The USTA's
National Tennis
Rating Program

Although I could simply have linked to a tennis site that lists the NTRP,
I believe there is a need for more in-depth explanations,
based on my observations and experience.

So, I have expanded on and editorialized the descriptions,
in an effort to clarify some issues,
and added notes where necessary.


Explanation       How to Rate Yourself       NTRP Rating Levels

Take my unofficial NTRP test!

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Has anyone ever walked up to you and asked,
"What is your NTRP level?"
and all you could do was give them a blank stare,
wondering what-the-heck they were talking about?

Well, the following will give you all the info you need to know
to give 'em the right answer!

The NTRP provides a simple,
SELF-placement method for individuals
to rate themselves for tennis leagues, tournaments, group lessons,
social competitions, clubs, community programs, etc.

The rating levels are generalizations.

You may find that you actually play above, below, or even between
the category which best describes your skill level,
depending on your competitive nature.

For example, I know teaching pros who are rated at least 5.0,
but whose game totally disintegrates when they play below their level!

Why? Because in an effort to be as sociable as possible,
they tend to screw-up their shots when taking it "easy"!

The level you select is not meant to be permanent,
and may be adjusted as your skills or physical ability change,
or as your match play demonstrates the need for reclassification.

Having said that, it is important to understand that the NTRP
is based on your capabilities as a player,
and not how well you do against other players!

If you don't believe me,
just ask any pro who has been ranked at or below 100 in the world!
They might lose most of their matches,
and may never get past the 2nd round,
but would you stand a chance against such "losers"???
I don't think so!!!

Over time, your skills should improve and,
with age, will eventually deteriorate.

If you're 90 years old, and can barely walk,
don't delude yourself into thinking
that you're still at the same level
you were at when you were 30 and sprightly!

On the other hand,
just because you had one extraordinarily lucky shot
don't believe that you are better than your appropriate level!

Don't expect changes overnight,
but do reconsider your play level at least once a year.

Unfortunately, most people tend to inflate their own playing ability,
and thus will rate themselves too high.

And there are some people who genuinely believe
that they are not as good as they actually are!
(a rare breed, indeed!)

And then there are those who will simply outright lie!

        If you ask someone what their NTRP level is,
        and they don't answer you,
        either they don't know what you're talking about,
        or they are considerably better than you,
        and are hiding it so they can blow you away!

        A stronger player should always play down
        to his/her opponent's level,
        especially during social (i.e., non-competitive) games
        (I would argue that when faced with players of significantly lower ability,
        players should lower themselves during competitive play,
        if only to make the match more fun for both players
        - - if you are playing solely for pride and glory,
        then you should also have the humility to downplay!).

        Unfortunately, there are many show-offs and jerks out there,
        who will insist on humiliating his/her opponents,
        and will even stoop to purposely smashing a ball
        into their opponents bodies.

        It's one thing to learn from others who are better than you,
        but it is quite another to be bullied about mercilessly.

        I was a "victim" during a social mixed-doubles match:

                Three of us were 3.5 - 4.0 (at the time).

                The fourth player remained silent
                when I asked for his NTRP level before the match had started.

                He turned out to be about a 5.0.

                After ten minutes of incredibly rude behavior,
                where he was firing off 90 mile-an-hour serves,
                and purposely aiming for my 3.5 partner's body (and mine as well),
                I told the show-off nicely that the rest of us
                were far below him (as if he didn't know!),
                and that he should relax.

                He didn't.

                After another ten minutes of his sadistic "play"
                (he probably still pulls the wings off flies!),
                I made my apologies to the two women,
                and walked off the court.

                That was back in 1995,
                and the jerk hasn't showed his face since.

It also works the other way around:

        I (as a 4.0) was playing with three 3.0 players
        in a social, mixed-doubles match,
        so I toned down my game so that everyone could return serve,
        volley, and just have fun.

        "Unfortunately", one of the players knew me,
        and demanded to know why I was taking it easy!

        She (!) then practically ordered me to play at my normal pace!

        Well, I brought my game up to about 70%,
        purposely threw in some unforced errors,
        and no one was the wiser!

        She even thanked me afterwards for being so nice!

        Of course, there is a fine line between being nice
        and outright humiliating your opponents!

Ultimately (or "unfortunately", as the case may be), your rating is based
solely upon your results in match play.

        Recently, the USTA's new "Dynamic-NTRP" rules allow
        unofficially rated players to play at their self-designated level.
        That level may change during the course of USTA play,
        as set by the USTA computer,
        again, based on your USTA match results.

