The main reason NCAA-style brackets are needed in tennis is to protect and reward No. 1 seeds (World No. 1 players) for attaining a higher ranking. There is no good reason for a No. 1 player such as Novak Djokovic to play fifth-seeded Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals. That should always be a semifinal match if those are the seeds for the two players. Though fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas did not make the quarterfinals, he received a much better quarterfinal draw than top-seeded Djokovic. He would have played eighth-seeded Casper Ruud.
Obviously, Djokovic deserved to play Ruud, and Tsitsipas should have been drawn in the same quarter as Nadal. Players should have been rewarded — or given a more difficult path — relative to their rankings. That’s the whole point of seeded tournaments. Seedings should confer more of an advantage if higher, less if lower.
Yet, while the men’s draw at Roland Garros showed the main reason why NCAA-style brackets need to be used in tennis (with surface-specific and tournament-specific formulas plus sweeteners which prevent the same matchups from recurring at each major), there’s another big reason for the sport to do this.
The WTA is showing why.
The other big reason for NCAA brackets in tennis is that any sport — being an entertainment business — should want its best performers to have the best chance of playing as deep into tournaments as possible. Obviously, the current random-draw system cuts against that.
We know this.
Ons Jabeur lost to Magda Linette in the first round. Linette is a top-60 player in a 128-player field. Jabeur-Linette should be a Round of 64 matchup, not 128.
Amanda Anisimova drew Naomi Osaka in the first round. Both players are in the top 40. That should be a Round of 32 matchup, not 128.
Yes, we would probably still see plenty of upsets on the WTA side even with NCAA brackets. Second-seeded Barbora Krejcikova lost to a player well outside the top 100 in her first-round match. This doesn’t guarantee the elimination of upsets. However, for a sport which can use more rivalries and more top matchups, you would think that using NCAA brackets is a no-brainer.
Making sure top-20 players do not face top-50 players in the first rounds of majors is so obvious for an entertainment business.
Tennis, as usual, is asleep at the wheel.