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Is modernisation of the ATP rankings necessary?

There is some confusion about the ATP rankings, and some players, experts, and fans demand an update. The German player, Alexander Zverev, has so far been unable to get past Roger Federer in the world rankings, even though the Swiss has not played for more than a year. So why is that?

So what does the world’s ranking list present? It should be a list of the best tennis players, by the simple definition of the term. However, more and more people question the world ranking’s meaning. One player who spoke about his reservations publicly is Alexander Zverev.  In an interview with the Mexican TV station “Central Fox”, he said, “at the moment, the system is a disaster […] I really don’t care about what’s happening there”.

Roger Federer’s name keeps coming up when it comes to exposing the rankings calculation’s supposed weaknesses. Zverev said, “He hasn’t played for a year and is above me in the rankings […] I played a Grand Slam final and a Masters final.”

Dirk Hordorff, Vice President of the German Tennis Association (DTB), even attacked Roger Federer, saying, “He’s making up his own ranking.” Hordoff implies that Federer has too much power as a member of the ATP Player Council. 

So how are the rankings calculated?

To find an easy answer is not that simple. Because of the Corona pandemic, the ranking was initially frozen on March 16, 2020. Following the resumption of plays in summer, it was decided to consider tournaments from the past 22 months instead of the usual 12 for the ranking. In October, the ATP announced that it would extend the assessment period to 24 months. Also, tournaments that were played between March 4 and August 5, 2019, and were cancelled or postponed in the 2020 season will still be included in the rating for another year – but only at 50 per cent.

With this in mind, let’s look at the Federer case. The Swiss won the 2019 Miami ATP Masters and was rewarded 1000 points for doing so. Last year, the event was cancelled. 2021 Federer is not at the start. Means: the 39-year-old keeps 500 of 1000 points.

The maximum number of competitions that are included in the calculation of the ranking is currently 20. In the best case, these are four Grand Slam events, eight Masters tournaments, the best seven other competitions and the ATP Finals at the end of the year. There is another inconsistency in the ranking’s calculation. The tennis players can also collect points for the world rankings at the ATP Cup at the beginning of the year, which is questionable per se. After all, this is a team competition. “It’s very unfair for those who can’t participate and therefore don’t have the same opportunity to collect points,” Reilly Opelka already complained at the Cup premiere in January 2020.

Based on this, one can understand why some players are not happy with the current rules for calculating the ranking.

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