        Perhaps someone at the USTA read this webpage,
        and realized that changes were needed!  ; )

The best judge of your NTRP level is a certified tennis teaching professional.
Consult your local tennis club or USTA chapter for a teaching pro near you.
The cost to receive a USTA-sanctioned NTRP rating from a club pro is about $25 US.

            If you had money to burn,
            you shouldn't be too surprised
            that if you went to 10 different pros
            that you'd wind-up with 10 different ratings!
            That's how subjective the ratings are.
            Hopefully, though, those ratings would all be
            within a half level of each other.

            Unless you intend on joining a USTA-sanctioned event,
            I do not see the point of paying someone to tell you
            what your NTRP-level is.

            If you are honest with your self-rating,
            and if you do not intend to play in USTA-sanctioned events,
            then there is no need to pay someone
            to tell you what you should be able to determine for yourself.

            However, you will not be able to play
            in USTA-sanctioned amateur events
            without an official USTA NTRP rating.

(n.b., the blue color indicates content from the NTRP)

A.  Read each level carefully, beginning with 1.0,
      and then decide which one best describes your ability.

      You must be able to do every item within a given level
      consistently to be considered at that level,
      and before you try the next level.

      If your abilities range between two levels,
      then choose the lower one.

            Some people use in-between levels,
            such as "3.7" or "4.2", to describe themselves.

            While there is nothing wrong with this,
            it is strictly subjective, and may confuse others.

            Instead, use the next lower NTRP level.

            For example, if you can do almost everything at the 4.5 level,
            except for the part about "spins", as is the case for me,
            then you might consider yourself at the "4.2" level,
            but refer to yourself as a 4.0, just as I do.

B.  When rating yourself, assume you are playing against
      a player of the same sex and the same ability.

            The above wording by the USTA is, in my opinion,
            very strange, because they do not use
            any gender-biased wording in the NTRP listings!

            The NTRP purposely uses the phrase "this player",
            as opposed to "he/him" or "she/her",
            seemingly to avoid such comparisons.

                  Keep in mind that the NTRP was developed
                  long before the advent of "Political Correctness".
                  Thus, the USTA was ahead of its time by
                  avoiding gender-based words!

            The NTRP concerns itself with ability,
            and not by how much iron you can pump!

            And, at the amateur level (less than 6.0),
            it should not make a significant difference.

            So, technically speaking,
            a 4.5 woman should play just as well as a 4.5 man,
            even though there may be a strength or stamina issue.

                  I have been bested by 4.5 women,
                  I have beaten 5.0+ men,
                  and I usually get trounced by 3.5 players!

                  Since 1998, my standings against women
                  in both singles and battle-of-the-sexes-doubles is:

                       0 wins - 15 losses!!!

                  I am also a TERRIBLE singles player!
                  My results on the now-defunct ""
                  were something like 5 wins and 30 losses!
                  The wins were against beginners and no-shows!

                  Believe it or not!!!

            It does not matter what percentage of matches you win or lose.
            A player who wins only 2 out of 5 sets in a given match
            is not necessarily worse than one who wins 3 out of 5 sets.
            The former player may have simply faced a slightly better opponent,
            while the latter player faced a slightly lesser opponent.
            The former player may have have had a "bad" day,
            while the latter had a particularly "good" day.

            I consider knowledge of the rules
            to be an important and integral aspect of the game.

            It amazes me when an intermediate or advanced player
            argues a rule, even when proven wrong!

                  I carry magazine and 'net clippings
                  of the more common rules, just in case!
                  And, as a one-time Provisional Referee for the USTA,
                  and as a USTA Tournament Court Supervisor,
                  I carry the USTA's "Friend-at-Court" book of rules.

            As such, I believe that a player
            should know at least the basic rules of tennis.
            At the very least, knowing the rules
            would eliminate a lot of arguments during play!

                  Perhaps an oral or written rules test should be given
                  when a player gets an official NTRP rating at or above 3.5.

C.  The person in charge of your local tennis program
      has the right to reclassify you based upon match results,
      if your self-placement is thought to be inappropriate.

            We all have "good" and "bad" playing days,
            so don't be upset if you are given a rating
            above or below what you believe is correct.

            For example, when I was a stronger player,
            I wanted to be placed in a 4.0+ NTRP
            group for a World Team Tennis program,
            but was so nervous while the WTT director watched me
            from less than 10 feet away (!),
            that I couldn't even hold my own serve!
            So, I was placed in the 3.5 group.

            Sometimes, the best thing to do is to "go with the flow"!

            If you're better than the director's rating,
            then you'll simply clobber everyone and it won't be your fault.

