New seedings system fails to assuage Safin
Source: Independent - London
Publication date: 2001-06-17
The placatory moves by Wimbledon designed to take the heat out
of the controversy over their seeding for next week's Championships
have done nothing to calm down Marat Safin, the world No 2 and
US Open champion. Safin is rapidly emerging as the leading critic
of the situation, replacing Andrei Medvedev, who famously savaged
the tournament three years ago, hastening so many changes in
arrangements for the competitors that Medvedev is now an enthusiast
of the event.
But Safin, rumbling away at the French Open in Paris a couple
of weeks ago about Wimbledon's seeding procedure, is not assuaged
by the announcement that in future there will be 32 seeds at
all the Grand Slams, beginning next week at the All England
Club. Tomorrow we will know exactly how Wimbledon have juggled
the positions of the leading 32 in the ATP and WTA official
rankings to take account of their ability on grass.
What particularly needles the 21-year-old Muscovite (now a resident
of Monte Carlo, as befits his high tax status) is that Gustavo
Kuerten, the reigning world champion, winner of the French title
at Roland Garros a week ago and by some distance the current
world No 1, would probably not have been top seed for Wimbledon.
Even though that has been rendered academic by Kuerten's decision
to rest his aching body and bypass the grass-court season, Safin
is incensed that Wimbledon may not seed exactly according to
the rankings, as the other three Grand Slams do.
"I can never understand why they choose to make the seedings
themselves," said the Russian yesterday. "For me,
their way will never be the proper way. There are so many things
I don't understand about Wimbledon's attitude. It has to change,
things can't go on like this.
"They are nice to those who can play on grass and not nice
to those who can't. Wimbledon will never be as special as the
other Grand Slams, Roland Garros, the US Open and Australia.
I love Paris because they treat everybody perfect, the atmosphere
is great. We have juniors sitting in the locker room alongside
us, it is very nice for them and us."
Safin's antipathy to Wimbledon was not eased when his coach,
Mats Wilander, was refused permission to walk through the grounds
by security personnel last week. Wilander, a former world No
1 and winner of seven Grand Slam championships - but not Wimbledon
- had gone to the All England Club to check out the dressing
room facilities and was refused permission to take a short cut
out of the club to get to Southfields Underground station.
"They wouldn't let him in sight of the Centre Court,"
said Safin. "They made him walk another kilometre around
the stadium. `Sorry, you can't go in,' they told him."
The kindly explanation, of course, may be that Wilander, a quiet
and modest champion, did not press his case or wave his arms.
Or that the security personnel did not recognise who they were
barring. After, all the 36-year-old Swede won his last Grand
Slam at the 1988 US Open.
But the snub has only reinforced Safin's prejudice against the
tournament. "Wimbledon could be much nicer to people,"
he insisted. "That's my opinion and I will keep it until
something changes. I don't care if I am allocated only one ground
pass for saying these things or whether they give me 10.
"If Kuerten went to Wimbledon as world No 1, some guy sitting
in an office would tell him he can't be No 1 there. We have
used the rankings system on the ATP tour for years, yet Wimbledon
have to be different. If they changed their attitude no one
would tell Wimbledon they weren't playing there. Then everyone
would be happy.
"It doesn't matter to me that Pete Sampras has won Wimbledon
seven times. If he is rated at No 4 in the rankings he should
be seeded fourth at Wimbledon this year. He was seeded according
to his ranking at the French Open, yet he can't play on clay,
so why should clay- court players be discriminated against by
Wimbledon? I think I have more options to play on grass than
Sampras has on clay."
Then the impish side of Safin's character, which he can never
subdue for long, surfaced as he grinned, "Everyone knows
how to play on grass but it is one thing to know and another
to actually play". Perhaps grass- court tennis will help
to reduce the incidence of broken rackets which have littered
Safin's path to the top. "On grass they only bounce,"
he said. He also saves money when they bounce, since Wilander
has introduced a fine of $100 per broken racket.