Tennis Rankings – How do tennis rankings work?

A tennis player does not make it to the top just because he/she is liked by a large audience, plays in a different style, or is the crush of a large number of teenagers. Tennis rankings are based on an unbiased and fair points system. Like every other sport, tennis professionals are allotted points and are ranked accordingly. The widely recognized ranking system for men is the ATP-Men’s rankings while the WTA is responsible for ranking women tennis professionals according to their recent performances.

Tennis Rankings History-Rankings till the 1970s

Till the formation of ATP in 1972, tennis rankings were more ‘opinion-based’ than ‘performance-based’. The British newspapers used to publish their own tennis rankings. Legendary tennis journalist Lance Tingay’s list of the top 10 tennis players was considered the most authentic source for tennis rankings.

With the formation of the Association of Tennis Professionals in 1972, a more valid and fair ranking system was devised which ranks tennis professionals according to their recent performances.

The first-ever men’s singles rankings were published on August 23, 1973, which ranked Romania’s Ilie Năstase as the world’s number 1 Tennis Player.

Just a year after the formation of ATP, Billie Jean King formed the Women’s Tennis Association which aimed to provide security and equality to women tennis players. The WTA adopted the same ranking methodology as the ATP.

Initially, the rankings were based on the average results of the players, which was later changed to the ‘best of’ method which takes into account the last 19, best-performing tournaments of a player.

As for the mixed doubles, no formal ranking system has been devised till now.

ATP Rankings:

The ATP Rankings use a mathematical formula to calculate a player’s points based on the tournaments they play and their results. The number of points awarded depends on the player’s performance and the category of the tournament. When a player qualifies for a tournament, some base points are awarded, which then keep on increasing according to his progress in the tournament.

The ATP ranking system evaluates the performance of male tennis players based on their performance over a 52-week period.

One might think that the player playing more tournaments has an edge over the others in this type of ranking system. But no, ATP has capped the maximum number of tournaments to be considered till 19. That means that only the best 19 tournaments of a player in the last 52 weeks will be considered while awarding points.

The rankings are updated on a weekly basis, with points being added or deducted based on the results of each tournament.

The ATP Tour included nine Masters 1000 events, along with the Grand Slam tournaments and several smaller events.

Players mostly earn their points from the Grand Slams as it is the most rewarding event. After the ATP Tour, the top eight players in the world compete in the ATP Finals, which decides the ATP World No. 1.

To make sure that the rankings depict a player’s current performance, points are deducted with the passage of time. Thus the points awarded to a player and his rank are a clear representation of his current form and performances.

Following are the points awarded at each stage of the Grand Slam:

Grand Slam StagePoints
Quarter Finals360
Round of 16 180
Round of 3290
Round of 6445
Round of 12810
ATP Rankings

WTA Rankings:

The WTA ranking system follows the same method as the ATP, except for the cap on the number of tournaments. Compared to the ATP’s cap of 19 tournaments, the WTA ranking of a female player is determined by the best 16 tournaments over the last 52 weeks for singles and 11 tournaments for doubles.

Points are awarded based on the round reached in each tournament and the overall strength of the tournament’s field. The more prestigious the tournament and the further a player advances, the more points they earn. 

Like the ATP, the WTA rankings are also updated every Monday and take into account the results of all WTA tournaments that have taken place in the previous 52 weeks. The top ranked player is the one with the most points, and the rankings then proceed downwards.

The WTA Tour features the Grand Slams, the premier mandatory events, premier 5 events and the international level tournaments. Players usually earn their points from these events.

Following are the points awarded at each stage of the WTA Grand Slams

Grand Slam StagePoints
Round of 16240
Round of 32130
Round of 6470
Round of 12810
WTA Rankings