Tennis Ranking System: How Does It Work? WTA & ATP Explanations

Tennis Ranking System is something that may confuse beginner players at first, but once you understand it completely, it is a straightforward system of rankings. Or let’s have a look at it from another perspective. Have you ever thought about how tennis players reach the top level while tennis is an individual sport?

It’s not like football, cricket, NBA, NHL, or soccer, etc where players play as a team. Although tennis players also play as a team in tennis doubles, generally tennis is an individual sport and also tennis players are not hired by clubs or teams like other sports.

I am pretty sure, very few people think about professional tennis players from this point of view. So, if you are a passionate player who aims to become a pro-level player in the future, then you must understand the tennis ranking system in detail.

So, stay with me as I am going to explain the ranking system of tennis in depth.

Note: The tennis ranking system or tennis points system is not the tennis scoring system. Both of these terms are different in their meaning and knowledge. So, don’t confuse these terms. I have explained the tennis scoring system in detail. You can read that article.

Also, the tennis rating/grading system is something else. It’s not the same as a ranking system. Keep visiting my blog or subscribe to my newsletter, I will write a detailed article on the rating system of tennis soon.

For now, just understand that the rating is a number we assign to each player based on his/her level of playability while the ranking is the relative position of his/her skills as compared to the other players.

Before we move to the main topic which is ‘Ranking System in Tennis’, I would like to express the ranking system of tennis in simple words first.

What is the tennis ranking system?

Tennis Ranking System
Serena Williams holding a trophy and Novak Djokovic trying to hit the ball with a tennis racquet

Tennis ranking is the way to show the qualification for all the tournaments and determine the seeding of players. In this way, the ranking system in tennis has a great impact on all the official events. This ranking system works based on ranking points.

And the tennis players earn these points in different events held by ATP and WTA. ATA and WTA come under the ITF (International Tennis Federation).

ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) deals with the matches of men tennis players and the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) handles the matches for women players.

This is the simple and short version of the definition of the tennis ranking system. I know you might have this question boggling in your mind.

Why do I need to learn about tennis ranking as a tennis player?

The answer is simple, without a proper understanding of the tennis points ranking system, it can be quite difficult for a new player to choose the path that can take him/her to the top rankings and make him/her a professional-level player.

Not limiting to tennis, the ranking in any outdoor sport matters a lot because a great ranking means a great future.

Unlike other sports, trophies don’t matter much in tennis because, for a tennis player, rankings points are far more important than trophies. So, ranking is the primary goal of a tennis player’s career. A higher ranking means more credibility.

So, let’s dive into the depth of this system!

Short History of Tennis Ranking System

Mainly, in the beginning, tennis days in the 1800s, there was no official or formalized way of determining tennis rankings. Taking advantage of this situation, in 1950, the British Newspapers started to make an issue about tennis rankings and started publishing different ranking systems.

In 1972 when Donald Dell founded ATP with his team, a proper computerized ranking system came to the market to set criteria for tennis players to participate in any tournament.

After 1990, the system has been changed to the best new one we know today (that I am going to explain shortly) to avoid various issues and problems.

Now, the tennis ranking of any player is determined as ATP and WTA ranking of men and women players. The season of ATP tennis ranking ends in November and WTA finals ranking in October.

Note: Ranking points distribution is different for all events hosted by ATP and WTA.

What is the significance of the ranking system in tennis?

One of the most beautiful things I like about this tennis ranking is that it is the fairest ranking system so far in the world of sports.

Why is it so?

In other sports, a player has to work hard throughout life and achieve different titles, trophies, or something like this to move gradually up to the higher rankings. It means getting high ranks in other sports is a life-long process. Once a player gets a high rank, a little down in their performance doesn’t make much impact.

While in tennis, this ranking system gives equal chances to all players to achieve high ranks in a shorter period to make up their careers. For example, a low-ranked tennis player can appear from nowhere and achieve high rankings if he/she manages to win tennis majors.

This is the beauty of the tennis ranking system that impresses me and opens equal doors of success for all tennis players. Because of this, I title tennis as a ‘Game for All’ sport.

