Ashleigh Barty is the season-ending No.1 player, is this controversial?

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Despite not having played a tennis match since February, Ashleigh Barty is ending the season as the No.1 player in the world, thanks to the WTA’s revised ranking system introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic. People’s opinions are polarized regarding this situation.

How rankings work

Traditionally, the WTA rankings take into account a player’s best 16 tournaments for singles and 11 for doubles in a 52-week period. When the pandemic started, the WTA decided to freeze the rankings and then came up with a revised system which also counts in a player’s best 16 results in singles and best 11 results in doubles, but based on the points earned from March 2019 through December 2020. Moreover, the revised system includes the “Better of 2019 and 2020” points earned at Tour-level and Grand Slam events.

How Ashleigh Barty retained her No.1 position

Ashleigh Barty first climbed to No.1 in June 2019 and is now ending the season at the top spot for the second time in a row. The Australian has now spent a total of 50 weeks atop the singles rankings.

Since Barty lives in distant Australia, she was in the worst position to join the post-hiatus tournaments that all took place in the States and in Europe, hence, she hasn’t competed since February. Before, players were forced to defend their ranking points each season, while now they’ve had the privilege of sitting on them for almost two years. However, we have to take into account that this pandemic and lockdowns caught everyone unprepared and the WTA came up with a solution which they figured was the best in this unwelcome situation.

France’s world No.53 Alize Cornet voiced her discontent with the way rankings have been calculated, by tweeting:

Really, WTA?!? Big fan of Ash but come on…

The case of Bianca Andreescu is even more controversial than Barty’s. The Canadian is finishing inside the Top 10 for the second year in a row, even though she didn’t play a single tennis match in 2020!

Barty is finishing the season with 8717 points. Second-ranked Simona Halep, who won three tournaments in 2020, two of which came after the Tour’s resumption, has 7255 points. Reigning US Open champion Naomi Osaka is ranked third for the second straight year with 5780 points.

This year hasn’t been fair to anyone and the whole world is upside down, so it is no surprise that the tennis rankings are also being affected. Let’s hope that we’ll be able to keep 2020 locked in the past and that 2021 will bring the old normal back.


  1. I think the WTA made a good decision. COVID doesn’t affect everyone equally because of the geographic position of the country they live in and also the rules in that country. This system means that people who are more affected are not penalised. Halep and Swiatek and Osaka and front of people’s minds because they won the most recent tournaments, but Ashleigh won the year end finals and a grand slam last year. And you might note that Australia, which has stronger rules that have made it difficult for Ashleigh to play, has virtually NO cases of COVID, compared with other countries where 1000s of people are dying every day.

  2. CLT, I think that the WTA made a good decision given the consequences. The situation is unwelcome for everyone and the system is maybe not 100% fair, but this corona year is a total mess anyway and it is reflected in the rankings. Ash Barty is definitely not the one to put the blame on.

  3. I think the new ranking system was the right thing to do. Covid was, and still is, dangerous, I wonder what the WTA will come up with in the next few months … and what the criteria for the Olympics will be by the month of June next year. Maybe the bonus pool money ranking should be adjusted, but I am not a money vs performance expert in such matters.

  4. Maarten, it’s a very tricky situation. This coronavirus will continue to haunt us in 2021 it seems, but let’s hope that the WTA will handle it as well as it did the second part of the 2020 season. This frozen ranking situation shouldn’t persist in 2021.

  5. I feel like the rules are fair for everyone across the board; everyone had an equal shot of earning points in 2020, or like Ashleigh, or opting to not play out of safety concerns. Everyone’s points from March 2019 are still there, even for Alize Cornet who yet again seems to have an issue. Each nation dictates what their citizens can do and if anything Alize from France had a far better chance of earning additional points in 2020 than Ashleigh from Australia where there were far tighter restrictions with international travel. I don’t think there is a perfect answer for how the WTA should have handled rankings this year, but, the solution they created is equally felt by every player across the board. I think it will be interesting to see how they amend the rules for 2021. Clearly some countries are still going to have tons of cases.


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