Tennis: Britons fight to earn a place at the top table

Official world rankings were introduced 25 years ago this week.
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The Independent Online
THIS WEEK marks the 25th anniversary of the Association of Tennis Professionals' (ATP) computer world rankings. Ilie Nastase took the first bytes in 1973 and Pete Sampras is currently tucking into his sixth course of a feast. These days even a couple of Brits, Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman, are champing near the head of the table.

Nastase, the magical, mischievous Romanian who would argue with man or machine (at Wimbledon he even ranted at Cyclops, the electronic service line device), had no problem persuading the computer that he was No 1 in the world on 23 August 1973.

Sampras yesterday extended his tenure at No 1 to a total of 234 weeks, the superb American reclaiming the top position from Marcelo Rios, of Chile. Sampras has been the year-end No 1 five times consecutively. Rios is only the 14th player ever to be ranked No 1 on the computer, and the first from Latin America.

Henman last week became the 100th man to gain a place in the world's top 10, and only the second British representative, Rusedski having joined the elite shortly after reaching the final of the US Open in September last year.

Although both players advanced to the quarter-finals of American tournaments last week - Rusedski in Indianapolis, Henman in New Haven - only Rusedski improved his ranking, from No 7 to No 6. Henman slipped three places to No 13, chiefly because Alex Corretja and Karol Kucera won titles.

Rusedski and Henman are virtually guaranteed their first seedings for the US Open, which starts next Monday, as No 6 and No 13 respectively (apart from a memorable departure from the world rankings in 1996, which almost caused a players' revolt, the USTA has adhered to the ATP Tour's list).

The ATP rankings, which began five years after the advent of open tennis in 1968 (ratings were previously compiled by leading tennis reporters) have logged the careers of the sport's most prosperous players.

Ivan Lendl might have been frustrated in his long quest for the Wimbledon title, but the dedicated Czech-born American dominated the world rankings for a record total of 270 weeks, two more than Jimmy Connors, with Sampras in third place. The rumbustious Connors holds the record for consecutive weeks at the top, 160 (from 29 July 1974 to 23 August 1977).

Tournaments are graded according to the level of prize money and the rankings decide which players gain direct entry. Originally, the system was based on a player's average points, calculated by dividing all his results within a rolling 52-week period by the number of tournaments he played, with a minimum divisor of 12.

The current system is based on the aggregate of points earned from a player's best 14 tournaments of the past 52 weeks (his worst results are discarded, whether the event be Wimbledon or Shanghai).

In 2000 this is due to be replaced by a 12-month "race for the ATP Tour world championship". Rankings will be based on a player's results in 18 tournaments - the four Grand Slams and the ATP Tour's top tier "Super 9" will all count, along with a player's next best five events.

These rankings will be updated week by week, akin to the points table which currently decides which eight players qualify for the year-end ATP Championship in Hannover.

As Sampras says: "It should be [termed] a standing rather than a ranking. It really comes down to the end of the year, that's when we should talk about rankings." Here, then, are this week's top 10 standings on the road to Hannover: Rios, Sampras, Agassi, Corretja, Moya, Rafter, Korda, Kucera, Krajicek and Albert Costa. Henman is No 11.

FROM NASTASE TO SAMPRAS: THE 100 TOP TENNERS OF THE LAST QUARTER- CENTURY

The first ATP top 10

(23 August 1973)

1 Ilie Nastase (Rom)

2 Manuel Orantes (Sp)

3 Stan Smith (US)

4 Arthur Ashe (US)

5 Rod Laver (Aus)

6 Ken Rosewall (Aus)

7 John Newcombe (Aus)

8 Adriano Panatta (It)

9 Tom Okker (Neth)

10 Jimmy Connors (US)

(Two Britons were ranked in the first top 20: Roger Taylor, No 13, and Mark Cox, No 18)

First broke Career

Player into top 10 high

AGASSI, Andre (US) 6 (6 Jun 98) 1 (10 Apr 95)

AGUILERA, Juan (Sp) 10 (6 Aug 84) 7 (17 Sep 84)

ALEXANDER, John (Aus) 10 (21 Oct 75) 8 (15 Dec 75)

ARIAS, Jimmy (US) 10 (8 Aug 83) 5 (25 Jun 84)

ASHE, Arthur (US) 4 (23 Aug 73) 2 (12 May 76)

BARAZZUTTI, Corrado (It) 10 (6 Mar 78) 7 (21 Aug. 78)

BECKER, Boris (Ger) 8 (8 Jul 85) 1 (28 Jan 91)

BERASATEGUI, Alberto (Sp) 10 (25 Jul 94 7 (14 Nov 94)

BERGER, Jay (US) 10 (23 Oct 89) 7 (16 Apr 90)

BJORKMAN, Jonas (Swe) 10 (27 Oct 97) 4 (3 Nov 97)

BORG, Bjorn (Swe) 3 (3 Jun 74) 1 (23 Aug 77)

