"Poor decision". "Good decision". "Ludicrous".
The ATP’s latest announcement to extend the current ‘best-of’ ranking system into the summer has been met with a mixed reaction on social media – but what exactly will it change?
What will it mean for Novak Djokovic’s chances of staying as world No 1? Or Rafael Nadal’s ranking when the clay season starts? Or Roger Federer’s ranking when he returns after a year out? And will it have implications for qualification for the Olympics?
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What exactly is going on?
When the tennis season was originally suspended in March 2020 the world rankings were completely frozen so nobody could move up or down.
Players accrue ranking points based on their success at tournaments, for example this week at the ATP 500 Rotterdam Open the winner will get 500 points, the runner-up will get 300, the beaten semi-finalists 180 and so on. Before the pandemic those points stayed with a player for a year, with rankings decided by a player’s points total from a rolling 12-month period that took into account his best 18 results.
When the rankings were unfrozen in the summer of 2020 it was decided that the 12-month period would be extended to 22 months (March 2019 - December 2020) to provide “flexibility & fairness to players”, including those who did not wish to play for safety reasons.
In October the 22-month ranking period became a 24-month ranking period and it has now been extended through to the week of August 9, including the Masters 1000 in Toronto.
What does this mean for players?
The biggest impact is that until the summer players are still going to be able to count on ranking points from the period between March 2019 to August 2019 for tournaments that were not played in 2020.
However, the points for those events will be weighted at 50 per cent.
So Federer will keep 50 per cent of his points from winning the Miami Open in 2019 (500 points) and reaching the final of Indian Wells in 2019 (300 points) as neither were played last year and he is not playing either this year (he has pulled out of Miami and Indian Wells is postponed).
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Points from events that were rescheduled in 2020 - Kitzbuhel, Hamburg, Rome and Roland-Garros - will also be kept on rankings with a 50 per cent weighting.
If players compete at the same event more than once in the period between March 4, 2019 and August 9, 2021 then their highest points total will be used. With Kitzbuhel, Hamburg, Rome and Roland-Garros coming up in the next few months, the rankings from those four tournaments in 2019 will drop off as they were rescheduled last year, but players can still use 50 per cent of their points in 2020 if they don’t do better this year.
The ATP says they expect to return to the traditional 52-week rankings on August 16.
Who benefits from this?
Federer looks to be among the winners, given he is still ranked fifth in the world despite not playing for a year and will be able to keep 800 points from Miami and Indian Wells.
He also reached the final of Wimbledon in 2019 (600 points) and won Halle (250 points) - two tournaments that were cancelled last year - so could keep those points until the summer if he doesn’t play them this year or does worse.
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Nadal also reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon in 2019 so could keep 50 per cent of those points (360) until the summer if he doesn't go as far this year.
Djokovic won the Madrid Open and Wimbledon in 2019 so could have 500 and 1000 points to hold onto if needed while Stefanos Tstisipas can also bank on 300 points from reaching the final in Madrid as the tournament wasn’t played last year.
Those who benefit most will be the players who did well in a tournament between March 2019 and August 2019 but don't expect to do as well in that tournament this year.
What does it mean for Olympic qualification?
The world rankings from June 7, 2021 will be used to determine which players qualify to play in the Tokyo Olympics, with 56 direct entries.
The extension to the ‘best-of’ rankings should mean that players at the top of the rankings who are out of form or not playing will not slip down as far as they are still able to call on some old results.
Federer, for example, would have fallen from world No 5 if he wasn’t able to call on results from further back than normal.
What about the WTA?
The women’s tour has also extended its ranking system like the ATP but there has not been an announcement yet if it will be extended to the summer.
Yes actually. Minimum prize money levels for ATP 250 and ATP 500 tournaments will be raised to 80 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, from 50 per cent.
The ATP says the move will be "primarily funded through a redistribution of part of the ATP Bonus Pool, ordinarily distributed to the Top 12 eligible players at the end of the season" and has been supported by the ATP Player Council and in particular Federer and Nadal.
Some tournaments had been forced to reduce prize money due to lack of revenue caused by the pandemic.
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