What happens to the rankings of players who are out of the season for prolonged periods due to injuries or illness? How can they enter the draws of major events upon their arrival? Protected Ranking is one such feature in ATP’s ranking system. It is crucial to know that Protected Ranking can be used only by a player if his injury forbids him to play any tournament for at least six months.
Let us consider the example of Juan Martin Del Potro who is having a very impressive run in 2017 upon his return to tour after undergoing multiple wrist injuries. Del Potro’s ranking when he returned to tour was in the 160s. This was because he had applied for PR. Had he not signed up for PR, his ranking would have dropped way below 400.
Any injured player who is aware that his dormancy will extend till six months or more, should first sign a petition for an Entry Protection addressing it to the Executive Chairman and President. This petition should be received by the concerned authorities within 6 months of the last tournament that the injured player had played.
The player is then given a ranking spot based on his average ranking in the first three months of his injury. On the basis of this rank, the player can get a chance to qualify for the main draw of major events. It is a significant point to know that the injured player is not considered a seeded player irrespective of his rank if at all he enters a tournament after his injury.
The Entry Protection is considered valid for a time period of nine months once the player returns to the tour or for the first nine tournaments he participates in. If the player is physically injured and cannot play for at least a year, the ATP states that:
If a player is physically injured and does not compete in any tennis event for a period of twelve (12) months or longer, the entry protection shall be in effect for the first twelve (12) singles tournaments and the first twelve (12) doubles tournaments that the player competes in using the entry protection (excluding wild cards and entries as a direct acceptance with his current position in the Emirates ATP Rankings) or for the period up to twelve (12) months beginning with the first tennis event, including Special Events – Exhibitions, that the player competes in, whichever occurs first.
In women’s tennis, the Protected Ranking is known as Special Ranking Rule. The rule is somewhat same as that of ATP. The SRR can be used only by a player if she is injured for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 2 years. The second eligibility criteria for the SRR is that when the player leaves the tour due to injury, at that point she must be ranked within Top 300 in singles and within Top 200 in doubles.
A player can use her special ranking in 8 tournaments that she plays within one year of her return. Another rule under this class is that the player is allowed to play any 2 Premier Mandatory tournaments and any 2 Grand slams by using her special ranking.
When a player returns to tour after a long period injury, he/she may not like the abbreviation PR along side their name but they sure would thank this rule to help them enter major tournaments to give themselves a chance to test their renovated skills.