Melbourne VIC, Australia, 20 June 2014 | Australian Tennis Magazine

How do the rankings work? It’s a commonly asked question of the professional game, with even the most dedicated fans occasionally overwhelmed by the variables.

The key points to note are largely consistent on both the ATP and WTA Tours, with rankings based on a rolling 12-month period– so in any given week, a player’s ranking will be based on their performances in the previous 52 weeks.  In the simplest terms, the more points a player earns the higher their ranking will be.

> View the latest Australian rankings

It’s the “best of” scenario for the highest ranked players that can make rankings confusing. A male player’s overall ranking can be based on their best 18 results while a woman’s overall ranking can be based on her best 16. The Grand Slams and certain higher level events carry the highest number of rankings points and must be counted in those “best of” equations (see table below).

On the ATP Tour, the nine mandatory events besides the Grand Slams are the nine Masters 1000 tournaments (Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Toronto, Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris). Additionally, “commitment” players (those who were ranked in the top 30 at year-end 2013) can also count their best six events from lower level events.

> View the ATP World Tour rankings

There are four Premier mandatory tournaments that must be counted on the WTA Tour (Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid and Beijing). For top 20 players, the best two results at Premier 5 events (Doha, Rome, Cincinnati, Montreal and Wuhan) will also count. As with the men, the remainder of “best” tournaments can comprise any of the lower level events.

Each week, the rankings points that a player earned at the same time in the previous year expire, which is why you’ll often hear players or commentators talking about “defending points”. If a player won a Grand Slam in the same week of the previous year but lost in the first round of the event in the current year, their ranking would drop.

> Check the WTA Tour rankings

Injury or other circumstantial absences can therefore be  costly for the world’s top  players – if they’re not able to contest a Grand Slam or top-tier events, they receive zero rankings points.

Players can also gain rankings points at season-ending events (for which the top eight players in the men’s and women’s game qualify).

What points are on offer?

WTA Tour ranking points

WTA Tour Events include Winner Finalist SF QF R16 R32 R64 R128
Grand Slams Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open 2000 1300 780 430 240 130 70 10
WTA Championships 1500 1050 690*
Premier Mandatory Beijing, Indian Wells, Miami, Madrid 1000 650 390 215 120 65 35 10
Premier 5 Cincinnati, Doha, Montreal, Rome, Wuhan 900 585 350 190 105 60 1
Premier Birmingham, Brisbane, Charleston, Dubai, Eastbourne, Moscow, New Haven, Paris Indoors, Stanford, Stuttgart, Sydney, Tokyo 470 305 185 100 55 30^ 1
*Players earn an additional 160 points per round robin win
^1 point for 32 player draw events
Other events on the WTA Tour are International events (32) and $125k series events. Players can also earn ranking points on the ITF Circuit.

ATP World Tour ranking points

ATP Tour Events include Winner Finalist SF QF R16 R32 R64 R128
Grand Slams Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open 2000 1200 720 360 180 90 45 10
ATP World Tour Finals 1500*
ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Cincinnati, Indian Wells, Madrid, Miami, Monte Carlo, Paris, Rome, Toronto, Shanghai 1000 600 360 180 90 45 10
ATP 500 500 300 180 90 45 20
ATP 250 250 150 90 45 20
*1500 for undefeated champion (200 for each round robin match win, plus 400 for a semifinal win, plus 500 for the final win)
Players can also earn ranking points at Challenger and Futures events.