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WTA Ranking: how are the best players ranked?

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) is the leading women’s professional tennis association. It is integrated by over 2500 players from 92 countries which compete in 55 events of the WTA Tour and four Grand Slams in 33 countries.

Picture of the origins of tennis

A group of women led by Billie Jean King started a revolution in women’s tennis in the early 70’s that would ultimately culminate with the creation in 1973 of the association, after a meeting that took place in a London hotel room the week before the Wimbledon tournament was played.

The WTA scoring system was determined in 1975

In 1975, the WTA adopted its scoring system, drawing from the one used by the ATP to rank its players, although the initial format has changed over the years to what it is today, which is based on a rolling 52-week calendar.

Based on what is a the ranking determined?

A player’s WTA rank is determined taking a number of factors into consideration. Players can earn points in each tournament they play during the rolling year, depending on which round they make it through. This system encourages players to give their best to get as far as they can.

Through this complex system, the ranking is updated every Monday, with the exception of no updated rankings being issued whilst the Grand Slams or the events in Miami and Indian Wells are still taking place. The ranking is used, not only to sort out the players based on their merits in the different professional tournaments they play, but also to determine who will be the top seeds and eligible to play each one of them.

The WTA player's ranking is determined by her result at a maximum of 16 tournaments for singles and 11 for doubles. The tournaments that count towards a player's ranking are those that yield the highest ranking points during the rolling 52-week period.

Apart from the general classification, there is a separate rankings, known as the ‘WTA Championships Race’, that determines the 8 players who will take part in the WTA Finals or WTA Championsips at the end of the season, based on the points they earn throughout the season.

The WTA player's ranking is determined by her result at a maximum of 16 tournaments for singles and 11 for doubles

How is the WTA ranking applied to each player?

For ‘Top-20’ players, such as Garbiñe Muguruza, who ended 2015 ranked no. 3 in the world, the total is the sum of the points earned in the Grand Slams, WTA Finals or Masters Tournament, the Premier Mandatory and the two best results in the Premier 5.

And this is where ‘points to defend’ concept comes in. Each player has to defend her points to avoid dropping ranking places the next year. This is an inversely proportional figure, because the lower the number of points a player earns, the more options she has to climb positions, while the more points a player earns, the easier it is her to drop them during a bad year.

Players can access the WTA ranking based on two different ratios. The first one is determined by the sum of the points she earns in at least three professional tournaments, and the second in earning at least ten points in one or more tournaments, singles or doubles.

Since it was created, 21 players have managed to rise to the number one spot in the WTA ranking. Serena William’s is currently the world’s best. However, only eleven have been capable to cling on to their crown at the end of the season.

WTA tournament categories and points

The ranking points awarded differ for each tournament, and, regardless of the fact that the winner, apart from lifting the trophy, takes the highest number of points, all players earn a specific number of points, depending on the round they reach during their participation.

Outside of what is strictly a WTA tournament, we have the Grand Slams - the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and the US Open – were the points are awarded according to the following scheme:

Champion: 2,000 WTA points/ Runner-up: 1.300 / Semifinal: 780 / Quarterfinal: 430 / 4th Round: 240

The women’s Premier Tournaments are the equivalent to the men’s Masters 1000. The Premier Tournaments are divided into three groups that award the following points:

-Premier Mandatory (Indian Wells, Madrid, Miami and Beijing):
Champion: 1000 / Runner-up: 650 / Semifinal: 390 / Quarterfinal: 215

-Premier 5 (Cincinnati, Dubai, Toronto, Roma and Wuhan):
Champion: 900 / Runner-up: 585 / Semifinal: 350 / Quarterfinal: 190

-Premier ( Antwerp, Birmingham, Brisbane, Charleston, Doha, Eastbourne, Moscú, New Haven, Stanford, Sttutgart, Sidney and Tokio):
Champion: 470 / Runner-up: 305 / Semifinal: 185 / Quarterfinal: 100

In the WTA Finals, players compete in a ‘round robin’ format, where all players play against all the other players in each group. The points scheme is somewhat peculiar.  Each match played awards 70 points, 160 for the winner. After the group stage, semifinalists are awarded 690 points, the runner-up 1050 and the champion 1500.