Why is Andy Murray seeded No. 3 at this year's Wimbledon and Stanislas Wawrinka No. 5, even though Murray was ranked No. 5 on the ATP computer when the seedings were determined and Wawrinka was No. 3?
It's because Wimbledon is the only major tournament that does not go solely by ATP rankings when establishing seeding. Wimbledon also considers past results on grass, and that has traditionally been part of its seeding policy. In 2002, Wimbledon reached an agreement with the ATP to determine its seeding in the men's draw based on three specific criteria:
Step 1: Count the ATP ranking points of each player at the time of seeding—in this case, June 16, 2014.
Step 2: Add all of the points a player has earned in any grass court events in the past 12 months.
Step 3: Add 75 percent of the points earned for the player's best grass-court tournament in the 12 months before that.
Because Murray won Wimbledon last year and was a finalist in 2012, his seeding received a boost. Wawrinka (pictured above) lost in the first round at Wimbledon the past two years.
Being seeded No. 3 is a significant factor for Murray, because it guaranteed that he would not meet Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer until at least the semifinals.
The formula does not apply to women, but the seeding committee still has the authority to alter seedings to create a competitive balance on the women's side. No such changes were made this year.
There was a time when players' capabilities on different surfaces were more noticeable than they are today. Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and John McEnroe were outstanding on grass with their serve-and-volley games, but had far less success on clay. The opposite was true of baseline players such as Manuel Orantes and Gustavo Kuerten.
In 1988, when a Wimbledon committee determined seeding, McEnroe was seeded No. 8 despite being ranked No. 19. Tim Mayotte was seeded No. 6 at the 1990 Wimbledon event even though he was ranked No. 14. Those adjustments were based on those players' success at previous Wimbledons.
Perhaps because Wimbledon's grass courts are slower than they once were, the difference in performance on grass is less dramatic now. The fact that playing styles differ less among elite players than they once did could also be a component. The pure serve-and-volley player is virtually extinct.
However, Murray and Federer still have a far better chance of winning a major tournament on grass and hard courts than they do on clay.
The seeding tradition lives on, making Wimbledon distinctive.