ATP announce new ranking system to deal with coronavirus impact

hannahwilks in News 27 Apr 2021
Djokovic will not be defending his title Down Under (Photo by Loic Baratoux/ABACAPRESS.COM)

The ATP Tour announced details of the revised rankings system in place for the sport’s resumption in August.

Rankings on both the ATP and WTA Tours have been frozen since tennis was shut down in mid-March 2019, leaving Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty respectively holding the top spots.

The ATP Tour is currently scheduled to resume after its long hiatus on 14 August with the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., followed by a US Open to be played behind closed doors in New York and then a four-week European clay season which will include the Masters 1000 Series events in Madrid and Rome and then French Open – all of which are usually played in May-June.

Ranking points determine which tournaments a player can enter and have a very direct relationship with earnings potential.

The ATP Tour’s plan is to shift the basis of the rankings from a rolling 52-week period to a 22-month period. All tournaments from March 2019 to December 2020 will be eligible for inclusion in a player’s ‘Best 18’ results.

A player’s ranking is comprised of points earned at the 12 mandatory events – the four Grand Slams and eight Masters 1000 Series events – and their best six results from other countable tournaments.

The key point about the revised ranking is that players who are unwilling or unable to compete at tournaments for the remainder of the 2020 season won’t lose out, because they will still be able to count the points from the 2019 edition of that tournament among their ranking total.

Tournaments obviously cannot be counted twice. This may make it even less likely that Rafael Nadal, who has expressed unease about the idea of travelling to the USA for the US Open, will defend his title in September – he won’t lose or gain any points either way.

Points earned in the remainder of 2020 will remain countable for 52 weeks, or until the tournament is played in 2021, whichever comes first. So points earned at the 2020 French Open, which will be played at the end of September, will drop off when the 2021 tournament takes place at its regular time in late May.

The ATP Tour emphasized that the revisions to the ranking system had been undertaken in consultation with the four Grand Slams and the ITF and added:

‘Should the 2021 season be impacted by Covid-19, further adjustments to Rankings will be considered.’

The ATP Race to London, which tracks the accumulation of points through the calendar year with the top eight players comprising the field for the Nitto ATP Finals in November, has been effectively cancelled for this year. Qualifiers for the season-ending championships will be determined by the revised ATP rankings as outlined above. They will therefore reflect how players performed in 2019 as well as during 2020.

One beneficiary of the revised rankings could be Djokovic. When the rankings were frozen, Djokovic had amassed 282 weeks as world no. 1, putting him third in the overall standings and just four weeks behind Pete Sampras in second place. Djokovic retired in the fourth round of the US Open and lost in the semifinals of the French Open in 2019; if he can better either result during the condensed 2020 season, he will boost his chances of remaining no. 1 and overtaking Sampras. Nadal, who won both the French and US Opens in 2019, can add no points from either.
Another beneficiary of the changes is Roger Federer. Due to surgery on his knee in February, Federer always intended to miss much of the spring hard-court season and the entire clay-court season, and shut down his season for good after a second knee surgery in July. Now he will be able to keep his points from winning the Miami Masters, Basel and Halle and reaching the Wimbledon final and French Open semifinals in 2019 until those events are played again in 2021, which should cushion the drop in the rankings he would otherwise expect to take.