USTA Ratings Q & A


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How do I get a USTA rating? 

If it's your first time playing USTA tennis then you self-rate before playing in a USTA tennis league or tournament. The USTA has rating guidelines in the form of a chart with text descriptions of what playing ability you should have for each level (1-beginner to 7.0 world-class player).  More often than not, new players are guided by tennis pros or more experienced players in choosing what their USTA rating should be. 

 

How does a USTA self-rated player gets a "true" rating?

First you self-rate to start with and then after you play USTA tournaments or leagues your rating gets adjusted by the USTA computers. Your computer adjusted rating is published near the end of each year.

 

How do I determine my USTA rating?

For self-rating you use the USTA guideline chart. Active USTA players can use TennisLink to look it up online.

 

How do I find my USTA rating?

You go to TennisLink and look it up.  It will only show you your year-end rating from your play last year. The rating you were assigned at the end of last year is your current rating for this year. The USTA maintains a working rating number that changes as you play matches called a Dynamic USTA Rating.  It's kept secret and it's used at the end of the year to determine if your USTA rating needs to be increased or decreased. 

 

 

How do you find out your true USTA rating? How do I see my Dynamic USTA rating?  Why are dynamic USTA ratings a secret?

I assume that the question means that the person asking the question is interested in their current dynamic rating.  Your dynamic rating is a rating that the USTA updates every time you play a USTA match.  The Dynamic rating is stored in the computer to 2 decimal places which makes a dynamic rating a more detailed and accurate description of your playing level. The USTA keeps dynamic ratings secret so you never get to see the most detailed rating that the USTA has for you. The USTA keeps dynamic ratings a secret to prevent tennis players from playing only to adjust their rating, with the idea of "gaming the system".  The fear is that players will carefully control their win/lost record to keep their ratings just below the next rating level.  This would allow a team to hold on to strong players and allow the team a better chance of winning at the National Championships.

 

How do I calculate my USTA rating?

Unlike professional tennis players you can't.  The formula is kept a secret so that players can't "game the system". 

 

When do USTA ratings change?  What time of year do USTA ratings change?

The USTA publishes ratings (known as year-end ratings) about a month before the end of the year.  You start using the new ratings at the start of the new year.

 

How do I determine if my USTA rating will go up?

You can't. You can look at your results and make an educated guess, but whether your rating moves you up or not isn't just based on your playing results. The USTA also makes across the board adjustments to how the rating levels divide players.  It's like grading on a curve where the USTA can decide if they need to adjust the rating system. Another reason to keep dynamic ratings secret, the USTA isn't going to disappoint you when they don't move you up if they need to change who's falling into what rating level.

 

How do I move up in the USTA rating system?

The system is performance based so if you play well and get good results then your dynamic rating improves.  Once your dynamic rating improves pass a cutoff point (the next rating leve) then you move up to the next rating level. Your official USTA rating only changes at the end of each year (Unless the computer decides you are playing far above your rating level. The computer can DQ (disqualify) your playing results and change your rating at any time.)

 

Can you move up a rating in one USTA season? 

You official USTA rating (year end rating) is only adjusted at the end of the year.  In an extreme case players who are underrated can be forced into the next level when the computer see results that clearly indicate that someone is playing at the wrong level.  Once the computer sees three extreme wins it can DQ the person (disqualifying them from playing at the current playing level) and change their rating to the next playing level.

 

Are the USTA ratings different for singles and doubles?

No there's only one rating and although the games are different enough that your skill level might differ greatly, currently the USTA doesn't directly take that into account.  It does use singles results over doubles results so if you play both you can think of your rating as a singles rating.

 

Is the USTA rating system the same for men and women?

Yes.

 

Is there a difference between USTA ratings for men and women?

Although the rating system is the same, men tend to play about a half of a rating point stronger at the same rating level.

 

What are the different "types" of USTA ratings?

You have two ratings: Year-Ending Rating (your public rating, official rating) and Dynamic Rating (internal working number for USTA eyes only).  Year-Ending Ratings are also labeled with how the rating was created:

 

S – Self-rated player

A – Appealed player

B – Benchmark player (generated from Regional, Sectional or National Championship play)

C – Computer rated player (generated from Local League play)

D – Dynamic rated player

M – Mixed exclusive player

T - Tournament exclusive player

 

Do 6-0, 6-0 matches count in USTA ratings? 

Yes, if at least one game was played (meaning that it wasn't a defaulted match).

 

Do default matches count in USTA ratings?

No, since no games were played.

 

Does winning or losing a match affect your USTA ratings?

Rating changes are based on your game win percentage and not on who won the match.  The formula also takes into account who should have won based on the ratings of the players.  A higher rated player could kill a lower rated player and not see a rating change because the computer formula expected that result and therefore a rating change is not merited.

 

Does mixed doubles results count in USTA ratings?

If you only play mixed doubles then they do get used, but if you play same gender tennis those results are used because they allow a more accurate rating.

 

Does the court number you play on in league tennis get used in calculating USTA ratings?

No, you can play on court 1 or court 3 and the only thing that computer cares about is the ratings of the players and the result.

 

Does your USTA rating go higher if you play singles?

It will give you a more accurate rating at the end of the year because it is based on only your playing abilities, but it doesn't change any faster. 

 

I have a much better playing record this season than my friend, but he got moved up and I didn't, how can that happen?