BRUGUERA, Sergi (Sp) 8 (29 Apr 91) 3 (1 Aug 94)

CARLSSON, Kent (Swe) 10 (15 Jun 87) 6 (19 Sept 88)

CASH, Pat (Aus) 8 (10 Sep 84) 4 (9 May 88)

CHANG, Michael (US) 6 (12 Jun 89) 2 (9 Sep 96)

CHESNOKOV, Andrei (Rus) 10 (21 May 90) 9 (8 Apr 91)

CLERC, Jose-Luis (Arg) 10 (25 Aug 90) 4 (3 Aug 981)

CONNORS, Jimmy (US) 10 (23 Aug 73) 1 (29 July 74)

CORRETJA, Alex (Sp) 8 (19 May 97) 4 (21 Jul 97)

COSTA, Albert (Sp) 9 (21 Apr 97) 9 (21 Apr 97)

COSTA, Carlos (Sp) 10 (18 May 92) 10 (18 May 92)

COURIER, Jim (USA) 9 (25 Mar 91) 1 (10 Feb 92)

CURREN, Kevin (SA)* 9 (4 Jul 83) 5 (29 Jul 85)

DIBBS, Eddie (US) 8 (12 May 76) 5 (24 July 78)

EDBERG, Stefan (Swe) 9 (18 Feb 85) 1 (13 Aug 90)

ENQVIST, Thomas (Swe) 9 (21 Aug 95) 6 (19 Feb 96)

FERREIRA, Wayne (SA) 10 (14 Sep 92) 6 (8 May 95)

FIBAK, Wojtek (Pol) 10 (25 Jul 77) 10 (25 Jul 77)

FLEMING, Peter(US) 10 (9 Jun 80) 8 (7 Jul 80)

FORGET, Guy (Fr) 7 (18 Feb 91) 4 (25 Mar 91)

GERULATIS, Vitas (US) 9 (5 Jun 77) 3 (27 Feb 78)

GIBERT, Brad (US) 10 (24 Feb 86) 4 (1 Jan 90)

GOMEZ, Andres (Ecu) 10 (5 Mar 84) 4 (11 Jun 90))

GORMAN, Tom (US) 10 (1 May 74) 10 (1 May 74))

GOTTFRIED, Brian (US) 10 (12 Dec 76) 3 (19 Jun 77))

GUSTAFSSON, Magnus (Swe) 10 (29 Jul 91) 10 (29 Jul 91))

HENMAN, Tim (GB) 10 (17 Aug 98) 10 (17 Aug 98))

HIGUERAS, Jose (Sp) 9 (21 May 79) 6 (13 Jun 83))

HLASEK, Jakob (Switz) 8 (21 Nov 88) 7 (17 Apr 89))

IVANISEVIC, Goran (Cro) 10 (21 Sep 90) 2 (4 Jul 94))

JAITE, Martin (Arg) 10 (9 Jul 90 ) 10 (9 Jul 90))

JARRYD, Anders (Swe) 10 (9 Jul 84) 5 (22 Jul 85))

KAFELNIKOV, Yevgeny (Rus) 10 (30 Jan 95) 3 (4 Nov 96))

KODES, Jan (Cz) 3 (13 Sep 73) 5 (13 Sep 73))

KORDA, Petr (Cz Rep) 9 (4 Nov 91) 2 (2 Feb 98))

KRAJICEK, Richard (Nrth) 10 (16 Nov 92) 5 (21 Apr 97))

KRICKSTEIN, Aaron (US) 9 (13 Aug 84) 6 (26 Feb 90))

KRIEK, Johan (SA)* 10 (22 Feb 82) 7 (10 Sep 84))

KUCERA, Karol (Slovak) 10 (20 Apr 98) 9 (18 May 98))

KUERTEN, Gustavo (Bra) 10 (4 Aug 97) 8 (11 Aug 97))

LARSSON, Magnus (Swe) 10 (17 Apr 95 ) 10 (17 Apr 95))

LAVER, Rod (Aus) 5 (23 Aug 73) 3 (9 Aug 74))

LECONTE, Henri (Fr) 10 (19 May 86) 5 (22 Sep 86))

LENDL, Ivan (Cz)* 9 (7 Jul 80) 1 (28 Feb 83))

McENROE, John (US) 6 (2 Oct 78) 1 (3 March 80))

McNAMARA, Peter (Aus) 9 (6 Jul 81) 7 (14 March 83))

MANCINI, Alberto (Arg) 10 (10 Jul 89) 8 (4 Oct 89))

MANTILLA, Felix (Sp) 10 (8 Jun 98) 10 (8 June 98))

MARTIN, Todd (US) 8 (31 Jan 94) 5 (4 July 94))

MAYER, Gene (US) 9 (4 Feb 80) 4 (6 Oct 80))

MAYER, Sandy (US) 9 (13 Feb 78) 7 (26 Apr 82))

MAYOTTE, Tim (US) 9 (3 Feb 86) 7 (31 Oct 88))

