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The system is points-based and looks only at the last 52 weeks of the calendar.
Basically, players gain points for every match they play (even if they lose), with the number of points increasing the further they progress into a tournament.
This means that a low-ranked player can shoot up several ranking spots with a single exceptional performance at a major tournament, but also that the same player can crash back down the ranking list if s/he fails to "defend" their points at the same tournament next year (assuming that their performances at all other tournaments are the same as last year's).
Rankings also determine the draws in tournaments through four different classifications: Of course, the official rankings aren't the whole story and it's important to keep in mind that Grand Slams aren't the only events that matter points-wise (in spite of what news coverage of them might imply), which means that it's perfectly possible for a player to not win a single Slam and still finish the year as No.
Tennis history is split into two main parts: Open Era and pre-Open Era.
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Players can also concede penalty points by repeatedly engaging in 'Unsportsmanlike Conduct'; offences include shouting at officials or players, smashing racquets, deliberately hitting balls at the crowd, distracting opponents and taking too long to serve or change ends.
Serious or repeat offences, such as injuring someone, lead to disqualification, as seen in the 2012 final of Queens.
Tennis is largely an individual and pair sport, but team events are not unheard of.
The Davis Cup, Fed Cup and Hopman Cup are team events (for men, women, and both) from different countries playing each other in a knockout tournament.