USTA Rankings Explained

Larry Turville
Understanding the USTA rankings can be confusing, so thanks to Larry Turville, here are the basics.

There are two overall rankings: the National and the Sectional.

In the Florida section we have two rankings:
1) The seedings list which includes all players in and out of Florida and is very helpful as a starting place for seeding.
2) The tentative ranking is just for Florida players only and at the end of the year becomes the final ranking for the Florida Section.

For the National ranking there are also two basic ranking types:
1) The rolling ranking is updated almost weekly and includes the past 12 months results and
2) The tentative ranking only includes results from January forward (same as Florida).

The National ranking includes two doubles rankings (individual and team) while the Florida only has team .

Ok, the differences between the two rankings:

Both use a “best of” points per round system with the difference is that Florida has 5 as the number of tournaments that count (4 for doubles) and National has 4. In the best of system you are rewarded for playing more tournaments than the max number that count in that if you have a better tournament that replaces a weaker one.

Florida, in order to encourage play in Florida only, two National events count in its ranking and in its final Florida ranking those National tournaments must be in Florida (there are three Cat II events in FL).

A Little History

Rankings used to be done by human rankers (I did the 80’s div.) and although there was a method to use there was a lot of room for human interpretation. Then at the end of the year there were always protests as there are now in tournament seeding.

So the answer was to go the way of the computer where there could be no protests and no need for human rankers. The choice was between a system called the “star system” (only understandable by the programmer) or the points per round system.

The “points per round” was easily understandable and players could check to make sure the points were correct. So that’s what we have now.

The problem is that tournaments vary too much in strength so sometimes players get large points for not really beating anyone. I originally proposed a bonus system that would reward a player based on the level of player he beat and would make the ranking more accurate but was turned down.

Points per round is probably not as accurate as a human ranker but it has its good points and has encouraged players to play more and there is no reason to now to not play. It’s always fun to see a good tournament be added and see your ranking go up.

So there you have it.


Larry Turville
Member of USTA Adult Competition Com. and former Chairman of the FL ACC

6 thoughts on “USTA Rankings Explained

  1. Very helpful, and consistent with my understanding. But can Larry also explain (1) the difference between eligible and ineligible rankings and (2) why one would be given ranking points (ineligible only) in sections where one has not even played a tournament? For example, I started playing men’s 60s tournaments in 2012 in my home section, Middle States, after not having played sanctioned tournaments at all for nearly two decades. I also played one category one national tournament, the men’s 60s on grass, which is played at Forest Hills in the Eastern section. At the end of the year, in addition to having earned modest Middle States and National rankings in my age group, which I expected, I was surprised to see that I also had received rankings points in two sections that I never played any tournament – Southern and Florida. I also received seedlings points in Florida. I also received points in the Eastern section, although I guess that is because the grass nationals were played there. I assume the reason for the Southern and Florida points may be because some of the players that I played and beat had themselves played tournaments in those sections, even though I did not, but that is merely an assumption and this is nowhere explained by the USTA. It also fails to account for why I would not see points displayed for other sections around the nation because the same players that I faced may have themselves played other tournaments just about anywhere.

  2. Once they use the computer for rankings, protests stop… I remember one year , using the old system, the USTA had Jimmy Connors & Stan Smith Co- No. One at the end of the year. Can you imagine ? By then Jimmy was twice the player Stanley ever was; but he was still the fair haired boy in the eyes of the USTA. Now the rankings are all accepted as gospel… Only when injuries cause great players to drop in points do they ever have to make adjustments…

  3. This is reply to Marty Judge’s comment. I am not sure I can answer all of your question , but in regards to Florida when a Florida player plays in a National that information for all the players is downloaded. Then those players who have played in Florida regardless where they are from are put on the seeding list. Those players who have not played in Florida but have played in outside Nationals that have been downloaded are then listed on the in eligible list. For the National ranking players are put on the I eligible list until they have played a Cat I National. Each section has their own rules so they some may not include players from outside the section. Hope this helps .