MECIR, Miloslav (Slovak) 10 (24 Jun 85) 4 (22 Feb 88))

MEDVEDEV, Andrei (Ukr) 8 (7 Jun 93) 4 (16 May 94))

METREVELI, Alex (Rus) 9 (3 Jun 74) 9 (3 Jun 74))

MOYA, Carlos (Sp) 9 (27 Jan 97) 4 (22 Jun 98)

MUSTER, Thomas (Aut) 10 (3 Apr 89) 1 (12 Feb 16))

NASTASE, Ilie (Rom) 1 (23 Aug 13) 1 (23 Aug 73))

NEWCOMBE, John (Aus) 7 (23 Aug 73) 1 (3 Jun 74))

NOAH, Yannick (Fr) 10 (23 Aug 82) 3 (7 Jul 86))

NOVACEK, Karel (Cz Rep) 10 (9 Sep 91) 8 (18 Nov 91))

NYSTROM, Joakim (Swe) 9 (15 Oct 84) 7 (31 Mar 86))

OKKER, Tom (Neth) 9 (23 Aug 73) 3 (2 Mar 74))

ORANTES, Manuel (Sp) 2 (23 Aug 73) 2 (23 Aug 73))

PANATTA, Adriano (It) 8 (23 Aug 73) 4 (24 Aug 76))

PECCI, Victor (Para) 10 (20 Aug 79) 9 (21 Apr 80))

PERNFORS, Mikael (Swe) 10 (22 Sep 86) 10 (22 Sep 86))

PIOLINE, Cedric (Fr) 10 (18 Oct 93) 9 (17 Jan 94))

RAFTER, Pat (Aus) 3 (8 Sep 97) 2 (17 Nov 97))

RAMIREZ, Raul (Mex) 9 (18 Mar 76) 4 (7 Nov 76))

RIOS, Marcelo (Chile) 10 (13 May 96) 1 (30 Mar 98))

ROCHE, Tony (Aus) 9 (26 Jul 75) 8 (16 Nov 75))

ROSEWALL, Ken (Aus) 6 (23 Aug 73) 2 (30 Apr 75))

ROSSET, Marc (Swit) 10 (10 Jul 95) 9 (11 Sep 95))

RUSEDSKI, Greg (GB) 10 (15 Sep 97) 4 (6 Oct 97))

SAMPRAS, Pete (US) 6 (10 Sep 90) 1 (12 Apr 93))

SANCHEZ, Emilio (Sp) 10 (9 Apr 90) 7 (30 Apr 90))

SCANLON, Bill (US) 9 (9 Jan 84) 9 (9 Jan 84))

SMITH, Stan (US) 3 (23 Aug 73) 3 (23 Aug 73))

SOLOMON, Harold (US) 10 (10 Aug 76) 5 (8 Set 80))

STICH, Michael (Ger) 9 (10 Jun 91) 2 (22 Nov 93))

STOCKTON, Dick (US) 10 (9 Aug 77) 8 (1 Nov 77))

SUNDSTROM, Henrik (Swe) 10 (11 Jun 84) 6 (18 Feb 85))

SVENSSON, Jonas (Swe) 10 (25 Mar 91) 10 (25 Mar 91))

TANNER, Roscoe (US) 10 (21 Aug 75) 4 (30 Jul 79))

TEACHER, Brian (US) 10 (26 Jan 81) 7 (19 Oct 81))

TELTSCHER, Eliot (US) 10 (20 Oct 80) 6 (7 May 82))

TULASNE, Thierry (Fr) 10 (4 Aug 86) 10 (4 Aug 86))

VILAS, Guillermo (Arg) 10 (9 Aug 14) 2 (30 Apr 75))

WILANDER, Mats (Swe) 10 (12 Jul 82) 1 (12 Sep 88)

* Now US citizen

TOTAL WEEKS AT NO 1

270 Ivan Lendl

268 Jimmy Connors

234 Pete Sampras

170 John McEnroe

109 Bjorn Borg

72 Stefan Edberg

58 Jim Courier

40 Ilie Nastase

32 Andre Agassi

20 Mats Wilander

12 Boris Becker

8 John Newcombe

6 Thomas Muster

6 Marcelo Rios

THE TOP NATIONS

27 in Top 10 USA

13 Sweden

11 Spain

8 Australia

5 France

4 Argentina, Czech Republic

3 Russia, South Africa

2 Germany

Great Britain

Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia, Switzerland.

1 Austria, Brazil, Chile, Croatia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Ukraine.

This week's top 10

1 Pete Sampras (US)

2 Marcelo Rios (Chile)

3 Patrick Rafter (Aus)

4 Petr Korda (Cz Rep)

5 Richard Krajicek (Neth)

6 Greg Rusedski (GB)

7 Alex Corretja (Sp)

8 Andre Agassi (US)

9 Karol Kucera (Slovak)

10 Carlos Moya (Sp)

Britain's Tim Henman, who became the 100th player to reach the top 10 last week, has slipped to 13th place.

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