The USTA has added the ITF World Tennis number to every USTA member's profile. USTA League players can find their ITF World Tennis number on the USTA's Player Search page.
Question: Why would the USTA provide another player rating, and a dynamic one at that, to the player profiles of every USTA tennis league players?
TLA It's no secret that USTA league players have been clamoring to know their USTA dynamic ratings for a long time. That demand has led to several business websites creating "estimated" USTA dynamic ratings. Tennis League Analytics is one such site. There are others.
As TLA has reported before, these estimated dynamic ratings are just "guesses". Some guesses are better than others. For example, TLA used the entire history of all USTA player results to update ratings every calendar quarter. Other websites update more frequently, e.g., weekly, but those updates take mathematical shortcuts that require recalculation at the end of the year.
TLA believes the USTA has taken a very strong approach to what they may perceive as a problem - USTA players complaining to the USTA about estimated dynamic ratings provided by third parties.
By providing the USTA league match results data directly to the ITF computers, the ITF can calculate a "true" data-driven dynamic rating. The rating is on a different scale than USTA leagues, but it's a dynamic player strength rating.
More importantly, USTA players and captains can use these data-driven dynamic player ratings for what the players really want to know. And based on the many questions that TLA receives, this includes:
TLA will continue to report on the ITF WOrld Tennis number and how to use it. Contact us if you have specific questions.
Question: How do I sign up for for USTA dynamic ratings?
TLA This is a very common question. First, it's important to distinguish the differences between the USTA dynamic rating and the USTA year-end rating. More importantly, learn about the ITF World Tennis Number.
|USTA Dynamic Rating||USTA NTRP Rating|
|Kept "Secret" by the USTA, i.e., "not published"||Published around November of each year|
|Changes after each match||Changes at year-end for computer rated players|
|Used all year to determine if self-rated players should be DQ'ed||Used for league and tournament entry requirements|
|Every November, it becomes the year-end rating, rounded to a half-point if three matches were played during the rating year.||At year-end, may change if the dynamic rating moves outside it's half-point range|
Bottom Line: USTA players can't sign up to see their USTA dynamic rating. The USTA considers the dynamic rating a "secret".
Some businesses publish "estimated" dynamic ratings since it seems that many USTA players want to "game" the rating system. None of these "estimates", as far as TLA has observed to date, have the endorsement or support of the USTA. You should see "fine print", usually at the bottom of a company's webpage, marketing emails, or on the About page along these lines.
Often, players who want to be seen as a "better" player, may strive to have their rating "bumped up". Players who just play to win matches, may strive to "game" the system by keeping their dynamic level low or even get "bumped down" to a lower lever.
It seems that the USTA has noticed this consumer demand for insight into the dynamic ratings. Recently, the USTA has begun to show another somewhat new rating system - the ITF World Tennis Number.
TLA believes that this new, adjusted ITF World Tennis Number rating system is good for tennis as it overcomes a lot of the player strength rating problems with the USTA NTRP system. We'll write more about this in the future. For now, learn more at this link.
Find your International Tennis Federation World Tennis number on your USTA player profile.
Question: I am a 55 year-old who is stuck at 5.0. My state has no 5.0 USTA leagues. I am frustrated because I am not a true 5.0 player. I am a player who is good for my age but when I play against the true 5.0s (who are significantly younger), whether in my state or in non-usta leagues, I get killed. I just want to play leagues tennis; but the system is stacked against a player like me! Any thoughts?
TLA First of all, congratulations. You are an elite level player. If you read Tennis League Analytics' post on "How many players are in each NTRP level", you will see that you are in the top 2% of all USTA players.
And that fact may be what leads to your frustration - there are relatively very few players of your rating so finding players that can give you a "good" match is not easy.
Another possibility is that you just happen to be a player on the border of the 4.5 and 5.0 ratings. For example, your dynamic NTRP rating may be 4.51. Keep in mind that any player with a dynamic rating in the range of 4.51 to 5.00 is classified as an NTRP 5.0 player. So what you may think is not a "true" 5.0 player is what, in fact, the USTA classifies as a true 5.0 player.
