Of course, at the very top end are the ATP and WTA rankings, based on a player’s results at professional tournament level over the last year. These are used to determine seedings and direct qualifications for the various official competitions over the season.
But if you’re reading this my guess is you’re not on that list. No offence.
For us mere mortals there are a confusing number of competing algorithmic ranking systems depending on which part of the world you come from and which associations you play in.
In 2008, the UTR or Universal Tennis Rating system was introduced to try to overcome that. A single, point based metric that would apply regardless of age, level or geography. Incorporating results over the past calendar year, the system offers a 16 point scale where 1.0 is absolute beginner and 16 is… Rafa Nadal.
Nice idea, right?
Well yes, except that back in 2019 the ITF (International Tennis Federation) announced the introduction of the World Tennis Number (WTN), a world wide rating system ranging from 40 (beginners) to 1 (Pros) using a whole other mysterious results based algorithm.
Certain federations have decided to use the UTR while others have gone with the WTN meaning the system is now more flooded with confusing abbreviations than ever. AKA – WTF?
So how do I find my rating?
If you’re at the level where you’re interested in playing competitively, get in touch with your local tennis association (the LTA, USTA, Tennis Australia etc) and register. They’ll assign you with an initial rating allowing you to start playing tournaments at which stage your results themselves will determine your level.
What if I only play recreationally?
At recreational level the simplest method to determine your own rating is using the USTA’s NTRP system (I promise, after this no more acronyms).
NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) offers a (relatively) straightforward numerical indicator of tennis ability from 1.0 (absolute beginner) to 7.0 (touring pro).
Knowing your NTRP number makes it easy to connect with players in your area at a similar level allowing you to arrange games without risking pointless mismatches.
The rating system will also help you to find an appropriate coach and describe your level without needing to show it on court. And if you do decide you want to start playing competitively you’ll be able to find tournaments to suit you.
While an experienced coach will be able to assess and assign you a rating based on your game, if you want to do it yourself the USTA provides a fairly clear set of criteria for each level.
Take a look at the below and find out which number best reflects your game.
1.0 – You’re a Bowie. AKA an Absolute Beginner. You’ve never picked up a racket and wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did. Stop reading this and get out there.
1.5 – You’ve played a few times and you probably know the rules by now but you still struggle with your swing and it’s all you can do to get the ball back into court.
2.0 – You’re familiar now with the basic strokes and can get the ball back in play but your timing is often off and your positioning on court could use some work.
2.5 – Stroke consistency is improving. You can maintain a rally now from the back of the court with a similar level of player. Your service is coming on but may suffer from an inconsistent ball toss and you’re not quite comfortable with changing grips for different strokes. The good news? You can start to think about playing full matches both socially and at low-level tournaments.
3.0 – You’re pretty consistent now playing at a medium pace but one or two strokes still lack accuracy or pace. You may struggle when facing varying pace and still lack ability at the net.
3.5 – All strokes have reached a level of dependability if lacking in variety in depth and pace. You’re better now at the net but limited when it comes to lobs, overheads and approach shots.
4.0 – Improved directional control on both forehand and backhand strokes at moderate pace. Effective use of lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys. Your serve is strong now and capable of forcing errors from your opponent. Second serve is consistent and dependable.
4.5 – You’re able to vary your play with pace and spin and cover the court effectively. You may even have a weapon to build your game around and offset any weaknesses. You may still overhit difficult shots.
5.0 – Shot anticipation is now strong. You can hit a range of winners off of short balls and put away volleys. Both serves are now effective with good depth and spin on the second serve.
5.5 – You can still do all of the above but now with impressive pace and consistency. You can adopt various strategies depending on your opponent’s game and keep your head under stress. You’re an animal.
6.0 – 7.0 – Congratulations! You’ve had intensive training for national tournaments and you’ve landed yourself a national ranking. You’ve certainly outgrown this guide.
Hopefully this guide will help you determine your rating and arrange matches with players at a similar level. Remember, the best way to improve your game is to play against a variety of similar (or slightly better) players than you.
Who knows, you could be troubling those ATP/WTA rankings yet.