Age and USTA Ratings

Happy 72nd Birthday to Davo!

Happy 72nd Birthday to Davo!

Is a 4.5 a 4.5 everywhere and at all ages? I believe the answer is NO on both counts and should be dealt with by “the powers that be” (i.e. the USTA).

Regional Differences

One of my senior New Hampshire tennis buddies, B. Manning was just (happily) moved back down to a 4.0 rating, from a 4.5 (which, according to Florida standards he is).

The reason he is happy? With the regional ratings being so strict, there are no nearby 4.5 doubles leagues for him to play in. They are all 4.0 and below. So he would have to travel over an hour to play in those leagues.

But there is no question in my mind, if he were in Florida, he would be rated a solid 4.5 player. So why are there regional differences, shouldn’t the standards be the same?

Age Differences

And he pointed out, if he were to play in those far away 4.5 doubles leagues, he would face competition from players aged 25-35 and surely be over powered.

I am currently rated 4.5 in Florida and have just turned 72 years old. There is no way that my game is the same as – or competitive with – a 35 year old 4.5 player. While my strokes may be as good, he would surely be faster and have much more stamina than me.

But those factors are not taken into account by the USTA. Shouldn’t there be something like a “Senior 4.5” to recognize the difference?

Oxygen Update

You remember the case of tournament player, Winder Bill who was not allowed to have oxygen on the changeovers to take care of his lung problem? He writes: “Waiver request granted with reasonable caveats of releases signed by me and my pulmonologist approving me playing tennis using oxygen supplement.”

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14 thoughts on “Age and USTA Ratings

  1. Great points, George. The NTRP ratings are a joke, proven repeatedly by differences in age and geography. Factors such as weather and court availability make it likely there are more players of many skill levels in places like California and Florida than colder parts of the country.

    But the sad thing here is that league tennis has made all of this even more of a joke. So often I hear tales of a league team that goes to the nationals because it was able, for example, to get a 5.0 player to become a 4.5 in a rather manipulative way. This in turn drops the curve for an entire section. Throw in age and it gets even wackier.

    At my club alone I can think of at least three examples where ratings are misaligned.

    Joel – dubs leagues are the center of the problem! see you soon. george

    Then again, what to do?

  2. George, there are now age NTRP divisions 40+, 55+, and in some states like FL. even 65+ for leagues. The question I can’t answer is if you are a 4.5 does that mean you are a 4.5 in all divisions. Logically that would not make sense, but as we know with the USTA logic does not always count. You would think at a certain age you would automatically be reduced. I guess the problem is you have to play in a 4.5 league and lose before you can get bumped down.

    PS. Great news on Winder , the USTA gets one in the plus column.

    Larry – yes, it would seem that after a certain age (60? 65?) that a 4.5 would automatically be allowed to play at 4.0. thanks, george

  3. an in shape 45 yr old 4.0 player could beat an in shape 70 yr old 4.5 by just
    keeping him out on the court for 2 hours.
    there really be some adjustment based on age.

    JoMac – as i head off to Newk’s camp, i will PROVE that to be true! george

  4. Hi George!

    The senior 4.5 rating that you are refering to is now a 4.0 in Florida. About 5 years ago USTA made a massive upgrading of the rankings and a lot of 4.0 players got bumped up to 4.5. Recently, a lot of these players and those who have been rated 4.5 have now appealed their ratings and are now back to 4.0. We have 5 teams currently registered in a very competitive 65+ USTA league in the Collier region. By looking at the rosters of these teams, including one that I captain out of Lighthouse Bay. you will find many players including some teaching pros that now carry a 4.0 rating.
    George, you may want to appeal your rating down to 4.0?

    Ron – How does one do that? george

  5. Absolutely correct George!!! In fact, i frequently have this discussion when players ask what their rating is. Age MUST enter into it. I have a very strong 72 year-old at my club who, relative to his age, is a definite 5.0 player. However he struggles with 4.0 players that are much younger. Tennis is such a physical game that the inevitable declin we all face as we age must be considered when assigning ratings. Great point!

    greg – thanks. george

  6. If there are certain regions that are stronger than others, those regions should consistently win the regional and national championships. That argument could be supported or disproven by checking the results over several years or decades. While I do think that metropolitan areas can have stronger teams than less populated areas (due mostly go strength of depth) I don’t necessarily think that the “average” 4.0 player in one area is much different than the “average” 4.0 player in another area. I have played NTRP tournaments and leagues in many different areas, and have not noticed much of a difference.

    As to the age difference, I would tend to agree that at the upper NTRP levels age and physicality can play a factor. However, I think at the middle and especially the lower levels it can play much less of a factor. A senior player may not have the strength of a younger player but can win by exploiting the weakness of his opponent. At the lower levels the weakness are there to exploit. At the upper levels the players have fewer weaknesses and are better at compensating for them. Here in Georgia, the 4th ranked player in the 3.0 division is also ranked 3rd in the 80’s. He kicks lots of younger butt all the time.