On the other hand, it opens up a battle of getting to the top among the tennis players which is good because each player focuses greatly on his/her performance and skill development.

Another benefit of the tennis ranking system is that it can easily identify any player’s current level and playability appearing in the ranking. While the ranking system of other sports can’t show the current ability of a player.

Note: The tennis ranking system doesn’t identify the best tennis players of all time, it simply identifies the best players of the year.

If you are a new or beginner player, I would strongly recommend reading my detailed article on 50+ tennis drills so you can keep your practice up to the mark right from today.

Let’s get back to the topic.

How Do Tennis Rankings Work?

How Do Tennis Rankings Work?
Novak Djokovic with a list of Top ATP Tennis Players

In simple words, for a tennis player to move up in the rankings, he/she needs more points. So, this is the game of points. Players earn these points when they play different matches in various events.

Do you know tennis tournaments are always taking place throughout the year and around the globe?

But the same player doesn’t appear over and over in all the tournaments. Then how does a player move or down in the ranking? I am sure you must have seen some players on ATP or WTA’s top rankings without their marvelous history or skills.

The tennis ranking system doesn’t use the all-time stats of a player. Rather the ranking points of a tennis player are calculated based on 52 weeks or the last 12 months from such tournaments. This ranking system uses the best 16 results during the calendar year to calculate a player’s ranking.

In other words, getting high in tennis rankings means earning points at the right time rather than earning points throughout the career. That’s why you may see some average players in high rankings as well.

Similarly, if a player loses points at this moment of matches, he/she may lose greater rankings.

Pro Tip: If your performance was not good in the last year or not going well in the current year, then wait for the expiry of your ranking of the year (drop date of the tournament). After that, participate in the tournaments so you can achieve high ranks with good performance. Generally, ranking expires after 52 weeks.

For example, Andy Murray the former World’s number 1 has won more than 46 titles in his career but lost significant rankings in recent years because of his injuries despite holding the number 1 spot.

So, it’s clear that the tennis ranking system is not much affected by the performance of the whole career. Rather, it is affected by earning or losing points at the most important matches or events.

Note: The weightage of earned points of each event held by ATP or WTA is different. It means Grand Slams has high prestige resulting in high respect for the distribution of their points. It means the bigger the tournament is, the more points it offers.

For example, at a Grand Slam, a winner earns 2000 points, 1200 points for a runner-up, 720 points for a semifinalist, 360 points for a quarterfinalist. Additionally, a player earns 10 points for being present on the court.

Here, the tennis ranking of any player is significant for future security and plays a vital role in a player’s career success. Furthermore, it acts as a guide for sponsors to choose the right player for sponsorships.

For male tennis players, the ranking is measured based on winning in any six ATP tour 500, Tour 250, and many other official tournaments.

On the other hand, determining the ranking of a female tennis player is the same as that of males. So, we measure their ranking based on 16 tournaments in which women players achieved success for singles.

However, these 16 tournaments must include 4 majors and 4 premier events. In this way, both ATP and WTA ranking is vital in boosting a player towards higher ranks.

How To Appear On Tennis Ranking System?

It’s not like that any player can participate in events and have their name on the ranking system. There are some prerequisites that they have to fulfill to have their name on the ranking board.

The first prerequisite is to play ITF 15K and ITF 25K, also known as ‘Futures Events’. Through these events, a player earns his/her initial ATP tournament points so they can appear on the ranking system.

But Before even participating in futures, a player must have IPIN (International Player Identification Number) account offered by ITF that costs $65 a year.

ATP Ranking for Men

Mainly, the ATP tennis ranking system is for male tennis players, which ranks the top male players in the world every year. In addition, successful players are awarded additional points in different official tournaments.

In this way, all the players are ranked according to the number of points that they have achieved in 52 weeks or 12 months. This ranking is updated each week and published on Mondays. But the results are made on the process of last 12 months.

We calculate ATP ranking according to the points a player earns in the following 19 tournaments.