He might have started the season with a higher dynamic rating and only needed a small increase to jump rating levels.  Results don't tell the whole story your friend might have played much stronger opponents and even if he lost the rating formula could reward him with a large rating increase for doing much better than expected.

 

Is it possible to move to a higher USTA rating without winning a match?

Yes, it's not winning that counts, it's how well you do compared to the USTA computer's expectations.

 

Is it possible to win all my matches and get moved down?

Yes, you could play much weaker players and not beat them as badly as the computer expected.  Even though you won all your matches your rating gets adjusted downwards.

 

Can I raise my USTA rating just playing doubles?

Yes, the computer doesn't care if you play singles or doubles.

 

How do they determine when to move you up in USTA rating?

Just before the end of the year the USTA computer uses your current dynamic rating and a formula to see if you get pass the cutoff for the next rating level. If you just miss the cutoff you'll be forced to wait another year before the computer will look at bumping you either up or down from your current rating.  

 

How does the USTA computer ratings system work?

[read this description]

 

How does my USTA rating change if my team wins the local championship?

It doesn't have an impact, but when players play at the higher championship levels (district, sectional, nationals) your rating become a benchmark rating which is used to adjust other local player ratings. 

 

How fast do USTA ratings change?

Your dynamic rating changes with every match played.  Your year-end rating changes only at the end of each year.

 

How high do USTA ratings go?  How low do USTA ratings go?

The USTA ratings system starts at 1.0 for beginners and goes to 7.0 for World Class Tournament players.

 

How long does it take to move up a point in USTA ratings?

Ratings change a halve of point at a time usually so it could take as little as two years.  Since you self-rate to start out you normally would start at the correct rating and only through improvements in your playing ability will you get a chance to move up.  Most players will never see the kind of improvement that would move them up a full rating point which is two playing levels. It's mostly younger players who have the time to invest in improving their games that can expect to see the most improvement in their playing ability and therefore see major ratings increases.

 

How many 3.5 rated players can be on a 4.0 team?

Normally it's not a problem for players to play up, so restrictions on how many lower level players can play on a team is the kind of rule that a local league might make.

 

How do I improve my USTA rating?

By improving your playing ability and by then getting better results.  You need to do better than the computer expects you to do to see ratings improvements.

 

How do I keep my USTA rating low?

By playing poorly either due to health problems or on purpose in order to try and "game the system". In doubles your partner can play a big role in determining your joint result and the impact on both your ratings.  Playing with someone having a bad playing day will pull down both of your ratings.  

 

What are some of the problems with the USTA rating system?

Since is not a fully transparent system a lot of people don't understand

how it works.  When the results don't make sense to them they think that the system doesn't work well. 

 

One big problem is that most USTA members play a lot of doubles and the rating system really doesn't work well for doubles.  The system can't figure out how well individuals play in a doubles match so it just treats a doubles team like a single player.  If one person plays really poorly or exceptionally well both players ratings either go up or down by the same amount.  

 

Will playing up help improve my USTA rating?

If you win against higher rated players it always helps your rating, but just by playing at the higher rating level doesn't help. 

 

Will playing with a stronger partner help improve my USTA rating?

Not really, the computer will just expect the two of you to win by a larger margin.

Will playing down hurt my USTA rating?

It can because you are more likely to run into two problems. Not beating weaker players as badly as the computer expects.  In leagues you would expect to play on court 1 at the lower level and that where players who should be playing at next level play as they wait for their ratings to get bumped up.  So you end up playing against players who are under-rated and that's the best way to lose rating points.

 

What's the algorithm or formula the USTA uses to calculate ratings?

The exact formula is a secret, but they do explain the basic process they use.

 

How does playing with a weak partner affect my USTA rating?

You're more likely to lose, but the impact on your rating depends on if your partner plays better or worse than the computer expects a person with that rating to play.  How you play is also an important factor to look at.  Some people play poorly with a weaker partner, while others manage to cover more of the court and can still win.

 

Do my opponent's matches affect my USTA rating?

Only the matches used to calculate their dynamic rating that was used in the match when they played against you.  So if their level of play greatly improves after they play you, their rating might move up, but that's not going to impact your rating.

 

How does playing in districts, sectionals, national championship play affect my rating?

It doesn't.  You become a benchmark player and your rating becomes a guide for other local players to be rated against. 

 

Is it possible to "game" the USTA rating system?

Yes, with almost any system people will find a hole in it or a way to cheat.  Unlike the professional tennis rating system where you only get rewarded for playing better, the USTA rating system has a system of rewards at different levels of play.  It's always easier to go after the rewards at a lower of play than to reach up for the next higher level, so there will always be players choosing to go after the easier rewards. 

 

So to "game" the USTA rating system is as simple as playing below the level that you normally would play at.  In some cases it might mean losing a match that's not important to the team and in other cases it could be just keeping the score closer than it normally would be.  The second method is important to avoid being DQed by the USTA computer.

 

One of the worst cases of "gaming the system" that I experienced this year was where a team was formed by players who stopped playing USTA tennis long enough for their ratings to drop out of the USTA rating database so they could create a team of self-rated players.  They played a level below their playing abilities so that they could kill their opponents and advance to a national championship.  

 

Last Updated: 11/30/11   Site Map

Questions or comments about this website may be directed to: Richard T Goulet email address