ATP Tour switches to a 22-month cycle ranking system because of coronavirus shutdown

On Monday, the ATP announced the revisions it is making in the rankings system due to the lengthy suspension of official tournament play caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The tour's ranking system has been in place with no comparably major modifications since the rankings were first published in 1973.

"In anticipation of a return to competition in August, the Rankings, which traditionally operate on a 'Best 18' results basis over 52 weeks, will now cover a period of 22 months (March 2019 - December 2020)," the ATP declared in a release. "The temporary changes to the Rankings system have been made in consultation with the four Grand Slam tournaments and the ITF."

In normal times, the rankings are based on a "rolling" 52-week template, with the rankings points a player earns each week replacing the ones he earned during the same week the previous year. If a player doesn't compete in a given week, any points he earned the previous year still come off. The 22-month solution will keep the relaunched rankings from collapsing because all the points that timed out during the hiatus would fall off, unreplaced.

The dormant rankings system will be rebooted, and the first new rankings since the tour went dark in mid-March will be issued on the Monday after the first week of tour play. The tour is scheduled to resume with the weeklong CitiOpen in Washington, D.C., starting on Aug. 14; the first adjusted rankings will be issued on Aug. 24 -- two days after the start date for the combined Cincinnati Masters/US Open.

The last rankings, issued on March 16, will be used for seeding purposes for the first two weeks of competition. The US Open will be able to use the first published revised rankings when making its seeding, but the rankings will come out too close to the start of the US Open to have an impact on the direct entry list.

The WTA has not yet announced how and when it will restart the rankings, but the women's tour is scheduled to power up before the men's, with the Palermo Ladies Open on track to begin Aug. 3. The WTA rankings system is similar to that of the ATP, and the WTA is expected to have a similar response.

"A determination on the WTA rankings process that would be implemented for the remainder of 2020 is expected to be made in the next few days," a WTA spokesperson told ESPN.com.

A player's ATP ranking is based on his 18 best results over a 52-week period, a system that encourages players to play more than 18 events in order to maximize the reward and mitigate any poor performances. That has not changed. But under the revised system, points that were part of a player's ranking as of March 16 will not drop off (e.g., points earned at the 2019 editions of Cincinnati, or the US Open) unless the player fares better in the same event in 2020 (or early 2021).

If a player earns fewer points in the 2020 or early 2021 edition of the event, he will be allowed to keep the higher, 2019 point total for his ranking. Only one of the available results for any particular tournament will be used.

The approach is shaped partly by the ATP's concern that not all players will be able or willing to compete at some events because of the complications caused by the coronavirus. Under the ATP plan, those players at least will be able to keep the points they earned in 2019. "Additionally, this will provide stability to players who may not feel comfortable travelling and competing due to the pandemic," the statement said.