How The ATP Tennis Ranking Works

ATP Ranking update 06.05.2019

Tennis has grown to become one of the most popular sports in the world, and undoubtedly the biggest sport played individually. Hundreds of millions watch the ATP World Tour and the Grand slams every year, but even for them, it could be quite tough to understand how the ATP ranking system works. Don’t worry, we will go through everything that you need to know about the ranking system in this article.

The rankings is based on a the total point earned by players at tournaments in the last 52 weeks. At the conclusion of every tournament, the rankings drop points earned the previous year and replace them with the points won in the just-concluded event.

Ranking Points – Tournaments

There are a ton of professional tennis tournaments every week, all year around, and all the tournaments have a number of ranking points associated to it. Depending on the tier of the tournament and a player’s placement, different amount of points are earned. The general rule is that the more prestigious tournament, the more ranking points are involved (and more money).

The ATP has four different tiers of events.

  1. Grand Slams, (Australian Open, US Open, French Open, Wimbledon)
  2. Masters 1000 (Miami Open, Monte-Carlo Masters, BNP Paribas Open)
  3. ATP 500 (ATP Halle, Barcelona Open, Rio Open, Rotterdam Open)
  4. ATP 250 ( Qatar Open, New York Open, Buenos Aires Open)

A players placement in a specific tournament is only valid until the next years tournament. So, the rolling rankings are catching up to the events that have been played the current year. This makes the rankings quite reliable, since, only the most recent performances are affecting the rankings.

If we take Novak Djokovic for example, he won Wimbledon 2018 and gained 2000 ranking points from that. However, immediately when Wimbledon 2019 starts, 2000 points removes from his ranking. The only way to get them back is to win the tournament again. So, he can’t gain any points from that tournament, he can only defend the points he received last year.

Here is a breakdown of how many ranking points the players get through the different tournaments, depending on their placement.

TournamentWinnerRunner-UpSemi-FinalQuarter-FinalRound of 16
Grand Slams2000p1200p720p360p180p
Masters 10001000p600p360p180p90p
ATP 500500p300p180p90p45p
ATP 250250p150p90p45p20p

The numbers of each tournament, determines how many ranking points the winner receives. All the Masters 1000 tournament have the same amount of ranking points. If you compare it to the ATP 500, it’s just cut in half. The same applies to the ATP 250, half the ranking points compared to a ATP 500 tournament.

ATP Ranking Rules

ATP Ranking, Novak Djokovic No.1

Becoming a high ranked played is not simply a matter of playing as many tournaments as possible. Since, it’s only the players eighteen best results that count towards your ranking.

For the top ranked players, 4 of the tournaments would contain the mandatory grand slams. 8 of them Masters 1000 tournaments. There are 9 Masters 1000 tournaments every year, which means that if a player compete in all 9 masters tournaments, they will only be able to use eight of those results towards their ranking. For the remaining six tournaments, four must be ATP 500 events, and two must be from ATP 250 events.

A players ranking is based on the total points that he achieved in the following 18 tournaments.

  • The 4 Grand Slams
  • The 8 Masters 1000 Tournaments
  • The players 6 best results from the ATP Series, Challengers and Futures played the current year.

A players ranking points from a specific tournament, gets removed as soon as the next years tournament begins. International tournaments, like Davis cup and Fed Cup does not count towards the ATP ranking.

With these rules, the maximum amount of points a player can get within a year is 21,000 points. To achieve this, a player needs to win all the 4 grand slams, the 8 Masters 1000 and 5 ATP 500 events. No player have achieved this yet, however, Novak Djokovic is the player that have been the closest. A haul of 16,950 points in the 2015 season makes him the best in the history of the ATP rankings.

Ranking Points for the World No.1 at the end of year, 2013-2018.

YearPlayerRanking Points
2018Novak Djokovic9045
2017Rafael Nadal10645
2016Andy Murray12685
2015Novak Djokovic16585
2014Novak Djokovic11360
2013Rafael Nadal13030

Protected Rankings

With the ATP rankings only lasting a year, players can seriously tumble down the leaderboard as a result of an extended absence through injury. Therefore, If a player gets injured in a minimum of six months, they can ask for a protected ranking, which is based on the players average ranking during the first three months of his or her injury. This means that the injured player can attend tournaments without showing up and gain ranking points for the first round of the tournament.

Allowances are made for players who miss mandatory tournaments through injury, like protected rankings. However, there are also penalties given to players who miss tournaments. This is called “0-pointers”, which is exactly as the name suggests, assigns 0 points to one of a players counted tournaments, basically removing one tournament from their ranking total.

The Importance Of Being Ranked High

ATP World Tour Finals
ATP World Tour Finals

ATP World Tour Finals: At the end of the year, the top 8 ranked players go on to compete in the ATP World Tour Finals. Because of their success, the players are allowed to have the World Tour final as the 19th tournament to add to their total ranking points. This allows for end of the year excitement as the battle to finish as the world No.1 could be decided here. For all 8 players participating in the tournament, they guarantees €175,000, even if they loses all matches. However, the winner will take home another €2,225,000.

Seedings: In professional tennis tournaments, seedings are used to separate the best players in a draw so that they won’t meet in the early stages of the tournament. Seedings are chosen after your rankings, so the highest ranked player is first seeded. The second highest ranked player is second seeded, which means that those 2 players will be placed at opposite end of the draw so that the players won’t meet until the final, if both players win all matches. If you are one of the lower ranked players in the tournament, you will be unseeded, which means that you could come up against the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the first round.

Ranking Bonuses: All players that are ranked inside the top 12 at the end of the year, would get a €160,000 bonus from the ATP. For the top 8 ranked players, they guarantees a participation fee of €191,000 in the ATP world tour finals, even if they lose all matches.

How Reliable Are The Rankings?

In general, the rankings are reliable and quite accurate. However, there are some exceptions.

Injured Players: For example, a world class player like Andy Murray who have been injured for a long time, is currently ranked 148th in the world. Considering that he was the world No. 1 in the world in 2015, it’s quite obvious that he deserves to be much higher than that. Another example is Serena Williams, who was pregnant and therefore didn’t played for 9 months. Before she got pregnant, she was ranked No. 1 in the world, after her pregnancy, she dropped all the way down to the 453th in the world.

Different Surfaces: The rankings are based on the results on all the different surfaces, so by just looking at the rankings, the favorite at French Open would be the world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. However, French Open is played on Clay and everyone who follows tennis, knows that the best tennis player on clay is Rafael Nadal. So, in this case the rankings are misleading.

The rankings are accurate most of the times, but I believe that the rankings should be separated by the surface. Since, a match on hard could be entirely different on another surface, like clay. For example, Novak Djokovic would have the advantage in a match between him and Rafael Nadal on hard court, but on clay, Nadal would be highly favored.

Now, when you have a deeper understanding of how the ATP ranking works, you don’t ever need to think about why a player is ranked where he is.

Fred Simonsson

I'm Fred, the guy behind TennisPredict. Apart from writing here, I play tennis on a semi-professional level and coaches upcoming talents.

Recent Posts