May 7, 2022  ·  Barbara Wyatt

My USTA year-end tennis rating — and possibly yours — popped out of the NTRP, National Tennis Rating Program in December. 

Within minutes, maybe seconds, of the publication of those ratings, a handful of players pushed the “appeal rating” link. They could not believe they were that number. Some wanted to be bumped “up”; others wanted “down.” The vast majority gave their rating a thumbs up with a nod of the head, “Yep, that’s how I play.”

Developed in 1978, the year-end rating was designed to create a competitive adult tennis league throughout the United States. In the early ‘90s, USTA added the computer calculation process of the dynamic rating that added fifty more assessments to each level because of rounding to the hundredth decimal point. A 3.5 player falls between 3.01 and 3.50. 

The dynamic rating is calculated every night using an algorithm that takes the current match and averages up to three of the most recent dynamic results. Year-end ratings are based on a player's cumulative dynamic rating during the season and a comparison to an appropriate benchmark, such as a seasonal opponent who played at Sectionals. 

If you want to move up the rating ladder, here’s what you do:

Play better than expected. At each match, the dynamic rating predicts an expected score between opponents. Perhaps, in a match between you, a 4.30 player, and your opponent, another 4.30 player, you win 7-6, 6-2. The calculation predicted it would be a closer match, but you proved it wrong. You may be awarded an additional hundredth decimal point to your dynamic rating and an equal amount moved from your opponent’s rating. At the end of the match, you may be a 4.35 player and your opponent, a 4.25. 

Review how you play. Not wins and losses. In your next match, you, a 4.35 player, are pitted in a match against a 4.01. You are expected to win soundly, perhaps 6-2, 6-1. It’s not sandbagging, you are the higher-rated player. The team captain will jump for joy with your 6-2, 6-1 win. However, it may do nothing for your dynamic rating. You won, you performed as expected. Nothing may change! 

If the final score was 6-4, 7-6, you won the match, but you should have won 6-2, 6-1. Your dynamic rating could decrease and your opponent’s increase because you did not play as expected. 

Play in a higher league. Inspired by your strong 4.0 skills, you are invited to a 4.5 team. In your first match, against a 4.55 player, your scores were 3-6, 5-7. The opponents won the match. But you challenged them competitively as a lower-rated player. Your captain will be disappointed with the loss. But your dynamic rating could go up. 

Doubles is a team sport. Dynamic points are awarded equally. If you and your partner won the match, perhaps 6-1, 6-1 against an equally rated team, you and your partner could earn .25 rating points each. The opponents will be knocked down .25 rating points each

If you want to move up, practice, take lessons, attend clinics, and work on the technical and mental aspects of your game. 

Because you are not that number. You are more. Much more.

Published New York Tennis Magazine, January/February 2018.