April 15, 2021

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WTA updates “return to play” ranking system

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With the first of the remaining 2019 ranking points set to drop at the end of the Miami Open, the WTA has finally announced what it’s going to do.

The original plan last summer was for the Tour to basically return to “normal” as of the end of the Miami Open.

But while the ATP Tour has announced several tweaks to the system, this is the first revision for the women.

The official press release is here.

It’s complicated. So the algorithms on the “live ranking” sites are going to have a fun time catching up.

The first difference with the ATP is that when the WTA ranking points DO drop, it won’t be at a 50 per cent rate. The ATP will be doing this through the end of the Cincinnati tournament this summer.

It will be all, or nothing at all.

Adjustments, in a nutshell

*Tournaments like Miami and Madrid, which were cancelled in 2020 but are played this year, will see the 2019 points from those events drop off at the conclusion of those tournaments this year. In other words, the players need to play them to earn points, or risk losing everything.

*Tournaments that aren’t happening in 2021 will not see their 2019 points drop off. That will only happen the next time they are played. So those points, in the end, could stay on for as long as … three years. This would be the case, unless it’s rescheduled, for Indian Wells.

*Tournaments that took place within a month of their “scheduled” dates (Lexington, Palermo), will see the 2019 points drop off in 2021. As well, when those tournaments are played in 2021, the 2020 points (for those who played them and used them), will drop off “as normal”.

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Points from the Lexington WTA Tour event last August will drop off 52 weeks from the date of the tournament.

Fall clay performers get grace

*Tournaments that were rescheduled because of the pandemic – notably, the 2020 Roland Garros, Rome and Istanbul events – will be hybrids.

If a player played those tournaments in 2019 and has those points on their list, those points will drop off as of the tournament’s “regular” dates in 2021.

But if the player doesn’t do as well in the 2021 version as they did last fall – or doesn’t play it at all – those 2020 points will stay on for 52 weeks until the fall of 2021. And when they do drop off, will be replaced by the 2021 points. So there’s a little bit of a grace period there.

*For 2020 tournaments that were not played in 2021 (Brisbane, Auckland), the 2020 points will only drop off in 2022.

*For tournaments like the Australian Open or Dubai, where the events were played both in 2020 and 2021 and where the players were allowed to keep the better of the two results in their ranking, the points for both the 2020 option and the 2021 option will drop off when that event is played in 2022.

The aim, says the WTA is to “provide a pathway of transition between a challenging season that included a period of suspended play and travel restrictions, back to the traditional WTA ranking structure, while still protecting the integrity of the rankings system.”

And also: to completely confuse people. 🙂

Practical example: Genie Bouchard

One of the beneficiaries of this will be Canadian Genie Bouchard, who earned 198 points going from the qualifying to the final at Istanbul last September, and then another 130 points as a wild card as she made the third round at Roland Garros.

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The points from Genie Bouchard’s efforts in Istanbul and Paris last fall will stay on her rankings chart through the summer.

If those points had dropped off in April and June, respectively, as those tournaments returned to their regular dates – and she didn’t play them or went out early – she would have dropped down into the 180s in the rankings.

Now, she can keep the results for both those tournaments on her chart for a year – i.e., until the fall of 2021. When those dates come around again, they will finally drop off and be replaced by whatever points she earns in those events this spring.

At No. 118 currently, Bouchard will likely have to go through the qualifying in Paris. And at this early stage she is still well out of the main draw in Istanbul as well. But it gives her time.

Practical example: Ashleigh Barty

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You’ll have to be a master mathematician to figure out where Barty’s ranking is on any given week over the next year.

The Australian won the Miami Open in 2019. But those points will drop off at the end of the tournament this year.

She didn’t play Roland Garros or the US Open in 2020. So the 2019 points are still on her resumé – including the 2,000 she got for winning in Paris in 2019. Those points will drop off in June. Since she didn’t play it in 2020, there’s no possibility of holding onto those points until the fall.

Her 2020 points from the semifinals at Australian Open (which were higher than the quarter-final points she earned in 2021), will remain on her chart until the 2022 edition is played.

Practical example: Karolina Pliskova

The Czech won Brisbane in both 2019 and 2020. But even though there were “replacement tournaments” on site in Melbourne, those tournaments are considered “new” tournaments.

So those Brisbane points will remain on Pliskova’s sheet until Jan. 2022.

Practical example: Iga Swiatek

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If she doesn’t defend her 2020 Roland Garros title, Iga Swiatek will at least be able to keep those 2,000 points on her rankings list until October.

Swiatek won the 2020 version of Roland Garros played in October.

What these adjustments mean is that she will be able to keep those 2,000 points on her ranking until Oct. 2021, instead of having them drop off when the tournament returns to its regular slot in June.

In October, those 2,000 points will be replaced by whatever she did at this year’s tournament.

And what of Bianca Andreescu?

For Bianca Andreescu, who hasn’t even needed an injury protected ranking as she returns to action, there will be some pressure points.

*Her Indian Wells championship points from 2019 could remain in the books until as late as March 2022.

*She got to the second round at Roland Garros in 2019. So those points will drop in 2021, but she’ll have everything to gain.

*But Andreescu’s fourth-round points from Miami in 2019 will drop at the end of this tournament.

*Her Rogers Cup title points from 2019 will drop in August – assuming the 2021 version goes ahead.

*Her 110 points from the “Phillip Island Trophy” semifinal in Melbourne should drop in Feb. 2022 (if we’re reading this correctly). This was a new tournament, and therefore a new opportunity to add points for those who might have played Adelaide or Hobart the previous year. But since it’s not expected to take place in 2022, those points will drop into the abyss.

*Her 210 points from the quarterfinal at the China Open in Beijing in 2019, assuming it goes ahead this fall, will fall off at the conclusion of that tournament.

Will verify this, but you would think that if her ranking dropped below a certain level (say, too low to get into a high 1000), she could use a protected. But that’s unclear.

What’s clear is that Andreescu will have to defend some big chunks of points this season, as she returns. On the plus side, those chunks came in so few tournaments that she will have plenty of other opportunities to not only make those up, but earn even more.