What are the ATP Rankings and ATP Race to the Finals Rankings and what is the difference between these two? We have received this query from many a tennis fan around the world and we would like to answer this in the passages below.
Those who follow sports in general and tennis in particular would have heard of rankings. Rankings in any sport, but more so in an individual sport like tennis and other racket sports give us a perspective of who is the best player at the time and play an important part in making the sport that much more interesting.
In many ways, player rankings add a context to tennis.
Men’s tennis have what is more commonly known as the ATP Rankings which are based on the ranking points which the players featuring on the ATP circuit receive for their performances on the tour.
More the points earned, obviously, better is the player’s ATP Ranking on the tennis circuit.
On the basis of the same point system, players also earn a ATP Race to the Finals Ranking, which, however, is different from the ATP Ranking.
In the piece below we explain how rankings are earned on the ATP circuit and what is the difference between the aforementioned rankings.
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What are the ATP Rankings?
The ATP Rankings is a method used by the ATP to calculate a player’s ranking on the men’s circuit based on his performances in the tournaments he has participated in relative to other players’ performances.
A player’s performances in the preceding 12 months are taken into consideration while deciding his ATP Ranking. Below we go deeper into deciphering how a player’s ranking is calculated.
How is a Player’s ATP Ranking Points Calculated?
ATP tournaments are categorized as ATP 250, ATP 500, ATP Masters 1000 and Grand Slam competitions (other than the ATP Finals) which award different points to players for their performances.
For instance, a player winning the title in an ATP 250 competition earns 250 points while a player earns 300 points for finishing runner-up in the tournament.
Similarly, players earn 1000 points for a title victory and 600, 360 and 180 respectively for ending up as a runner-up, losing semifinalist and losing quarterfinalist respectively. Grand Slam winners garner 2000 points.
Players earn points for every round they feature in, including the qualifiers and the Challenger circuit.
The sum of all of a player’s points based on his performances over the preceding 12 months gives him his final current tally of points and based on that, he is awarded his current ATP Ranking.
What this means is that a player who has earned 2000 points for winning the Australian Open in 2021, will lose all those points by the end of the 2022 Australian Open and those will be replaced by the points he earns at the 2022 edition of that very tournament.
Let’s take the example of Novak Djokovic who had won the 2021 edition of the French Open to earn the 2000 points on offer. In 2022, Djokovic was knocked out of the same tournament in the quarterfinals by Rafael Nadal, thereby earning him only 360 points.
What this meant was Djokovic’s ATP Ranking Points were subtracted 2000 points (the ones he had earned at the 2021 French Open) at the end of the 2022 French Open and added just 360 points (the ones he earned in the 2022 event), making him lose 1640 points from his tally.
As a result of that, Djokovic, who was the world number one at the start of the 2022 French Open, fell to third in the world after the tournament got over.
What Does Defending One’s ATP Ranking Points Means?
Continuing with our example above of Djokovic having won the 2021 French Open title and earned himself 2000 points, he entered the 2022 edition of the same tournament with 2000 points to ‘defend’.
This is because a result other than a title win at the 2022 French Open would result in him losing some of those points from his total ranking points.
As it turned out, Djokovic failed to defend the 2000 points in question having lost in the quarterfinal of the 2022 French Open.
Let’s take another example here from the same two tournaments.
Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime had been ousted in the first round of the 2021 French Open which meant he had earned only 10 points for that effort. in 2022, at the same tournament, Auger-Aliassime made it all the way through to the fourth round, thereby adding 180 points to his kitty.
He was defending 10 points, and ended up earning 170 more than that, adding to his ranking points tally.
As it turned out, it did not change his ranking of world number nine at the end of the tournament because there were still eight others who ended the tournament with a bigger overall tally of their ranking points from the preceding 12 months.
What is the Year-End ATP Ranking?
As the name suggests, a player’s rank at the end of the tennis season – which typically finishes in the month of November – is his year-end ATP Ranking.
Between 1973 when the rankings were first introduced to 2022, at the time of writing this piece, there have been 18 men’s singles players who have had a year-end ATP Ranking of number one.
These include: Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kuerten, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Carlos Alcaraz.
What is the ATP Race to the Final Rankings?
The ATP Race to the Finals Rankings or the ATP Race use the same points calculation as the ATP Rankings but the unlike the latter, points earned from the tournaments played that season alone are added to make up the final tally.
In effect it’s the ranking of a player for a calendar year based on his performance in competitions played in that calendar year.
Points from up to 19 tournaments featured by a player that season are taken into account while calculating the ATP Race.
The ATP Race is used as a qualifier for the participants in the ATP Finals, the year-ending ATP competition that is held in a round-robin-cum-knockout manner at the end of the tennis season.
Currently, the top seven players on the ATP Race qualify for the ATP Finals.
What’s the Difference between the ATP Rankings & ATP Race to the Final Rankings?
While both, the ATP Rankings and the ATP Race use the same points system awarded on the ATP, Challenger and Futures circuit in their point calculation, the biggest difference between the two systems is that while the former considers performances over the past 12 months, the latter looks into only showing from the current year.
It’s not uncommon for a player to be the number one in both these ranking systems but the opposite is quite possible too.
Is the Ranking System Same on the Women’s Circuit Too? (WTA Rankings)
The WTA Tour organizes tennis on the women’s circuit and follows a similar ranking system to the one on offer on the ATP circuit.
The WTA Rankings, as they are called, also take into account performances of the players from the past 12 months – much like what’s the case on the ATP circuit – but the subtle difference lies in the points awarded for different tournaments.
For instance, while men and women Grand Slam winners earn 2000 points apiece, the runner-up in the men’s singles draw gets 1200 points while that on the women’s circuit earns 1300.
These types of differences are on show right across the board, in WTA 1000, WTA 500 and WTA 250 tournaments as well.
ATP 250, ATP 500 and ATP 1000 tournament winners, for instance, offer 250, 500 and 1000 respectively, while those winning the competitions under WTA 250, WTA 500 and WTA 1000 series get 280, 470 and 900/1000 points respectively.
Other than that, the format of using player performances from the last 12 months remains the same for the WTA Rankings as does the point system for the WTA Race, which is used to determine the players qualifying for the WTA Finals.
Between 1975 when the WTA Rankings were first introduced and 2022, a total of 15 players have ended as year-ending number one players.