Rafael Nadal has not played since January and many times a player attempting a comeback might not have a bunch of rankings points and might have to enter tournaments as a qualifier. Though Nadal still won’t have a lot of rankings points, he will have a protected ranking that will keep him from having to play his way into the main draw. And honestly, Rafael Nadal has earned that.
Nadal was ranked No. 6 when he had to stop playing at the 2023 Australian Open due to a hip injury that eventually required surgery. ATP rules state that a player can petition the ATP CEO and request to have a protected status when entering a tournament as long as that player had not played a tournament in the previous six months due to injury. For the Spaniard, of course, it has been almost a year since he stopped playing.
Other players are also going to have protected rankings entering the 2024 Australian Open. These include Marin Cilic (21), Denis Shapovalov (27), and Milos Raonic (33). No offense to those players, but most tennis fans’ eyes will be on Rafael Nadal.
Rafael Nadal, Emma Raducanu and their special rankings
Another player with a recent injury history who won’t have the same kind of luck is 2021 US Open winner Emma Raducanu. The Brit has struggled mightily with injuries over the past year, including surgeries to both wrists and her ankle. But while the WTA does offer what amounts to protected rankings, Raducanu has not been consistently successful enough to have earned a ranking anywhere close to the kind Nadal has.
Raducanu’s ranking is 103. To get into the Australian Open without qualifying, she probably needs a ranking of less than 100. So there are two options for Raducanu. She could receive a wild card from the tournament to enter without going through qualifying – and this is likely as Raducanu has won a Grand Slam before – or go through qualifying. She will probably be a wild card.
The women’s side of the Australian Open will see a glut of players using their special ranking to get around qualifying and enter as wild cards. These include Angelique Kerber (31), Naomi Osaka (46), Jennifer Brady (14), Ajla Tomjanovic (33), Shelby Rogers (51), Amanda Anisimova (61), Caty McNally (71), Aleksandra Krunic (99), Hsieh Su-wei (106), and Ysaline Bonaventure (109). Still, the favorites are still going to be Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, and Coco Gauff, most likely.