It’s that time of the year again – time to take out your calculators and rack your brains over all the possible ranking scenarios.
Roger Federer’s loss to Juan Martin Del Potro in the final at Basel ended a nearly 2 year long indoor hard-court undefeated streak. His last loss on an indoor hard court came in 2010 to Gael Monfils in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters. Since then, he has won two year end championships and the tournaments at Basel, Paris and Rotterdam – three of them, back to back, towards the end of 2011.
This means that as the rankings race reaches towards an end, Federer finds himself in an unenviable position. In fact, he might not at all like what is to follow.
But before that, let us understand the rankings system.
The ATP Rankings points follow a rolling 52-week system where after every tournament, you drop the points you had earned in the previous year and gain the points you earned this year. For instance, after Wimbledon this year, Federer gained 2000 points for winning the event. He also lost 360 points which he had earned the previous year with a quarter-final showing. So, for Roger, there was a net gain of 1640 points. Similarly, Djokovic lost 2000 points as defending champion, and gained 720 points for a semi-final finish – a net loss of 1280 points. So when you do the math, you’ll realise that Federer leaped ahead by 2920 points in two weeks, thus allowing him to reclaim the No. 1 spot again.
The system is designed in this way to keep putting pressure on the top players to stay at their spots. This is the reason why it is remarkable that Federer managed to stay at the top for nearly 4 consecutive years. This is also the reason that both Nadal and Djokovic lost their top spots after two remarkable seasons.
The ATP did have in mind a different “Rankings Race” concept, in which you start each year clean and your rankings are determined by your victories. But this would have made the situation very funny. For instance, with this system in 2002, Thomas Johansson would have been World No. 1 for a considerable part of the year, by just winning the Australian Open. Since the next major is only in May, for nearly 4 months, he would have been No. 1 or at the very least, top 3, even if he didn’t play another match till the French Open.
The current system is not uniform in its treatment towards tournaments. The tale of the year end rankings has a slight twist. Unlike other tournaments, for the ATP World Tour Finals, you drop the points of the previous year, before the event. And unlike other events, the points are distributed quite differently. Due to the round-robin and knock-out format, the winner can earn from 1100 to 1500 points. And on the Monday after the last regular calendar tournament (which currently, is the Paris Masters), you drop those points. The points you gain in that final week determines your season ending ranks.
Ok, now let’s dissect the situation on hand.
Currently the rankings are as follows:
|Rank||Name and Nationality||Points|
|1||Roger Federer (SUI)||12315|
|2||Novak Djokovic (SRB)||11970|
|3||Andy Murray (GBR)||7690|
Federer is 345 points clear of Djokovic. But Federer is also defending a lot more points than the Serb for the remainder of the season. Both Djokovic and Murray have very little points to lose and a lot of ground to gain.
Beginning with the Paris masters, Federer is defending 1000 points. Since he has withdrawn from the event, he will not be able to reduce the loss. Novak Djokovic was a quarter-finalist last year. This works to his advantage. He will lose a measly 180 points. And since he is contesting this year, the odds are in his favour to earn a profit. This means that, even if he doesn’t show up in Paris, he will usurp the No. 1 rank next Monday. Assuming he gains no points, he will be 475 points ahead of Federer when the event at Paris concludes. But then, on Monday, both players will also drop their 2011 ATP World Tour Finals points. Federer, who went unbeaten last year, will lose 1500 points. Djokovic, who only won 1 round-robin match, will lose just 200 points.
So next Monday, Federer will be staring up a 1775 point deficit. And this translates into terrible news.
Unfortunately, for Federer and his fans, it is an impossible peak to scale. With Federer having only 1500 points to play for, the year end No. 1 ranking is secure with Novak Djokovic.
To rub the salt into the wounds, if Murray has an impressive performance in the remaining two tournaments, he stands to gain up to a maximum of 2500 points, while losing just 180 points. Assuming the worst case scenario, in which Federer fails to win a single match at the year end championships, the Swiss might actually find himself finishing 2012 ranked a lowly third.
You heard it here first!