When looking at the entry list for the French Open, there are three players that have accepted an entry into the main draw via a protected ranking. The ATP allows players who have missed a significant amount of time over the previous year due to injury (at least six months) to keep an imaginary ranking number to be used to gain entries into tournaments once they return from injury. The number is around what the player was at before the injury and is only used to enter a tournament, not for seeding purposes. A player returning from injury may only enter nine tournaments with his protected ranking.
The first player with a protected ranking (#20) is Tommy Haas. Haas was at one point as high as World #2 (in 2002) but has been hampered by injuries his entire career. He has not played since having surgery on his right hip in February 2011. He made his official comeback in Munich this past week where he played doubles and looked relatively comfortable physically. He has also used his protected ranking to get into Madrid and Rome in the next two weeks. He looks like he will challenge himself immediately in his comeback attempt and go up against the top players in the world to prepare for Roland Garros. Even at the age of 33 Haas still has plenty of talent, reaching the semifinals at Wimbledon (lost to Federer) and taking Federer to five sets at the French Open just two years ago.
Fernando Gonzalez is also using his protected ranking (#55) to get into the main draw at Roland Garros. Unlike Haas, however, he is taking a very different approach to his comeback. Gonzalez (Gonzo for short) accepted a wild card this past week and played in the 250 tournament in Belgrade, losing in the second round to Feliciano Lopez. These next two weeks, instead of playing in the Masters events in Madrid and Rome, he will be playing Challenger (the level below the main ATP Tour) tournaments in Prague and Bordeaux. It's possible he is doing this because his protected ranking would only be high enough to make it into qualifying for the Masters tournaments, but it still shows that he is aiming to get more match play under his belt before Roland Garros and is not so interested in playing the best possible competition this early. Interestingly enough, he has also been out for the last six months with right hip surgery.
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