A new system for rating tennis players of all ages, sexes, and skill levels has begun to roll out in the form of the Universal Tennis Rating (UTR) system. Eventually, all tennis players will have a UTR score, similar to golfer handicaps and chess player rankings. For now, top players like Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic carry a score of 16.26 and 16.27 respectively. Serena Williams is ranked at 13.34.
In tennis, match scores can range from 6-0 to 7-6 and anything in between. The goal is to pit players within a 1.0 point rating against one another for an equally competitive game. The UTR was established after researching thousands of matches. According to Fugate, a 14.36-rated player and winner of the 2015 Boston UTR tournament, “[The UTR] encompasses all of the different ranking/rating systems out there. I’ve spoken with many tournament directors at the tournaments that I play, and they occasionally tell me how cumbersome it can be to track down the players, one by one, using three or four different websites in order to seed them correctly. The UTR system seems much more efficient. It worked well at the Boston Open: the top four seeds made the semifinals, the top two were in the finals, and the number-one seed won the tournament. Of all the tournaments I’ve played, I can only remember this happening a handful of times.”
Many players find the new UTR system to be accommodating, covering a wider range of participants. UTR events guarantee that individuals have the opportunity to play against someone of similar ability. If the UTR system gains international popularity, it could potentially change the way tennis players interact worldwide. In the past 4 years, college tennis has embraced the UTR method. Currently, the United States ranks players on a points per round (PPR) model that often incorporates the strength individual tournaments, ranking players based on how far they’ve made it. What’s more, the USTA divides the nation into 17 sections, distributing top tennis players around the country. Places like Southern California are oversaturated with top talent, making it difficult for players from other regions to succeed. The PPR method also allows for players to rack up points simply by competing in tournaments with weaker draws.
Moving forward, the UTR hopes to solve discrepancies in ranking. More locals will have the opportunity to compete with one another instead of traveling across the nation, expanding the pool of young, eligible players.