Saturday, November 10, 2012

“Grrrrr....they lied about their NTPR Rating!?”

Ever left the tennis court feeling like “grrrrr....they lied about their NTPR Rating!?”

Have you ever set up a match with a stranger only to show up and they are either worse than they claimed, or better yet creamed you!? Well sometimes it is neither yours nor your partner’s fault. The National Tennis Rating Program (NTPR) rating sucks mainly because it leaves ample room for misuse. USTA’s definition of the NTRP:

“it is the official system for determining the levels of competition for USTA League”

According to the USTA it serves to moderate competition allowing for fair and balanced fun for competitors in USTA regulated competitions.
The unregulated self-assessments encouraged by the system is well intended but leaves room for misappropriation, at least until officiated matches. Players inflate or deflate their level for various reasons and because the specifications for each of the levels are general and bleed through, there is room for error even for well-intended tennis players.
Inaccurate ratings are not always the players’ fault. Well informed coaches and clubs misuse the rating system as well. Whatever the momentary convenience served by these manipulations are, it further fuels the confusion when players from various regions or clubs get together to play and mismatches of supposedly similarly rated players occur.

The system has 2 obvious downsides. From 0-4.5 the rating downplays the importance of experience in players. Sophistication in strategy and game planning is amassed over time and just being an avid watcher of high level competitions of tennis can result in a lowly rated player, according to the rating system, demonstrating undeniable match play superiority.  After 5.0+, the system variably defines the same players in different words and the definitions all become relative in accuracy. Players who are 5.0+ rarely share their ratings and sanctioned tournament categorizes them as “open”. So the obvious differentiator between 5.0, 6.0 and 7.0 is the level of tournaments they play otherwise the rating suggests that you are equally capable in skill and execution at this point.

On your next tennis match up with an unknown player, I encourage you to lenient and do not be disappointed if a player turns out subpar or too strong. One of my memorable losses was at the hands of men the NTRP rating cannot rate, literally. These gentlemen were among my then coaches friends and belonged to a local sports club. We (doubles partner) on the other hand were supposedly from an elite tennis program known for producing NCAA DI champions, Davis Cup players and ITF players (still do by the way). Armed with our NTPR defined or acknowledged top-spins versus their NTPR shunned herky-jerky self -taught strokes. Far removed from our fast hard courts onto their slippery fine pale clay, our fancy NTPR rating compliant spins and hard flat shots were neutralized and we were mercilessly sliced and diced to humility! The men in their 30s-40s knew they were slaughtering tennis royalty, so despite the fact that we were 11 year olds, taunting us was not too far beneath them! Given a heads up, we could have beaten these men, actually highly likely, but on that particular and an moment and simply put, experience trumped both youth and talent.
NTRP Playing Levels

1.5 Beginner: You have limited experience and are working primarily on getting the ball in play.

2.0 Beginner: You lack court experience and your strokes need developing. You are familiar with the basic positions for singles and doubles play.

2.5 Beginner: You are learning to judge where the ball is going, although your court coverage is limited. You can sustain a short rally of slow pace with other players of the same ability.

3.0 You are fairly consistent when hitting medium-paced shots, but are not comfortable with all strokes and lack execution when trying for directional control, depth, or power. Your most common doubles formation is one-up, one-back.

3.5 You have achieved improved stroke dependability with directional control on moderate shots, but need to develop depth and variety. You exhibit more aggressive net play, have improved court coverage and are developing teamwork in doubles.

4.0 You have dependable strokes, including directional control and depth on both forehand and backhand sides on moderate-paced shots. You can use lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys with some success and occasionally force errors when serving. Rallies may be lost due to impatience. Teamwork in doubles is evident.

4.5 You have developed your use of power and spin and can handle pace. You have sound footwork, can control depth of shots, and attempt to vary game plan according to your opponents. You can hit first serves with power and accuracy and place the second serve. You tend to over hit on difficult shots. Aggressive net play is common in doubles.

5.0 You have good shot anticipation and frequently have an outstanding shot or attribute around which a game may be structured. You can regularly hit winners or force errors off of short balls and can put away volleys. You can successfully execute lobs, drop shots, half volleys, overhead smashes, and have good depth and spin on most second serves.

5.5 You have mastered power and/or consistency as a major weapon. You can vary strategies and styles of play in a competitive situation and hit dependable shots in a stress situation.

6.0 to 7.0 You have had intensive training for national tournament competition at the junior and collegiate levels and have obtained a sectional and/or national ranking.

7.0 You are a world-class player.