What’s your UTR?

16 Levels of UTR Phasing

16 Levels of UTR Phasing

If you haven’t yet heard of Universal Tennis Rating, or UTR, don’t worry about it. You soon will. Launched in 2005 but kept on the down-low until 2014, it offers an alternative tennis rating system to PPR (points per round) or the old, half-decimal increments currently used by the USTA and promises to reframe, and possibly eliminate, this conversation:

Guy 1: Hey, you play tennis?

Gal 1: Yea, that’s why I’m carrying the racquets and all sweaty and everything.

Guy 1: Nice. I love tennis. What level are you?

Gal 1: Level?

Guy 1: Like, a USTA level? 3.5, 4.0, or something?

Gal 1: Ah. Maybe a 5.0? I played D1.

Guy 1: Wow. I just got bumped up 4.5, myself. That’s like a women’s 5.0, maybe.

Gal 1: Congrats.

Guy 1: We should totally play, it might possibly be competitive.

Gal 1: Well, considering the age and gender differences it’s pretty difficult to say and I’ve been disappointed by unknown match-ups previously, so I’ll pass, thanks. 

And reshape it like this:

Guy 1: Hey, you play tennis?

Gal 1: Yea, that’s why I’m carrying the racquets and all sweaty and everything.

Guy 1: Nice. I love tennis. What’s your UTR?

Gal 1: 9.3. You?

Guy 1: Technically, I’m a 6.

Gal 1: Oh. That means that if we played it wouldn’t be competitive at all, and we don’t even have to try to adjust for the fact that you’re an older man and I’m just a young girl. Have a nice day!

 

The premise of UTR is to create a universal, non-biased (with respect to age, gender, location, etc.) rating system that would accurately predict which matches will be competitive. It’s important to distinguish this from predicting who will win; UTR is not a predictive/betting tool and it does not claim to tell you who will show up and win a match. What it does claim, and what many people are recognizing that it does very accurately, is predict whether two players would have a competitive match.

A competitive match, as defined by UTR, is: Any match in which the losing player wins at least one game more than half the minimum number of games that are required to win a match. In a common best-2-sets-our-of-3 format, that’s seven games. Whenever a player has won at least that many games in a match, the player is said to have reached the Universal Tennis “Competitive Threshold. So, losing 4 and 3 is competitive. Losing 3 and 2 is not. [Ed Note: Competitive Threshold is trademarked]

Shelby Rogers is a proponent of UTR

World #60 Shelby Rogers is a proponent of UTR

How can UTR be positively applied?

Recruiting – The UTR folks posted a quote from Audra Cohen, head coach at USF, saying, “Universal Tennis is the most useful recruiting tool we have for evaluating the level of each recruit.” This is precisely what UTR promises to be, a non-biased standard for players across the country and the world.

Socially – Tennis is a social game but it’s also potentially clique’ish. Guys play with guys. Younger women play with younger women. Kids play with kids. UTR presents us with the potential for high schoolers to play in the same tournament events as college players and as adults, across both genders. Imagine a competitive final between a highly competitive high school girls player and a highly 45 year-old man, both of whom beat active college players en route to the final. It’s a different tournament experience.

Financially – By making competitive tennis more easily accessible it reduces the financial strain of traveling to attend specific tournaments. Instead of driving across your state or region, spending two nights in a hotel and eating out for a competitive under-14 girls tournament, players can play a UTR tournament closer to home without sacrificing any competitive advantage or tennis rating. Competitive tennis is expensive, often prohibitively so, and UTR hopes to alleviate some of this burden.

 

As with many young technologies there is the simultaneous energy and optimism of the potential disruption it represents to the tennis landscape, coupled with the obvious challenges between its current state and universal adoption. UTR is presented as a globally-accepted alternative to PPR, which is widely used amongst competitive players by the USTA and ITF. For recreational players, UTR represents a more sophisticated, precise option to the USTA’s National Tennis Rating Program, which has a range of 1.5-7.0, with .5 incremental increases, and is based on player development phases rather than competitive relativity. In the tennis world, the USTA exerts a powerful opinion and isn’t known for being an early adapter, so it should be seen as a testament to the potential of UTR that the USTA is already incorporating UTR at some national tournaments.

Time will tell how widespread UTR will develop, and for now we’ll leave you with a question for the future: What’s your UTR?

Learn more about UTR on their website, www.universaltennis.com