Are the ATP Rankings Working?

For much of this year, Daniil Medvedev has been World Number One. For a brief period in March, and then for most of the summer months, Medvedev was the top ranked player in the world, despite having had an extremely poor season by his standards. Medvedev was able to remain there purely based on his excellent results in 2021, which saw him dominate on the hard courts in the latter stages of the season. It was evident from early on in the year that Medvedev would lose his status as world number one, and eventually did, to Carlos Alcaraz. But does Alcaraz truly deserve the top ranking? In recent months, Alcaraz has looked jaded and has struggled to stay fit, while Djokovic has dominated, most recently storming to the title at the ATP Finals. So who really is the best player in the world? Let’s have a look at the stats.

Many would argue that Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world right now. Despite not being allowed to play the Australian Open and the US Open, and not being awarded any points for his Wimbledon title, Djokovic has finished the year ranked 5th in the world, only 2000 points behind Alcaraz. He also has a win percentage of 86% (42/49), losing just 7 matches this year, one of which came against Alcaraz in Madrid. Alcaraz meanwhile, played a lot more tennis, winning 81% of his 70 matches this year. The Spaniard won 5 titles, the same number as Djokovic, with both players winning one Grand Slam title. One would have to argue that Djokovic just about edges it, although it is extremely close when you take a look at the stats.

But aren’t we forgetting someone? Indeed we are. Rafael Nadal has a case for being the best player in the world as well, especially based on his performance in Grand Slams. Nadal has an overall win percentage of 83% based on the 47 matches he has played this year, but boasts an astonishing record in Grand Slams, with an unrivalled 22 wins and just 1 loss. The Spaniard picked up 2 Grand Slam titles, at the Australian Open and Roland Garros. Nadal won 4 titles in total and played the least amount of tennis of the 3 contenders.

All 3 men come out on top in certain areas: Djokovic has the best win percentage, Alcaraz has won the most matches and Nadal has dominated in the Grand Slams. There is only one more area to compare, and that is the Head-to-Head records in 2022:

Nadal vs Djokovic: 1-0 Nadal

Nadal vs Alcaraz: 1-1

Alcaraz vs Djokovic: 1-0 Alcaraz

In this category, Alcaraz and Nadal have performed the best in 2022, with 2 wins each, while Djokovic failed to beat both Alcaraz and Nadal. All 3 could have performed even better this year but were all very much restricted in how much they could play. Alcaraz played through injury from May onwards. Nadal had to abandon his Wimbledon campaign due to an abdominal tear and won Roland Garros despite suffering from a severe chronic foot injury, while Djokovic was not allowed to play the Australian Open and the US Open due to his vaccination status. Many would argue that had the Wimbledon points counted, Djokovic

would be World Number One. But this is actually not true. Djokovic is 2,000 points behind Alcaraz at the moment and would have received 2,000 points for winning Wimbledon. But Alcaraz played at Wimbledon too, reaching Round 4, and would have received 180 points, taking him ahead of Djokovic. Nadal’s run to the semi-finals would have seen him end the season just 80 points behind Djokovic, having played fewer matches than the Serb. This, of course, is all hypothetical, and things could have been very different at a normal Wimbledon, with the likes of Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev playing.

It is safe to say that the rankings system has not worked this year, mainly because of the points situation at Wimbledon. Whether or not Djokovic deserves to be number one or not, he certainly should be higher than 5 in the world. It is a little harder to sympathise with Djokovic regarding his participation (or lack thereof) in Australia and New York, as unlike the injuries which held back Nadal and Alcaraz, getting vaccinated was something he had control over. Djokovic instead tried to circumvent the rules to play the Australian Open and paid the price for it.

Despite this, I believe that Novak Djokovic, over the last few months, has been the world’s best player. His stunning run to the title at the ATP Finals proved that. However, over the course of the year, I actually see Nadal as the best candidate for number one. He dominated on the biggest stage and defeated Djokovic at Roland Garros, despite later admitting that he was in severe pain during the entire tournament. Nadal’s comeback against Medvedev at the Australian Open showed an unrivalled level of determination and resilience, 2 traits that Nadal has displayed consistently throughout his glittering career.

Written by Emre Saridogan