2013 Tennis ATP Rankings
Forty years ago today, the Emirates ATP Rankings were born. After quickly earning legitimacy and credibility, the rankings have become an indispensable part of tennis accepted universally by players, tournaments and fans.
It’s a universal goal of tennis players: To become the No. 1 player in the world. Kids dream of it, pros fight tooth and nail for it, yet it remains among the most elusive achievements in the sport. In the 40-year history of the Emirates ATP Rankings, only 25 players have reached the summit, with just 16 finishing the season as year-end No. 1.
Yet without the foresight of ATP founding fathers, the rankings landscape may look entirely different. From the dawn of Open Era tennis in 1968, rankings were largely a subjective calculation, generated by national tennis associations, circuits and a number of eminent tennis journalists who compiled their own lists.
“Tingay's was really the only one that counted, ” recalls former ATP European Director and acclaimed tennis writer Richard Evans, referring to the rankings produced by The Daily Telegraph’s Lance Tingay. “National Associations produced their own rankings, which meant that tournament committees attempted to secure the No. 1 player from each country, ” remembers John Barrett, a former player and ATP Board member. “The major championships permitted associations to nominate four players from their country.”
It was all low tech and with no real purpose, as tournaments invited players on the basis of their reputation as Stan Smith, the World No. 1 in 1971-72, highlights. “The history leading up to the ranking system included a ‘star system’ as far as entries into the tournaments. Some players would be on a list as players that could help sell tickets for the event and they would have priority over others in acceptance into tournaments. This caused great concern for those that didn’t have a big name and were borderline getting into events. There were definitely some battles with tournaments over this star system.” Bob Kramer adds, “Tournament draws often featured eight players based on domestic national rankings, eight players based on an international ranking and a handful of other players worthy of acceptance.”
By August 1972, it became clear that the newly created Association of Tennis Professionals needed to establish a ranking system free of personal opinion and prejudice. “Jack Kramer (pictured), the first Executive Director of the ATP, wanted prize money only tournaments and not events that offered guarantees to players – as had happened in the ‘shamateur’ era of the past decade, when you were invited on reputation, ” adds Barrett. Smith remembers, “The ranking system was a hot point for the players and it continued to be very important. The ATP felt that it wanted to control the ranking program and not let the ITF or anyone else control it.”
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