Especially for grand slam and Masters series lists, you have one player who is always out : you can say the first alternate is just in, it's simple, no it's not that simple because the first alternate can withdraw without getting a zeropointer, which he couldn't do if he was in directly.
I hope Roddick writes a letter during the off-season to the ATP as Safin and Ljubicic did.
one word : horrible, just horrible. A mess for all people who deal with the ATP lists, and I can only think that many people kept on hoping Sampras to come back when they saw his name. I remember that in the end of 2002, for the predictions who would win Wimbledon 2003, some people still believed Sampras would come back and win it.
I can't say it's "unfair" but it's horrible for the clarity of the Tour, of the rules and rankings.
Interesting. I see your point with first alternate, but I am unsure why it is a bad thing for 1st alternates to be able to withdraw easily.
For Roddick, I hope he'll stay in the rankings as he's got a nice series of weeks ranked in the top-50 and top-100. No reason not to prolong them IMO.
As for Sampras, I always thought he was unsure whether or not he'd continue playing. He suspected 2002 USO was it, but if in doubt then you shouldn't really announce retirement, should you?