What is protected ranking? Everything to know about the method adopted by Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka to compete in Australian Open 2024

Rohit
Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka have relied on protected ranking to be eligible for direct entry into the 2024 Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka have relied on protected ranking to be eligible for direct entry into the 2024 Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka are among a host of high-profile names set to make their comebacks next year. Considering that Nadal and Osaka have been out of action for a year, they've relied on a special provision to ensure their participation in the 2024 Australian Open.

Both Nadal and Osaka will compete in the season's first Grand Slam using a "protected ranking," which comes to No. 11 and No. 46 respectively for the two. While the former is ranked outside the top 600 in the ATP rankings, the latter is currently unranked.

Protected ranking, or special ranking, is a provision which can be used by players returning from a prolonged illness or an injury lay-off. Women who are making a comeback after maternity leave are also eligible for it.

The rules differ slightly when it comes to the ATP and WTA tours. On the men's circuit, the protected ranking is calculated on the basis of the player's average ranking over three months after the injury.

A player can use this method for the first nine tournaments or months following his comeback, whichever comes first. However, if the player was sidelined for more than a year, the count goes up to 12 tournaments or months.

If a player is awarded a wildcard or manages to enter a tournament based on his own ranking thereafter, it's not counted towards his protected ranking exemption. A protected ranking can't be used to get a seeded spot either.

On the women's side, a player who's out of action for six months but less than a year can use it for eight tournaments in a single season. If the absence is for over a year, protected ranking can be used for 12 events in a year. The protected ranking on the WTA tour is equivalent to the player's ranking at the time of their injury.


Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka's highly anticipated comebacks will commence in Brisbane

Rafael Nadal at the 2022 Australian Open.
Rafael Nadal at the 2022 Australian Open.

Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka are two of the world's most popular athletes, thanks to their achievements. Osaka missed the entire 2023 season due to maternity leave. The Spaniard, meanwhile, was sidelined due to an injury following this year's Australian Open.

Now, before the two head to Melbourne for next year's first Major, they'll test the waters at the same tournament, the Brisbane International. Osaka and Nadal join a star-studded line-up which also features Andy Murray, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka.

Should Nadal and Osaka stumble early in Brisbane, they'll have the option to participate in another warm-up tournament the following week. They'll then compete in the Australian Open, where both of them have triumphed twice in the past.

Osaka was crowned the champion Down Under in 2019 and 2021. Nadal captured his first title in Melbourne in 2009. He secured his second trophy in 2022, completing a second Career Grand Slam in the process.

What is the foot injury that has troubled Rafael Nadal over the years? Check here

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