  4. To Larry Turville: Thanks for the additional information. I think I understand, but it is still a bit confusing made so by the fact that, apparently, different sections follow different rules for ranking players in those sections. So, you literally never have to play a tournament within some sections, like Florida, in order to still get ranking points in those sections. Kind of wierd if you are from another section.

    BTW, I agree with your point that ranking points should be weighted by the quality, based on the record, of the players that one plays against. Presently, it does appear that you can “game” the system mainly by entering a lot of tournaments and getting ranking points merely by playing a lot or playing a few rounds against less skilled opponents, as opposed to actually beating more difficult opponents in a smaller number of tournaments. Indeed, ranking points are even awarded for drawing a bye or having an opponent default against you, so there is great advantage in just entering as many tournaments as you can and merely showing up.

    Another pet peeve that I have is, in some sections (mine included), playing in “invitation only” events, like inter-districts, qualifies for substantial ranking points in the indicated age group. In fact, the ranking points are substantially greater than what may be awarded for winning a comparable round in a regular sanctioned tournament. This winds up perpetuating the “old boy” (i.e., elitist) system that the USTA used to be known for because invitations to play are not handed out based on existing rankings but, rather, are at the sole discretion of the district captains. So, it can happen and in fact does happen every year that higher ranked players get passed over and are not invited to play the inter-districts by captains who choose lower ranked players that just happen to be their favorites or friends. If those lower ranked players manage to win a round or two in the inter-districts, and they sometimes do, then they get substantial ranking points that can, and do, push them ahead of previously higher ranked players who have been denied the opportunity even to play in the inter-district event. The ranking points awarded for playing the inter-districts can be so substantial that they literally can take the place of playing and winning several rounds in regular tournaments.

    Enough griping. When they elect me emperor, I will fix the system.

  5. Hi Larry, Bob or Marty or whoever knows the answer:
    I am in my 60s and enjoy singles, and would like to play singles tournaments for my age. How do the players compare to 3.5 ratings at this age. Are the mostly higher? What does Category ll mean? thank you

    Steel: From my personal experience (as a 4.5 player), i am right in the middle of the “quality curve”. There are some 3.5 players who enter for the learning experience (and hopefully look to improve)… the players who end up being seeded tend to all be 4.5+ players; and they usually beat the rest of us. Category II means it is a tournament that gives double points for successful rounds. Similar to the pro’s: their Grand Slams are our National Tournaments; and their Master Series tournaments (next level down) are our Cat II; and the rest of theirs and ours are just USTA sanctioned tournaments. Hope this helps. Enter one and see how it feels! george

  6. Additional response to Steel: I agree 100% with the advice the George gave and his description of what Category II means. I write only to add that you should not be scared away from entering or playing any tournaments that you want. George speaks from the experience of playing tournaments mostly in Florida, which is a hotbed of very strong players. George is correct about the level of players that typically play in the Florida tournament circuit. Other states/ locations that, in my experience, also tend to have very strong players relative to the rest of the country include California, Texas, Georgia (especially the Atlanta area), and South Carolina (especially the barrier islands and nearby areas). Basically, the Sun Belt states. But if you happen to be located in one of the many other USTA sections around the country, it may not always be the case that you will even meet up against 4.5+, 4.5 or even 4.0 level players in playing sanctioned, age group specific (I.e., over 60 tournaments). For example, I am in Middle States and a lot of the guys that I have met and played against in various over 55 and over 60 tournaments are in the range of 3.5 to 4.0 level players. Chalk it up to the climate, I suppose, but older guys who actually play at the 4.5 level are kind of rare in these parts. I suspect it is similar in other non-Sun Belt locations. Finally, don’t rule out the possibility of finding USTA sanctioned level of play tournaments as well. That is, you may be able to find quite a few 3.5 and below or 4.0 and below tournaments in your section that you could enter initially, just to get some experience and exposure to the pressures of tournament tennis and you could then switch to the age group tournaments at a later date. A lot of players do this if they have never actually played tournaments before. Further, I believe level of play tournaments are becoming increasingly popular all over the country – in the warm weather, the are always a few each month in Middle States – and you can find such tournaments for singles, doubles and even mixed. Just log onto Tennis Link on the USTA web site.

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