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Ask USTA Florida: Age and NTRP Ratings; US Open National Playoffs Qualifying

April 14, 2010 07:00 PM
By Rick Vach, ustaflorida.com

Each month USTA Florida staff will answer three questions from the number of questions we regularly receive regarding leagues, rankings, tournaments, seeding, and various other topics on tennis in the Sunshine State and beyond:

Q: I am one of the members that had their [NTRP] rating raised from 3.0 to 3.5. I am 74 yrs. old and have some physical liabilities that hamper my game. My Florida success in the 3.0 USTA play is approximately 5 wins-25 losses. Super Seniors USTA record four years ago was approximately 5 wins-5 losses. This season my 3.0 record in USTA match play is zero wins and 4 losses. By raising my rating, tennis is no longer, "The sport of a life time." I would at least like to be competitive at the level at which I play. What procedure may I use to appeal my rating change?

A: The USTA National Oversight Group (NOG) is the organization that oversees the calculation of the national Year-End Ratings, and also the daily dynamic ratings generated to monitor any self-rated players who need to be moved to a higher level.

Unfortunately the NOG does not take age and physical liabilities into account -- only results -- for now, but changes are possibly afoot.

As the NOG replied to the particular inquiry listed above, "The rating system does not take age into account at all.  It just looks at each match individually and assigns ratings based on whether the player wins or loses and more importantly, how strong (the rating value) of the opponents and partners are and the closeness of the score of the match. Thus senior players will see their rating go down when not performing well against some opponents, as opposed to having some factor assigned and subtracted to their rating because of their age. We have continually seen that this approach works properly. Age is factored into the system in the sense that as players age and have less and less success in their NTRP levels, their rating eventually drop down into the next lower level.  

"The levels of play are actually quite broad. A player who is moved up by a small margin may find that it is a struggle to win games over a player at the very top of the new level...Thousands of players at the top of each level move up every year. For these players, there should not be a huge change in the people with whom you have competitive matches. They and you are just playing with a different label attached. 

"We (National Oversight Group) recognize that this is a year of significant change...we were compelled to act to maintain the integrity of the NTRP system and its descriptions of play and to respond to the growing number of players who were expressing dissatisfaction because they felt that winning a local league and progressing to championship level play were only reachable by an elite group who were always the same people."

The good news, says USTA Florida Director of Leagues Sandy Marshall, is "The National Oversight Group is presently recognizing the aging player base and developing strategies to ensure retention. Policies determined should be felt at the Section level by the 2012 championship year."

Any ratings appeals inquiries in Florida can go to marshall@florida.usta.com.

Q: Is there any way for a USTA League player to find out their Dynamic Computer Tennis Rating (DCTR) where the rating is carried out to three decimal points instead of just the .5 range?

A: This is a tough one, as it could open the door to players attempting to manipulate their ratings. For example, if you were a 3.5-rated player and knew your current dynamic NTRP rating was 3.501, and you knew a couple losses could bring you below 3.5 for the next season (dropping you to a 3.0 player), some players might be encouraged to purposely lose matches to affect their ratings, which could then dilute the competitiveness of USTA League play and allow players to "game" the system.

Aside from my speculation of potential wrong doing (not that I'm saying players are dishonest! Though I know a few male friends that would go to great lengths if they could be moved from 5.0 to 4.5...) -- it's not going to happen anytime in the near future.

"The USTA National League Rules/Regulations do not allow the disclosure of a player's actual dynamic NTRP rating in 100th of a point," says USTA Florida Director of Leagues Sandy Marshall. "This would be a very difficult task to accomplish because players who participate in the Adult and/or Senior League programs generate a dynamic rating after every match played, henceforth it is continually changing. The computer year-end ratings are the most accurate reflection of a players level of ability as it averages the match ratings with the championship components."

Q: Who can play in the US Open playoffs [US Open National Playoffs Qualifying-Florida] and why are they doing this tournament? Can juniors play or only adults?

A: Any male or female 14 years of age or older can compete in the US Open National Playoffs Qualifying-Florida, which will be held at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton on May 29-June 4, 2010. For a look at the multitude of personalities entered, click here for the latest player feature or click here to see the current entry list.

"I think we're going to see a diverse group participate in this first-ever event," said Tournament Director Rick Workman. "Collegiate players, Challenger and Futures-level tour players, league players, international players, many of our top Florida juniors and even some coaches, just to name a few!"

A large number of 3.5-5.0 NTRP-rated players are signing-up at events around the country to experience the event, and to be able to say they've played in the US Open (National Playoff Qualifying). The events also have NO SEEDING, so every player has a chance at a great draw that would otherwise go only to top-seeded players.

The event gives any player a chance to make it through the event in Florida and qualify for the national event featuring all the USTA Section winners. The winner of the national event receives a wildcard into the actual US Open qualifying draw the weekend before the US Open in Flushing Meadows, NY.

Why is the USTA debuting this tournament? Now the US Open is truly 'open,' with a chance for anyone to play the event.

"Nothing is impossible unless you choose not to try," said legendary coach Nick Bollettieri, commenting on the US Open National Playoff Qualifying. "These tournaments could make someone's dream come true." I'll be playing the event myself, and my dream will come true if I meet a 3.5-level player and get through the first round rather than getting pummeled by some 6-foot-5 college player or a Bollettieri student.

For additional info on the USTA Florida Section event go to: http://www.usopen.org/National_Playoffs/florida.aspx

Have a question for Ask USTA Florida? Please e-mail to news@florida.usta.com.






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