ATP Men’s Tennis Rankings Explained

Ever wondered how the ATP men’s tennis rankings work? Find out in this article written by OnCourtAdvantage.

Grand Slam country flags at Roland Garros. A Grand Slam singles champion earns 2000 ranking points.

The ATP World Tour rankings can be quite difficult to follow and understand. There are a number of rules, special exceptions, penalties, things that apply to some and are different for others and a bonus points event. Just to name a few!

In order to keep this post short and sweet I will focus on the main factors that determine the rankings in professional tennis.

A large number of people follow the world’s elite or highest ranked players so I’ll zoom in on what applies to a Top 30 player.

The current ranking system calculates how many points a player earns over a 12-month period. This 12-month period is not a calendar year but a rolling 12-month period. Currently the rankings represent the 12-month period of ranking points tallied from 17 January 2011 through to 16 January 2012.

Rankings are updated weekly throughout the year, except when a grand slam is underway they are updated after the tournament.

How each player earns a particular ranking number like World No.1 is based purely on whether his total ranking points tally is greater than other players.

As at Monday 16 January Novak Djokovic is World No.1 due to having the highest points tally, 13,630 and Rafael Nadal is No.2 because he has the second highest tally, 9,595.

The trick is that it is NOT just the total points earned. There is a system called the “Best 18” which is used to arrive at a players’ ranking points total.

In terms of calculating a players ranking, a best result is defined as the highest number of ranking points earned in a tournament.

It does not factor in the perceived quality by the public of the tournaments or the calibre of opponent he defeats. For example, winning an ATP Tour 500 tournament like Memphis will yield more ranking points than making the quarter finals of a Grand Slam. Australian Open quarter finalists Juan Martin del Potro, Tomas Berdych, Kei Nishikori and David Ferrer all earn 360 ATP points.

For the players in the Top 30 their best 18 tournament results must include (even if it is NOT one of their best tournament results): all four Grand Slam results and eight of the nine ATP Tour Masters 1000 results (not including Monte Carlo) unless the player plays all 9 Masters 1000 events then he can have his best eight count.

The Grand Slams and the 8 Masters 1000 results account for 12 tournaments.  The remaining 6 results MUST come from the player’s best four ATP 500 events and his best two ATP 250 results.

For the Top 8 players who qualify for the year-end ATP Tour Finals and any player who plays as an alternate, they are rewarded for their calendar year results with the bonus of having the points they earn at the ATP Tour Finals added in addition to their best 18.

In each of the abovementioned tournaments the number of ranking points a player wins depends on how many rounds he progresses through and what category that particular tournament has been graded.

The higher the tournament is graded or categorised the more ranking points are awarded in each round of that event. The further a player wins through a tournament, the greater number of ranking points he receives for each victory.

The highest category events are the Grand Slams.

  • A Grand Slam singles champion earns 2,000 ATP ranking points.
  • The next highest total possible is 1,500 ranking points to an undefeated ATP Tour Finals champion like Roger Federer in London 2011.
  • The next highest possible totals for the singles champions are as the tournament category suggests Masters 1000 (1,000 points), ATP 500 (500 points) and ATP 250 (250 points).

Andy Murray is ranked right up there with Federer and Nadal due to the fact that his best 6 results in 2011 were 1,200 for being the runner-up in last year’s Australian Open final, winning 1,000 points each with the Shanghai and Cincinnati Masters 1000 titles and earning 720 points 3 times by making the semi finals of Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open.

As you can see, achieving your best possible ranking requires you to consistently win deep into the most prestigious 12 tournaments and to play a full tournament schedule. There are many other factors like the veteran’s rule, Davis Cup points and having a compulsory zero included in your best 18 if you skip a required event. However, I have covered the main factors to that make up most of the ATP men’s rankings picture.

Do you have any further queries about the ATP Tour Rankings? If so, please leave a comment below.

Visit OnCourtAdvantage.com for coverage of both the WTA and ATP Tour tournaments throughout the year.

Also have a look at the ATP Grand Slam Ranking Points for each round.

 


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Comments

  1. says

    @Gene: Well, this ranking system is one of the simplest methods , you just need to subtract & add :).

    @Tennis: In the example, you quoted above, in the year-2, Nadal’s point from Beijing semis (i.e. 180 points) will get deducted & points from Tokyo QF (90 points) will get added, thus, a net loss of only 90 points in the week ending 6th October, 2013. So, yes, players can change tournaments like Valencia/Basel, Tokyo/Beijing or from 2015 Halle/Stuttgart & so on & they don’t lose points for that.

    @sugyan: well, Nole was the winner of 2012 shanghai masters as well, so, he couldn’t gain points.

