Freeze in ATP player rankings sets up an enticing battle for world number 1 status
- ATP has decided to freeze ranking points until the tour is suspended (7 June 2020)
- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were to lose a lot of points but now both benefit immensely.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) issued a joint statement on 18 March 2020 announcing that the clay-court swing of the tennis season has been completely suspended. This means that there won’t be any tennis action until 7 June 2020. The decision was made after discussions among officials from ATP, WTA, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC), Tennis Australia, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA).
After the decision was announced on social media, people were left wondering about how the rankings will work in the present situation and were coming up with their theories. Will the rankings be ‘frozen’ until the tour begins operating normally or would the ranking points fall off with the passing of each suspended tournament on the tour.
To put all the theories to rest, the ATP released the official rankings up till 19 March 2020 and announced that these rankings will be frozen until the suspension of the tour ends.
Upon this announcement, fans were quick to point out that Roger Federer will benefit the most out of the current scenario as he was already not going to play before the grass-court season due to his knee surgery. If the tour hadn’t been suspended, he would’ve lost all the points he had accumulated last year during the clay-court season as well as his points from Dubai, Indian Wells, and Miami. That would’ve been a total of 3180 points (champion in Dubai and Miami, finalist at Indian Wells, semis at the French Open and quarters in Madrid and Rome). That is a lot of points. The Swiss was projected to drop to world number 8 or 9 at the start of the grass-court season from his current world number 4 position.
But now the tour is suspended and the rankings are frozen. This means that Federer will keep his world number 4 ranking, thereby avoiding potentially facing tougher opponents in the earlier rounds during the grass-court season. Notably, there's another player who also benefits from the ranking freeze - Rafael Nadal.
Nadal, the king of clay, always has a tremendous season in the dirt. He accumulated 3900 points in the clay-court season last year, which is significantly more than Federer’s 3180 points. So if the rankings hadn’t been frozen, he would’ve lost even more points than Federer and would’ve dropped quite some way below his current world number 2 ranking. This would’ve hurt his chances to fight for the top spot spot with Novak Djokovic as the gap between them would have widened considerably. The Serb would have only lost 2510 points through his performances from Miami to the French Open in 2019.
The rankings freeeze means that the points gap between Djokovic and Nadal is only 370 points, enabling Nadal to be in a fighting position when the tour resumes.
Federer already knows that he has little chance of becoming the no.1, mostly due to the increasingly small number of tournaments he takes part in nowadays. Therefore a fall in the rankings wouldn’t have affected him that much. Nadal has the least number of weeks as world number 1 as compared to Djokovic and Federer, which he will be very keen on setting right. The rankings freeze helps him in trying to overhaul Djokovic and reclaim the numero uno spot in tennis rankings.Published 23 Mar 2020, 22:51 IST