The WTA Tour Ranking System Explained


On the Baseline Tennis News
August 11, 2009



There have been many heated debates lately about the WTA’s No. 1 ranking. Specifically, how can Dinara Safina be ranked No. 1 and Serena Williams No. 2, after Serena won 2 Grand Slams this year, and Dinara has yet to win any? On the other hand, how can Serena lose in the 1st round of 3 consecutive tournaments, not win any tournaments outside of this year’s Grand Slams, and still hold her No. 2 ranking position? These questions simply feed into the most heated debate of them all: Who is the best female tennis player in the world?

According to the WTA’s ranking system, the answer is all in the numbers.



How It Works

The WTA Tour ranking system is a rolling, 52-week, cumulative system. Ranking points are accrued based on results from the highest round a player reaches in a WTA or ITF tournament, or tournaments which have prize money of $10k or more. The WTA Tour caps a player’s best 16 singles tournament results and best 11 doubles tournament results for one season. The term “rolling” simply means that there are some ranking points that carry over from the previous season. For example, Serena Williams’ ranking points from the 2008 US Open have carried over to 2009. Once she completes the 2009 US Open, her 2008 ranking points will be replaced by the new ones.

WTA Ranking Point Distribution for Singles and Doubles

Grand Slams – 2,000 points
Premier Mandatory – 1,000 points
Premier 5 – 800 points
Premier 700 – 470 points
International – 280 points

The Top-10 Has a Ranking System All Its Own

When a new top-10 player participates in Premier 5 tournaments (Dubai, Rome, Cincinnati, Toronto, and Tokyo), those tournaments take on a whole new meaning. Once a top-10 player has 2 Premier 5 tournaments on her record, any other Premier 5 tournament results from the same season can replace her first 2 Premier 5 tournament results, as long as the results are better. Only a player’s 2 best Premier 5 tournament results are included in her ranking. When it comes to Dinara Safina’s record, she must count her ranking points for her 1st round loss in Dubai, unless her results from the upcoming Cincinnati or Toronto tournaments prove better than Dubai.

When Zero Counts

Any player who qualifies (by ranking) for acceptance into the Main Draw of Grand Slams, Premier Mandatory events or the Sony Ericsson Championships, has the benefit of Automatic Main Draw entry into those events. The down side? Any player who is automatically entered and then withdraws or fails to play, receives 0 ranking points for that tournament, which counts on her ranking as one of her best 16 tournament results. In addition, any top-10 player (or marquee player) who fails to play in a Premier $700 Commitment Tournament receives 0 ranking points for the tournament. For example, Serena Williams currently has 2 mandatory zero-point tournaments that count toward her 16 best tournament results. This rule does not apply to players who do not qualify for Automatic Main Draw entry.

Defending Points and Bonus Points

The idea of “defending points” works this way: If a player reaches the semifinal in the same tournament two years in a row, then she would be “defending her points.” A case in which this would not apply would be the 2008 Olympics.
Bonus points simply do not exist in the WTA ranking system. Bonus prize money, on the other hand, does exist. The Olympus US Open Series awards bonus points (not ranking points) based on player performance at each of the US Open Series tournaments. This puts the top male and female players in a position to win an extra $1 million in prize money at the US Open.

Breaking Down the Numbers

Dinara Safina No. 1
2009 tournaments played to date: 13
2009 Tournament Results and Ranking Points Accrued:
Sydney (Premier 700) – Final –Ranking Points: 320
Australian Open (Grand Slam) – Final – Ranking Points: 1,400
Dubai (Premier 5) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 1
Indian Wells (Premier Mandatory) – QF – Ranking Points: 250
Miami (Premier Mandatory)- 3rd Round – Ranking Points: 80
Stuttgart (Premier 700) – Final – Ranking Points: 320
Rome (Premier 5) – Winner – Ranking Points: 800
Madrid (Premier Mandatory): Winner – Ranking Points: 1,000
Roland Garros (Grand Slam) – Final – Ranking Points: 1,400
‘s-Hertogenbosch (International) – SF – Ranking Points: (Not Counting)
Wimbledon (Grand Slam) – SF – Ranking Points: 900
Portoroz (International) – Winner – Ranking Points: 280
Los Angeles (Premier 700) – 3rd Round – Ranking Points: 60 (Not Counting)

2008 Roll-Over Ranking Points: (As of August 10)
Olympics - Beijing (Silver) Ranking Points: 490
US Open (Grand Slam) SF Ranking Points: 900
Tokyo (Premier 5) Winner – Ranking Points: 860
Stuttgart (Premier 700) QF - Ranking Points (Not Counting)
Moscow (Premier 700) SF – Ranking Points: 390
Tour Championships –Round Robin- Ranking Points: 210 

Total Ranking Points: 9,601 (As of August 10)
Points from Grand Slams: 4,600
Points from Tour Events: 5,001
Serena Williams No. 2
2009 tournaments played to date: 11

2009 Tournament Results and Ranking Points Accrued:
Sydney (Premier 700) – SF – Ranking Points: 200
Australian Open (Grand Slam) – Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Paris (indoors) – (Premier 700) SF – Ranking Points: 200
Dubai (Premier 5) – SF – Ranking Points: 350
Miami (Premier Mandatory) – Final - Ranking Points: 700
Marbella (Premier Mandatory) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 1
Rome (Premier 5) – 2nd Round (1st Round bye) – Ranking Points: 1
Madrid (Premier Mandatory) – 1st Round – Ranking Points: 5
Roland Garros (Grand Slam) – QF – Ranking Points: 500
Wimbledon (Grand Slam) – Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Stanford (Premier 700) – QF– Ranking Points: 120

2008 Roll-Over Ranking Points: (As of August 10)
Olympics - Beijing - QF – Ranking Points: 180
US Open (Grand Slam) Winner – Ranking Points: 2,000
Stuttgart 2r (l. in 2r after 1r bye) – Ranking Points: 1
Tour Championships –Round Robin – Ranking Points: 370
Tournaments Not Played in 2009:
Indian Wells (Premier Mandatory) – Ranking Points: 0
Charleston (Premier 700) – Ranking Points: 0

Total Ranking Points: 8,628 (As of August 10)
Points from Grand Slams: 6,500
Points from Tour Events: 2,128
These questions are sure to fan the flames of the No. 1 ranking debate: Does the WTA’s ranking system have a winning formula? Is it appropriate to judge a top-ranked WTA player based exclusively on her success in Grand Slam tournaments?

1 comment:

Srdjan said...

Hello,

I am confused after reading the rules.

You wrote:
"...In addition, any top-10 player (or marquee player) who fails to play in a Premier $700 Commitment Tournament receives 0 ranking points for the tournament.... "

In case of Serena Williams there is Charleston as zero counted tournament, but Safina also haven't played that tournament but it is not counted as zero. Can you please explain why ?

Thanks