    Yes, 990 points got added in Nole’s points on 4th November, 2013 for winning Bercy Paris Masters, but, how ever, World Tour Finals 2012 points got deducted on 4th November, 2013 as WTF points always get deducted after the last tournament of the year. I have explained it in more details here —

    http://www.rogerfedererfans.com/forum/topic/1651-rafael-nadal-will-secure-2013-year-end-atp-no-1-ranking-if-he-wins-bercy-masters-2013-title-or-if-novak-djokovic-loses-on-or-before-semis-of-bercy/

  2. sugyan says

    Could not get on this one…
    How could djokovic start the world tour with points less than what he earned in Shangai Masters although he won the Paris Masters 2013 and lost in the 2nd round in Paris Masters 2012??i think he should be awarded 990 points from that he earned in Shangai Masters….

  3. Tennis says

    Do players lose or gain points by joining a different tournament than in the previous year. Example. Year 1, nadal plays in beijing open loses in semi finals, year two plays in japan, loses in quarter finals. How does his ranking change? Or does it change?

  4. says

    @Nath: Well, you are right when you said that Rafa has won 6 tournaments this year, but, perhaps, you also need to consider that he was out from the game for 7 long months after losing early @ Wimbledon 2012.

    & yes, you are right, Rafa will be ranked #5 after French Open, 2013 , even if he wins French Open, 2013 title, I have elaborated the ranking scenarios for French Open 2013 here —-

    http://www.rogerfedererfans.com/forum/topic/1340-atp-ranking-scenarios-post-french-open-roland-garros-2013/

    But, the good news if you are a Rafa fan is that, after French Open, 2013 till the end of Australian Open, 2014, he will keep gaining points and if he remains fit, at this rate, we might just see him #1 by Feb or March, 2014 :).

  5. nath says

    Its rubbish. Rafael Nadal has won 6 tournaments on the bounce and is likely to take this years French Open. How can he be ranked 5 when he was 4 coming into the tornament and he hasnt lost a match. Its pathetic on 2000 grand slam points alone he should be 2 in world NOT 5. What the hells going on. Someone put me out of my misery pls.

  6. kavulu justin mukanya says

    how do you explain that roger ferderer for example won 17 grand slam but has less than 34000 points?nadal won 7 roland garros but has less than 14000 points?nonetheless your teachings are very instructive. thx

  7. says

    Just one quick update to the above article —–

    ATP in November, 2011 had passed a rule which allows Top-30 players to add any of their best 6 results (ATP-250, ATP-500, Olympics, Davis Cup, WTT etc), I explained that in details here —-

    http://www.rogerfedererfans.com/forum/topic/1183-discussion-on-rafael-nadals-ranking-leading-up-to-roland-garros-french-open-2013/#entry10949

    & as I see many people reaching this article for current ranking scenarios, so, just for every one’s information, before every grand slam, ATP-1000, ATP-500 tourny, I do post ATP ranking scenarios for every tournament here —

    http://www.rogerfedererfans.com/forum/forum/106-atp-rankings/

  8. Ellie says

    Excellent original article. My question (to google) was to find out if Murray could move up the rankings after getting through to the US Open final. I have finally understood how the rankings work! Thank you. Just about to look at the rest of your site :))

  9. JohnWolmer says

    Serena Williams has advanced to women’s
    Singles finals at 2012 USTA Open. am I
    correct that she will end up with 2000 points
    if she becomes champion or 750 if runner up?
    Will her points from USTA 2011 Open be
    deducted before her 2012 points are added?
    If she wins what will her WTA ranking be?

  10. MNM says

    If a player, like Federer, advances in Doubles at the London Olympics, does he gain points that will be added to his individual ranking points?

  11. Tarek said says

    Will Olympic points be added among the four 500 tournaments or the other two 250 results, taking into consideration that it will give the winner 750 points. And where are Davis cup points added for that matter?
    With Nadal right now Davis cup is considered a 500 result

  12. Eddy says

    Thanks a lot Majk, yes that was really help.

    Now, I understand this ATP ranking works!

    you are rock man :)

  13. Majk says

    Djokovic has 2000 points to defend, because he won last year.
    Federer has 360 points to defend, since he made it to quarterfinal last year.

    Federer won wimbledon = gains 2000p(-360p) equals +1640p on the rankings.
    Djokovic made it to semifinal= gains 720(-2000p) equals – 1280p on the rankins.

    Before wimbledon
    Djokovic: 12280p
    Federer: 9435p

    I hope this helps you Eddy, i wrote it with My Iphone, so it took a while :-)

    After wimbledon
    Djokovic: 11000p (lost 1280p)
    Federer: 11075p (gained 1640p)

  14. Eddy says

    example could really help, I have been having so much headache to understand this calculation.

    please help how should be the ATP ranking for Djokovic, Nadal and Federer, as their points as of 26.06.2012 (before Wimbledon) was:
    1 Djokovic, Novak (SRB) 12,280
    2 Nadal, Rafael (ESP) 10,060
    3 Federer, Roger (SUI) 9,435

    I understand that the winner of this Wimbledon will yield 2000 points, how is it going to add Roger’s point exactly?

    what will be happening to Nadal and Djokovic above points, will it be reduced? how and why?

    mathematic example will be appreciated, I am not English language person.

