Reacting to the ATP Cup Ranking Controversy

John Millman US Open upset

The 2020 ATP Cup will be the first edition of the tournament. To quickly remind you what the competition will look like, two players from 24 countries with the top-ranked players in the world gather in three Australian cities and play for the trophy. The opening edition has received a lot of attention from the world’s best players. Out of the top 20 in the ATP Rankings at the date of the first cut-off, only Stan Wawrinka has declined participation. Most of the world’s best players are going to be there, including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer.

How do the ATP Rankings work?

A player’s ATP Ranking is a combination of eighteen best tournament results (in terms of points). Four Grand Slams plus eight Mandatory Masters 1000 tournaments, and six other best results. Those who do not get direct main draw acceptance to these twelve most prestigious tournaments get a chance to replace that with another tournament. Therefore an ATP Ranking of a player at around No. 500 of the ATP Rankings is also comprised of eighteen best results, usually at the Futures or Challenger Tour level. The ATP Finals, for those who qualify, works as an additional nineteenth event. The decision to make the ATP Cup countable as well has created some controversy.

John Millman comes from Australia, a historically prolific tennis nations. At the date of the cut-off, Millman was the World No. 95. Australia qualified for the tournament as the host nation, and two of their highest-ranked players agreed to represent the country. Millman was fifth in line, behind Nick Kyrgios, Alex De Minaur, Jordan Thompson, and Alexey Popyrin.

Some of the not so rich in talent tennis nations like Georgia or Greece have only one top player. Alongside Stefanos Tsitsipas, representing Greece will be Michail Pervolarakis (ranked No. 462 at cut-off). For Georgia, Nikoloz Basilashvili will partner with Alex Metreveli (No. 695). These players are ranked significantly lower than some that didn’t get in. Lucas Pouille, ranked 26th on the 9th of September, didn’t get in due to Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire preceding him in the ATP Rankings. It’s hard to justify Pervolarakis’ and Metreveli’s ability to get a 19th (in their case) countable result. The ATP Finals at least allows everyone the same chance to get in. For the ATP Cup, it is theoretically possible that the World No. 3 might not get accepted.

Looking back on similar events

Although there is nothing wrong with it per se, the ability to make this result an additional countable tournament is questionable. Let’s check how this issue was handled with similar events like Davis Cup, World Team Cup, and the Olympic Games.

The points awarded for the 2012 Olympic Games in London counted as one of the players’ best six results. From the Rio Olympics, the competitors do not get a chance to earn points at the Olympic tennis tournament.

From 2009 to 2015, winning matches in the World Group and the World Group Play-Offs of the Davis Cup gave you ATP Points. Still, they could only be used as one of the aforementioned “best other results.” Since the 2016 edition, ranking points weren’t among the benefits of competing in the Davis Cup.

The World Team Cup, held until 2012, was a competition pretty similar to the upcoming ATP Cup. Ranking points were available for the competitors. However, they also counted as one of the six best other results.

Therefore, it’s hard not to agree with John Millman and a lot of other players here. Competitions where your acceptance is dependent on your nationality should not award points or at least give those not qualified an option to make up for it with another result. These events were treated in a universal manner. This changed with the 2020 ATP Cup, but there’s still time to fix it.

Also, don’t let some ATP infographics fool you.

Main photo from Getty


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