TENNIS

The complicated uniqueness of tennis rankings

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Rafael Nadal made it to his 22nd Grand Slam last Sunday, beating Casper Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0 in the 2022 French Open final. The win marked the Spaniard’s record 14th title at Roland Garros, the only man to have won a single Slam more than nine times in the Open era.

The Mallorcan also won the Australian Open earlier this year, beating Daniil Medvedev in a remarkable five sets in the final to become the first man in history to win 21 Majors. It is therefore the first time in his career that the 36-year-old has won both the Australian Open and the French Open in the same year.

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On top of that, the 22-time Grand Slam champion won the trophies at the Melbourne Summer Set in January, as well as the Mexican Open in February. At the Indian Wells Masters in March, the former world No. 1 reached the final before losing to Taylor Fritz.

With four titles to his name this season, no one has won more silverware than Nadal since the start of the new year. Carlos Alcaraz is level with the Spaniard, while Andrey Rublev trails with three trophies to his name this year.

However, despite all his achievements, Rafael Nadal is currently only ranked number 4 in the world. Despite earning 2,000 ranking points at Roland Garros this week, Nadal only managed to move up one spot from the No. 5 position he held at the start of the tournament.

Daniil Medvedev, on the other hand, who is yet to win a title this year, tops the ATP rankings. Alexander Zverev, who also failed to win silverware in 2022, is in second place. Just ahead of the Mallorcan is Novak Djokovic, who has a title to his credit (Italian Open).

It caused a lot of furor on social media, with many wondering why someone who won the two biggest tournaments of the year isn’t top of the leaderboard. Although this is an understandable question, it is nothing new in tennis. And the answer is quite simple, really: Rolling leaderboards.

I feel like the current situation reflects the fact that there are times when rankings mean a lot and times when they don’t. Nadal may be number 4, but he really is the best player in the world since the beginning of the year. twitter.com/ptbodo/status/…

A rolling ranking system means that players only hold the ranking points they earn over a 52-week period. Once the 2022 edition of a tournament is over, all points collected during the 2021 edition will be lost.

For example, Novak Djokovic was the 2021 French Open champion and lost in the quarter-finals this year. The Serb therefore loses 2,000 points and only gains 360.

In 2010, Djokovic was ranked No. 2 with a GS semi-final and an M1000 title on his leaderboard. (Current No. 2 Zverev has two GS semis, a YEC title and an M1000 title.) In 2016, Nadal was ranked No. 4 with 3R as his best GS result and an M1000 title. (Current No. 4 Nadal has two GS titles.)

Medvedev, meanwhile, gained 180 points for his fourth round this year and dropped 360 points in the quarter-finals in 2021. With the net difference being much bigger for Djokovic, he dropped below the Russian in the updated ranking day.

Nadal reached the semi-finals last year, which means he gained 2,000 points and lost 720 points for a net gain of 1,280. Zverev reached the semi-finals in Paris in 2021, and thanks to another semi-final this year, he neither won nor lost points last week.

Zverev and Medvedev are essentially rewarded for their strong second halves of 2021. Medvedev has won Mallorca, Toronto, the US Open and reached the finals in Bercy and Turin. Sasha won Vienna, Cincy, Turin and did SF at Bercy and the USO.

Due to the nature of the rolling 52-week schedule, players are simply reaping the rewards now for having a strong second half of the season last year. Medvedev has won the US Open (2,000 points), Canada Masters (1,000 points) and Mallorca Championships (250 points).

Moreover, the Russian also finished second in the Paris Masters (600 points) and ATP Tour Finals (1,000 points).

I don’t know which is more tragicomic:— Novak fans thinking Medvedev at No. 1 is a conspiracy of the sinister Federer and Nadal, or— Rafa fans wondering how come a player has missed 2 of 4 slams, YEC and 6 of 9 M1000s in the past 52 weeks is not #1.

Zverev, to his credit, has won the ATP Tour Finals (1,300 points), the Cincinnati Masters (1,000 points) and the Vienna Open (500 points). He also reached the semi-finals of the Paris Masters (360 points) and the US Open (720 points).

Djokovic scored titles at Wimbledon (2,000 points) and the Paris Masters (1,000 points), while finishing second at the US Open (1,200 points). He also qualified for the semi-finals of the Tour finals (600 points).

Almost like players who rank at the top of the game are usually defined by 10-15 tournament results and not one, two or even five.

Unfortunately, Rafael Nadal had to cut short his season after Roland-Garros last year, due to a foot injury he suffered during the tournament. The world No. 4 played only one event thereafter, falling in the third round of the ATP 500 Washington Open.

So it makes perfect sense that Nadal remains only fourth in the ATP rankings despite all the success he has had this year. But as the season progresses, it will become much easier for the 22-time Grand Slam champion to climb the rankings compared to the others, who have a lot more to lose than him.

The ATP Race to Turin best reflects a player’s performance in a single year, which Rafael Nadal is currently leading

Rafael Nadal is currently leading the 2022 ATP race in Turin
Rafael Nadal is currently leading the 2022 ATP race in Turin

To assess a player’s performance over a single season, however, the ATP Race to Turin is a better tool. The race only takes into account the points a player has earned in a calendar year and, naturally, Rafael Nadal is in charge at the moment.

Currently, the Race to Turin is a more accurate measure for judging rankings. I would just add up the points they would otherwise earn at Wimbledon based on what round they reach and add that to the pre-Wimbledon total should be more considered I think. #realracepoints twitter.com/ptbodo/status/…

With 5,620 points to his name, the Mallorcan has a comfortable lead over second-placed Carlos Alcaraz, who had 3,820 points in 2022. World number one Daniil Medvedev is in eighth position with his run of 2,230 points, while the World number 2 Alexander Zverev has 2,700 points and remains in fifth place. World number 3 Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, has gained 1,970 points in 2022 so far and sits ninth in the Race to Turin.


Edited by Nihal Taraporvala

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