  • 4 Grand Slams (Highest Points Prestige)
  • The best 6 results of ATP tours including ATP Tour 250, Tour 500, Tour 1000, Challenger Tour, Davis Cup, and Futures Series
  • 8 required ATP Master Tour 1000 tournaments
  • A regular ATP event
Note: There is no final formula to calculate a player’s ranking points because the ATP ranking method has changed multiple times in the last several years.

If a player doesn’t participate in any event without a valid reason like a verified injury, it may result in a penalty which is a zero point, added to the ranking.

If a player is selected for ATP Tour 500 but later withdraws, this also results in a zero point in the ranking.

However, if a player is seriously injured, he/she can ask for a protected ranking. A player can apply for protected ranking only when he/she is injured and can’t participate in any event for a minimum of 6 months. We calculate this protected ranking based on the ranking of the first 3 months of the injury.

Protected Ranking Rules: The rule for the protected ranking is that you have to petition the president or executive chairman within the first 6 months of your last tournament. A player can use the protected ranking or Entry Protection only to enter into the main draw or for the qualification of the next competition. He/she can’t use it for lucky looser or seeding, etc.

However, if a player is injured and can’t participate in any event for more than 12 months. Then the entry protection remains in effect only for the first 12 months.

As of 2021, Novak Djokovic is at the highest ranking of singles at ATP.

Here is the tennis ranking table of the top 5 singles male players as of 2021.

Name of Player Ranking Points
Novak Djokovic 12,113 points
Daniil Medvedev 10,053 points
Rafael Nadal 8,630 points
Stefanos Tsitsipas 7,980 points
Dominic Thiem 7,425 points

WTA Rankings for Women

Like ATP rankings, the WTA ranking is the ranking system for female tennis players. Mainly, the WTA ranking ranks the points and levels of women tennis players based on their progress and points. The WTA ranking of every women player is updated weekly.

Similar to ATP, we also calculate the WTA ranking based on the points earned in 52 weeks. The formula to calculate the ranking of a women player includes the points earned in 16 singles tournaments and 11 doubles tournaments.

However, a minimum of 10 singles points and 10 doubles points are mandatory for any player to appear in the WTA ranking system. Or if a player completes a minimum of 3 tournaments, it’s also sufficient for her to appear in the WTA rankings.

Here is the tennis ranking table of the top 5 female singles players as of 2021.

Name of Player Ranking Points
Ashleigh Barty 9,186 points
Naomi Osaka 7,835 points
Simona Halep 7,255 points
Sofia Canen 5,760 points
Serena Williams 4,915 points

What is the Difference Between the WTA and ATP Rankings?

Generally, both ATP and WTA follow the same guidelines with small tweaks. It means the overall rules and calculation methods of ATP and WTA are the same. Let’s see what are differences between ATP and WTA rankings.

ATP Rankings

In ATP ranking, it doesn’t mean that a player gets a high ranking if he plays in more tournaments. No, we measure the ranking using only the points that he has achieved in the 52 weeks time frame.

In ATP single and doubles ranking, the total points in ATP Master 1000 cup, ATP tour 250, 500, and ATP Challenger Tour are considered and significantly affect a player’s ranking. The ranking in these tournaments can take a player from the lowest point to the highest one and can bring you back from the highest point to the lowest point.

Here is the breakdown of ATP points in each tennis tournament at ATP majors. Different ATP tournament levels where a player has to earn points include Grand Slams, ATP Master 1000, ATP Tour 500, and ATP Tour 250.

1. Grand Slams: There are 4 Grand Slams that include US Open, French Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon.

Player Type Points
Winner 2000
Runner-Up 1200
Semi-Finalist 720
Quarter-Finalist 360
Round of 16 180
Round of 32 90
Round of 64 45
Round of 128 10

2. ATP Masters 1000: These tournaments happen 9 times a year at different courts of the world. However, this tournament is only for the top 30 players. The names of 9 ATP masters 1000 are Monte-Carlo Masters, Indian Wells, Canadian Open, Miami Open, Shanghai Masters, Italian Open, Paris Masters, Cincinnati Masters, and Madrid Open.

