Today was day 2 of the Western and Southern Open (formerly Cincinnati Masters) tennis tournament. The qualifying rounds were concluded, and a few matches from the main draws were played.
The tennis was good. I’m reminded of a quote from David Foster Wallace: “TV tennis is to live tennis pretty much as video porn is to the felt reality of human love” (from page 119 of this book).
They’re pretty good at running tennis tournaments here. There’s a small army of volunteers, so many that each seems to have a very small job to do, and to do it reasonably well. The facilities are good. Everything is expensive, of course, but not outrageous. Even the weather has been reasonably nice, especially in the shaded seats my companion was clever enough to buy for us.
I’m not so sure about the brackets.
There’s something very odd going on with the women’s main draw that I can’t understand, but I suspect there will be something interesting in it for tourneygeek when I figure it out.
In the men’s draw, things are going more or less according to plan. I’m building a simulation of the tourney so that I can explore just how much the peculiar seeding pattern first noted in the Wimbledon post affects the fairness of the brackets.
I have no reason to think that the men’s bracket is being done other than in perfect accord with established practice, and so is entirely fair as far as fairness (A) is concerned. But I’m pretty sure my simulation will show some pretty strange results in terms of fairnesses (B) and (C). Before getting to the simulation, let me explain the way the bracket was filled.
The mens draw has 56 entrants. The top eight seeds get first round byes which fills out a 64 bracket. 45 of these places are filled by players with the greatest number of ATP points – the tournament is mandatory for those folks, except for the exceptions. This year there seem to be an unusual number of people with medical exceptions, including four of the top six in the world rankings: Murray (1), Wawrinka (4), Djokovic (5), and Cilic (6). To fill the 45 places, the tourney had to go down to rank 56.
Then there are four “wild card” exemptions, which are generally given to promising young American players. The crowd likes to root for Americans.
Filling out the bracket are seven qualifiers, each of whom has to win a four-person mini-bracket to secure a place in the main draw. The qualifiers are seeded, so that players who are ranked almost high enough to be accepted directly presumably get an easier path into the tourney, though down in this region of the bracket the points rankings are a bit suspect.
If there’s a last minute scratch to the bracket, the place is filled by a “lucky loser” among the seven players who lost the final of the seven mini-brackets. This year, there was an exceptionally lucky loser, because the player who scratched was Ken Nishikori, who was seeded fifth, and thus had a first round bye. The lucky loser is Janko Tipsarevic, who earlier in the day failed to qualify when he lost to 374th-ranked Christopher Eubanks. For Tipsaravic, losing turned out to be much better than winning.
In a subsequent post, I’ll look at the effect of this lucky turn on the fairness of the bracket, for Tipsavevic and others.