By Richard Pagliaro
Martina Navratilova knows the steep scale of the rankings summit.
The Hall of Famer spent a dizzying 332 weeks as world No. 1 in singles and 237 weeks holding the doubles top spot.
Navratilova was asked her response to Alexander Zverev ripping the ATP rankings system as “a disaster” during a conference call with the media to promote Tennis Channel’s Miami Open coverage. For the first time in its almost 18-year history, Tennis Channel will be the exclusive home of the Miami Open. The network’s telecast will take viewers from first ball March 23 to championship point April 4. Navratilova, a long-time TC analyst, will be broadcasting on-site in Miami.
The Tennis Channel analyst sides with Zverev and said she prefers seeing more volatility in the rankings.
“I agree with Sascha. It’s too stagnant, perhaps not a true ranking,” Navratilova told the media. “In my head I’m thinking, This player is ranked so-and-so. I look at the rankings, and they’re not. It’s almost a two-year rolling thing.
“I agree, maybe they need to take another look at it and compare the two rankings. If you take the tournaments that people have played since August, see what that would come out to, compared to what it is now, try to find a happy medium somewhere there or cut it out and just make it whatever everybody has played.”
Pointing out he was a US Open finalist, a Rolex Paris Masters finalist and won successive titles in Cologne last year, Zverev called it absurd that he is ranked No. 7 behind sixth-ranked Roger Federer, who was sidelined for 13 months recovering from double arthroscopic surgery to his right knee. Last week, Federer edged Dan Evans in Doha in his first match in 405 days.
“I am the biggest Roger Federer fan, but he has not played for a year and is ranked higher than me,” said Zverev, who split with Federer’s Team8 Management earlier this year. “I played a Grand Slam final, a Masters 1000 final. The system is just a disaster.”
However, not all stars agree.
Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal has been a vocal proponent of a two-year ranking system. Nadal asserts a two-year system permits players the chance to take time off to recover from injury or take a break from the tour merry-go-round without fear of plummeting in the rankings. The king of clay also believes a two-year ranking system could lengthen the careers of veteran players who could be more selective in scheduling.
“I’ve said in the past it [the schedule] didn’t work but it will be better to manage the schedule—to have a better schedule—to have a ranking for two years,” Nadal said. “Two-year ranking, not one-year ranking. That’s going to protect the players and help the players to have periods to find windows for rest.
“Having a one-year ranking, it’s always that if you want to be in a good position in the ranking, you cannot rest much.”
Earlier this month, the ATP announced it has extended its “best of” rankings rule through August 9th, 2021. That ruling means results from all events between March 4th-August 5th, 2019 that were not played in 2020 due to the pandemic will be extended a further 52 weeks and weighted at 50 percent. Under this ruling, a player will receive the better of their two results from the same tour-level event. For instance, a player can count either 50 percent of his 2019 Madrid result, or 100 percent of his 2021 Madrid result—whichever is greater—for the next 52 weeks rankings period. One reason the ATP revised its ranking system was so that players not comfortable traveling and competing during the pandemic won’t take a huge ranking-points hit because they can fall back on 50 percent of their 2019 results.