Seeds carnage at Wimbledon should force us to reexamine how we view upsets

Reem Abulleil looks at the fallen seeds at Wimbledon this fortnight and says it's not necessarily a bad thing to see surprises in the draw.

Reem Abulleil 2018/07/08

As we enter the Wimbledon last-16 stage on Monday, only six seeds are still standing in the women’s draw and only one of them is a top-10 player – Karolina Pliskova.

On the men’s side, five of the top-10 seeds were sent packing, although Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and 12th-seeded Novak Djokovic are all still alive.

There has been so much commotion regarding the seeds carnage at the All England Club this fortnight but perhaps we should stop and ask ourselves what exactly constitutes an “upset”?

Is it an upset any time a player defeats a higher-ranked opponent? When a three-time Grand Slam champion like Stan Wawrinka, whose ranking is down to 224 because he was sidelined with an injury, defeats sixth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, should we really call that an upset?

Since the start of March, Dimitrov has made just one semi-final on tour and his Wimbledon preparations consisted of two matches, one tight win over Damir Dzumhur at Queens, followed by an easy defeat to Djokovic in the next round. Granted Wawrinka hasn’t been winning much either but it was hardly a surprise that the Swiss won.

World No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki lost to Russian lefty Ekaterina Makarova in the second round. Makarova has 12 top-10 wins posted at the Slams throughout her career. Only three active players have won more: Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. Again, is that really an upset?

Form, previous results, head-to-heads, confidence levels, weather conditions… so many things contribute to a specific outcome of a match on a given day. The closer we pay attention — in most cases — the more a result will make sense.

While surely there have been unexpected shocks, like Petra Kvitova losing in the first round to Aliaksandra Sasnovich, or Marin Cilic blowing a two-sets-to-love lead in a rain-interrupted second round against Guido Pella, the idea that an entire draw is collapsing is not an accurate indication of what’s been really happening.

Eight of the nine players to defeat women’s top-10 seeds have made it into the second week. So those so-called “upset-makers” have actually backed up their wins throughout the opening week.

Is it such a bad thing that the level is so close in tennis that the number next to a player’s name is becoming less and less significant?

I, for one, am more engaged when I don’t already know who the winner of a certain match, or tournament, is going to be. It’s time we embrace the “chaos”, and reexamine our way of how we look at upsets.

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Caroline Wozniacki Ekaterina Makarova Grigor Dimitrov Petra Kvitova