    Thanks a lots!

  15. Jacqui says

    How many points do they start with at the start of the new ATP year? If they continue the point from the previous years won’t roger hav more since he’s played longer and won more? Or do they start at zero?

  16. Toby says

    Thanx for the article – I found it really easy to understand however, a bit curious about the cut-of points.

    1: What does the ‘T’ stand for in the ATP ranking in the below 500’s?
    2: How come some play Futures and some does not (Federer didn’t?) ?
    3: When do you automatically get into Challenger Touraments?
    4: Do you automatically get a start for Grand Slams and Master’s if you’re Top 100 or do you still have to Qualify?

    Thanks for any answers

  17. tendenncy says

    Hi

    thanks a lot for these easily laid out info. I tried reading the ATP pdf booklet but just got confused..I have a couple of questions I would be grateful if you help me out with them

    1) the best you 18 you mentioned that it applies to the top 30 from last years ranking.. How is the “best of 18″ calculated for players outside the top 30

    2) what happens if a player misses several events.. do they just get a zero in their (best of 18) list that they must fulfill. If so, is the penalty limited to just getting a zero or more. I read that there is a penalty if a player doesn’t compete for more than 30 days.. what is this penalty and does it differ for top 30 players than the rest

    3) if in the year 2011, a player gets enough points to end they year in the 100-150 rank arena… in the year 2012; does he get direct acceptance to the grand slams and the eight 1000 events based on LAST year ranking or does he have to gather enough points in the year 2012 to make the cut off.

    I would really appreciate your help with these questions

    Cheers

  18. Connor says

    What will andy murrays ranking be should he win this sundays wimbledon final?

  19. magda franculescu says

    novak djokovici points total explained
    Why Djokovici has 600 points added ? He loses the final at Rome 2012

  20. andrew says

    I think you have explained as well as possible… but it seems very complicated!

    I thought that after Rome, each of the top players would have lost last year’s points in this tournament and gained this year’s – that’s how it seemed to work after Madrid last week. This would have kept Federer in 2nd spot – but sadly, it doesn’t seem to work like this…! as all of the top three just seem to have gained points in today’s (21st May) rankings and not lost any.

    Why? Can anyone help?

  21. Ramesh says

    What is the difference between one year and two year ranking system in Tennis

  22. Ramesh says

    Why Nadal got 500 extra this week, as he defended his 1000 points in Monte-Carlo. last week he has 9215 points and now he has 9715 points.

  23. caers K says

    i just don’t get how djokovic lost 1000 points by skipping the belgrade open (ATP 250), he won it last year.
    And how does Nadal lose points despite winning monte carlo like he did last year?

    Can anyone explain?

  24. says

    @Cindy :: see, last best 18 results as discussed….

    Let’s say, Rafa isn’t able to Defend his French Open title & loses in the final to Roger..

    In that case, 2000 pts that he gathered by winning French Open in 2011 will no longer be added
    in to his best 18 results, so naturally his points will fall as earlier 2000 were included & now only 1200 points….

    so, in a way, a notional loss of 800 points if u lose the final of a grand slam if u are the defending champion…

    Just for Every one’s info, ATP changed the ranking system in 2001 (I guess so)…. The ranking system was so easy to understand for illiterates like me ;)….

    But, the easiest to u-stand are the current year rankings :-)…. Hope, I could make some sense in all this explanation :)

  25. Josh says

    Hey OnCourtAdvantage,

    I am a college tennis player in my last semester of school. I am taking a Senior Seminar Economics/Finance class and have to develop a thesis paper with literature review and the whole nine yards. I am contemplating researching the ATP ranking/seeding system and its flaws. Would you be able to direct me towards literature on the subject.

    Thank you in advance,

    Josh

  26. Cindy says

    What I don’t understand, (this happened when Nadal lost his first place ranking I believe). Since he had won the previous year tournament, and won it again the next year, the points did not count toward any ranking. Is that true for all tournaments or just that one?

  27. says

    Thanks for your comment Sarah. It does show that the men need to play all the big tournaments (Grand Slams and Masters 1000s) and do well in order to lift and keep their rankings. It will be interesting to find out more about which players are playing less tournaments this year due to the Olympics too.

  28. says

    What a great article – really helps show how the top 4 men at the moment are so far ahead of the game! They certainly do have to work really hard to keep their top spots in the rankings because if they have a few bad tournaments they can really lose a stack of points (and rankings!).