Who is Tennis' real world no. 1?
Recently, Novak Djokovic won the ATP World Tour Finals (WTF) for the second consecutive year. Since this tournament is contested exclusively by the top 8 players in the world and is the last tournament of the season, many fans may assume that the winner of this tournament would be crowned World No 1. But it doesn't work like that.
Djokovic finished 2012 as No 1, had another great year in 2013, won the ATP WTF and yet still finished the year at No 2 behind Rafael Nadal. Did Nadal have better results than Djokovic immediately prior to the season-ender? Or did he perhaps have better recent results against Djokovic himself? No and no. In fact Djokovic defeated Nadal to win the final of the ATP WTF, just as he did about a month earlier to win the title in Beijing. This has left some fans (in particular Djokovic supporters!) wondering why Nadal is still No 1. Is the ATP Rankings system broken?
The answer is no, but no system is perfect. The difficulty with any ranking system is finding the balance between recognising and rewarding those who are currently in great form compared to those who have consistently been in good form over a longer period. In other words, how far back should a player's past results affect his ranking?
With a couple of exceptions, the ATP ranking system takes into account a player's results from the "immediate past 52 weeks." The ATP has deemed this to be the fairest method of determining rankings and it's difficult to argue otherwise.
Basically, how well a player has performed in each tournament over the past 52 weeks will determine his current ranking. The fact that a lower-ranked player may consistently defeat a higher-ranked player bears no special significance. A player's results against ALL players is what counts. While head-to-head stats are of interest to fans, especially when comparing the World No 1 and 2 players, they don't accurately indicate who the better player was overall over the past year. Nadal earned his crown in 2013.
Over the years the rankings system has continually been altered and refined to give players extra incentive to support the tour's marquee tournaments and to try to minimise the effect of anomalies on rankings, such as long-term injuries. With millions of dollars of sponsorship money tied to players' rankings you can be sure that the rankings system will continue to receive intense scrutiny!