It's not uncommon for players in the 50 to 65 year-old range to express similar frustrations with regard to playing younger players. The USTA gives players age 60+, 65+, and 70+ the ability to automatically be granted an appeal of their current rating back to their previous rating in certain situations. Learn more at USTA's NTRP Ratings page. Have you tried to appeal your rating?
The following are some ways others have dealt with your situation:
Regardless, keep in mind that you are in the top 2% of players. Many other players would be happy to switch places with you. Especially those that face the exact same problem you face, but are on the border of 3.0-3.5 or 3.5-4.0.
Question: The ratings on tennis record for me and my teammates don't seem right. For example, the same match with the same specifics - date, players, and scores result in different match ratings for each player. That is, when my partner and I play a match, why does tennisrecord.com show a different match rating for me and my doubles partner? Does tennisrecord change the formula for different players? The formula should not discriminate. Can you please provide the formulas and explanations that are used for these publicly published statistics? Thank you.
TLA Tennis League Analytics gets a lot of questions about the numbers that appear on tennisrecord.com. We see a question like this almost every week. Tennis League Analytics does not know the exact algorithm that tennisrecord uses.
However, we can make some well educated guesses about the nature of tennisrecord.com's algorithm (and the USTA's algorithm as well). We'll focus on your question and tennisrecord here.
First, what exactly does tennisrecord show? They show the same match results that USTA league captains enter into USTA's tennislink system after every match. Then they "estimate" a change in the rating for the tennis players in the match. There are no "analytics" in that process. Just a formula.
It's likely that they are trying to mimic what an Elo rating system does. Questions like yours seem to pick on a very obvious flaw with that estimate.
With an Elo system, a rating is represented by a number which may change depending on the outcome of a played game. After every game, the winning player takes points from the losing one. The Elo system was invented for chess, which is played by two players - the winning player takes points away from their one opponent.
In chess, the number of points exchanged depends on the size of the difference in the player ratings. When a higher rated player beats a much lower rated player, not many points are won. But when a lower rated player beats a much higher rated player, many points are taken from the higher rated player and given to the lower rated player.
With a doubles tennis match, an elo rating system would need to take points from the two losing players and give them to the two winning players. And that appears to be the flaw in the estimate.
What you see is that tennisrecord is awarding those points unevenly to the two winning players. And the pattern of the points exchanged seems to be inconsistent over time. Some players have reported that they have won a match and still lost points. This type of outcome has raised lots of questions about the quality of their algorithm. Yet many players still visit the site to see how they stack up against the other players on the team.
Many USTA League players seem to mistakenly believe that tennisrecord.com is fact. But it's really just a guess.
Only the folks who run that website can tell you why. Duplicating the USTA's system is not an easy problem to solve - the bottom line is that any algorithm provides just a "guess" of the USTA's dynamic player rating system.
Have you looked into the UTR Rating system at universaltennis.com? Chances are that if you have a USTA tennislink profile, you also have a profile at UTR. UTR explains exactly how their algorithm works on their website.
Readers are welcome to continue to send TLA their questions about tennisrecord.
This reader question is related to the previous post and comes from one of the California USTA sections.
Question: “The USTA shows a match on my tennis record this season and I did not play this match. Our team player by the name of Jane Doe did. Can you remove this from my record? Thank you.“
As referenced in the previous post below, player win-loss records are maintained by the USTA via the TennisLink score reporting system. The USTA requires team captains to enter match scorecards and suggests that the winning captain enter the score, although the USTA allows anyone from either team to enter scores. The key step is that the opposing team must confirm or dispute the score within 48-hours of when match results were entered.
Per USTA, once 48-hours passes, the right to dispute scores is no longer available.
Here's the relevant section from the 2022 USTA League Regulations:
1.04C(2) Official Score Reporting and Standings System.
TennisLink is the official system for reporting scores and providing standings for the USTA League. Each Section should establish deadlines and procedures for reporting scores in TennisLink. Unless otherwise established by a Section, the initial entry of match scores into TennisLink must take place within 48 hours of the completion of the match. After match scores have been entered in TennisLink, they must be confirmed by the opposing team within 48 hours of the initial entry or the initial score will automatically be considered valid.
