ATP Finals trophy held aloft

ATP Finals: Format, history, qualification criteria and statistics

The ATP Finals stands as the pinnacle event that brings the men’s tennis tour to a close each November. 

As the ultimate face-off, it assembles the top eight singles players and doubles teams, all vying for the coveted title of ATP Finals champion. 

Novak Djokovic is the defending singles champion as he went on an unbeaten run in Turin last year to claim his 6th title at the year-end championships. In the doubles, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury went one better than they did in 2021 to pick up their maiden ATP Finals trophy, capping off another remarkable year. 

History of the ATP Finals 

The ATP Finals, which began in 1970 as the ‘Masters Grand Prix’, has undergone several name changes and organisational shifts over the years. Initially, it was a showcase event for the best male players, although it did not offer world ranking points. 

In 1990, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) took over and renamed it the ‘ATP Tour World Championships’, making it a significant event in the calendar with world ranking points now at stake. Concurrently, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) – who previously organised the Masters Grand Prix – created a rival year-end tournament. 

However, in 1999, the ATP and ITF merged their events into one; the ‘Tennis Masters Cup’. This competition still featured eight players with unique qualification criteria, including Grand Slam winners who were outside the top eight in the rankings. 

The tournament has since undergone a few name changes but is now referred to as the Nitto ATP Finals, and is played with the same format and similar qualification rules. 

The location of the ATP Finals is determined through a bidding process, where cities and venues submit proposals to the ATP, outlining their plans for the tournament. Once the venue is decided and a scheduled amount of time is outlined for hosting the event, the contract is signed. 

One of the main aims of the ATP is to rotate the location periodically, seeking to showcase the event in different cities and regions. This rotation allows fans from various locations to attend the tournament and helps promote the sport globally. 

So far, the ATP Finals has been held across 15 cities in 11 different countries over 53 years of existence, with Turin set to host the tournament until 2025. 

Tournament format 

The current format of the ATP Finals is a thrilling culmination of the tennis season, marked by its unique structure and stringent qualification criteria. 

Qualification criteria 

To qualify for this prestigious year-end event, singles players and doubles teams must accumulate ranking points throughout the year by competing in various ATP tournaments. 

The top eight players with the highest accumulated points in the singles category and the top eight doubles teams based on combined points earn their coveted spot in the ATP Finals. 

In contrast to the typical ATP ranking system, which considers points earned from tournaments over the previous year, eligibility for the Finals hinges exclusively on a player’s performance within the current calendar year, resulting in a hyper-focused assessment of who has had the best season. 

ATP Finals format (round-robin)

After determining the top eight contenders, they are seeded (based on ranking) and then separated into two groups, each comprising of four players (or teams in the doubles event). In this phase, each player competes against every other participant in their respective group once. 

The group winners are determined by the overall record after the three matches. If two players are tied on the same record, their head-to-head result decides the winner. Additionally, in the case that three players are level, the number of sets won, then games won, becomes crucial in determining the higher-ranked. 
Once decided, the winners of each group are positioned in distinct semi-final brackets. This entails the top player/team from group A facing off against the runner-up from group B, and vice versa. The knockout stage consists simply of these semi-final matchups followed by a final to crown the ATP Finals champion(s). 

Rankings points

Round-robin match win 200
Semi-final win 400
Final win 500
Undefeated champion 1500

ATP Finals prize money


Alternate $150,000
Participation Fee $320,000 (Based on playing three matches)
Round-robin match win $383,300
Semi-final match win $1,070,000
Final win $2,220,400
Undefeated champion $4740,300

Doubles (per team)

Alternate $50,000
Participation Fee $130,000 (Based on playing three matches)
Round-robin match win $93,300
Semi-final match win $170,000
Final win $350,400
Undefeated champion $930,300

ATP Finals – statistics

Ilie Nastase holds the best winning percentage at the ATP Finals, with a win-loss record of 22-3. The Romanian has won the tournament four times, with three titles coming in consecutive years from 1971-1973. 

Federer and Djokovic share the record for the most titles at the ATP Finals (6), but it is the Swiss man who leads the way on the number of years qualified for the event (18). He also holds the record for all-time match wins (59). 

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Jerome Coombe, Tennishead Writer, discovered his love for tennis journalism whilst studying languages and playing competitive tennis. He has a vast knowledge of tennis and strives to shed a light on all corners of the sport.