MADRID - New world number three Andy Murray hit back at number four Novak Djokovic yesterday after the Serb said the current rankings system was cruel.
Djokovic was leap-frogged by Murray in the rankings on Monday despite landing a second title of the year in Belgrade at the weekend and reaching the last three Masters Series finals.
"There always seem to be problems and now it's obviously the rankings," Murray told a news conference after beating Tommy Robredo in the third round of the Madrid Open.
"It's great that Novak [Djokovic] has done well the last few weeks but the first three or four months of the year I played a lot better than him so I think the rankings reflect very well how the guys are playing," the Briton added.
"Until this week I've never heard anyone complain. I think maybe only in the last week it's become a problem for Novak."
Players on the ATP tour have to defend the points they earned during the same week a year earlier, so the reigning champion at an event can only maintain his points tally, not improve it.
"Playing three Masters Series finals in a row and winning a 250 event is incredible success and even then you are dropping a spot down in the rankings," Djokovic said on Wednesday. "That shows how cruel the ranking system is in this sport."
Murray said he had some sympathy for a suggestion by world number one Rafael Nadal for a system that took into account points won over 24 months rather than 12.
"I understand what Rafa's saying with the two-year thing," Murray said.
Murray noted that sometimes players felt obliged to play in mandatory tournaments even if they were carrying injuries.
"If they want to make it a longer, more extended period you have your ranking for, I'm happy with that," he said.
"They've been doing new things with it all the time so let's just leave it how it is for a while."
Meanwhile, world number two Roger Federer dispatched 14th seed James Blake 6-2 6-4 to ease into the Madrid Open quarter-finals yesterday.
The Swiss was joined in the last eight by Andy Murray, who beat Spanish 16th seed Tommy Robredo 7-5 6-1. - Reuters