Palo Alto Tennis Club


The National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) system was developed by the USTA in 1979. If you are new to competitive tennis, read over the description for each of the levels to get an idea of where you might fall. You will find this information useful when participating in Club tournaments and social events. Playing against other people at or near the same ability level makes for a more enjoyable tennis experience.

The best way to rate yourself is to play people who already know their ratings and see how you compare. One thing to keep in mind is that the system is an evaluation of your skills against players of the same sex. In other words, a 3.5 male player and a 3.5 female player would not be considered evenly matched. The rule of thumb is that the woman must be a half-point to a full point higher in order for the match to be fair. Also, since many players compete in both singles and doubles, another thing to consider is that you should rate yourself based on your stronger format.

Most Club members fall in the 3.0 to 4.0 range. Our events tend to cater to players in this range and often use the A/B/C class system to divide the draws. For singles play, 'A' represents 4.0 or higher, 'B' represents 3.5, and 'C' represents 3.0 or below. For doubles play (the ratings of the partners are combined), 'A' represents 8.0 or higher, 'B' represents 7.0, and 'C' represents 6.0 or below. These are only rough guidelines, however, so when draws are smaller than usual, 3.5 players may find them in Class A, 3.0 in Class B, etc.

Ratings in Club activities could be considered an "informal" use of the NTRP system. The rating you adopt for USTA League play takes on more significance.

When you register for a League team for the first time, you will be asked to rate yourself. This rating dictates the minimum level at which you are allowed to compete. For example, 3.5 players can play in 3.5 or even 4.0 leagues, but not in 3.0 leagues. Your self-rating is valid until the end of that calendar year. At that time, USTA Norcal will publish (i.e. post on their website) your "computer" rating, which is based on the scores of your matches and the ratings of your opponents from that year. Your self-rating disappears, and now your computer rating determines your level for future USTA league seasons.

Because a self-rating system is open to abuse (under-rating yourself to help your team advance further against weaker competition), the USTA has devised a method for identifying what they call "clearly above level" players. Computer ratings are based on a "Dynamic NTRP" system. Dynamic NTRP silently calculates every player's rating after every match result, not just at the end of the calendar year (when the ratings are published). If the system finds on three occasions that a player's computed rating exceeds the "maximum tolerance" of their current level of competition, the USTA invokes their "Three Strikes" policy. That player is disqualified from further play at that level, and all of the player's previous matches played at that level are converted to losses.

The Dynamic NTRP system allows for improvement during the season as well as occasional "in the zone" match results, so a player who wins all of their matches does not have to be concerned with disqualification unless they routinely beat higher-level players by blowout scores. As long as all players self-rate accurately, as well as play at their "true" level regardless of their computer rating, Third Strikes should be rare occurences.

Other relevant points:

Only Adult and Senior League matches affect your Dynamic NTRP calculations. Mixed League results do not count unless you only play matches in that league.
2002 and newer computer ratings are valid for five years.

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