Note that each section can establish deadlines for procedures for reporting scores. So players should check their section's regulations for differences.
What if a captain or another player makes an “honest mistake” that is not disputed by the opposing captain? Per the regs, the “score will automatically be considered valid”.
How often do you as a USTA league player check both the scores and names within 24 to 48 hours after each match, whether or not you played in the match? Probably not for every match.
And this lack of players checking their team's results after every match is what allows score hacking to occur. An unscrupulous captain will swap names when they don't want a winning player to risk a year-end rating bump-up to a higher level or when they want to qualify a player for district, state, or sectional championship play.
When an unscrupulous captain wants to prevent a player from moving up to a higher level, they will either:
In case 1, the unscrupulous captain does not want their winning player's dynamic rating to receive a big bump from a win over a strong player. If the “honest mistake” is not disputed, the results entered are valid. Case 2 works similarly with a weaker player decreasing the impact on the winning player's dynamic rating.
When an unscrupulous captain wants to qualify a player for, e.g., sectional championship play, the captain will just swap in the name of the player whose tennis record needs another match for a player who has already qualified, usually with a player with a similar name or a player whose opponents are not familiar with the players.
How a captain picks a player name to substitute in either case is something that Tennis League Analytics can cover in a future post.
The best way for you, as a USTA tennis league player, to check that your match results have been entered correctly is to visit TennisLink at tennislink.usta.com. Enter the name you registered under (name use is a topic that will be covered in the future) in the Stats and Standings section, then click search. Players should check their team's scores within the dispute time limit indicated in their section's regulations.
The USTA could do a lot to prevent the use of wrong names by emailing the match results for every line to all members of each team.
So what options does a player have if they find a mistake after the dispute period ends?
You can always contact the league coordinator directly or through your captain. Each player will want to contemplate how their action will impact their team captain. Some sections reprimand a captain for wrong scores entered into TennisLink. The risk of reprimand or embarrassment may motivate some captains to not pursue a score correction.
Contact Tennis League Analytics with your questions about USTA ratings including how unscrupulous captains and players can hack the USTA rating system.
The next few posts will help USTA players hack their ratings by dealing with several questions about win loss records in USTA tennis leagues.
This question comes from a reader in the Middle States section.
Question: "Hi, I feel that my win loss record is incorrect and this is affecting my rating. It should be 9-8 and instead shows more than 8 losses. I feel that my USTA rating would improve if this were corrected. Thank you very much,"
It's possible that your USTA rating may be impacted by the incorrect record. Most players should want every match result to be recorded accurately - meaning the score and player names should be recorded accurately. But win/loss record does not directly impact a USTA rating.
Here's what the USTA states in its NTRP FAQs web page:
"Win/loss records do not directly affect the year-end calculation. A player's rating may have improved (in hundredths), but it may not have improved enough to move them up into the next level. Even if players are in the same NTRP level, they can have a different start rating based on their previous Year-End rating. If they had matches against different opponents, that could also cause a deviation between their ratings in hundredths.""
What does this mean?
Let's look at an example that compares two players. Player A has a win/loss record of 0-10. Player B has a win/loss record of 3-1. These win/loss records don't tell you much with regard to the impact on USTA dynamic rating and whether a player gets bumped up or down at year end.
Let's start with Player A and their 0-10 record. This player has a USTA dynamic rating of 3.01. First of all, what's the USTA rating of a player with a dynamic rating of 3.01?
You need to understand dynamic ratings to understand how wins/losses and win/loss records affect USTA ratings. If you don't then you should read one of our articles that explain the differences between USTA dynamic ratings and USTA ratings. Start with our FAQ #9.
So Player A with a 3.5 level rating and a dynamic rating of 3.01 loses 10 matches in a row. Every one of their 10 opponents had a dynamic USTA rating in the range of 3.45 to 3.6. All 10 losses will result in extremely small changes to Player A's dynamic rating. Practically, the USTA dynamic rating change will not be noticeable. At year end the player will remain a USTA 3.5 player.
