or Nadal may win the tournament.

Obviously, both won't be in the final.

Thanks USTA!

Exactly what nobody wanted.

The 2017 US Open men's final that doesn't have the two best players of 2017—perhaps the two best players of all time!

One day, the USTA will learn the difference between doing things right—blindly following the ATP rankings when it comes to seedings, and not calling Andy Murray to make sure he's going to play!. And the right thing to do: seeding Federer No. 2.

Seems simple, right?

But most people don't truly know the difference between doing things right and the right thing to do!

Tennis Now contributing writer Dennis Fitzgerald is a teacher, avid tennis player and served as a contributing writer for Tennis


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