Universal Tennis Rating – UTR

JTCC Senior Coach Ben Cappuccitti advocates the benefits of using the UTR system:

Let me start with one of the greatest tennis lessons I have ever been taught. I was 12 years old and was competing in a French men’s open tournament. In my first round I played against a 40 year old gentleman. In the French system, players enter at different stages in the draw depending on their ratings. So, while I had yet to play a match this was his third match, as I had a better ranking than him. I was beating him in a very arrogant and disrespectful fashion.  I would shout “Allez!” (Come on!) after every point I won and made a number of demeaning comments after my mistakes. During a changeover in the middle of the second set, the gentleman finally spoke up “kid, you’re better than me at tennis and you will beat me today but I am 40 and a lawyer. I can tell you are a jerk and that will get you nowhere in life. I will have a word with your parents after the match.” The lesson he taught me, a lesson about humility didn’t resonate with me for very long as a kid, however, as a grown man it still gives me chills of shame to think about it.

In 2005 I started working as a junior tennis coach and had to become familiar with the USTA ranking system. Or I should say systems, since the ones used for adults and juniors are oddly very different. This was very surprising to me since back in France, our ranking system was the same for everyone, regardless of age.

The other surprise was that every couple of years or so, American juniors had to rebuild their sectional and national rankings almost from scratch in order to make progress in a new age group. The whole system felt counterintuitive but if Sampras, Agassi, Courier, Chang, Martin, Roddick, etc., all came out of it, then it was hard for me to be a doubter.

The most shocking thing to me when I attended my first sectional tournament as a coach was that every player entered the tournament in the same round regardless of their ranking. This led to a large number of very one sided matches!

In 2007, I was delighted to hear that a group of tennis fanatics had come up with a different way to rank players. They named their system the Universal Tennis Rating, or UTR. Very much like my beloved French ranking system, this group had built an algorithm that would give each player who had competed in at least 30 matches in the past 12 months a ranking going from 1.00 (beginner) to 16.00 (#1 ATP). They had even found a way to rank men and women on the same scale with supposedly the same accuracy. Even if this sounded subjective, it was really cool to hear.

In the past ten years, the algorithm has been fine-tuned but it is based around the amount of games won and lost at the level where you are playing. It means that not only do wins and losses count, but the closeness of matches does too. Two players competing at the same sectional level can therefore have very different UTR rankings if one of them wins easily and loses narrowly and the other one just wins but loses by big margins. The result is that if they won the same number of sectional matches, they could have very close sectional rankings but one would be considerably higher on the UTR scale.

College coaches understand the value of this system. They are now using the UTR system to help with their recruitment. It makes it easier for them to compare foreigners and Americans, since six national federations (USA, Australia, UK, Brazil, Poland, and Bulgaria) and six tennis organizations (ATP, WTA, ITF, ITA, Tennis Europe, and Ten-Pro) are recording their results with UTR.

The use of a universal ranking makes it much easier to establish if a match can be competitive. The concept of having players compete with others in their range (regardless of age or even gender), can help determine how close a match might be. The reasoning is simple: tight competition assists with players improving at a faster pace.

All of us at JTCC recognize the value of the UTR system. It is without a doubt going to shape the future of American tennis so please get familiar with the system, sign up for free, and if you’re an active player claim your profile at https://universaltennis.com/

We are really excited about bringing UTR competitions to JTCC.  Ideally we also want to use it in our own programming to give everyone the most challenging training possible. This is why we are planning on using the ratings starting this summer to provide everyone with close matches.

Trust Your Training,

Coach Ben

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