            If you're significantly worse than the given rating,
            then you should probably appeal the rating to the program director.
            However, my feeling is that you'll never improve
            unless you play against better players,
            so accept the situation with grace and aplomb,
            and use it as a learning tool!

COLOR KEY:     Beginner     Intermediate     Advanced     Professional
1.0 This player is just starting to play tennis.
         This player plays very rarely,
         cannot keep proper score during a game,
         does not understand basic rules of the game,
         and gets confused as to where to stand,
         especially during doubles matches.
1.5 This player has limited playing experience
and is still working primarily on getting the ball into play.
2.0 This player needs on-court experience,
and has obvious stroke weaknesses,
but is familiar with basic positions
during singles and doubles play.
2.5 This player is learning to judge where the ball is going
although court coverage is weak;
can sustain a slow rally with
other players of the same ability.
         This player plays every month or so.
         This player hits into the net or out of the court
         more than half the time.
3.0 This player is consistent when hitting medium pace shots,
but is not comfortable with all strokes and lacks control
when trying for a directional intent, depth, or power.
         This player can keep score relatively easily,
         and knows where to stand during doubles play,
         at least when the ball is being served.
3.5 This player has achieved improved stroke dependability
and direction on moderate pace shots,
but still lacks depth and variety;
exhibits more aggressive net play;
has improved court coverage;
is developing teamwork in doubles.
         This player plays 2-3 times a month.

         This player understands the more common rules of the game,
         such as what happens when a player touches the net during play,
         or what to do if a ball rolls into the court during a point.

         This player hits into the net or out of the court
         no more than half the time.

         This player has participated in
         at least one formal tennis league, ladder, or related group.

         This player is a member of a tennis club
         and/or has taken professional lessons at some time.
Most club players are within the 3.5 and 4.0 NTRP levels.
4.0 This player has dependable strokes, including directional intent,
on both forehand and backhand sides on moderate shots,
plus the ability to use lobs, overheads, approach shots and volleys
with some success. This player occasionally forces errors
when serving, and teamwork in doubles is evident.
         This player can keep score easily.
         (don't worry about forgetting the score;
         it happens to everyone, even the pros!)
4.5 This player has begun to master the use of power and spins,
is beginning to handle pace, has sound footwork,
can control depth of shots, is beginning to use tactics,
and can anticipate opponents' tactics.
This player can hit first serves with power and accuracy
and place the second serve,
and is able to rush the net successfully.
         This player plays 2-3 times a week.

         This is a starting level for college players.
5.0 This player has good shot anticipation
and frequently has an outstanding shot
around which a game may be structured.
This player can regularly hit winners
or force errors off short balls,
can put away volleys, execute lobs, drop shots,
half volleys, and overhead smashes,
and has good depth and spin on most second serves.
         This player hits into the net or out of the court
         less than 25% of the time.

         Many people feel that 5.0 is the start
         for the Advanced player, but I feel that
         5.0's still have to push themselves to the 5.5 level
         before being considered truly Advanced.
5.5 This player has developed power and/or consistency
as a major weapon. This player can vary strategies
and styles of play in a competitive
situation and hits dependable shots in a stress situation.
This player plays in amateur tournaments for trophies.
6.0 This player generally does not need NTRP rankings.
This player has had extensive training
for national tournament competition at the junior and collegiate levels,
and has obtained a sectional ranking.
This player may have begun to play in professional tournaments,
but is ranked below the top 200 world-wide.

This player is no longer considered a "recreational" player.
         This player plays 4-6 times a week.
         This player knows most of the rules.
6.5 This player plays in national and/or satellite events,
and has a reasonable chance of succeeding at the professional level.
         This player plays nearly every day (and can afford to!).
7.0 This is a world class player who is committed to
tournament competition on the international level,
and whose major source of income is tournament prize winnings.
This player may be ranked within the top 200 world-wide.
         This player plays nearly every day,
         and practices or works out at least 3 hours a day,
         even during non-playing days.

Armed with the above information,
you should now be able to respond to the question:
"What is your NTRP level?"
with the following answer:

"I am a self-rated   #.#  NTRP!"

For example, I would respond:
"I am a self- and USTA-rated 4.0 NTRP!"

It's important to let folks know whether your rating is official or self-deluded!

P.S. Don't be discouraged if someone scoffs at your self-rating.
If you remember that the whole point of the NTRP
is to evaluate yourself honestly,
then it shouldn't matter what anyone else thinks.

(in case you were wondering,
I purposely didn't use the "French Clay"
background color on this webpage,
because it is too difficult to read lots of text against that particular shade)

Lob up to the top!

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© Copyright 1999 and Beyond to Infinity by Espici. All Rights Reserved.