When you start to play tennis there is always an urge to improve and compete with other players, particularly as you develop your game.

It’s like you’ve got the tennis bug, constantly looking to fine tune your shots, movement, tactics and physicality

However, when it comes to finding competition, it is not always easy to match yourself against players of a similar standard. 

Sure, you may have a few players at your local club or in your community that you can play a competitive match with.

But, outside of that it can be difficult to fund healthy competition. This is an issue as a lot of recreational players really need competition in order to get better at tennis. 

Testing your game out on the match court is a fundamental part of improving your game, as you can really see what stands up to the pressures of competition and what breaks down. 

One of the major problems with trying to find competition is the different rating systems in tennis.

Each country has their own rating system and they are often split into junior and senior ratings, making the transition into the adult game a confusing one. 

Fortunately, there is now a Universal Tennis Rating which seeks to solve these issues and give tennis players a common understanding of competition and playing level. 

But, is this a legitimate solution or is it just another gimmick? Well, that’s what we are here to find out! 

 

What is the UTR System?

 

The UTR is an algorithmic tennis ranking system that seeks to give all recreational tennis players worldwide a common ground to compete from.

Even some of the world’s best players such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have UTR ratings now! 

The idea is that players are ranked on a single 16 point scale that only factors in playing ability and does not take nationality, gender, age or where a match is being played into account. 

The thinking behind the UTR development is that traditional ranking systems are based on match wins alone, so the more matches you can play, the higher your chances of winning at a higher frequency.

However, whilst this may work in theory, it does not always produce the best results in practice. 

This is because not every player has the same playing opportunities week in week out.

Also, unlike many other sports that have a single governing body such as Fifa in soccer or the NFL in football, tennis has a range of different competing organisations.

You have the ATP, WTA, ITF and the individual grand slams that all have vested interest in organising and running tennis events across the world. 

This has caused a conflict of interest between these organisations, as they are all competing for the best players in the world to play at their events.

This also creates competition for sponsorship money, viewing rights and prize money amongst other things. 

So, the UTR system seeks to unite tennis players worldwide, by offering a single point of origin that all players can relate to, no matter whether they are playing in the grand slams or at their local club.

This creates more transparency across the tennis world and helps you more accurately determine who the best players in the world really are at the top level, and who you should arrange to play a match with on the weekend at a local level. 

This is quite a revolutionary system compared to a lot of traditional ranking systems.

Just look at the professional game. There are men’s and women’s rankings, senior and junior rankings.

Now, this is obviously the case for a reason, but it is refreshing to know that there is a ranking system out there that does away with any form of distinction and gives an overall, unbiased picture of a player’s tennis level. 

It effectively works in a similar way to a golf handicap. It takes into account your last 30 matches across a 12 month period, so it is certainly a form based indicator.

It is also very interesting to look at some of the highest ranked players in the world and see how you compare to them, both on the men’s and women’s side. 

Since this is a level based rating system, it does not necessarily correlate with a player’s professional, national or local ranking.

It does however, give a very accurate picture of a player’s current standard and can be used to predict match outcomes a lot more reliably than ranking alone. 

 

How Does it Work? 

 

David Howell and Alex Cancado developed the UTR system in 2008 as a way to level the tennis rating playing field. 

The system uses a complex algorithm that processes data from over 800,000 players, across 202 countries.

The system has recorded over 8 million tennis matches so has a lot of data to back it up, and of course the more data that is added over time the more accurate the system becomes. 

The UTR database is composed of data from players of all levels, including recreational, college, university, satellite tour and professional tours. 

Where traditional ranking systems used by the ATP and WTA use a points based system that measures how far a player gets in tournaments throughout the year, the UTR system is a form baked ranking system.

It therefore relies heavily on head to head data, so more accurately depicts a players current playing level.

Where a traditional ranking system may keep a player ranked very highly based on their previous year’s performance (until their previous ranking points drop off), the UTR system takes into account their last 30 matches and is weighted on the level of players they have faced. 

Therefore, it is not necessarily a system that should be used to replace the existing professional ranking systems, as high level professionals are playing tournaments week after week, so a player going deep in an ATP tournament for example is a good indicator of their form.

Plus the fact, the ATP and WTA have their own race ranking system, that is based purely on a player’s form for the calendar year, so this is a more up to date ranking than their own traditional system. 

However, where the UTR system really comes into its own is when you step down from the professional tours into university, college, semi professional and recreational levels. 

Here, there can be a real lack of transparency about playing level as there is a large amount of emphasis placed on tournament performance.

However, you may be a very high level player that simply cannot play that many tournaments due to other commitments, but this would not be taken into account in a traditional ranking system. 

That’s where the UTR system comes in. 

It gives players an accurate representation of their playing level based on three important metrics. match score, opponent UTR rating and recent history. 

The match score is important as it distinguishes between a comfortable win and a tight match, it is based on the percentage of games won. 

The opponent’s UTR rating gives a universal indicator of how good the opponent you beat was, so you will get a higher weighted win for beating a higher ranked player.

This is where the UTR system really comes into its own, as the best way to improve your rating is to beat or at least compete closely with players ranked higher than you.

So, it really encourages you to constantly challenge yourself against better players! 

Recent history refers to your last 30 matches over a 12 month period, so no carrying over ranking points for a whole year! 

 

Takeaways

 

The UTR is a revolutionary tennis ranking system that uses a large database of results across all its members to rank players from the very top of the professional rankings, down to an absolute beginner. 

The idea behind the system is to give all players a level playing field and transparency over their current form, and rank players based on their recent performance rather than their tournament wins. 

This gives a more accurate picture of a player’s current playing ability, as it takes their last 30 matches, their opponent’s rankings and their performance against these players into account when determining their ranking. 

Anyone can sign up and self assess their level, so it is a great way to find similarly ranked players in your area and compete against them!

UTR also works with top management companies including Roger Federer’s Team 8 and the Rafael Nadal Academy to offer tournament facilitation. 

This really is the future of tennis, so sign up and claim your UTR ranking today!