Open Era Standings

Like all sports fans, tennis junkies are not satisfied with simply following the current crop of players and admiring their accomplishments. They seemingly always need to compare players of different eras and designate one of them as the greatest player of all time, also known as the GOAT. Of course, many of the people being considered are retired – or dead – and no satisfactory means of comparing the players is possible. These comparisons are further complicated by the fact that many of the game’s greatest players competed before the onset of the Open Era – the period since 1968 when professionals have been allowed to enter the game’s most prestigious tournaments. In the pre-Open Era, the winner of Wimbledon or the French Championships, for example, was an amateur and surely not the world’s best player. At least this is true among the men.

Nevertheless, being the tennis addict (freak) that I am, I have come up with a system for ranking the players since the start of the Open Era. I decided that it was impractical to calculate results prior to 1968, for the simple reason that professionals were not competing in the Grand Slam events and their results could not easily be compared with those of today’s players. To be fair to all-time greats like Margaret Court and Rod Laver, whose careers spanned both the amateur era and the beginning of the Open Era, I have left them out of the standings. This is because I can’t fairly count their results prior to 1968, but if I only count what they did after 1968, this would end up underrating their accomplishments. Therefore, no male or female player who played in more than five Grand Slam events before the onset of the Open Era is included.The system works by calculating points in three categories – Grand Slam Points, Ranking Points and Year-End Championship (YEC) Points – and then adding these three totals to arrive at a grand total. While many observers look exclusively at Grand Slam titles in determining who the greatest players are, I found this method to be too limited. For example, consider the year 1998 when Marcelo Rios reached the final of the Australian Open, won both Indian Wells and Key Biscayne and finished No. 2 in the world. For anyone watching tennis that year, Rios had a great run that was spoiled somewhat by a nervous performance in his first Grand Slam final. For someone focused only on Grand Slam titles, however, Rios did nothing that year and nothing in his entire career. His career results, indeed, would be the equivalent of a satellite player whose highest ranking was 753.

On the other hand, keeping track of every result in every tournament would be way too time-consuming for me and an unreasonable means of comparing the players. After all, who’s had the better the year, the player who enters 30 tournaments and wins 60 matches but loses in the first round of all four Slams or the player who enters 15 tournaments and wins 45 matches but reaches two Grand Slam semifinals?

My goal, therefore, was to find a happy medium. I count points earned at the Grand Slam events, since these are obviously the game’s most important tournaments. But I also assign points based on a player’s end-of-the-year ranking. By doing so, this gives importance to every match and every tournament a player competes in throughout the year. Finally, players earn points based on their performance at the Year-End Championships event(s). This was necessary, I found, because sometimes a player has already locked up the No. 1 spot for the year before the Masters Cup event begins. For players of the 1970s and 1980s, I’ve also included results at the WCT year-end-championship in Dallas, an event that in the 1970s and early 80s attracted a better cast of players than the Australian Open.

The following are the point totals players earn in the different categories:
Grand Slam Points – Players win points based on their results at Grand Slam events. Winner – 1500 points, Finalist 120 points, Semifinalists – 60 points, Quarterfinalists – 30 points, Round of 16 losers – 15 points, Round of 32- 10 points, Second Round losers – 5 points, First Round losers – 1 point. However, players can only count their 35 best Slam results. This is to ensure that a player with exceptional longevity, but not necessarily a lot of titles or runner-up finishes, doesn’t acquire more points than another who played fewer events but had better results.

Grand Slam Bonus Points – As a reward for achieving success on all surfaces, a player is awarded 3,000 bonus points for winning all four Grand Slam titles during his or her career – also known as the “career Grand Slam.” That same player would earn an additional 3,000 bonus points for completing the career Grand Slam a second or third or fourth time. For example Steffi Graf achieved this feat four times in her career, thereby earning 12,000 bonus points. Additionally, a player who accomplishes the extremely rare feat of winning all four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year or four consecutive Grand Slams over two seasons receives 6,000 bonus points or 3,000 bonus points, respectively. To reward extreme dominance, if a player wins more than four Grand Slam titles consecutively, he or she receives a 3,000 point bonus for every additional title won (the fifth, sixth, etc.). Graf, therefore, earned 6,000 bonus points for her calendar-year Grand Slam in 1988, 3,000 bonus points for winning the 1989 Australian Open and 3,000 bonus points for her non-calendar-year Grand Slam in 1993-94.

Ranking Points – Players gain points by finishing in the Top 10 of the ATP Tour Entry Ranking standings or of the WTA Rankings at the end of the year. Points are awarded as follows: No. 1 – 500 points, No. 2 – 350 pts, No. 3 – 250 pts., No. 4 – 175 pts., No. 5- 125 pts., No. 6 – 85 pts., No. 7 – 55 pts., No. 8 – 35 pts., No. 9 – 25 pts., No. 10 – 20 pts. Again to ensure that players with exceptional longevity do not skew the standings, a player can only count his or her 10 best rankings.

Year-End Championship (YEC) points (For men only, since this competition became important for women only recently) – Players gain points based on their performance at the ATP year-end championship or at the WTC year-end championship (between 1971-1989), whichever result was best. The winner receives 150 points, the finalist 80 points and the semifinalists 40 points. No points are awarded to players who do not make it to the semifinals. Again, a player can only count his 10 best results.

Players’ points in the three categories are tallied up and the result is their Overall Open Era Point Total. I have calculated the results for well over 100 players since 1968. Players who have earned a minimum combined total of 5000 points will be listed in the Overall Open Era Standings. The person atop the Overall Open Era Standings is the current “greatest player of the Open Era.” I also maintain a separate Grand Slam Points Standings, Ranking Points Standings, and Masters Cup Points Standings to keep track of players’ performance in the three categories. Additionally, I have men’s and women’s standings for each of the four Grand Slam events. For each Grand Slam, only a player’s 10 best results at that event are counted.