Player Type Points
Winner 100
Runner-Up 600
Semi-Finalist 360
Quarter-Finalist 180
Round of 16 90
Round of 32 45
Round of 64 25
Round of 128 10

3. ATP Tour 500

Player Type Points
Winner 500
Runner-Up 300
Semi-Finalist 180
Quarter-Finalist 90
Round of 16 45
Round of 32 20

4. ATP Tour 250

Player Type Points
Winner 500
Runner-Up 150
Semi-Finalist 90
Quarter-Finalist 45
Round of 16 20
Round of 32 10

WTA Rankings

WTA ranking results are based on the progress of the last 52 weeks of women players. Above all, if a women player doesn’t qualify for the required tournaments, it can easily be covered by the “Best results” offers. That’s why we also count the “best results” in the WTA ranking.

However, ATP ranking does not count any “best results.” Unlike the ATP ranking, the WTA ranking is mainly based on the leaderboard. That’s why women players have to maintain this for the tournament.

If a women player desires to be a tennis professional and appear in the WTA ranking, she must earn the best ranking points in at least three official tournaments.

Different WTA tournament levels where a player has to earn points include Grand Slams, and WTA 1000.

Here is the point breakdown of WTA rankings by each tournament.

1. Grand Slams

Player Type Points
Winner 2000
Runner-Up 1300
Semi-Finalist 780
Quarter-Finalist 430
Round of 16 240
Round of 32 130
Round of 64 70
Round of 128 10

2. WTA 1000 is known as the premier tournament for female players. These tournaments include Indian Wells, Beijing(China Open), Miami Open, and Madrid Open. Here is the points breakdown.

Player Type Points
Winner 1000
Runner-Up 650
Semi-Finalist 390
Quarter-Finalist 215
Round of 16 120
Round of 32 65
Round of 64 10

By now, you know what is tennis ranking system, how does it work, and what are WTA and ATP rankings, now let’s see how can a player move up in the rankings?

Obviously, by earning more points. But how many points a player needs to move a level up on the ranking? Here is the ATP WTA points table below showing the required points to up your level.

Ranking Level ATP Ranking Points Required WTA Ranking Points Required
1000 9 12
750 23 28
500 58 76
300 136 186
200 257 297
100 576 661
75 743 805
50 1017 1115
20 1747 2175
10 2530 3935

This table shows that a player at a high ranking needs more points to move up on the ranking board as compared to the low level of ranking.

Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Tennis Ranking System

Lastly, the ranking system for tennis is getting stronger with each passing day. The reason is that the competition in tennis is increasing more and more both in WTA and ATP ranking systems.

So if you have decided to make your career in tennis, you must set a goal and prepares yourself to participate in official tournaments by following all the rules of the tennis ranking system.

The journey of reaching the top level of this ranking is not that easy as it seems. It takes years to train and prepare yourself for the top levels. So, at the end of the day, consistency and constant struggle are the keys to success in tennis.

I hope you must have learned something new about tennis rankings, don’t forget to share this article with your tennis fellows and friends.

If you have any questions related to the ranking system of tennis, don’t hesitate and share your queries or thoughts in the comments section below.


FAQs

What is the tennis ranking system?

The ranking system in tennis is a simple way to determine the current level and playability of a tennis player to determine their qualification for different tournaments. For women, WTA handles this job and ATP for men. This system calculates the points earned in the 52 week of time frame to assign a certain ranking to a player.

What is ATP ranking in tennis?

ATP ranking is the method of determining the qualification of male tennis players for various tournaments hosted by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

How does the tennis ranking system work?

Tennis Rating System works based on the points earned by a player in 52 weeks or 12 months. Then tournament authorities use this ranking to determine the qualification and current playability of a player.

Who is the number 1 at ATP Ranking in 2021?

Novak Djokovic is the number 1 at ATP rankings with 12,113 points in 2021.

Who is the number 1 at WTA Ranking in 2021?

Ashleigh Barty is the number 1 at WTA rankings with 9,186 points in 2021.


Was this article helpful?
YesNo

Leave a Comment

1 Shares
Share
Tweet
Pin1