Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic is the current men's No. 1 Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The ATP, the men’s professional tennis body, has announced an adjustment to how the world rankings will be calculated once international tennis resumes post-coronavirus lockdown next month.

The ATP has decided to extend the period in which points will be calculated for players when competition ultimately returns as promised with the Washington Open from August 14.

Traditionally, the rankings are based on the ‘best 18’ results over a 12-month period. But, this will now cover an extended period of 22 months ranging from March 2019 to December 2020 in light of the disruption caused by the outbreak of the virus.

The rankings have remained frozen since March 16, just days after the ATP Tour was suspended due to the pandemic.

The revised FedEx ATP Rankings will be calculated once the Tour resumes, reflecting a player’s standing among the world’s best players.

The system will aim to deliver the key objectives of providing flexibility and fairness to players across all levels in parallel with the condensed number of points available as part of the revised provisional 2020 calendar, while also providing stability for players who cannot or prefer not to compete in 2020 due to health and safety.

In addition, it will also provide a system that can adapt to further changes in the calendar, if necessary, while rewarding players who perform well following the resumption of the Tour in 2020.

“The temporary changes to the rankings system have been made in consultation with the four Grand Slam tournaments and the ITF. Should the 2021 season be impacted by COVID-19, further adjustments to rankings will be considered,” the ATP said in a statement.

“The new rankings system will also retain the principle of defending tournament points week by week in 2021, maintaining player mobility in the rankings.”

Following the new rankings system is quite simple with a player’s ranking to be comprised of his ‘Best 18’ results between March 2019 and December 2020.

However, a player cannot count the same Tour-level tournament twice in his ‘Best 18’ breakdown. For example, a player who played the Mutua Madrid Open in 2019 and plays Madrid again in 2020, the better of those two results will be considered.

Why now? Due to the uncertainty of the calendar as a result of COVID-19, points from the March 16 frozen rankings will not drop in 2020 unless they are replaced by a better result.

How will players be affected? For the remainder of 2020, no player will have fewer points than he currently has in his frozen ranking. But players can improve their points total by playing after the Tour’s resumption.

When will the FedEx ATP Rankings resume? The rankings will be updated on the Monday after the first week of competition once the Tour resumes.

Which ranking will be used for seeding? The March 16 rankings will be used for seeding for the first two weeks of competition. Thereafter, players will be seeded based on the latest FedEx ATP Rankings. Based on a return to competition as the provisional calendar states, the US Open will use the first published rankings.

How will 2020 events count towards rankings? Players can use the best result from 2019 or 2020 from the same Tour-level event. If a player’s 2019 result is better than his 2020 result, his 2020 result will not be included in his ranking breakdown.

Further, Tour-level tournament points added in 2020 that count in a player’s ranking breakdown will remain on a player’s ranking for 52 weeks, or until the event in question is played again in 2021, whichever comes first.

Tennis has been hit heavily by the coronavirus pandemic, with the three remaining 2020 Grand Slams all impacted. Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, while the French Open has been moved to new dates in September and October.

The US Open will begin next month as planned, but behind closed doors and without any spectators for the first time.

Another significant change is that this year’s singles line-up for the 2020 ATP Finals at the O2 Arena will be based on the rankings in early November, and therefore reflect how a player has performed not just this year, but for much of 2019 as well.

This will be a distinct advantage to last year’s eight finalists while making it harder for fringe players such as Gael Monfils and Dan Evans, who were third and eleventh respectively in the annual ‘Race to London’ when tennis was halted in March.

Meanwhile, the WTA Tour is yet to announce how its ranking system will evolve when play resumes in Palermo on August 3.