    Terry – Good points. But if players have the same technical, stroke skill levels, the age factor has to come into play. george

  7. But, will he have any fun playing in a 4.0 league??

    Kevin – If everyone else is his same (true) level, he will! george

  8. Good posts, all around. Hadn’t checked in here for a while & it was nice to see B mentioned. I saw B play in his prime circa 1974 and he was amazing to watch. That he is back playing AT ALL after last winter is a testament to his determination and character. Whether he’s a 4.0, 4.5 USTA, he’s always “10” as a human being and friend!

    Pete: B Manning is all those things and more! thanks. george

  9. What I would like to see would be age and usta tournaments for example 60 & 3.5 or 80 & 4.0. Etc. The draws might be small at first but I believe would gain momentum. I personally have 3.5 60 year olds that will not play 60 year old tournaments against another 60 year old that is 4.5 they say it’s a waste of time and money only to lose first round. If you would win consistently at 3.5 you would be moved up . Even if the draws were smaller you could do it in 2 to 3 days instead of 3 to 4 days saving hotel and meals. The 5.0 older guys can’t really enjoy beating a 3.5 older guy . I believe we can grow the sport hope USTA reads this.

    OhioJack: another variation of that would be having “block seeding” in the tournaments, where the “better players” dont play till the second or third round. George

  10. If a 35 year old 4.5 player can easily beat a 60 year old 4.5 player, then one of them is not “really” a 4.5. Either the younger should be bumped up, or the older should be bumped down. I’ve been told that tournament results do not factor in to the NTRP ratings changes each year. Only league match results are considered. If true, I think this is a problem. If players don’t play in league matches, their ratings will never change. They can be stuck at too low or too high a rating for a looong time. Personally, I would rather not have different ratings for different ages. I’m in my 60’s, and I enjoy playing guys everywhere from their 20’s to their 80’s in NTRP tournaments and leagues. I think match results should be the only determining factor for NTRP. It’s bad enough that women and men have different skill sets at the same NTRP. Throwing in age would make it worse, in my opinion.

    Terry, as i understand the ratings, they are based on strokes and the ability to make them under pressure. They do not take into account speed, strength, or youthful endurance. HERE IS AN IDEA: i was told that Spain does not have a rating system; rather every tennis player is ranked from #1 to xx,000. You are #900 and you beat #895 …you move up. Waddyathink? George

  11. NTRP ratings are based on match results. The USTA computer does not consider age, fundamentally sound strokes, performance under pressure, or anything else other than the final score. Of course those things may have a bearing on the final score. Using the final score seems to me to be the best and fairest way to determine an individuals NTRP. However, I do think the USTA should enter results from tournaments also, rather than just league results. I also think all college match results should be entered into their computer as well. College tennis players, many who are receiving scholarships, are playing on 4.5 league teams. This is a problem, and entering all their collegiate results may help resolve that. It makes sense to me that the more results considered, the more accurate the NTRP’s should be. Spain’s system does sound interesting, and I hope the USTA takes a look at.

    Doug, the problem with “results” is that many people do not play leagues, so have none to enter. George

  12. Hi George—So, here in Germany I just played in my first Leistungsklasse Turnier….a complete and utter waste of time. I’m 61 and I played first an 18 year old and then a 13, because they have the same rating (LK) as I do. For beating them both (they beat themselves) I got more less no LK points, so my rating stays the same and if I play next year on the same team I’ll play #5 and have no good matches. Effectively, I’m done. Here in Germany you can pretty only earn LK points by playing in tournaments, and you have no control over who you play or whether they will have an LK better or worse than you. The guys on my team play in a few tournaments every year, get some points, play in the number 1 or 2 position. I’m not around except in summer, so I don’t have a chance. Unless you play ‘open’ (I’m not good enough…that’s where you find the 25-35 year olds) then you play, unlike in the U.S., in age brackets. If your team wins their league level that year, you move up a division. I think it sucks here….you think it sucks there. I think it sucks more here….in the U.S. it should all be down to pure ability…and I completely agree that your buddy with the 4.5 strokes shouldn’t be rated 4.5 at 72, because age and stamina and speed need also to taken into account, but the NTRP raters just look at strokes. But here, I have no chance whatsoever. At least in the U.S. you can get rerated based on results. Cheers….hope to see you next year….daughter getting married on the 17th. Kevin

    Kevin – Sorry not to see you this year at Newk’s, but enjoy your daughter’s wedding! george

  13. George, the following link is to a recent Sports Illustrated article describing a new Universal Tennis Rating system. This would assign everybody (pros and amateurs; young and old; males and females) a single tennis rating based on a universal scale — a little like a handicap in golf applied to tennis. Perhaps this approach is the answer to the NTRP anomalies that you and other commentators have written about. Here is the article: http://www.si.com/tennis/2015/10/06/universal-tennis-rating-boston-open

    Marty – this is good… a little like the Spanish individual number system that is also based on match results. thanks. george

  14. Tournament play as well as league should be used and let the computer decide. In cases of inaccuracy a player can appeal and make his case. I like the Spanish idea as well with tourneys based on Nat. Ranking. DQs can be used to correct gross inequities and Nat team winners might have to delete a player or two.
    Going to tennis camp hardly seems fair-just kidding

    Ralph – I think that is the right direction. Watch for daily tips from Newk’s! george

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