Who’s the best tennis player in the world?
There are a few players at the top of elite tennis that could lay claim to being the best player on the planet, but who is the best? What criteria should we use to determine the answer? If we look at the current Number One ranked players, the answer is Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, but how do we come up with the tennis rankings?
Well, each tournament gives a certain number of ranking points for winning, then fewer points for every round further away from the final. In a Grand Slam tournament (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), there are 2000 ranking points up for grabs, with 1200 for the runner-up, 720 for losing semi-finalists, 360 for quarter-finalists and so on.
Smaller tournaments have a smaller number of points, but operate in the same way. On the ATP/WTA tours (men’s and women’s respectively), tournaments are broken up into 1000, 500 and 250 point series, with the corresponding number of points awarded to the winner. 1000 point tournaments are the biggest tournaments outside Grand Slams, with all the top players competing.
The world rankings are produced by calculating all the points a player has earned in the last year. This is done every week, with results from 52 weeks ago no longer counting. This means that if a player does not play, or achieves worse results than they did at the same time in the previous year, they will lose ranking points.
Who are the contenders?
In the ATP rankings (male players), Novak Djokovic leads the way with 6,980 points, despite having played the second-fewest tournaments of anyone in the top 15. Carlos Alcaraz is close behind with 6,780, with Stefanos Tsitsipas next on 5,805.
However, there are two Masters 1000 tournaments coming up, in Indian Wells and Miami. In 2022, Carlos Alcaraz won Miami and was runner-up in Indian Wells, so if he fails to produce similar results this time round, he could lose up to a whopping 1600 points, causing his ranking to slide. On the other hand, although Djokovic will not play either tournament this year, he stands to lose no points because he did not play last year either.
On the WTA tour (female players), the rankings are a little bit more definitive. Iga Swiatek has accumulated a massive 10,585 points, and sits more than 4,000 points clear of recent Australian Open winner, Aryna Sabalenka, on 6,100. This is testament to her dominance and consistency over the past year, and she is undoubtedly the one to beat on the women’s circuit.
Every year, both the ATP and WTA hold a prestigious tournament for the top 8 players. This is held at the end of the season, and so the qualifying players are the ones who have had the most success in that calendar year, completely disregarding the previous year’s successes.
The “race” to the Finals is interesting, because often in the early part of the season it looks very different to the actual world rankings. For example, despite Iga Swiatek’s crushing lead in the WTA rankings, her fourth round exit at the Australian Open means she sits 3rd in the race for the Finals, behind both the Australian Open finalists, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina.
Universal Tennis Rating is a number between 1.00 and 16.50 that can be used to rate anyone from the top professional players down to a couple of mates having a hit at their local courts (seriously, go do it!). It is a score assigned to you based on the percentage of games you won in a match to assess your performance against another player. If you win more games than the algorithm thinks you should, your UTR goes up, and if you win fewer, it will go down. It is a great way to put a number on your skill level and find opponents and hitting partners that will give you a good match. There is no minimum skill requirement, it just needs you to go out and play! It’s a great way to continue your tennis journey and move into playing competitive matches without having to enter tournaments.
Meanwhile, in our Malvern tennis centre court, we ourselves also provide a healthy competition every Thursday night. Click here for more information!