Now let's look at Player B and their 3-1 record. This player has a dynamic rating of 3.49. This is a strong 3.5 player on the cusp of moving up to 4.0. They happen to match up against Player A (the one with a dynamic rating of 3.01) three times and win 6-1, 6-1 each time. They go home after each match feeling great. But their dynamic rating hardly budges for the same reason that Player A's dynamic rating does not change.
Why? The USTA expects a 3.49 player to win against a 3.01 almost every time. And therefore the USTA does not bump the winning player's dynamic rating up or the losing player's dynamic rating down in any meaningful amount.
Then Player B's sole loss is to a player with a dynamic rating of 3.15 - a player that's getting better and stronger every week. The USTA algorithm expects Player A with their 3.49 dynamic rating to beat the 3.15 player. So the loss results in dynamic rating drop and Player B remains a 3.5 level player at year end.
Now, what to do about the posted match results that you did not play in? This is an interesting situation and one that some ambitious and unscrupulous captains appear to abuse.
Good players want their records to reflect matches played. This ensures that year end ratings place players in the "right" level. The best way to achieve this is to review the scores posted into USTA's Tennislink - stats and standings. After every match within 24-hours, a player should check the score entered into TennisLink. And not just the score, but also the names of the other player(s). If any name or score is not right, contact your captain or the local league coordinator to have the entered result corrected.
Why? The wrong score, wrong opponent(s), or even wrong doubles partner, will result in the wrong impact on your dynamic rating. And possibly your year end rating.
Why within 24-hours? Because TennisLink allows results to be challenged and changed by local league coordinators within a certain time period after a match. After that time has passed, changing a score or player name for a match will be very difficult if not impossible.
And every USTA player on a roster should check their tennis record once in a while, even if they've not played, to see if there's been a mistake and their name appears in a match that was not played by them.
So how can an ambitious and unscrupulous captain hack or abuse the USTA system to manipulate dynamic and year end USTA ratings? By entering wrong names or scores into Tennislink. If you don't see how this hack works, contact us.
We continue to receive inquiries every week about the best strategy for "How can I raise my USTA Ratings" or "What's the best way to lower my USTA Ratings".
At first this seemed to be a Covid pandemic related request but the questions keep pouring in. Within a few days of USTA announcing that league play would resume in 2021, traffic and inquiries surged. We saw comments such as "other players are rated lower and are stopping us from making a run to NATIONALS!!!!"
A common theme seems to be, "How can I make sure that I'll win and help my team make sectionals?"
As mentioned before, these seeming thoughts reveal a lot of what USTA league players want and seem very much in line with what drives social media trends, advertising, and behavioral economics.
Tennis League Analytics has plans to begin to share what strategies or "hacks" might work and how you can win or lose more tennis matches. We hope to shed some light on what many players seem to want to know: How do I hack game the USTA Dynamic Rating System?
Meanwhile, look through the archives and read through articles that describe who tends to win and lose tennis matches. These data driven research results reveal very useful information about how to change tennis ratings.
Throughout the year 2020, when the economy was pressured by the pandemic, Tennis League Analytics noticed a pattern that at first seemed odd but was truly revealing. Interest and demand for our services increased. This was even after USTA stopped all league play.
The nature of the tennis stats, tennis record, and analytics requests were a little different. Rather than flight scouting reports for local league or championship play, the demand focused on individual player ratings. And seemed to be of the nature "How do I game the rating system".
Then within days of USTA announcing that league play would resume in 2021, traffic and inquiries surged.
The collective perspective seemed to be, "I have not played competitive tennis for a year. Now that play is opening up, how can I make sure that I'll win."
These seeming thoughts reveal a lot of what USTA league players want and seem very much in line with what drives social media trends, advertising, and behavioral economics.
In 2021 Tennis League Analytics will begin to explore how understanding these mindsets can help you win more tennis matches. And ultimately, we'll get to what everyone seems to want to know. How do I game the USTA Dynamic Rating System?